• r2-26-10
    Left side view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-26-20
    Right side view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-26-30
    View of head. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Lion Couchant

600-570 BC, Lydian
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 4082
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Marble, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Animal, Lion
Syn 69
Syn MH Spolia
B-Grid Coordinates
E87 / N1.5 *95.7 - 95.4
Syn MH, in E face of pier S1, used as building block

The recumbent lion lies on a plinth which projects slightly beyond the sides of the animal and is square in front and oval behind. Both pairs of the lion’s feet point forward, and its large flat-topped head is held level. The mouth is open in a roar displaying dense small fangs. Circumscribed by two grooves, “flesh” or “lips” are shown all around the mouth. The eyes are made by square cuttings; no ears are shown. The muzzle is square, the nose is a flat projection. There are curving incisions on both sides of the nose as if a “palmette muzzle” was started but never carried out. Beginning below the lion’s eye level is a collar-like mane (W. 0.02) with light cross strokes on the proper l. side. The underside of the chin is roughly picked and only partly finished.

The front paws, which are flat on top, have four slightly radiating claws. The legs are as long as they are wide. The l. forepaw is slanted slightly inward making a slight asymmetry with the rigidly frontal r. leg. On the outside of all four legs is a petal-shaped incision; it ends in a small spur which serves for the outside toe. The underbelly is deeply and sharply cut, with flat chisel strokes still visible (Fig. 102). The rear paws have two claws showing, the inner one projecting beyond the outer. There is a “spur” at the back of the joint on the hind leg (foot?). The well-rounded tail is slung diagonally over the rear of the body and comes down over the l. flank onto the l. leg where it terminates in an oval tuft.

The head and legs are disproportionally large, the body very short. Horizontal emphasis is given by the lines of the tops of the cheeks, jaws, chin, top and bottom of forelegs, and the plinth. The form is cubic retaining the planes of the stone from which it was hewn.

The lion is very close to the “Late Hittite” Anatolian square-headed crouching type (cf. Gabelmann, Lowenbild, 11ff.). Even closer to the Hittite lions is a rock-crystal lion from PN (BASOR 177, 7, fig. 7, J64.002) which our lion otherwise resembles. It is not well stratified (fill W246/S354). Imported pieces of this kind may have provided the immediate models, compare the imported “Late Hittite” ivory lion from Samos (Herrmann, 34, fig. 48). A Urartian bronze lion from Patnos shows similar posture, expression, and the prototypes of the “petal convention” (Akurgal, Orient, pl. 40). The early date is supported by clear relation to the early Eastern Greek lion from Pergamon, dated by Gabelmann (Lowenbild, 81f., no. 100, pl. 20:1) to the late 7h C.

The “laughing” expression occurs in the imported (?) ivory lion from Ephesus (ibid., 36, no. 20 = Akurgal, Kunst Anatoliens, 194, fig. 191) and the 7th C. Cretan lion from Arkades (Gabelmann, Lowenbild, 35, no. 18, pl. 3:2).

A. Ramage (recording entry) has pointed to the resemblance of the “petal convention” to conventions on the “panthers” of the pediment at Kerkyra, ca. 580 B.C. (Lullies-Hirmer, Greek Sculpture, 38, pl. 14), but these may be due to Sardian and Corinthian sculptors’ parallel imitation of similar Near Eastern prototypes, not to dependence of Sardis on Corinth. Tuchelt tries to date the piece not before 550 B.C. However, a date of 600-570 B.C. is more likely.


Originally yellowish white marble, now reddish.

Cracked across spine to top of l. haunch. Pieces of l. and r. sides of head and mane; piece of r. haunch, corner of plinth under l. front paw broken away. Surface battered.

H. 0.37; L. 0.57; W. 0.19; H. of head 0.17, of plinth 0.03.
Cf. also Weidauer, Probleme, 97-107, pl. 21, nos. 184-185, bulging eye, emphatic small distinct teeth, dated 660 B.C.; K. T. Erim, Aphrodisias, 26, fig. 10.
See Also
Published: BASOR182, 82f., fig. 33; G. M. A. Hanfmann in Schefold, Die Griechen, 283f., fig. 332 b; Tuchelt, Didyma, 185, n. 87.