Limestone sarcophagus

Period: Classical

Date: ca. 475–460 B.C.

Culture: Cypriot

Medium: Limestone

Dimensions: Overall: 38 x 79 9/16in. (96.5 x 202cm)

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76

Accession Number: 74.51.2451


This chest-shaped sarcophagus reflects the prevailing cultural atmosphere during the fifth century B.C. on Cyprus. While the guardian lions perched on the lid are purely Cypriot in character, the scenes on all four sides have parallels in Greek art. One end of the sarcophagus depicts the story of Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa. Here, Medusa, after having been decapitated by Perseus, gives birth to Chrysaor and Pegasus (without wings). Perseus is dressed as a hunter; Medusa has long curved wings and wears a chiton. The other end of the sarcophagus shows the deceased in a four-horse chariot.
On one long side of the sarcophagus, the Cypriot sculptor has conflated a battle scene and a hunting scene– Greek warriors in Corinthian helmets fight in pairs against a boar and a bull. A single archer, with a drawn bow, approaches from the left. Three trees fill the background, and a horse, rooster, and dog complete the composition. On the other long side of the sarcophagus, three male figures, accompanied by concubines, recline on kline (couches), while feasting and drinking. In the center of the banquet, a musician plays a double flute. At the far left, a lone banqueter, perhaps the deceased, gestures toward a young male servant to fill his empty cup.
All of the scenes on the sarcophagus are carved in low, flat relief more akin to drawing than three-dimensional sculpture. Two-dimensional representations, such as drawings or narratives with numerous figures, may have been the source of inspiration for this technique of carving that sculptors at Golgoi followed well into the fourth century B.C.