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Nabu and Tahmurath in Bronze

The exterior bronze doors of the John Adams Building Building depict figures that brought learning, knowledge, and communication to the world. We have done individual posts on several already, but this post features two that are paired together – Nabu and Tahmurath.

figures by Lee Lawrie. Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C. From the Carol M. Highsmith Archive

Figures by Lee Lawrie. Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C. From the Carol M. Highsmith Archive //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.02782

Nabu was the scribe for Marduk (often referred to as Bel), who was the chief god of the city of Babylon and main deity in Babylonia. Marduk defeated Tiamat, the god of primeval chaos, and became the Lord of the Gods of Heaven and Earth.

As scribe to Marduk, Nabu became a god himself – first the god of writing and later the god of wisdom -and was the keeper of the tablets of destiny. He became a principal god in Assyria, residing in Borsippa and his symbols were the clay tablet and the stylus. He was considered the patron god of scribes and it is clear from his biography why he was chosen to be on our doors. Both Bel and Nabu are mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible in Isaiah 46:1. This is the passage from the King James version: Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.

The other figure in the pair is Tahmurath, sometimes written as Tahmuras, Tahmures, or Tahmurat, a Persian deity and one of their mythical kings. His story and position are more difficult to explain, but he is mentioned in Ferdowsi’s epic poem Shahnameh. Tahmurath used magic to defeat the divs (demons) of Ahriman and in return for their lives, they brought new sciences and many new languages and alphabets to man, earning Tahmurath his place on our doors.

If you want to know more about either Mesopotamian or Persian mythologies, the Library has a number of titles in English and Persian. Do a ‘SUBJECTS beginning with‘ search in the catalog using the subject headings:

Mythology, Assyro-Babylonian.
Gods, Assyro-Babylonian.
Goddesses, Assyro-Babylonian.
Mythology, Iranian.

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