• r2-135-10
    Monumental relief, overview of fragments. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-135-20
    Monumental relief, restoration drawing. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Monumental Relief / Tomb Relief

perhaps 150-125 BC, Hellenistic
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Funerary Relief, Draped Man
B-Grid Coordinates
W250 / S360 *89.65

A-1 and A-2. These fragments make up the lower r. portion of the relief. They show the legs and lower hem of the himation, of thick wool cloth, of a standing man, the central figure of the relief. Both feet came nearly straight out of the background: the r. foot and ankle are beautifully worked; the surface of the l. foot is lost. The hemmed garment and the large simple straight fold falling at l. speak for a man, rather than a lady.

At the r. side of the relief, and at the proper l. of the large cloaked male, stands a slender, elongated youth, ca. 0.60-0.61 high. His long proportions suggest the late Hellenistic period. The outline of his head is preserved, although all of his face is split off; the ear and short locks of hair, preserved on the l. side, show that he is a boy. The head was turned to his r., the neck is tensed. Folds on his l. shoulder indicate that he wore a chlamys, clasped on his chest. The short wide l. sleeve, all of the l. arm except the hand, and the outlines of his girt tunic survive. The r. arm was bent and placed on his chest; the l. was lowered and may have grasped the tunic or an attribute. The youth stands in front of a pillar 0.13 wide, which frames this side of the stele; his r. shoulder is in front of the heavy cloak fold of the large central figure.

B. This piece preserves the lower l. corner of the relief, including the l. edge of the stele (Th. 0.55). It joins A-1 on both front and back surfaces; the background of the stele at the joint is only 0.02 Th. The r. side of a figure in a short girt chiton is preserved on this fragment. The belt and two folds of the overhang are indicated, but the lower skirt is smooth. Otherwise, the surface is split off except the proper r. shin and lower leg and the surface of the pillar in front of which the figure stands. The pillar is placed obliquely to the background. The leg is separated from the background by widely spaced stop-and-go drill runs.

C. All edges of this piece have been broken, and the lower side shows the curvature of the secondary working for the curved well mouth. At the l. side of the fragment can be seen the r. arm of the large central figure, coming out of an undergarment. A cloak clearly comes from the shoulder and swings around his r. hip in three large folds. On his l. side is a piece of background with a straight edge to it, probably the l. side of his body.

D. The fragment preserves part of the l. edge of the stele. A pillar shown in oblique foreshortening, with a simple profile on top, bears a crowning pier or anta capital. The lower r. arm of the central figure rests on top of the capital, but the damage is too severe to ascertain how the hand lay. Behind the arm is a small altar-like rectangular object with a projection on top which might be “horns of consecration.” Two elongated, round-ended shapes appear in relief on the front of the “altar,” but their explanation remains unclear.

Other Hellenistic reliefs show a male figure, usually in cloak or toga, between two very similar small boys in girt chitons. The central figure of the Sardis relief cannot have had a toga, as the garment is flung around his lower body in Hellenistic Zeus fashion. The figure was, however, fully draped, as the sleeve of the undergarment shows. He must have been a standing, not a seated figure since the space occupied by the well head leaves just enough area for standing legs and torso between the preserved r. arm and the lower legs.

As to style, the very elongated proportions of the boy at lower r. (A-2) show that this is past the crest of Pergamene Baroque, and in the phase of the Aemilius Paullus frieze at Delphi (168 B.C.), possibly around 150-125 B.C. In contrast to most Eastern Greek Hellenistic reliefs, this one seems to have been over lifesize, 1.80 or more. If so, it may be only an exceptionally large “heroic” funerary relief.

A and B (lower pieces) together: H. 0.69; W. 1.04; Th. 0.12 at thickest point, 0.02 at background. C: (upper r. piece) H. 0.45; W. 0.59. D (upper l.): H. 0.67; H. at l. edge 0.54; W. 0.33. Est. H. 1.80 or more.
Hellenistic parallels encourage identification of the central figure as a man. These Greek reliefs frequently show two smaller male figures at the sides, and a larger male in the center. Cf. Pfuhl, Beiwerke, 77, no. 11, pl. 6.2, and 54, no. 28, fig. 10 on p. 55; Pleket, Inscriptions Rijksmuseum, no. 41, pl. VII; Izmir, Fuarı Museum no. 164, Paramon Menekleous, man between two pillars and two small, girt boys, H. 0.96; W. 0.47.
See Also
A. Alexandridis, June 6, 2016, notes: The relief does not show a seated goddess; it is a Hellenistic tomb relief depicting a man (see short chiton, which does not cover the ankles) in between a stele and his servant; see RP. Zanker, Hellenistic Grave Stelai from Smyrna, in: A Bulloch et al. (eds.), Images and Ideologies..
Published:BASOR166, 18, fig. 12. Dating is by Hanfmann.