Eagle and Serpent. A Study in the Migration of Symbols

Rudolph Wittkower

Journal of the Warburg Institute, 2:4, 1939, 293-325

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"In seeking to prove their case, 'diffusionist' ethnologists, who are concerned with the migration of symbols, have perhaps paid insufficient attention to those historical periods and civilizations in which the transmission of rites, symbols and ideas is adequately documented. And their opponents have been inclined to forget that in many fields of historical study the diffusionist method is already regarded as the natural starting-point of any discussion and, indeed, has often become a highly developed technique of research. ... In the present essay we shall deal with a very common symbol, the struggle between the Eagle and the Snake. Fights between eagles and snakes have actually been observed, and it is easy to understand that the sight of such a struggle must have made an indelible impression upon human imagination in its infancy. ... Our procedure will be to argue from evidence to be found in the Mediterranean world. Since the migration of our symbol can be traced with certainty in Europe and the Mediterranean world of antiquity, it is reasonable to suspect that when the same symbol appears outside that area in different places and at different periods, it was not invented again independently, even if the connecting links are still missing.." - Wittkower

Language: English


Last update December 6, 2021