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Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria Nineveh
Arslan Tash Til Barsip
Iran Palace of Darius
Phoenicia Arabia Palmyra
Syrian coast
Ougarit Byblos


Tilapia nilotica     E 13416

Sully Room 3 window 2 (10-12)


Because the tilapia incubates
its young in its mouth
and spits them out

when they are fully  formed,

This fish was probably taken
as a symbol of resurrection.

Tilapia fish and the origin of the word Ichthus,

a symbol of resurrection

The name originates from the word ichthus and the monogram IXTHUS (IHS), an emblem of the early Christians of Egypt. It means "Jesus Christ, the son of God Saviour" Iesous Theou Yios Christos Soter.

Basin with
the monogram of Christ

OA 4029
Richelieu 1st Floor

Valencia Corridor
Room 5

Spain, Manises
First half of the fifteenth century

Earthenware gloss

Tilapia fish, and the origin the monogram emblem IHS
of the early Christians of Egypt

Remnants of Kellia, these cells for monks who settled in the southeast desert of Alexandria at the beginning of our era have yielded traces of fish, a sign of the new faith and of Christ the Saviour. However, there are many times that the fish appear in ancient pagan symbolism, often without any relation to aquatics.

One example of the whole image, drawn by a monk on the wall of his cell, is now in the Musée du Louvre. We can distinguish very clearly the fish through the cross.

Relief for fish to cross

MA 3034

Denon Mezzanine Room B

IV century AD

Not visible now


See also

Tank fragmentary sarcophagus Livia My Primitiva 2983, Denon Room 28
The image of the good shepherd surrounded by sheep and the presence of an anchor and a fish indicate the significance of the deceased to the Christian community.


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