Lions and Fantastic Creatures

Beasts - Lions and Fantastic Creatures. Excerpt from: Estelle Shohet Brettman, Vaults of Memory: The Roman Jewish Catacombs and their Context in the Ancient Mediterranean World, with Amy K. Hirschfeld, Florence Wolsky, & Jessica Dello Russo. Boston: International Catacomb Society, 1991-2017 (rev. 2024).

Ancient writers on natural history attributed certain qualities and traits of behavior to fish, birds and animals, based on popular traditions, folklore, and pseudo-scientific "observations." Philosophers and moralists held them up as examples, and these creatures became symbols for the vices and virtues with which they were endowed. Because their attributes were so well known and widely accepted, like flora, their presence in art served as a kind of shorthand for abstract ideas. Thus in the imagery of the catacombs, a few familiar motifs could express complex theological ideas, and the humblest worshipper, even though illiterate, could be reminded of scriptural teachings about God's grace toward man and man's duty to God, of sin, redemption, and man's hope for eternal life in the abode of the blessed.

Lions: The King of Beasts and Relatives

Like their fabulous hybrids sphinxes, cherubim, and griffins, lions, often in heraldic stance, were traditional custodians of treasured objects and precincts. The powerful royal ever-watchful beasts, like their mutations, were not only common in funerary art of the late Roman Empire but also were age-old staunch guardians of revered persons, associates of deities, and when identified with monarchs and sacred objects, perhaps indicated the presence of divinity and/or divine power. Representations of lions graced King Solomon's throne and the ascent thereto (I Kin. 10:19: 20:11 and II Chron. 9:18, 19), as they or their close relatives embellished the thrones of other Mediterranean monarchs.

Fig. 1. DAPICS n. 3214.

Fig. 1. King Ahasuerus accompanied by Bather, attendants and "bystanders" greets a courtier-messenger while seated on his royal seat decorated with lions. The steps of the dais leading to it are ornamented with golden lions alternating with eagles (animals donating parts to the griffin). Painted west wall. Synagogue of Dura Europos.[1] The much-destroyed painting in the Dura Europos synagogue of Solomon's throne was depicted with the same animals, thus differing from the one described in I Kings but conforming to the specifications in the Targum Sheni.[2] Painted panel on west wall of the synagogue of Dura Europos.

Fig. 2. DAPICS n. 3187.

Fig. 2. Another type of throne is flanked by sphinxes, here females--generally preferred by the ancient Greeks. These offshoots of the king of beasts also famed protectors of tombs as well as other objects and sites from ancient times, guard the Etruscan stone cinerary statue of a mother cradling a child in her arms, evoking imagery of a personified Mother Barth nurturing the departed "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was" (Eccles. 12:7). From Chianciano.

Sphinxes decorate the throne of Aphrodite holding a flower on a 350 B.C.E. stater from Aphrodisias.[3] The throne of the great Phrygian mother-goddess Cybele was flanked by lions, close relatives of the sphinx. Her chariot was usually drawn by the same animals. The representation of a fertility goddess enthroned on a seat flanked by felines, but there explicitly in the throes of giving birth, is known to go back as early as the sixth millennium B.C.E. Anatolia. The age-old primal image of mother and child, often figuring in Sabazian iconography, is also to be found in the catacombs, and is believed by some scholars to depict the Madonna and child. 

Fig. 3. Thrones decorated with sphinxes were not uncommon in the Near East. A vestige of the New Kingdom throne of Tuthmosis IV (1423-1410) is decorated with a sphinx representing this Egyptian king trampling upon his Asiatic enemies, a theme which has even earlier precedents in Old Kingdom monuments. on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos, the ruler was shown seated on a sphinx throne before an offering table, and the Lord is described as enthroned on cherubim (in such biblical passages as I Sam. 4:4; II Sam. 6:2; 2 Kin. 19:25), or dwelling between them. The possibly tenth century B.C.E. Phoenician coffin of King Ahiram of Byblos rests on four couchant lions; hence, the use of sculpted lions as supports for sarcophagi like the heads in this sarcophagus was the mode at least thirteen hundred years earlier. Ancient Egyptian funerary beds and chairs as well as Near Eastern thrones could be embellished with the legs and the head of a lion thus making the lion a psychopomp.

Lions, embodiments of courage and ferocity, or analogous fantastic composite beasts bearing leonine elements have long served as tomb sentinels, especially of heroes or rulers, in the Mediterranean from pharaonic times; for example, they served as guardians of the tomb of Alexander the Great. Their strength, fierceness, and association with saving deities, Dionysius, and such solar deities as Osiris and Ra, identified them as protective and even saving animals. According to the Homeric legend, Dionysius assumed the shape of a lion when confronting his pirate attackers and transforming them into dolphins.

In the Pyramid texts physical, ritual, and moral purification of the deceased king (by libations or bathing in the "sacred lake in the blessed fields" from old water source of rebirth) was also important for deification or assimilation into the sun-god who could be Ra or Osiris or other deities. The divine birth of King Pepi II recycled as the god Osiris who arises between the two mountains, and the belief that "the god becomes" and "takes possession of his body" is narrated in a hymn to the deceased pharaoh.[4] It was an old tradition and appropriate that the image of this regal beast act as the custodian of precious water resources --much as a concerned monarch preserves the order of nature against chaos.

Lions in their entirety, heads and masks of lions with yawning mouths had both ornamental and utilitarian functions in ancient architecture--embellishing the doorways of Egyptian temples, and serving as gutter spouts on Greek temples. Among other duties, they frequently became sources and spouts for flowing water in the Mediterranean.[5] In a different mode of nurturing, the mouth of the lion vanquished by Samson became the receptacle for honey, nourishment for the deceased. This substance, appropriately derived from nectar (food of the gods and a word meaning to overcome death) was often considered a sacramental fluid which cleansed and preserved in ancient times.[6] Mouths of lion's masks also dispensed wine, a custom evinced by the decorations for Roman sarcophagi, particularly those shaped like wine tubs or lenoi, and lion's masks were common devices on Greek coinage.

Fig. 4. DAPICS n. 0702.

Fig. 4. Sketchy delineations of porcine lion masks, because of the rings suspended from their mouths, resembling ancient doorknockers similar to those discovered in a fifth to fourth century B.C.E, house in Olynthus, Greece or ancient possible door pulls like those in bronze which decorate a fourth century B.C.E. tomb door at Lanzaga, Macedonia, decorate the dipinto feigned strigilated sarcophagus under the arcosolium in the rear (east) wall of the painted cubiculum of the upper catacomb of Villa Torlonia.[7]

Goodenough makes the point that perhaps the rings might have some relationship to the Egyptian hieroglyph for all-embracing eternity, and as the lion offered life with the water which flowed from his mouth, he also brought immortality with the ring.[8] Masks of lions, with or without rings, are sculpted on doors to the hereafter on Roman sarcophagi and altars.

Fig. 5. Lions masks decorate a slightly open door surrounded by symbols of Seasons, Abundance, and masks. Relief on the front panel of fourth century CE marble child's sarcophagus from Rome.[9]

The predilection for the dauntless king of beasts as tomb custodians by the Greeks (especially for warrior-heroes) and their successors as well as the peoples of the Near East was well explained by the animal himself in the epitaph of Simonides from the Greek classical period.[10] The lion articulately states his own case for gracing the tomb of Leon (a most fitting name!). A benevolent, apparently harmless, decorative limestone lion from Perachora (circa 550 B.C.E. quotes: "I am the strongest of beasts, as was he whose grave I stand to guard in stone, of mortals. But if Leon had not possessed my spirit as well as my name I would not have set my feet on his tomb."[11]

Another spirited and witty Leo, Leo Leontius, was laid to rest in the Jewish catacomb of Monteverde. The name Leontius, or Leontios, in the Greek, common to the Jewish onomasticon at this time, was an equivalent of Aryeh (lion in Hebrew) and a substitute for Judah. "Judah [referring to the superior, conquering tribe, offspring of Jacob and source for future rulers] is a lion's whelp," (Gen. 49:8, 9, 10). In a scene with eschatological implications, a single lion painted above the Torah shrine (ark) of the Dura Europos synagogue in front of three figures whom Kraeling concludes represent the "promised king and scribes or teachers of the Law," is referred to by Kraeling as "the earliest known example of the familiar Lion of Judah."[12] as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David who hath prevailed to open the book" and redeem the faithful.

Fig. 6. More aptly pictorializing such descriptions than the cheerful animal from the vicinity of Corinth is the regal, ferocious beast carved on the seal of "Shema', servant of Yarob'am" in Hebrew. Shema' was a high official of King Jeroboam, probably Jeroboam II of Israel.[13] Bronze cast of jasper seal from Megiddo. First half of eighth century B.C.E.

Of the people of Israel, Balaam predicted: "Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion" (Num. 23:24); again, the ancient Holy Land was described as a lion (and lioness in Num. 24:9; Ezek. 19:2), and Micah prophesied that her remnants, dispersed among her captors, would be "as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he goes through both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces." (Mic. 5:8).

The lion was a popular emblem --the tribes of Gad and Dan were also compared to lions (Deut. 33:20, 22). By his pursuit of the lawless and the troublers of his people, Judas Maccabeus, his deeds like those of a lion, delivered his people (I Mac. 3:4-6). In the Physiologos, a late fourth century work drawn from Jewish and Jewish Christian writings, Jesus is referred to as the "spiritual lion" and by lineage, (in Rev. 5:5, a reflection of Is. 11:1.[14]

Fig. 7. Featured on the epitaph, a rare occurrence, is a lion, in three-quarter view with profile head, sitting in solitary vigil beside possible "sacred scrolls," next to a menorah with attached lulav along with objects which Frey described as a "vessel for oil" and an "ethrog", respectively.[15] Frey recognized the leonine sentinel as "the lion of Judah." From the Catacomb of Vigna Cimarra in Rome. It would seem appropriate, if an actuality, to have the redoubtable beast linked with the Law not only as a guardian figure, but perhaps also because the lion as a solar being would be connected with divine light, allegorically the logos or Word, a source of knowledge--for Jews the Torah, which imparted the Lord's light, and salvation through nurturing wisdom. For Christians the Word became incarnate in Jesus (John 1:14). Apollo, who became a god of the sun and light, personified the rational intellect of the Greek Classical period.

This feline was not only identified with saving vegetation gods, as mentioned earlier, sun and possibly storm-gods, but was also the familiar of ancient Mediterranean fertility and nature goddesses with aggressive tendencies on one hand, and beneficent capabilities on the other such as the warlike Ishtar and related deities, and the eastern Artemis, akin to the Boeotian "mistress of animals," as well as Cybele.[16]

Like the bull and eagle, the ever-alert lion, was also a metaphor for kings of the Near East; that is, as divine deputies who were on occasion figured as such beasts or their hybrids trampling on enemies:  "their (the attacking Assyrians] roaring shall be like a lion, …yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey [Judah] " (Is. 5: 29). In a self-extolling hymn, Šulgi, the champion runner as well as great ruler of late third millennium Sumer, boasted of being a "fierce-eyed… open-jawed lion… that wearies not of its virility… inspired dread from [his] royal seat like a lion," and "was unafraid, uncowed, like a young lion." As King Tuthmosis III, the New Kingdom Egyptian empire-builder, saw himself in the propagandistic speech ascribed to the great god Amun "and cause you to trample upon the Tjehenu ... let them see your majesty as a lion."[17]

Fittingly, in hieroglyphic characters, the lion's head signifies strength. On the occasion of his adoption of his young successor, a Hittite king tells his people that: "in place of the lion [himself] the god will (set up another] lion,"[18] and in II Sam. (17:10) the heart of King David is compared to that of a lion.

Fig. 8. Ferocious lion of glazed bricks from the Babylonian street of Processions of Nebuchadnezzar II (604-561 B.C.E.).[19]

Lions and bovines in their entirety as well as their variations, often associated with vegetation such as rosettes, ears of grain or Trees of Life (Gen. 3:24; I Kin. 6:29, 32, 35; 7:36; Ezek. 41:18-20, 25) have been pictured in miniature or more readable size from Early Sumerian and Proto Elamite (late fourth millennium) periods.

Fig. 9. A lion lopes in front of the quintessential Mediterranean Tree of Life, the palm on the reverse of a tetradrachm from Carthage. After 350 B.C.E. MFA (slide #49-45).

Fig. 10. Two bull-calves repose in front of trees on a Mycenaean rock crystal ring. MFA (#27.658).

Fig. 11. A "mistress of animals" or nature goddess is surrounded with heraldic lions and peacocks, the protome (or head?) and leg of a bull, waterfowl, swastikas, crosses, stylized vegetal designs, and serpent-like configurations--all familiar images from the catacombs.[20] She is depicted with watery tresses falling in six strands (three on each side of her head), making the meaningful number seven, including her head as the center. Two such streams flow from her waist on each side of her skirt making her a goddess associated with water--hence a source of life. On her skirt a fish in vertical position similar to that in Plates must bear special significance perhaps of a fertility nature. Boeotian vase of the Geometric period (ninth-eighth centuries B.C.E.) in the National Museum, Athens.

Fig. 12. DAPICS n. 2557.

Fig. 12.  Assuming the heraldic pose so familiar in the ancient Mediterranean, two roughly-carved, toothy lions with tongues hanging out -- a male and his female partner, flank a vessel which might contain precious water. Stone sarcophagus from catacomb 20 at Beth She'arim. Here again, the lion is portrayed as the staunch defender of the sacramental, and thus also as a metaphor for kings of the Near East, among them the king of Judah and Israel itself. In Numbers (23:24; 24:9), the lioness joins her mate as a symbol of Israel.

Another instance of such an association, close in period, was that formerly embellishing the lintel of the left south door of the Capernaum synagogue in Israel. Judging from traces, stalking lions appear to have guarded a still extant "gadrooned crater," flanked by palm trees; there are indications that a frequent companion of the lion, an eagle may have also been destroyed by iconoclasts. A vine, laden with clusters of grapes, growing from a vessel at the right decorates the frieze above.[21]

Fantastic Beasts

Fig. 13. Not only lions, but their fabulous hybrids, griffins and sphinxes and griffins were attacking animals and traditional custodians of treasures or revered objects. Seventh century B.C.E. bronze griffin bead from a large bronze cauldron the precious contents of which griffins were reputed to protect as well as the legendary Scythian gold. Seventh century B.C.E, probably originally made in ancient Armenia.

Fig. 14. Rhodian earring with griffins' heads of electrum (An alloy of gold and silver occurring naturally) finely embellished with granulation. show in their entirety and is carved with heads of animals who contributed body components from which these fantastic creatures were assembled. MFA Sphinx, Fig. 393.5.

Fig. 15. DAPICS n. 0632.

Fig. 15. An imposing griffin is seated on the end of a sarcophagus from the Torlonia catacombs. The strigilated long side features a Dionysian scene. Garrucci's drawing documents the carving of a griffin on the no- longer extant end of the fine sarcophagus with representations of a menorah among palm trees from the catacomb of Vigna Randanini. Griffins were associated with Dionysus with solar deities and thus with Apollo. Because they were, on occasion, like Victories, depicted with the tripod of Apollo, a prize awarded to the victor in Greek dramatic contests and hence dedicated to Dionysius, they could suggest triumph.[22]

Fig. 17. A regal recumbent griffin decorates a ceremonial weapon from Thebes commemorating the victory of King Ah-mose over the Hyksos. Second quarter of the sixteenth century B.C.E.[23] In Minoan-Mycenaean cult, this creature was often associated with royalty and divinity. Precedents for this motif seem to appear as early as the end of the fourth millennium B.C.E. on such artifacts as a Mesopotamian steatite bowl carved with a hero standing on two lions or two bulls on the reverse side and taming two serpents in an ambiance including a bird of prey, palm trees and a star-like rosette or rosette-like star beneath a crescent.[24] Similar "master of animal" themes appear on other Mesopotamian stone vessels and cylinder seals from this period and slightly earlier, as well as later.

In the iconography of the catacombs, this hero theme is a visual precursor to the figuration of Daniel in the lion's den (Dan. 6:16-22), traditional shorthand for salvation in Paleo-Christian art.

Fig. 18. DAPICS n. 1198.

Fig. 18. Two snarling lions, soon to be subdued by God's angel, bay at Daniel in the position of an orans, with his lower torso in classical counterbalanced attitude. Painted lunette of arcosolium, Catacombs of SS. Marcellino e Pietro, Rome. According to Benjamin Mazar this motif appears also in the necropolis at Beth She'arim.[25] Familiar Biblical stories, adopted in early Christian art as themes of deliverance are rare occurrences in ancient Jewish funerary art - albeit a sarcophagus fragment carved with a depiction of Moses striking the rock found in the Randanini catacomb was determined to be "probably a piece of Jewish origin" by Goodenough, an opinion disputed by Leon.[26] The placated lion figures in scenes of Christ-Orpheus soothing the beasts as in the catacomb of Domitilla, an image harking back to the Isaian (Is. 11:6-7) vision-of the peaceful world to come in the messianic age, with deliverance connotations such as the subjugation of man's savage temperament, and appears with David-Orpheus in one ancient synagogue if not two. The feline also appears enclosed in the scroll of a vine in the paradisiacal mosaic of the Hammam Lif synagogue.

Fig. 19. On the tombstone of Verazio Nicatora, the Good Shepherd, often related to depictions of Orpheus in Christian funerary art, is surrounded by three saving symbols: Jonah and the "whale," opposite a fearsome lion, and below an anchor. Four depressions, suggestive of the shape of bread, also frame the scene. In Chapter XXXVIII of the Book of the Dead, the deceased identifies himself with the "two lion-gods."[27]

Under the hieroglyph for the heavens, addorsed, decorative lions support the solar disk which looms above the horizon between two mounds. Hieroglyphic captions fittingly entitle the lion on the right, here also a theomorphic incarnation of Osiris, as "Yesterday" the nocturnal dying (setting sun), and the other, alluding to Ra, as "Tomorrow" (also translated as "Today" [by some scholars?]), the reborn (rising) sun. Hence the deceased is probably identified fittingly with the sun which rises daily. The shoulder joint of the "Tomorrow/Today" lion, is embellished with a spidery, symbolic, familiar rosette-like star (a star is also included in his hieroglyphic caption) so often associated with divinity, probably creator divinities here. A similar phenomenon appears on a fourteenth century B.C.E. relief from Beth She'an and earlier depictions of oriental lions dating back to the last half of the third millennium B.C.E. in Egypt.

The King of Beasts: Lions and Doors

Fig. 20. The lion related to Ra and hope sniffs the meaningful lotus. Facing him and the lotus plants, the soul-birds of the deceased are perched on their possibly "eternal home", apparently, having successfully accomplished their rite of transition. Incense is wafted upwards from bowls. On the right, the bennu a type of heron represents the phoenix, a traditional motif for persistent renewal. This symbol of resurrection rises from the ashes in the catacomb of Priscilla.[28] The representation of two lions (often leonine heads connected by a strip of land) has been associated with Aker, the Egyptian god of the Barth. This deity of the Underworld, is frequently envisioned as a type of tunnel, where the souls of the deceased like the Sun god (Ra) on his daily nocturnal journey enter through the mouth of the west and like the sun sally forth, revivified from the mouth or exit of the east at dawn. "The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose"(Eccl. 1:5).[29] Circa sixteenth to fifteenth century B.C.E.  In the tomb of Rameses IV, one lion's head of Aker is designated as the "fair entrance" and the other as "the fair exit.”[30]

Fig. 21. Another example of a portal to the next world is incised in miniature on a Mesopotamian analogue to the Egyptian vignette. Carved on an impression of an Akkadian cylinder seal, Shamash, the Babylonian sun-god who also journeys through the sky and illuminates the "House of Darkness" diurnally, ascends the two mountains (recalling the Egyptian hieroglyph for the horizon) at each end of the earth. Roaring lions atop the doors, as well as horned deities who open them, act as sentinels for these boundaries of the earth. The Babylonian sun-god, divine dispenser of justice, is flanked by stars. He is also depicted with three paired rays emanating from his shoulders on each side of his head which is crowned with a miter bedecked with paired triple horns; thus, in both instances, with the center member making seven upper offshoots or branches, a number connected with a sacred source of light. Roaring lions atop the hinged gates, as well as horned deities who open them, act as sentinels for these boundaries of the earth. Circa 2360-2180 B.C.E.

Mountains were traditionally associated with ancient divinities who often resided therein or atop (Joel 2:1), and notably the holy mount Sinai (as in Ex. 19:3 ff.; Deut. 4:11 ff.) Only the "clean of hands" and the "pure of heart" will be accorded the privilege of ascending the "hill of the Lord" or standing "in his holy place" (Ps. 24:3). In Zechariah's vision (6: l), four chariots (spirits or winds) at the onset of the messianic age, also the period for judgment, emerge from between two mountains to patrol the earth. According to a Jerusalem legend the Mount of Olives sat atop the exit from the kingdom of the underworld.

A later image suggesting the lion's connection with such portals is embodied in the leontocephalic, serpent-encircled Aion, the all-consuming god of time who carried keys to the gates of heaven, and was associated with the oriental god Mithras. The Akkadian glyptic scene is aptly described in a Babylonian legend of the creation of the sun: "Mankind, they beheld the sun in the gate of his going forth."[31] In the Babylonian and Assyrian creation myth, known as Enuma Blish, the great god Marduk "opened gates (of sunrise and sunset) on both sides (east and west), … In the very center thereof he fixed the zenith."[32] Magical spells incantations are invoked to ensure that the double doors of the firmament are thrown open to the Old Kingdom pharaoh Pepi upon his ascension and Ra (later changed to Osiris awaits him at the gates of the horizon upon his arrival at his realm in possibly the earliest Egyptian reference to a celestial hereafter.[33] In the Akkadian legend of Adapa the abode of the sky-god, Anu is entered by taking the road of heaven up through Anu's gate, where two minor gods are waiting to assist him. leading to the divine presence (4:1), and the metaphorical open door which only "he that is holy" and ""true" and "hath the key of David" is able to open and shut" (3:7-8).[34]

Revelations describes the door "opened in heaven". This "mighty judge of heaven and earth" also journeys through the sky and illumines the "House of Darkness" diurnally as does his direct antecedent the Sumerian Utu, and a comparable Hittite deity, all of whom along with Osiris are divine dispensers of justice.[35] "Doors" to the hereafter, were represented from early periods on Egyptian coffins with the positive belief in a beatific world to come for the deserving, particularly the elite (principally royalty and nobility) in the Old Kingdom.

Fig. 22. A Red granite coffin of Queen Meresankh II of Dynasty V, circa mid-third millennium B.C.E. Again, in later times, they were often transformed by the more optimistic concepts of the mystery religions from the Mesopotamian soul's descent from the tomb through gates to the nether world, the "Land of No Return" (the Sumerian "Great Dwelling") or the Greek entrance into a Homeric gloomy Hades in the nether world to portals through which the privileged or righteous deceased entered en route to a life of eternal felicity in Elysium or the Isles of the Blessed.[36]

Fig. 23. Long side of a Stone sarcophagus, on which is represented two paneled doors, between columns, and like Meresankh's coffin suggests an edifice. From Catacomb 20 at Beth Shea'rim.[37] The ancient concept of entrances and exits to the next world is perpetuated, like so many other traditions, in Hellenistic cemeteries, the catacombs, funerary chambers, and burial places of the Roman Empire as well as in earlier Mediterranean, Etruscan and Hellenistic tombs.

Fig. 24. Archways appear to admit the deceased to an idyllic pastoral scene after the prescribed judgment, as indicated by the scales, on painted slabs framing the epitaph dedicated by Barinus and Potens to their eight year three months old son, Atimetus, a slave born in the house of the emperor. The tombstone also contains the favored early Christian motifs of the anchor and the fish. Catacomb of S. Sebastiano in Rome. Jesus, "the spiritual lion" who often figured as the solar divinity in early iconography, became the door of his sheep "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9).

Fig. 25. DAPICS n. 0322.

Fig. 25. A suggestive painting of feet coming and going through partially-opened doors in trompe-l'oeil or illusionistic style abut on depictions of Old and New Testament scenes and Greco-Roman imagery on the curved walls of the architectonically elegant cubiculum F in the catacomb of via Dino Compagni. An Osirian coffin text of the Middle Kingdom (about two millennium B.C.E.) makes mention of Horus' promise to the deceased to give "thee thy two feet that thou mayest make the going and coming of thy two soles (or sandals)."[38]

Fig. 26. A sarcophagus from the Vatican necropolis is carved with the representation of a figure between two paneled doors, decorated with the vestiges of four lion masks holding rings in their mouths. Columns flank the entrance and a carved fruit-laden festoon on the left still remain.

Fig. 27. DAPICS n. 0940.

Fig. 27. Sabinus Taurius appears in the open doors of his brick aedicula tomb. Isola Sacra. This has earlier precedents in ancient Egypt. Vestiges of doors ajar sans individuals or (persons?) are also painted on the wall in the ss. Marcellino e Pietro catacombs in Rome. An earlier though badly damaged example of the deceased coming through a partially open door in the Pompeian Second style exists in the tomb of C. Vestorius Priscus, the aedile for Pompeii.

[1] C. Kraeling, The excavations at Dura-Europos. Final report 8. Part I, The Synagogue (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1956), pp. 156-164.

[2] Kraeling, Dura Europos, p. 90.

[3] G. K. Jenkins, Ancient Greek Coins (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1972), fig. 322.

[4]  James Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912), p. 19.

[5] Associated with fertilizing rivers like the bull--hence one of the reasons for their identification with Osiris, an aspect of the fecund Nile as well as presiding lord of the underworld, among along with other abilities.

[6] D. Kurtz and J. Boardman, Greek Burial Customs (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971), p. 191.

[7] E. R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols of the Greco-Roman Period, v. 7 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1958), p. 63.

[8] Goodenough, v. 7, p. 65.

[9] Edited by Kurt Weitzmann, Age of Spirituality (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979), fig. 159.

[10] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, p. 239. 

[11] W. Peek, Griechische Versinschriften i (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1955), 1173.

[12] Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs, pp. 219-220.

[13] R. Hestrin and M. Dayagi-Mendels, Inscribed Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1979), p. 18, fig. 3.

[14] J. Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity: A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicaea (Chicago: Regnery, 1964) p. 207, n. 4.

[15] J-B. Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaicarum, v. 1 (Vatican City: Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, 1936), n. 281a., determined the artifact "had belonged to a funerary inscription."

[16]  J. B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 585-586.

[17] Incised on a black granite stele from the festival temple of the pharaoh at Karnak. K. Lange and M. Hirmer, Egypt: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting in Three Thousand Years (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1961), p. 438.

[18] O. R. Gurney, The Hittites (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p. 171.

[19] C. C. Vermeule III, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1963) pp. 36-38.

[20] F. J. Dolger, Tafel XII, 2.

[21] P. G. Orfali, Capernaum et ses Ruines (Paris: A. Picard, 1922), p. 43 and fig. 67.

[22] Goodenough, v. 8, p.143.

[23] Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures, pl. 310.

[24] Eva strommenger and Max Binner, 5000 Years of the Art of Mesopotamia, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1964), Plate 38.

[25] B. Mazar, Beth She'arim v. 1 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1973), p. 77.

[26] Goodenough v. 2, p. 30; H. J. Leon, Jews of Ancient Rome (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1960), p. 214.

[27] E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead, v. 2 (London, Keegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1901), p. 171.

[28] Vignette of the Book of the Dead, chapter XVII. Facsimile of the Papyrus of Ani, pl. 7. Edited and translated by E, A. Wallis Budge, second edition (London, 1894-1895).

[29] For explanations of Aker, see Selim Hassan Excavations at Giza v. VI, 1 (1934-35) (Cairo: Government Press, 1946), pp. 258-276.

[30] Hassan, Excavations at Giza, p. 272.

[31] Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 74.

[32] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, pp. 114-115.

[33] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, pp. 117-118.

[34] Heidel, Babylonian Genesis, p. 150.

[35] In several Sumerian, Akkadian, and Assyrian texts, the moon-god also shared the duties of the omniscient sun-god--as described in a dedicatory hymn and a prayer: Pritchard, Ancient Near East in Pictures, pp. 385-389; S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), pp. 132, 135, 210, and Gurney, Hittites, pp. 139-140, respectively.

[36] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 236.

[37] N. Avigad, Beth She'arim III (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Hebrew University, 1976), pp. 153-154.

[38] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 278.