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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    The Lion Tomb, Xanthos.
    Oblong chest with reliefs on all four sides, which originally surmounted a Lycian sepulchral tower about 3m in height. This monument, which is known as the 'Lion Tomb,' stood within the city of Xanthus to the east of the Acropolis.
    The chest is made of a single block of hard coarse white limestone hollowed out; a ledge remains at the South side for the head of the corpse. The North end was broken away and four fallen fragments were found and rejoined. The entrance is on the West side, irregularly placed near the South corner; it is 0.30m across and worked with a rebate for a door, which is lost.
    From the indications on the inside, it is probable that there was a second opening on the West side near the north corner, which would make the side symmetrical. The lid was not found; the rebate to receive it is visible on the sides.

    1. South side. On a bracket supported by a cavetto moulding, a lion to the left recumbent, in high relief, the hind legs doubled beneath, the tail curled up between the legs and appearing over the left haunch, which is strongly modelled. The proportions are heavy, but in some details (e.g., the feet) the treatment is more advanced. The head is large and turned to the left; the eyes are deeply sunken; the mane is a raised surface, arched high over the forehead, plain on the chest, elsewhere treated in flat tufts with curling ends. The top of the head is flattened to make space for the lid. Between the fore paws of the lion is the head of a bull, horns downwards, which the lion has mastered and grips by the throat. The scale of the bull is disproportionately small. Below the fore paws is a tablet which seems to have traces of an inscription.

    2. East side. The lower half is plain; on the upper half a frieze in very low relief appears to have occupied the entire length; the North or right end, is broken away; the frieze stands in a very shallow panel with squared edges above and below and a bevelled edge on the left.
    On the left is a round shield hanging against a wall; beyond it an armed man moves to left, wearing a Corinthian helmet with high plume, a round shield covering the body; the ends of a spear are traceable in front of the thigh and behind the head. There appears to be a junction between the two shields; a similar junction occurs on the east side of the Belenkli relief. On the right, a group of two turned to the right; a horseman leads, followed by a young attendant carrying a spear on his right shoulder, an uncertain attribute in his left hand in front, and wearing a chiton down to the knees. The horseman has a helmet, part of which is broken away together with the face, and a short chlamys on the back; the legs and tail of his horse are elongated, the head and neck are broken away. In front of him, either the border of the panel, or more probably the lower part of a standing figure with drapery down to the feet.

    3. North side. In high relief, a lioness recumbent to the right playing with a couple of cubs. The forms are thin and sinewy; the mane is a flat raised surface; four teats are prominently shown on the underside. The head is turned to the right; the right paw is outstretched, the left holds down the upper of the two cubs. One cub lies with head and fore paws to front over the fore paw of the lioness, its body on the right, its hind legs drawn up; a groove separates it from the second cub, which lies on the back of the first. The lioness holds its throat; its head, eye and muzzle can be clearly seen. This side is similar in style to the south side; the relief is more fragmentary; the lower part with the hind legs and the bracket, a part of the back, and the top of the head and face are missing. In two fragments.

    4. West side. This is divided by the entrance into panels of which that; on the right is perfectly preserved, that on the left has perished save the extreme left angle. The relief is low, but more rounded than on (2).
    (A) On the right is a combat of a lion and man. The man, on the left, is nude and beardless; the head is large and square, the eye oblique, the cheekbones prominent; long nose and bowed lips, with an archaic smile; the ears large and set high; his hair falls on his shoulders in four tiers of a peruke, or rows of curls; over his forehead is a pointed diadem. His left hand grips the lion by the ear, his right drives a short leaf-shaped sword into its chest. The body forms are of a primitive type, the ribs incurved, the pelvis almost straight, the genitals omitted. The shoulders are wide, the right is shown front-ally, while the left side of the chest is in profile, with the head and legs. The left leg is advanced, the right drawn back. The lion is balanced on its left hind leg, its two fore paws clinging to the man's left hand, its right hind paw striking at his thigh; the head faces to the front; the mane is not shown.
    Behind the lion the background appears unfinished. The field of the panel is inset with straight edges; beneath it is a flat moulding, perhaps with traces of pattern or an inscription.
    (B) On the left all but the left hand corner is now missing. This shows a draped figure seated on a throne with back, arm-rests and cushion; head and legs of the figure, and part of the back leg of the throne are missing. Below is a flat moulding, on which are traces of maeander pattern.


  • Date

    • 550BC-500BC
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 95 centimetres (South)
    • Length: 122 centimetres (South)
    • Depth: 25 centimetres (South, of carving)
    • Height: 47 centimetres (East)
    • Length: 99 centimetres (East)
    • Depth: 1.2 centimetres (East, max, of carving)
    • Height: 71 centimetres (North)
    • Length: 107 centimetres (North)
    • Depth: 16 centimetres (North, of carving)
    • Height: 56 centimetres (West, A)
    • Length: 46 centimetres (West, A)
    • Depth: 1.6 centimetres (West, A, of carving)
    • Height: 39 centimetres (West, B)
    • Length: 12 centimetres (West, B)
    • Depth: 1.6 centimetres (West, B, of carving)
  • Curator's comments

    BM Sculpture

    South side: Fellows, Journal, p. 226, and Travels, p. 168 and Account, pl. facing p. 176 (all very poor); Dieulafoy, Art. ant. de la Perse, III pl. 16; Jacobsthal in Charites F. Leo dargebracht, p. 455; Prachov, pl. I; Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, V, p. 392, fig. 277, and p. 395, fig. 280; Poulsen, Orient u. fruhgr. Kunst, fig. 180; Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs, I, 466, I, 2.

    East side: The whole is in very low relief and worked flat with few details, which were probably given in painting; of this no trace can now be detected. This technique recalls the Naucratis relief B437, but is less primitive, the edges being more rounded. The similarity of style with the corresponding side of the Belenkli reliefs (infra) is noteworthy.
    Fellows, Account, pl. facing p. 176 (very inaccurate); Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, V, p. 394, fig. 279; Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs, I, 467. 4.

    North side: Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, V, p. 391, fig. 276; Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs, I, 467. 5.
    [This slab proves to be of white limestone and is therefore not part of the block of brownish marble-like limestone from which the other three sides are carved. Note, B.A., 1953]

    West side: Fellows, Account, pl. facing p. 176; Dieulafoy, Art ant. de la Perse, III, pl. 16; Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, V, p. 392, figs. 277 and 278; Poulsen, Orient u. fruhgr. Kunst., p. 151, fig. 179; Prachov, pl. I, fig. 1; Reinach, Répertoire de Reliefs, I, 466, 3.

    Whole: The irregularities of style are noteworthy, the high relief of the ends contrasting with the low relief of the sides and the good archaic work on the west with the inorganic flatness of the east. The tomb is considerably older than the other sculptures from Xanthus in the Museum and probably belongs to the first quarter of the sixth century B.C. At the same time the details are purely Hellenic and not, as has been thought, native Lycian.
    With this monument Mendel compares two other pillar-tombs, not far distant in date; the three forming the earliest group of Lycian sculptures at present known:
    (1) from Geulbashi (Petersen and v. Luschan, Reisen in Lykien, II, p. 13, fig. 9); fragments of an armed procession, closely resembling the relief on the east side;
    (2) from Belenkli, now in Constantinople (Mendel, Cat., I, no. 109): the east side shows warriors almost identical with the left figure on the east of the Lion Tomb; the other sides have bas-reliefs with scenes of war and hunting, comparable in style with the man on the west of the Lion Tomb. Generally, the Belenkli reliefs seem more provincial and traces of Oriental influence are more apparent. In execution the Lion Tomb appears to be superior to the others.

    Smith, no. 80; Synopsis, Lycia, no. 31; Benndorf, Reisen in Lykien, I, p. 88, and II (Petersen), p. 13; P. Gardner, Sculptured Tombs of Hellas, p. 68; Lethaby, Gr. Buildings in the Brit. Mus., p. 198; Mendel, Constantinople Cat., I, pp. 276, 280; Murray, Gr. Sculpt., 2nd ed., I, p. 127; Perrot and Chipiez, Hist. de l’Art, V, p. 392; Poulsen, Orient u.fruhgr. Kunst, p. 150; Strong, Apotheosis and After Life, p. 151.


  • Bibliography

    • Sculpture B286 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number


  • Joined objects

COMPASS Title: Marble relief from the Lion Tomb


COMPASS Title: Marble relief from the Lion Tomb

Image description



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Object reference number: GAA9220

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