The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Alexander Sarcophagus

Сидонский саркофаг

The “Alexander Sarcophagus” is a Hellenistic stone sarcophagus adorned with bas-relief carvings of Alexander the Great. The marvellous Hellenistic carvings were created by classical Greek sculptors in the Athenian idiom during the late 4th century BC.

The Alexander Sarcophagus is one of four massive carved sarcophagi discovered during the excavations at the necropolis near Sidon, Lebanon in 1887. The Sarcophagus was probably created for a wealthy and powerful noble or governor of the region.

The sarcophagus is constructed of marble from a mountain range in Attica, Greece in the form of a Greek temple. The carvings on one side of the Sarcophagus depicts Alexander fighting the Persians at the Battle of Issus. Alexander is shown mounted, wearing a lion-skin on his head, and preparing to throw a spear at the Persian cavalry.

Alexander Sarcophagus Battle of Ussus

Alexander wearing a lion-skin on his head, throwing a spear at the Persian cavalry

The other side shows Alexander and the Macedonians hunting lions together with the Persians. The short ends, the pediment and the lid all continue the theme showing additional hunting scenes and battles.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                         Alexander Sarcophagus
  • Year:                         4th century BC
  • Material:                  Pentelic marble
  • Discovered:             1887
  • Find Site:                 Sidon, Lebanon
  • Museum:                 Istanbul Archaeology Museum, Istanbul, Turkey

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“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.” Alexander the Great

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Photo Credits: 1) By Apasova (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Ronald Slabke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons