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Bulls have 4 legs. These statues have 5 legs. Why?

Photo of a lamassu

Museum sign, transcribed below

Khorsabad

The Palace of Sargon

This area mainly contains sculptures from the city and palace of Khorsabad, built for the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705 BC). The pair of human-headed winged bulls stood originally at one of the gates of the citadel, as magic guardians against misfortune.

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  • 1
    This is not a horse.
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 2:04
  • 2
    I know but it's horse based
    – Stein
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 6:56
  • 14
    Bulls have 4 legs. These statues have 5 legs. Why? Bulls also do not have human heads Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 13:02
  • 5
    They have five legs when they're happy
    – Duncan
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 23:52
  • Lol.I see what you did there Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 6:06

3 Answers 3

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According to Wikipedia,

The Assyrians typically prominently placed lamassu at the entrances of cities and palaces. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk.

Something confirmed by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The sculptor gave these guardian figures five legs so that they appear to be standing firmly when viewed from the front but striding forward when seen from the side.

The statue is called a lamassu, and it's Assyrian, not Egyptian.

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I think that if you view the statue from head-on, you only see the front two legs. If you view the statue from the side, you see four. At that time, they probably couldn't just clear away all the rest of the rock so that you could see four legs from any direction.

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The 5 legs represent the five pillars of the Assyrian empire.

  1. mental health
  2. emotional health
  3. spiritual health
  4. physical health
  5. culture health.

These were basic requirements of every man and woman that was to protect and defend the Assyrian Assyria. As a protector of the sacred places the Lamassu also named nathoora which means protector.

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  • 3
    Can you provide some sources to back that up. That is interesting. Not sure why someone would downvote this without more info, though. Commented Aug 6, 2022 at 3:38

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