Fragment of a Lion Sarcophagus, c. 250-275

Not on Viewexpand_more

In the early centuries of the Roman Empire, most Romans practiced cremation. However, in the 2nd century, the dominant rite changed to burial and sarcophagi (stone coffins) became fashionable. Since the Romans did not have a strong religious belief in the afterlife, the decoration was usually secular, often depicting subjects derived from Greek mythology, rather than references to death or the afterlife.

Lions were a favorite motif on Roman saracophagi. They appeared in Bacchic processions, or as the prey in elaborate hunt compositions, but were also used in a symbolic sense. Isolated lion heads functioned much like the gorgon apotropaion, a protective device believed to ward off evil. This lion's deeply cut, piercing eyes, and shaggy, drill-worked mane produce an appropriately aggressive image.

Fragment of a Lion Sarcophagus
Accession Number
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.

No Image Available