Description of a votive relief


Trismegistos ID: 738922

Source Description


British Museum (London), 1861.11-27-30.


A marble block with on one face a relief showing Cyrene in the act of strangling a lion, and crowned by Libya. Above the group are vine branches, with two birds pecking at bunches of grapes (0.69; 1.01;2.26).


Inscribed on the plinth below the relief (0.69; 0.16;), in four lines aligned at left.


Average height 0.02; regularly cut capitals with small serifs; alpha, delta and lambda with one oblique stroke projecting beyond the intersection, xi with wavy bars and a small central dot, pi with equal hastae, rho with very small loop, phi with oval loop and taller hasta, no lunate letters.

Place of Origin



Second century A.D. (lettering, context)


Found by R.M. Smith and E.A. Porcher in 1861 at Cyrene : in the excavations of the so-called temple of Venus .

Last recorded Location

The stone is kept in London , in the British Museum ; a cast is exposed in Shahat : Cyrene Museum , where it was observed in 2010 by C. Dobias-Lalou.

Text constituted from

Transcription from previous editors and cast (CDL).


Smith-Porcher, 1864 , pp. 76, 98 and p. 114, pl. 83, n. 19; Kaibel, 1878 , n. 842a; IBM , n. 1061.; Laronde, 2004 , pp. 191-192. Cf. BMCatSc , 1.790; Callot, 1999 , p. 113, number 207; Dobias-Lalou, 2014 , pp. 329-330


| Κυρήνην πολίων μητρόπτολιν, ἣν στέφει αὐτὴ | ἠπείρων Λιβύη τρισσὸν ἔχουσα κλέος

| ἐνθάδ’ ὑπὲρ μελάθροιο λεοντοφόνον θέτο Κάρπος | εὐξάμενος, μεγάλης σῆμα φιλοξενίης


3 θέτο Κάρπος : Smith-Porcher, 1864  θέτο Κάρπος

4 φιλοξενίης : Smith-Porcher, 1864  φιλοξενίης

French translation

Cyrène, la mère des cités, que couronne en personne

Libye, qui détient la gloire de trois continents,

Cyrène fut ici placée au-dessus de la poutre, en train de tuer le lion,

par Karpos, en accomplissement d'un voeu, pour témoigner d'une généreuse hospitalité.

(traduction A. Laronde légèrement modifiée)

English translation

Cyrene, mother of the cities, crowned by Libya

herself, who holds the glory of three continents,

Cyrene was placed here above the lintel in the act of killing the lion

by Karpos, who accomplished a vow, as the token of a great hospitality.

(from A. Laronde, slightly changed)

English translation

Here over the architrave, Karpos, making this dedication in token of great hospitality, has placed the lion-slaying Cyrene, whom Libya, having the glory of three continents, herself crowns.

(transl. Smith and Porcher)

Italian translation

Cirene, madre delle città, incoronata da Libia

in persona, che detiene la gloria di tre continenti,

qui sull'architrave, nell'atto di uccidere un leone, pose lei Karpos,

per esaudire un voto e come segno di generosa ospitalità.

Arabic translation

كيريني، أم المدن، تُوجت من قبل ليبيا ذاتها، من يحمل مجد القارات الثلاث، وضُعت كيريني هنا فوق العتبة في وضع (مشهد يُبين) مقتلها للأسد، من قبل كاربوس، الذي أكمل النذر، كرمز للكرم الواسع. هنا على هذا العتب، جعل كاربوس هذا الإهداء رمزاً للكرم الواسع، واضعاً كيريني قاتلة الأسود، التي توجتها ليبيا بنفسها، حاملة مجد القارات الثلاث.


This relief was found by Smith and Porcher in the upper city, in the building that they called 'temple of Venus' because a good proportion of the sculptures they unearthed there were related to that deity. It still uses to be called so, although no epigraphical confirmation exists. The denomination is convenient in order to distinguish it from a temple of Aphrodite in the sanctuary of Apollo. New investigations gave no further clues (see Luni-Mei- Longarini, 2006 , p. 66). The relief shows an episod of the myth of foundation: as related by Pindar ( Pyth. 9), the Thessalian nymph Cyrene was able to kill a lion by hand and other monuments at Cyrene show the scene. Moreover Pausanias (X.15.6) tells about a sculpture dedicated by the Cyrenaeans at Delphi showing Battos on a chariot lead by Cyrene, herself crowned by Libya.

The title metropolis seems to be an official one in inscriptions of the second century A.D. More precisely, Cyrene is considered as the 'mother-city' of the the rest of Cyrenaica in the letter of Hadrian (IRCyr C.164, ll. 19 and 21) answering to claims from Ptolemais in a period where the relations between the cities were difficult. Laronde argued that this epigram recorded an episode of this crisis: the name Karpos having his only regional attestation in an epitaph at Ptolemais (IRCyr P.291), both inscriptions might mention one and the same man, who would have acted for his home-city Ptolemais and come to Cyrene for negotiations. His dedication would recall the good hospitality he enjoyed at Cyrene on that occasion.

The phrase τρισσὸν ἔχουσα κλέος, applying to Libya has been much debated; τρισσός is ambiguous, meaning 'threefold', but sometimes also 'third' or even 'three'. Libya is here both the divine entity represented on the relief and one amongst the mentioned 'continents'. Furthermore, in Greek literature, Libyan often means 'Greek from Libya', i.e. from the Cyrenaica. Laronde's interpretation seems the better one: the 'mother-city' (hence the whole region) was founded by people coming from Europe to Africa, whereas Jews settled down under the Ptolemies might be intended as coming from the third continent. This interpretation seems better than that of Callot (after others): Libya 'is proud of being a third continent'.

The relief was placed over the 'beam' or 'lintel' of a building that might be the temple in which it was found. Smith and Porcher, followed by Laronde, thought that it might be a metope of the frieze surmounting an 'architrave'. The dimensions seem somewhat too large for that. No checking is possible, as the vestiges of the temple were already at ground level by the time of Smith and Porcher, who remained very cautious about the original position of all the objects found in this temple. Unfortunately, the epigram does not mention the divinity to which the relief is offered 'as result of a vow'.

Metrical analysis: two regular elegiac couplets deserving no particular metrical commentary.

Creative Commons Attributions-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

All citation, reuse or distribution of this work must contain a link back to DOI: and the filename (IGCyr000000 or GVCyr000), as well as the year of consultation.