Why does Michelangelo's Moses has hornes?
02/22/2020 14:10:52
   Author : ბექა ხოჯავა.


Melam - Solid light in Sumerian mythology

According to the "Black and Green dictionary of Mesopotamia", a word melam denotes the effect of the horn-shaped light pouring from being and objects of divine power. Unlike Christian halo, it has no connection with owner moralistic principles. Alongside gods and heroes sometimes demonic creatures are depicted with the melam too. The oldest depictions of melam as a symbol of supernatural origin can be found on the cylinder seals of the Jemdet Nasr period (3000 B.C.). On this occasion, it comes from the building meant for public worshiping. With human figures, it doesn't appear until the Akkadian period (24-20 B.C.). On the cylinder seals of that period, it helps us to tell supernatural creatures from mortal humans. 

The connection between melam and Moses.

There are several theories about the presence of the horns on the head of Moses sculpted by Michelangelo Buonarotti for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Some bonds that to the antisemitism of the author, but the tradition of depicting Biblical prophet with the horns dates far before the formation of antisemitism as a socio-cultural phenomenon.  A more realistic theory connects it with the translation of the Torah by Saint Jeremiah. In chapter 34 of the Book of Exodus, we read "cornuta esset facies sua" ("The skin of his face shone"). Which of these two theories is true?  The oldest translation from Aramean is a Greek one, according to which Moses faces shone not only after his encounter with the god but also during his birth. 

An ancient Aramyan word קָרַ֛ן (qāran) vocalized as a verb means "to have horns" - We meet it in the bible in this form four times. As a noun, it means "The horn-shaped light coming from a holy altar and is used about 90 times. Modern researchers tend to use a somewhat synthesized translation for the phrase cited above: "His (Moses') face was illuminated by the horn-shaped light". I can hardly imagine an ancient Mesopotamian who would not call an object of such a description - a melam.