• r2-28-10
    View of left side. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-28-20
    View of right side. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-28-30
    Frontal view. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • r2-28-40
    View in-situ. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Recumbent Lion on Plinth, South-East Corner of Altar

570-560 BC, Lydian
Manisa, Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, 5782
Museum Inventory No.
Sardis or Museum Inv. No.
Sandstone, Stone
Object Type
Sculpture Type
Animal, Lion
PN Locus Cybele Altar
B-Grid Coordinates
W266 / S339 *87.25 - 87.00
(Fig. 113, in situ).

The two and one half recumbent lions which follow (Cat. 27, Cat. 28, Cat. 29 Figs. 105-117) are from the altar of Kuvava (H. 1.73; L. 3.10; W. 2.05) in the sector PN. They are of very crumbly sandstone. A sample of Cat. 28 (taken Aug. 14, 1975) was determined at the Sardis Laboratory to be sandstone with some calcareous material. The fragility of the stone appears to be the result of fire damage.

The development and dating of the altar are discussed in supra Ch. II, “The Lydian Era.” the lions belong to the original phase of construction; during the reconstruction, they were “carefully surrounded with schist and small limestone chips and immured at the SE and SW and NW corners” (BASOR 191, 12). It is probable that there were originally four lions. In this first phase the altar was made of smaller, more regularly laid stones, faced with white clay and probably painted. It had an inside area for the burning of offerings, with a cobbled floor at *87; pieces of calcined bone were found on it, covered by eleven alternating levels of ashes and earth (ibid., 11). All lions faced E, as did the sacrifant, who stood on a low step attached to the W side of the altar (ibid., 199, 17; and Fig. 106, reconstruction).

The general appearance of such an altar with four corner lions and possibly its varied colors, imitating brick or stone, are illustrated by the Etruscan painting of a fountain, Tomba dei Tori, Tarquinia, perhaps painted by an Eastern Greek painter around 540 B.C. Imitation of brick pattern was also likely to be promoted by memories of gold bricks used in the pedestal of a lion given by Croesus to Delphi (Hanfmann, Croesus, 14, figs. 33-34). The H. of the altar in its original stage was ca. 1.20.

In 1973, casts made from the preserved lions were given additional restorations and were installed on the altar from which part of the upper, later construction had been removed during excavation. The position of the lions was changed for the sake of visibility so that the SE lion (Cat. 28) was moved to the NE corner (Fig. 105; cf. BASOR 215, 44, n. 25, fig. 17).

The three pieces show slight differences, yet they could all come from the same hand. They certainly come from one workshop. Compared to the stony massivity of the “laughing lion” (Cat. 26 Figs. 102-104), the enlargement of the chest and shoulders, slimming of the lower legs, indication of a “waistline,” and the rounded outlines moving up and down (esp. Figs. 113, 114) represent a considerable advance.

The altar lions belong to the type which Gabelmann, 91ff., has described as “Late Archaic Standard Type” (Einheitstypus). Seen in identical posture, his earliest Ionian example, a lion in Izmir (ibid., no. 126, pl. 25:1; Akurgal, Kunst Anatoliens, 279, fig. 246f., Izmir no. 328), is already more developed in clearer differentiation of mane and a more leonine head. The rear of another lion in Izmir is very similar to those of the altar lions (Gabelmann, Lowenbild, no. 126a, pl. 18:4, Izmir no. 118). Clearly, they belong to the same general regional Eastern Greek-Lydian style as do our pieces Cat. 34 and Cat. 35 (Figs. 125-132).

On very general grounds, Gabelmann dates the Izmir lion about mid-6th C. The misshapen heads, small eyes, sickle-shaped ears of the altar lions seem similar to such lions as those of the Artemisium in Delos (ibid., 74f., pls. 16f.) for which the traditional date of 600 B.C. is too high and Gabelmann’s 550-540 too low; 580-560 should be right. The altar lions have their own dating evidence of pottery from under the altar. This leads to a date of 570, at the latest 560 B.C.

The lion lies on a low plinth with legs extended forward. The sharply cut ridge of the spine and the position of the tail are as in the preceding piece. The small, burned, seal-like head with roaring mouth has a trace of the tongue on the proper l. and teeth showing. They are not clearly visible in any photograph. No eyes are discernible. On the underside and l. side of the neck a shallow ridge shows the beginning of a mane (esp. Fig. 111). Nothing in the anatomy warrants describing this lion as a lioness as was originally assumed in excavation records.

Very fragile, partly burned, crumbling. Piece of plinth with part of l. foreleg, fragments of r. foreleg, corner of r. haunch broken off. Front head, parts of tail, corners of plinth at back broken off. Surface destroyed on head, front, most of proper r. side.
H. 0.34, of lion 0.29. Plinth: H. 0.05; L. 0.485; W. 0.22.
See Also
See also: LATW Cat. 13
Published: BASOR191, 12, figs. 10-11; Hanfmann, Letters, 221, fig. 170; Hanfmann, Croesus, 14, fig. 31, mistakenly “lioness.” Lydians and Their World, cat. 13.