Hit the Rock and Water Must Come Out of It: Was Moses a Dowser?

Moses striking the rock by Murillo after Bartolomé Esteban Perez (style) – (1666-1670) (Public Domain)

Hit the Rock and Water Must Come Out of It: Was Moses a Dowser?

Then Yahweh said to Moses: 'Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel and your rod with which you struck the river Nile. Take it in your hand and you must walk. Behold, I stand before you on the rock in Horeb. And you must hit the rock and water must come out of it and the people must drink it. Then Moses did so before the eyes of the elders of Israel..."  (Exodus, 17, 5-6)

Statue of Moses by Leonardo Sormani and Prospero Antichi.  Acqua Felice fountain, in Rome. (Public Domain)

Statue of Moses by Leonardo Sormani and Prospero Antichi.  Acqua Felice fountain, in Rome. (Public Domain)

The Moses Fountain

In Rome, near the Largo di Santa Susanna - a stone's throw from Termini Station - there is a fountain that never found favor with the local inhabitants. In the central niche there is a statue of Moses and the 'miraculously flowing’ water from the rock. The sculpture by Leonardo Sormani, in collaboration with Prospero Antichi, is tainted by the false legend that due to the shame he felt for the 'unsightliness' of the statue, he threatened to commit suicide. In addition to the anachronism of the presence of the Tables of the Law - which Moses had not yet received at the time of the miracle of the waters - the marble ensemble is quite stocky, leading to the Romans, in their usual ironic vein, to label the fountain 'Moses Ridiculous'.  One could affix one of the usual pasquinate or satire to the sculpture: "Look with a grim eye / the water that flows to the feet / thinking horrified / at the damage that it made him / a stunned sculptor."


Become a member to read more OR login here

Ancient Origins Quotations