Striding Lion

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Glazed brick relief of a striding lion from the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II on display in the Royal Ontario Museum

The Striding Lion is one of the Iconic Objects on display at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. It is a wall relief of a striding lion made from polychrome glazed fired bricks. It comes from Babylon, Iraq, dating to the time of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BCE), king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It is one of many such reliefs that decorated the walls of the palace’s ceremonial hall and very similar to the lions that line the processional way from the Ishtar Gate to the temple of Marduk.


The relief measures 122 cm (height) by 183 cm (width) by 8 cm (depth).[1]

Some of the individual bricks are stamped with the following inscription: “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the first born son of Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon”.[2]


The ceremonial hall in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II had a tiled wall decorated with glazed columns, lotus buds and palmettes with lions striding around the base of which the example in the Royal Ontario Museum is one.[3]

Babylon was excavated by a German expedition led by Robert Koldewey from 1899 to 1917. The fragments of tile found in the ceremonial hall of the palace (also referred to as the throne room of the Southern Citadel) were taken back to Berlin and painstakingly reassembled there, as were the tiles from the Ishtar Gate and Processional Way. The Royal Ontario Museum purchased their reconstructed striding lion relief in 1937 from the State Museum of Berlin.[1]

Production method[edit]

Robert Koldewey suggested that the lions, as were the other reliefs lining the Processional Way, were made using molds taken from a master clay panel, or from a temporary wall with a plaster facing, that had been cut down into brick sized segments. Care had obviously been taken to ensure the joints were not too visible and the relief work such as to facilitate removal from a mold. The bricks were then fired in a kiln, and then glazed with the appropriate colours. Marks were made on a tile’s upper edge to enable it to be placed in proper sequence when assembled. The system of marks used for assembling the reliefs could be most clearly seen on the tiles from the ceremonial hall because of the way they had fallen after robbers had taken bricks from the wall.[4]

Significance of lion symbolism[edit]

Lions were symbolic of royalty because of their strength, and fighting a lion gave a king great prestige.[1] The lion was also the symbol of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war. In her role of the goddess of war she is depicted on a chariot drawn by seven lions with bow in hand [5]


  1. ^ a b c Striding Lion. #25 of 66 images with description provided on the Royal Ontario Museum website. [1], retrieved February 25, 2013.
  2. ^ Striding Lion podcast made by the Royal Ontario Museum. [2], accessed March 20, 2013.
  3. ^ Dyson, R.H. 1963. A Babylonian Lion. Expedition 5.2: 14-15.
  4. ^ Koldewey, R. 1914.The Excavations at Babylon, trans. A.S. Johns, pp. 28-30, 103-107. London: Macmillan and Co. Scanned copy issued by Nabu Press in 2012.
  5. ^ Guirand, F. 1959. Assyro-Babylonian Mythology, p. 57. In R. Graves (ed.), Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, pp. 49-72. London: Paul Hamlyn. 57.

Further reading[edit]

Roux, G. 1992. The Ancient Iraq (3rd ed), pp. 372–404. London: Penguin Books.