• r2-202-10
    Column capital with head of Medusa. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Corinthian Head Capital from Screen Colonnade: Head of a Gorgon

Early 3rd C. AD, Roman
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Capital, Mythological Figure
BE 61
B Marble Court
B-Grid Coordinates
E27 / N62 *97.5
B. Incorporated in screen colonnade reconstruction.

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 a gorgon projects straight out from the capital. A pair of snakes emerges from under the hair, encircles the jaw, and is tied in a double knot under the chin. The hair, in wavy strands, is longer on her r. side than her l. The drill is used extensively: in the hair; to separate snakes from cheek; for the pupils (pendent arc); the inner corners of the eyes; the horizontal opening of the mouth; and also for the deep channels in the leaves of the capital. The two moldings at the top of the capital are egg and dart and a wavy leaf pattern.

What remains of the face shows very little modeling. The head and hair are similar to another head from this series (Cat. 203 Fig. 358), but on Cat. 202 drilling is used more extensively and on Cat. 203 the snakes are not shown.

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



Entire front end of capital preserved except for surface damage. Back of capital sliced off vertically at middle of lifting hole in top surface. Medusa head damaged on most of face and top of head.

Capital: H. 0.72. Head: H. 0.23; W. 0.25.
See Also
Published: Hirschland, Head Capitals, 16f., no. 4, pl. 6c; Hanfmann, Letters, fig. 209. For additional comparison, see Ashmole, Cyriac, 190, pl. 39a.