• r2-198-10
    Dionysus, front view, detail. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-198-20
    Dionysus, three-quarter view, overall. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Corinthian Head Capital from Screen Colonnade: Dionysus

Early 3rd C. AD, Roman
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 7102
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Capital, Mythological Figure
B MC Screen Colonnade
B-Grid Coordinates
E42.5 / N71 - N72 ca *96.70

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).

Dionysus wears a diadem which sits low on his forehead, making a slightly curved and prominent horizontal band which contrasts sharply with the deeply rounded curve of his chin. Entwined in the diadem are small bunches of grapes near the center and vine leaves toward the sides. Larger bunches of grapes hang down the sides of his head, together with long wavy strands of hair. His fine features are firm and sharply cut: eyebrows, which reflect the curve of the diadem; heavy lidded eyes with circular eyeballs placed high; flaring nostrils; and a slightly open straight mouth. He seems to be staring out into space with a dreamy, ethereal gaze.

This is a particularly attractive fragment, despite the damage. Remains of the capital are slight, including only fragments of leaves at his neck and a piece of the molding by the top of the head, but are enough to prove this was from the screen colonnade.

See Cat. 198, Cat. 199, Cat. 200, Cat. 201, Cat. 202, Cat. 203, Cat. 204, Cat. 205, Cat. 206 (Figs. 351-363).



Cheeks, lips, chin, nose damaged. Small portion of capital with head preserved.

H. 0.52, of head 0.25; W. 0.31; Th. 0.14.
For similarity to head of Caracalla, cf. Vermeule, Imperial Art, pl. 163.
See Also
Published: BASOR187, 52, fig. 61; Hanfmann-Detweiler, Great Synagogue of Sardis, 31, fig. 8; Hirschland, Head Capitals, 18, no. 8, pl. 8b. Hanfmann, Letters, fig. 148.