• r2-199-10
    Corinthian capital with head of laughing faun, overview. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-199-20
    Corinthian capital with head of laughing faun, detail of faun’s face. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Corinthian Head Capital from Screen Colonnade: Head of Laughing Faun

Early 3rd C. AD, Roman
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 3945
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Capital, Mythological Figure
Screen Colonnade 59
B MC Screen Colonnade
B-Grid Coordinates
E32.00 / N57.50 *97.30

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 (see Fig. 4; 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 satyr has long ears which point forward. The short hair, brushed away from the face, makes a round clump above the middle of his forehead. To r. and l., just at the juncture of hair and skin, are the small knobs of two horns. He wears a wreath of leaves, with horizontal striations, and pinecones, of which there are four. The face has a twinkling expression which is made by his laughing eyes and gaily grinning mouth, and the wrinkles made at eyes and cheeks from the all-pervading smile. The eyebrows project along the bony ridge and have incised hair. There is no pupil or iris, but the inner corners are drilled to show tear ducts. The nose has a bump below the bridge and flaring nostrils. The open mouth is carved to only a shallow depth, so that teeth are implied, though not shown distinctly. The chin has a dimple in the center. The whole head is turned to the satyr’s l., and this twist is shown also in the neck.

The most expressive and well-modeled head is the finest from the screen colonnade series. Its artistic origins, based on Hellenistic prototypes, do not imply an earlier date than the other heads, since there is no evidence of repairs or restoration to the screen colonnade. Rather, this head is founded in an earlier tradition than some of the others.

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


White marble.

Complete head preserved, and the l. front corner of capital. Rest of capital missing.

Head: H. 0.24; W. ear to ear 0.19. P.H. of capital 0.38; W. 0.715.
See Also
Published: BASOR157, 38, fig. 21; Hanfmann-Detweiler, Sardis, Capital, 62, fig. 12; Hanfmann, Sardis und Lydien, 36, no. 6, fig. 20; C.C. Vermeule in Sandler, Essays Lehmann, 366, no. 3, fig. 10; Hirschland, Head Capitals, 15, pl. 5a.; Hanfmann, Letters, 65, 278, figs. 44, 210.