• r2-197-10
    Corinthian pier capital with head of Zeus, front view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-197-20
    Corinthian pier capital with head of Zeus, front view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-197-30
    Corinthian pier capital with head of Zeus, detail of portrait. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-197-40
    Corinthian pier capital with head of Zeus, side view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-197-50
    Corinthian pier capital with head of Zeus, side view. (Photograph by Larry J. Majewski.)
  • r2-197-60
    Corinthian pier capital with head of Zeus, with corners reconstructed. (Photograph by Larry J. Majewski.)

Corinthian Head Capital with Zeus

Early 3rd C. AD, Roman
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Capital, Mythological Figure
B-Grid Coordinates
E36.40 - E37.20 / N91.30 - N91.90 *97.52

The series of head capitals belong to the “screen colonnade” of ten double-engaged columns between the Imperial cult hall or “Marble Court,” MC, and the palaestra, Pa, at the E side of the Roman Gymnasium, B (Yegül, Bath Gymnasium Diss., 99). The colonnade is an integral part of the Court, and therefore must be dated to the same period. A monumental inscription on the architrave of the building is dedicated to Julia Domna, Caracalla, and Geta (name erased), and therefore must be dated to A.D. 211-212, the joint regnal year of Caracalla and Geta (BASOR 162, 42; Hirschland, Head Capitals). The other capitals in this series come from closely related colonnades--the screen in front of the hall to the N of MC, designated BE-N (Cat. 197, Cat. 209 Fig. 349-350, 367-368) and the Pa colonnade (Cat. 207, Cat. 208 Figs. 364-366). Some of the capitals, and casts of others, have been erected in the monumental reconstruction of this complex (Figs. 347-348; see also Hanfmann, Letters, 278, figs. 208-210).

There seems to be a major Dionysiac theme in the group of heads which survives: this includes Dionysus, maenads, and satyrs; in addition there are several heads of other divinities from the Olympian pantheon. Another thread which runs through this group is a series of references to Caracalla. Two of the heads may show an actual resemblance to him (Cat. 198 Figs. 351-352, Dionysus; Cat. 205 Fig. 362, Hermes) and a third (Cat. 204 Figs. 359-361) is reminiscent of Alexander the Great, for whom Caracalla had great admiration and whom he tried to emulate (M. Bieber, Alexander the Great, 76; L’Orange, Apotheosis, 39).

The head of Zeus (?) looks slightly downward. The expression, with wide-open, yet heavy-lidded eyes, strong brow, and slightly open mouth, is dignified. The brows are slightly knit, and there are lines in the forehead. His hair is long and wavy, the beard made up of shorter clumps of thick curly hair. A moustache covers the upper lip; the lower one is thick and sensuous.

The pilaster capital is of the same type as the oval ones of the screen colonnade and the round ones of the palaestra colonnade except for its shape, which is square in the front. It came from the colonnade of BE-N, where a cast of it as been set up in the reconstruction. The leaves are of the sharply bent variety. In the top center of the l. side is a well preserved flower over the abacus moldings, which consists of oblique lines on the upper level and vertical fluting on the lower.

The drill has been used extensively, both in the leafy portion of the capital and the head; for instance, a round drill hole marks the center of the moustache, the pupils, and numerous parts of the beard and hair. The head is carved in the Roman Asia Minor manner, as opposed to the Hellenistic technique of some of the head capitals. Yet, the venerable type of Zeus figure probably relates as far back as the 4th C. B.C. The capital itself, as the others of the MC and Pa series at Sardis, was carved in ca. A.D. 212.

See also Cat. 198, Cat. 199, Cat. 200, Cat. 201, Cat. 202, Cat. 203, Cat. 204, Cat. 205, Cat. 206.


Marble, friable.

The corners of the capital have been struck off, and all tips of the acanthus leaves broken. Tip of Zeus’ head abraded, and parts of beard, hair, and other surfaces wearing away.

H. 0.71; W. at base 0.60; Th. at base 0.40. Head: H. 0.251; W. 0.19.
For the Asia Minor technique, Hirschland, Head Capitals, 20-21. For a version more in the Hellenistic tradition see Mercklin, Antike Figuralkapitelle, 122, no. 337a, figs. 620-21, from Didyma.
See Also
Published: BASOR191, 33, figs. 28 and 29; Hanfmann-Detweiler, Great Synagogue of Sardis, 31, fig. 6; Hirschland, Head Capitals, 22, pl. 36a; Hanfmann, Letters, fig. 208. Cf. Mercklin, Antike Figuralkapitelle, 144, no. 378, fig. 723, from Leptis Magna.