• r2-203-10
    Female head (medusa?) broken off corinthian capital. (©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
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 5508
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Capital, Mythological Figure
BE 61
B MC Screen Colonnade
B-Grid Coordinates
E37 / N66 *97.5

The series of head capitals belongs 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 head faces slightly to the l. as it projects from the capital. Asymmetry appears in her hair, which is slightly longer on her l. side. The hair, in wavy strands made partly by drilling, may be intended to imitate snakes. The identification as Medusa rests on the similarity of the head to Cat. 202 (Fig. 357) which has snakes tied under the chin. The brow is slightly modeled and has a crease; the forehead projects noticeably over the eyes. The cheeks have almost no modeling. The eyes have heavy upper and lower lids; pupils are incised; irises are made by drilled pendent arcs. The inner corners are drilled also. The damaged mouth was clearly open. The ends of tendrils and the tip of an acanthus leaf remain under her chin.

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



Head, with damage all the way down center of face, and small amount of capital attached to it are preserved.

H 0.52, of head 0.25; W. 0.31; D. 0.14.
See Also
Published: Hirschland, Head Capitals, 18, no. 8, pl. 8b. For additional comparison, see Ashmole, Cyriac, 190, pl. 39a.