Chapter V. On the Transmutation of Symbols
Theory of the blending of symbolic forms.—Fusion of equivalent symbols.—Production of intermediate types.—Axe and Drum.—Wheel and Rosette.—Chrism, Wheel, and crux ansata—Transformations of the triscèle—Symbols which have had an influence upon the representation of the conical bethels among the Semites.—Permutations between the triangle, Winged Globe, crux ansata, human profile, table of offerings, cuneiform Star, and Sacred Tree.
Whilst inquiring into the cause of the changes occurring in the forms of symbols, sufficient importance is not always attached to the attraction which certain figures exercise upon one another. We might almost state it as a law that, when two symbols express the same or approximate ideas, they display a tendency to amalgamate, and even to combine in such a manner as to produce an intermediate type.
Through not taking into consideration that a symbol may thus unite with several figures differing greatly in origin and even in appearance, many archæologists have wasted their time in debating upon the origins of a sign or image which both sides were right in connecting with different antecedents—like those knights in the legend who broke a lance over the colour of a shield of two hues, one of the adversaries having only seen the front and the other the back.
When the necessity of seeking known or extremely simple antecedents in complex figures is not lost sight of, the study of symbols often results
in the most singular verifications, especially in countries like India, where all the manifestations of art have a symbolical import. One should note in Moor's Hindu Pantheon how the Disk, the Conch, the Lotus, the Flame, the Axe, and so forth, frequently assume each other's forms—each of these symbols going part of the way to meet the others. Take, for example, two of the attributes which oftenest figure in the hands of Siva, the Axe and the Drum, and see them merge into one another:
Fig. 84. Hindu Symbols.
(Moor. Hindu Pantheon, pl. vii., xiv., xvi., xlvii.)
Sir George Birdwood, one of the authors most conversant with the industrial arts of India, records how the principal decorative and symbolical types of India combine and interchange, regardless even of the distinction between the animal and vegetable kingdom. An identical phenomenon may be noticed in Phœnician art. There is a symbol inscribed on Cyprian pottery and Syrian coins which recalls at the same time the Winged Disk of Asia Minor, the Sacred Tree of Assyria, the trisula of the Buddhists, the Bee of Ephesus, and certain patterns of the Greek Thunderbolt (see below, fig. 114).
Are these mere coincidences? To answer this question we must seek, in each particular case, not
only the antecedents of the figures which impress us by their complexity, but also the communications which may have taken place between their prototypes, and, if need be, we must reconstitute the successive stages of these symbolic transmutations.
Let us take, for instance, the image of the Wheel. This figure, which offers the twofold advantage of possessing a circular form, and suggesting the idea of motion, is one of the commonest symbolical representations of the sun.
Now different nations, amongst whom the sun is likewise symbolised by an expanded flower, have attempted to blend the two images. Thus it is that in Buddhist bas-reliefs we find Wheels whose spokes are replaced by petals of the Lotus-flower, while in the island of Cyprus some coins bear Roses whose leaves are hemmed in by bent spokes, or are even arranged in the form of a wheel.
In the same way the solar rouelle—that amulet par excellence of the Gauls—readily became the monogram of Christ, either in the form of the combined initials Ι and Χ (Ιησοῦς Χριστός)
Fig. 85. Rouelle and Chrism.
(Roller. Catacombes, vol. ii., pl. xliii. and lxxxvii.)
(fig. 85a), or Χ and Ρ (ΧΡιστός) (fig. 85b). In the latter case it is only necessary to add a loop to the top of one spoke to get the commonest type of the Chrism, which M. Gaidoz has accurately defined
as "a six-rayed wheel without the rim, and with a loop at the top of the middle spoke." 1
Thus, again, in Egypt the Chrism was combined with the Key of Life through a whole series of modifications which have been found in inscriptions on the island of Philæ dating from the first Christians of Nubia, who were anxious to make the sacred sign of their new faith correspond with the principal emblem of their former religion.
Fig. 86. Egyptian Chrisms of Philæ. 2
We have seen how, amongst the Gauls, the steeds of the solar quadriga had combined with the arms of the gammadion in such a manner as to produce the complex figure of four horses’ busts radiating round a disk. 3 The transformations of the triscèle exhibit no less singular instances of similar combinations, whilst permitting us to ascertain, so to speak, the different stages of the operation.
The sun, which, as I have had occasion to point out, was often typified in Asia Minor by a disk from which radiated three legs united at the thighs, was likewise symbolised there by different animals, such as the lion, the wild boar, the dragon, the eagle, and the cock. Now some Asiatic coins exhibit the cock beside the triscèle (fig. 87); on
others, the triscèle is superposed upon, or rather stuck to the body of, a bird, or a lion, without the aspect of the latter being changed on that account
Fig. 87. Coin of Aspendus.
(Hunter, pl. vii., No. 15.)
(fig. 88); elsewhere, finally, the two parallel symbols, first placed near and then upon each other,
Fig. 88. Coin of Aspendus.
(Hunter, pl. vii., No. 16.)
literally blend together, the three legs of the triscèle being transformed into cocks’ heads, or
Fig. 89. Lycian Coin.
(Barclay V. Head, pl. iii., No. 35.)
monsters’ busts, which revolve in the same direction round a central point (fig. 89).
One's thoughts turn involuntarily to those figures drawn, in different positions, or with different
faces, on cardboard disks, which are spun quickly in the hand to produce the illusion of a single image animated by a motion of its own.
On some coins of Magna Græcia and of Sicily the triscèle is composed of three Crescents ranged round a Disk. Certain archæologists have concluded from this that the triscèle had a lunar significance. It is quite admissible that the triscèle, as a symbol of astronomical movement, was sometimes used—like the tétrascèle and gammadion.—to typify the circular course, or even the phases of the moon. The Gobineau collection possesses a Persian cylinder exhibiting a triscèle formed of three monsters, which seem about to swallow as many Crescents.
Fig. 90. Lunar Triskelion.
(Revue archéologique, vol. xvii., 1874, pl. iv., No. 56.)
Are we, however, to infer from this, as Mr. Robert Brown does, that the triscèle originated in the intentional grouping together of three Crescents? 1 At first sight, this hypothesis would seem to find its confirmation in the comparison of certain coins which establish an actual transition from the triscèle to symbols that are undeniably lunar.
But these coins belong unquestionably to a later period than the oldest Lycian coins, on which, as I have above shown, the triscèle has a solar import. Instead of exhibiting the antecedents
of the triscèle, the witnesses, and the stages of its independent development, is it not more likely that they represent lunar symbols gradually modified by the plastic attraction of the triscèle; or, to put it plainer, that little by little
Fig. 91. Triscèle and Crescents. 1
they so arranged their component parts as to assume the form of the triscèle whilst preserving their original meaning?
This adaptation of the triscèle to the lunar movements is the more easily explained since the ancients seem especially to have distinguished in the queen of the night her three phases of crescent, half-moon, and full-moon, whence the Hecate triformis, depicted with three faces. 2
If it be desired to find the antecedents of the triscèle they must rather be sought for, like those of the tétrascèle, in the figure of the Disk which projects three curved rays indicating motion. 3 Under this form it is already met with amongst the "whorls" of Hissarlik. At Mycenæ it may be referred to the following type:
Fig. 92. Triscèle from Mycenæ.
It is easy to understand how a figure of this kind may have sometimes assumed the form of three crescents, and sometimes that of three legs, according to the vagaries of art, or the dictates of symbolism.
Another symbol, whose history gives perhaps a still better explanation of how an image may undergo in its development the influence of several distinct symbols, and react in its turn on the form of these latter through a real phenomenon of transmutation, is to be found in those conical stones whose figurative representation plays such an important part in the graphic arts of the western Semites. We know that they were simulacra of the Great Goddess, at once telluric and lunar, who was worshipped under different names by all the Semitic nations. Tacitus informs us that Aphrodite was represented at Paphos by a stone of this kind, shaped like a pyramid. 1 His description, corroborated by other ancient writers, is illustrated, so to speak, on coins of Paphos, Byblos, Sidon, and other places, which exhibit several kinds of conical stones erected in the midst of the sanctuary.
On other monuments—coins, slabs, and amulets—the same symbol is found by itself with
Fig. 93. Sacred Stone of Byblos.
(Corpus inscript. semitic, vol. i., fasc. i., pl. vi.)
changes of form in which is revealed the influence, the attraction, of figures belonging to another class of images.
M. Renan reproduces, in his Mission de Phénicie, the following symbol taken from a stone which was found near Damascus:
Fig. 94. Stone of Damascus.
(Renan. Mission de Phénicie, p. 351.)
"This sign," M. Renan adds, "is common on Phœnician monuments; it seems to come from the image of a person praying, a figure no less frequent on the top of Phœnician stelai."
We shall see that the supposed "persons praying" are merely a slightly altered form of the Sacred Cone. The relation of the sign on the Damascus stone to the simulacrum of Paphos is not to be questioned; it is even visible in the two small circles on either side of the triangle. 1 On the other hand we at once recognize the general similarity of this figure to certain ornithomorphic Globes of Asia Minor, with their triangular
tails, outstretched wings, and rectilinear horns (see next chapter).
The secret of this twofold resemblance is discovered in the engraving of a Moabite cylinder
Fig. 95. Moabite Cylinder.
(De Vogué. Mil. d’archéol. orient., p. 89.)
published by M. de Vogué, and attributed by M. J. Menant to the beginnings of Phœnician art.
We have here unquestionably in their separate state the two symbols which are combined on the stone of Damascus, i.e., the Cone and the Winged Globe, one suspended over the other, with the same pair of small circles which flank the sides of the Cone.
Another combination which occurs fairly often on monuments of Phœnician origin exhibits on the point of the bethel, or rather of its triangular representation, a horizontal cross-bar, on the middle of which rests a Disk, or a handle.
Fig. 96. Ansated Cones 1
It seems to me difficult to call in question the resemblance of the Cone thus modified to the
Egyptian symbol of the crux ansata or Key of Life. Widen the foot of the latter somewhat, or contract the base of the former, and the resulting images will be identical.
To such a degree, indeed, do these figures resemble one another, that it is impossible to determine to which of the two symbols belong
Fig. 97. Key of Life.
(Lepsius. Denkmäler, Abth., ii., Bl. 86.)
certain intermediate figures, such as, for instance, the representation of the object erected behind the principal person on the famous seal of Abibal, father of Hiram (fig. 96 d). The narrowness of its base recalls the Key of Life, but the Disk, encircled by the Crescent, which takes the place of the handle, as well as the position of the object on the ground, suggest rather a modification of the Sacred Cone.
How is this resemblance of forms to be accounted for if not by the attraction which one of the two symbols will have exercised upon the other? Now the Key of Life was certainly not formed under the influence of the Sacred Cone, if we may judge from their relative ages. There were cruces ansatæ upon the monuments of Egypt long before the Phœnicians had learnt to manipulate the chisel, perhaps even before the Semites had reached the shores of the Mediterranean.
The crux ansata has alternately been taken for a Nilometer (Plucke), a key for regulating the inundations of the Nile (Zoëga), a vase placed on an altar (Ungarelli), a perversion of the Winged Globe (Lajard), a phallus (Jablonski), and the sort of apron
which the Egyptians wound round themselves by way of a waist-band (Sayce). Regarding its meaning, however, there is no diversity of opinion.
In the hieroglyphic writings it forms an ideogram, which renders the sound anχ, and means to live, living. 1 On inscribed monuments it seems to be used by the gods as an instrument for awakening the dead to a new life. A bas-relief of the twelfth dynasty, which shows the goddess Anuke-t holding the Key of Life to the nostrils of King Usertesen III., is accompanied by this inscription: "I give unto thee life, stability, and purity, like Ra for ever."
It follows from this that, amongst the Egyptians, the crux ansata represented life, conceived of in its widest and most abstract meaning. 2 But is not the dispensation of life precisely one of the essential attributes of the Great Goddess, Virgin and Mother, destructive and prolific by turns, who appears amongst all Semitic nations as the highest personification of Nature under her twofold aspect, cruel and beneficent?
Plautus does nothing more than render the Phœnician conception of Astarte when, in the fourth act of Mercator, he defines her as:
Diva Astarte hominum deorumque vis, vita, salus: rursus eadem quæ est,
Pernicies, mors, interitus, mare, tellus, cœlum, sidera.
Among the Assyro-Babylonians Nanat-Anaïta
is called the "strength of the living;" 1 Zarpanit is termed the "generatrix; " 2 Allât guards jealously, in the world below, the Well of Life, which could revive the dead. 3 An inscription on a Mesopotamian cylinder, accompanying the image of a goddess, probably Istar, runs thus: "O thou who art adorable, who givest salvation, life, and justice, vivify my name." 4 Lastly, although Tanit, the Virgo Cœlestis of Carthage, assimilated to Juno by the Romans, is generally held to represent the virgin and austere side of Astarte's nature, it is probable that she combined the double character of her Semitic sisters. 5 On a stele of Carthage she is depicted on a triangular pediment with a child on one arm; and the geometric figure which serves as her symbol is frequently associated with Lotuses, 6 which are flowers of Life, symbolical representations of the universal matrix.
In these circumstances the Sacred Cone must necessarily receive, among the Semites, the same import as the crux ansata among the Egyptians, in the capacity of a symbol of life, or even as a talisman of high power, exclusive of the phallic signification of which its triangular form admitted. 7
On the other hand, as is shown by the monuments, the crux ansata, together with the principal symbols of Egypt, was not long in spreading first among the Phœnicians, and then through the rest of the Semitic world. It has been found on bas-reliefs, tombs, pottery, gems, and coins in the whole region which stretches from Sardinia to Susiana, including the coast of Africa, Cyprus, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. Everywhere, seemingly, it had a religious, or prophylactic, meaning; perhaps it is a sign similar to the tau with which were marked, in Ezekiel's vision, the foreheads of the just who will be spared. 1 On some monuments the divine, or sacerdotal, personages hold it in one hand, as in Egypt; 2 or, again, as we have seen (pl. v., fig. b), it is associated with the Sacred Tree and the Lotus-flower.
Thus, between the two symbols, there was a frequent proximity; a similarity of meaning, and perhaps of use; and, lastly, the possibility of passing from one to the other without material alteration in their respective features. Is anything more needed to explain why the Phœnicians, possessing these two signs to express the idea of life as a supernatural dispensation, sought to blend the two figures in a third which preserved the essentials of its double antecedent? It would, indeed, have been singular if they had not done so.
Have we not seen, at a later period, how the Christians of Egypt in their turn adopted the crux ansata, not only to replace the Greek or Latin form of the Cross, but also to portray the monogram of Christ, which the Greeks had transmitted to them? The latter identification implies a much more perceptible alteration of these two signs than
was the modification necessary for amalgamating the crux ansata with the symbol of Astarte. 1
It is proper to mention a coincidence which, though quite accidental, may have also helped to bring together the Sacred Cone and the Key of Life. The Egyptian monuments sometimes exhibit in front of the image of the divinity invoked thereon an isosceles triangle placed above a crux ansata These two superposed signs, which read ti anx, render the prayer: "Bestow life." 2 Now it was the fulfilment of this very prayer which, among the Semites, devolved upon Astarte and her rivals.
The fact, perhaps, will be pointed out that the Phœnicians were not able to read the hieroglyphs. This assertion must not be made in too positive a manner, for, after all, it was in the Egyptian writing that the very characters of the Phœnician alphabet originated. Moreover, in this, as in similar cases, there were not wanting interpreters, sailors, traders, soldiers, and travellers of every class, to explain to the inhabitants of the Mediterranean littoral the meaning of the graphic legends which were diffused with the scarabs, gems, and amulets of Egypt throughout the whole Eastern and Semitic world. Local imagination did the rest, and in this manner popular symbolism was enriched by a new type. 3
It is rather singular that this influence of the crux ansata upon the figurative representations of Sacred Cone is met with even amongst the Greeks. The great goddesses of the Asiatic littoral were early introduced into the Greek Pantheon, under their double form of divinities virgin and warlike,
such as Artemis, or voluptuous and prolific like Aphrodite. With their forms of worship came also their symbols, particularly the Conical Stone which already had its equivalent in the rude cippi of the Pelasgic simulacra. 1 Under the influence of Greek genius the Sacred Cone was not long in developing in a direction which made it approach the human profile. Among the terra-cottas of Bœotia we find a species of cone with the outlines of a head and the rudiments of arms, which represents a goddess, Aphrodite, or Harmonia.
This is unquestionably the transition from the Sacred Cone to the human form. M. François Lenormant, however, adduces, as more ancient, a specimen where we merely see the Cone with its rudiments of arms. 2 It may be questioned if these
Fig. 98. Ephesian Artemis.
(P. Decharme. Mythologie de la Grèce antique, fig. 145.)
are really arms, and even if these shapeless stumps were not prior to any desire to recognize in this image the human figure. I would be all the more inclined to seek herein the trace of a modification due to the influence of the crux ansata, since
another type of the classic Pantheon carries us back still more directly to the image of the Egyptian symbol. This is the Ephesian Artemis who, with her head encircled by a halo, her fore-arms projecting from either side of the body, and her lower members wedged into a case, most strikingly recalls, so to speak, an anthropomorphized Key of Life (fig. 98). The resemblance, perhaps, is still stronger on some coins of Cyzicus, where the
Fig. 99. Coin of Cyzicus.
(Revue de Numismatique, 1892, vol. ii., pl. ii., fig. 4.)
goddess appeared with chains hanging from the arms (fig. 99).
Strange as this comparison may appear at first sight, it finds its counterpart in an amulet belonging, to be sure, to the latter times of paganism, which was discovered amongst the ruins of the Serapeum at Alexandria.
(The Antiquary, 1881, p. 98.)
We have here, very probably, no longer a representation of the nourishing Artemis, modified by the intervention of the Key of Life, but a crux ansata altered by coming in contact with the
simulacra of the Ephesian Artemis, or some allied goddess. 1
The influence of the Key of Life is again visible in the following image of a Hermes consecrated
(Mém. de l’Acad. des inscr. et bel.-let., vol. xvii., 2nd. part, pl. ix., fig. 12.)
to the Chthonian Mercury, god of fertility and of life.
M. Raoul Rochette draws attention to another stele of the same shape in an inscription of Thessaly concerning funeral games. 2
The combination of the crux ansata with the Sacred Cone seems to have penetrated as far as India, if this conclusion may be drawn from an enigmatical figure to be seen amongst the symbols carved, at Amaravati, on the feet of Buddha (fig. 102 a).
To be sure, the Disk, or oval handle, which surmounts the Cone, is replaced, in the Buddhist symbol, by a triangular handle, or the section of a second cone inverted. But this difference is another presumption in favour of our thesis. In fact, it is precisely this substitution of a triangular
for an oval handle which characterizes the crux ansata of India, or at least the figure connected by Indian scholars with the Egyptian symbol of the
Fig. 102. 1
Key of Life (fig. 102 b), which reached India by way of Syria and Persia.
The symbol of Astarte, thus modified by the influence of the Key of Life, seems to have continued its development amongst the Semitic nations in a twofold direction.
On the one hand, upon the stelai of Carthage, consecrated to Tanit, the two extremities of the cross-bar which stretches out between the handle
(Corpus inscr. semitic, fasc. iv. (1889), tab. lii., fig. 138.)
and the Cone are generally turned upwards at right angles.
On the other hand, it must be noted, that in Cyprus and Asia Minor the base of the triangle completely disappears (fig. 104).
We can hardly find out, in these figures, the outlines of the original Cone. Yet the most competent writers who have expressed an opinion on this subject, MM. Lenormant, Berger, Tyler,
Perrot, and others, have had no hesitation in recognizing therein the symbol of Astarte-Tanit. Here, however, there was one Egyptologist who
Fig. 104. 1
lost patience. M. Eug. Revillout, the learned professor of the Ecole du Louvre, points out that these figures were merely the reproduction, more or less altered, of an Egyptian character, the sign sa, which means "protection" (fig. 105 a). Similarly, if he is to be believed, the so-called "Sacred Cone with arms and a head" would be nothing but "an Egyptian altar of a common shape," a table of offerings (fig. 105 b).
Fig. 105. 2
I am of opinion that M. Revillout is not mistaken; still those whom he accuses of being at
fault are none the less right. It is certainly the Great Goddess who is symbolized by the ansated Cones, at least, when they appear on stelai with inscriptions dedicated to Tanit, when on coins, they accompany the head of Astarte, or when they combine either with the lunar Crescent, or with the Disk encircled by the Crescent (fig. 104 c). On a stele of Libya a Disk between two upright horns surmounts the Cone (fig. 107), in exactly the same manner as, in a bronze of Syria reproduced by MM. Perrot et Chipiez, it forms the head-dress of an image of Astarte. 1 On the other hand, why should we refuse to admit that the Semitic artist, when he reproduced the old simulacrum of the Phœnician Goddess, already altered by what it had borrowed from the Key of Life, may have clung still more closely to the imitation of symbols emanating from Egypt?
M. Revillout, observing that the figure f in our illustration No. 104 is placed, in the field of a Hittite cylinder, at the feet of a goddess "with prominent ears and an enormous body," does not fail to add that, "in this description every Egyptologist will at once recognize the goddess Taouer or Thoueris, with the body of a hippopotamus, with the head of the same animal, or of a lioness, and having in front of her feet—as was the prevalent custom—the sign sa."
Far be it from me to call this in question. Since, however, neither the Hittites nor the Phœnicians worshipped, so far as I am aware, the goddess Tauer, it is probable that the author of the cylinder wished to represent one or other of the great Asiatic goddesses—in association with their usual symbol—under forms taken from the Egyptian imagery; as in other instances, the Phœnician artists derived the features, and even the costume
of their Astarte from the Egyptian type of Hathor. 1
Thus the worshippers of Tanit were able, without the slightest misgiving, to bend upwards the two branches of their ansated triangle in order to make it resemble the image exhibited by the Egyptian altar. We must not, therefore, unreservedly accept an explanation which makes us invariably see, in the Carthaginian development of the ansated Cone, an attempt to depict Tanit under the human form. It was in this manner doubtlessly that the shapeless simulacra by which the Greeks were long content to symbolize their gods began to draw nearer to the human body in appearance; and I am far from denying that the Semites did not occasionally attempt to develop the representations of their Sacred Cone in the direction of the human figure, or, on the other hand, to lend to the images of their great goddesses features which recalled the symbolic Cone. An intention of this kind is plainly disclosed in one of those singular figures engraved on the
(Gazette archéologique for 1879, pl. 21).
silver frontlet, found at Batna, which M. Renan has described and discussed in the Gazette archéologique.
This, however, is an exception, and in most existing specimens the emblem of Tanit remains a geometric figure which can in no way be likened to the human profile even when rudely outlined.
On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent
the Conical Stone, whilst representing Tanit, from serving itself as an altar at the same time as a simulacrum,—like the Phœnician bethel and the Arabian ansab. At least, it is quite possible that its figurative representation may have absorbed the image of the altar on which it stood in the sanctuary. Has it been noticed that on some Libyan stelai the symbol of Tanit seems to be made up of two distinct parts: the Cone properly
Fig. 107. (Genesius. Monumenta, tab. 17.)
so called with its usual appendages, and a kind of stand or pedestal?
In most cases the sculptor will not have gone to such a length, but will have contented himself with turning up the two extremities of the cross-bar in such a manner as to produce the so-called fore-arms which recall the two vases of the Egyptian altar. On a stele of Carthage these two extremities are replaced by two Caducei, perhaps with a view to symbolize the two male divinities who composed, with Tanit, the great divine Triad of the Carthaginians. 1
I will also draw attention to the fact that the symbol of the Sacred Cone, after being confounded with the Key of Life, and then transformed into an altar, seems to have again united with the crux ansata. Indeed, on a hematite cylinder of Hittite
origin, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, a personage is seen who holds the object depicted below (fig. 108 a).
This sign is unquestionably held like a Key of Life, and we may add that it exhibits the essential features of the latter. Moreover, it also includes
the outlines of what might be called the symbol of the ansated table. Finally, it may be questioned if it is not likewise influenced by yet a third figure. In his memoir, which dates from the year 1847, M. Lajard had already grasped its resemblance to the cuneiform sign which frequently accompanies the names of the divinities in the archaic inscriptions of Mesopotamia (fig. 108 b). 1
The parallel is all the more ingenious as at that time, now almost half a century ago, they did not know the exact meaning of this character, which has since been found to be an ideogram of the divinity amongst the Assyrians. It is quite likely that, through its constant association with the names of the gods, this sign may have acquired, even beyond Mesopotamia, a general symbolic or talismanic import, and that, consequently, there was a wish to detect its likeness in the object destined to represent the Key of Life, and recall the Sacred Cone, or at least its latest modification. When engaged in investigating the pre-Hellenic
arts, or forms of worship, of Asia Minor we must never forget that the recently discovered Hittite civilization was the complex product of an intermixture between the influences of Egypt and those of Mesopotamia, engrafted perhaps on an old Semitic stock, and, at all events, impregnated with Phœnician elements.
It ought, however, to be remarked that a figure identical with the cuneiform sign given above, is found amongst the characters of Cyprian writing, which characters are considered to be more or less related to the Hittite hieroglyphs; this is the letter which renders the sound of the vowel a 1, and which, on a coin of Cyprus, reproduced by the Duc de Luynes, actually appears near the ansated table.
(De Luynes. Numismatique cypriote, pl. v., fig. 12.)
Lastly we have seen that Istar-Astarte had also as a simulacrum an actual, or conventional, tree, often represented between personages facing one another. It seems as if a conical stone and a plant, even conventional, might be indefinitely placed in juxtaposition without their respective representations being prompted to borrow each other's forms. Yet this is what occurred in Syria, if we may judge from this amulet, of recent manufacture perhaps, but certainly of a very ancient pattern (fig. 110 a).
This image belongs undeniably to the symbolism of the Sacred Tree. On the other hand the triangular shape which the central object (plant, fruit
or leaf) approaches in appearance, the handle or elongated disk surmounting its top, the two small cross-bars which give the finishing touch to its resemblance to a cross, and especially an ansated
Fig. 110. Syrian Amulet.
cross,—all these features agree no less certainly with some Phœnician representations of the simulacrum of Astarte (fig. 110 b).
That this symbol should have come down to the Syrian of our days has nothing to surprise us, when we hear from a recent notice sent by a French military surgeon, Doctor Vercouvre, to the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, that a still more authentic form of the same sign is to be found among the modern inhabitants of Tunisia. 1 He traces back the marks which tattoo the face and hands of the aborigines to one and the same type, "a doll with outstretched arms," and he adds: "It is a reproduction of the anthropomorphic figure with outstretched arms, which, among the antique monuments of Phœnicia and Carthage, represent what is called by archæologists the
symbol of the Punic trinity,"—viz., our old ansated Cone with the extremities of the cross-bar turned upwards (see fig. 103). 1
The line separating the animal from the vegetable kingdom is not drawn so hard and fast in symbolism as it is in nature. Viewing the unceremonious manner in which such dissimilar objects as the Conical Stone, the solar Disk, the bird, the horns, the crux ansata, the table of offerings, the human profile, the cuneiform star, and the sacred plant come to borrow their respective forms and to blend one with another as in a transformation scene, we must perforce conclude that no hybrid combination is unacceptable to symbolism, when an amalgamation of ideas, or beliefs, is to be strengthened through blending the images by which they are expressed.
180:1 Le dieu gaulois du soleil et le symbolisme de la roue. Paris, 1886, p. 77.
180:2 a, Greek chrism; b, c, d, monograms of Christ at Philæ (Letronne. La croix ansée a-t-elle été employée pour exprimer le monogramme du Christ? in the Mémoires de l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, vol. xvi., pl. i., fig. 47, 48, 49); e. key of life.
180:3 See above, fig. 28, p. 57.
182:1 R. Brown, junior. The Unicorn, a mythological investigation, London, 1881, p. 66.
183:1 a, R. Brown, fig. 73 (coin of Metapontum); b, Hunter, pl. 22, fig. 13 (coin of Croton); c, Id., pl. 36, fig. 22 (coin of Megarsus).
183:2 "She was depicted with three faces," says Cleomedes, "because the ancients observed the moon under her three aspects of bicornous, half, and full" (cf. Montfaucon, i., pl. i., p. 252).
183:3 See above, chap. ii., § 3.
184:1 Tacitus, speaking of the simulacrum placed in the sanctuary of Paphos, says: Simulacrum deæ … continuos orbis latiore initio tenuem in ambitu metæ modo exsurgens (Hist., ii., 3).—Similar cones of stone have been discovered in the ruins of the Gigantea, in the island of Malta, as also about the site of the temple of Tanit at Carthage (cf. Fr. Lenormant, in the Gazette archéologique for 1876, p. 130).
185:1 See above, the stone of Paphos (fig. 41, p. 92).
186:1 a, On a coin of Paphos. Corpus inscript. semitic, vol. i., fasciculus i., p. 6; b, on a coin of Carthage (Barclay V. Head. Coins in the British Museum, pl. xxxv., No. 38); c, on intaglios of Sardinia (J. Menant. Pierres gravées de la Haute-Asia, vol. ii., Paris, 1886, pp. 256 and 258); d, on a Phœnician seal (Idem., p. 234).
188:1 Em. Coemans. Manuel de langue égyptienne, Ghent, 1887, 1st part, p. 46.
188:2 Perhaps it represented symbolically the vital germ, the spark of life; indeed, on some monuments, it appears to be hurled from the divine hand towards the nostrils of the dead person, and, in a bas-relief of the New Empire, Horus and Toth are seen to pour from a jar over the head of King Amenophis II., Keys of Life interlaced in the form of a chain (Champollion. Monuments de l’Égypte et de la Nubie, vol. i., pl. xlv., fol. I).
189:1 De Vogué, in the Journal Asiatique for 1867 (vol. x., 6th series), p. 222.
189:2 G. Maspero. Histoire ancienne des peuples de l’Orient. Paris, 1886, p. 141.
189:3 A. H. Sayce. Religion of the ancient Babylonians. London, 1887, p. 221 et seq.
189:4 J. Menant. Op. cit., vol. i., p. 196.
189:5 Ph. Berger. Représentations figurées des stèles puniques, in the Gazette archéoligique for 1876, p. 123.
189:6 Berger. Idem., p. 124.
189:7 M. Renan has pointed out, amongst inscriptions of Gebal, and of Sidon, in the vicinity of Tyre, numbers of inverted isosceles triangles which he believes to have been connected with the worship of Astarte. It is the same image that M. Schliemann noticed on the vulva of the Trojan Venus (Renan. Mission de Phénicie. Paris, 1864, pp. 523, 649–653.—Schliemann). Ilios, fig. 226.
190:1 Ezek. ix., 4–6.
190:2 Raoul Rochette. Sur la croix ansée asiatique, in the Mémoires de l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, vol. xvii., p. 375 et seq., pl. xvii., 2nd part.
191:1 See above, fig. 86, p. 180.
191:2 Eug. Révillout, in the Gazette archéologique for 1888, p. 3.
191:3 It is noteworthy that our astronomical sign of the planet Venus is a veritable crux ansata.
192:1 Max Collignon. Mythologie figurée de la Grèce antique, p. to et seq.
192:2 Fr. Lenormant, in the Gazette archéologique for 1876, p. 68.
194:1 Perhaps the influence of the Sacred Cone might also be discovered, as Herr Hugo von Lomnitz has already pointed out, in certain images of the Virgin, derived from the popular art of Spain and Sicily, where the body, enveloped in a robe which widens towards the foot, forms a veritable triangle surmounted by a head and flanked by two small arms bent horizontally.
194:2 Raoul, Rochette. Sur la croix ansée asiatique. Loc. cit., pl. ix., fig. 11.
195:1 a, See frontispiece; b, on a silver ingot (Edw. Thomas, in the Numismatic Chronicle, vol. iv. (new series), pl. xi.).
196:1 a, On a coin of Cilicia (Genesius. Scripturæ Phœniciae Monumenta, tab. xxxvii.).
b, On a coin of Cyprus (De Luynes, Numismatique et Inscriptions cypriotes. Paris, 1852, p. v., fig. 12).
c, On a votive stele of Carthage (Ph. Berger, in the Gaz. archéol. for 1876, p. 125).
d, On a Hittite seal (Perrot et Chipiez. Op. cit., vol. iv., fig. 384).
e and f, On a Hittite cylinder (Tyler, Babylonian and Oriental Record, vol. i., No. 10, p. 151, London, 1887).
196:2 Eug. Revillout. Sur un prétendu sceau hittite, in the Gazette archéologique for 1888, p. 1 et seq.
197:1 Vol. iii., fig. 26.
198:1 Corpus inscript. semitic, vol. i., fasc. i. (1881), p. 2.
199:1 Genesius, tab. 47.
200:1 Lajard. Origin et signification de la croix ansée, in the Mémoires de l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, vol. xvii., 1st part, p. 361.
201:1 M. Bréal. Déchiffrement des Inscriptions cypriotes, in the Journal des savants, 1877, p. 560.
202:1 Acad. des inscriptions et belles-lettres. Proceedings of Dec. 9th, 1892.
203:1 Dr. Vercouvre's interpretation has been confirmed, at a subsequent meeting of the Academy, by M. Philippe Berger, who has shown, moreover, how this old symbol has become, in some cases, a flower and a cross. (Cf. Revue de l’histoire des Religions, 1893, t. xxvii., p. 382.)