Excavations in the ancient city of Kibyra have unearthed a new bust of Heracles from the second century A.D., the front part of which depicts a lion.
Work in Kibyra, which is located in the southern province of Burdur’s Gölhisar district, are being headed by Mehmet Akif Ersoy University Archaeology Department academic Şükrü Özdoğru.
One of the excavation team members, Dicle University’s İsmail Baytak, said they had found the bust in a foundation in the agora of the ancient city.
Noting that the most important feature of the bust was the depiction of the lion, Baytak said: “This bust has great importance. We made a review of the literature and realized that such a bust has never been seen in this region and in other museums. It is the first and only of its type that makes us very pleased.”
Baytak said the workmanship on the bust pointed to the second century A.D., the era of the Antonine dynasty. “You can see the eyes of the lion in the upper part of the bust and its manes in the back side. These manes do not belong to Heracles but the lion. In mythology, Heracles already has the feature of a demi-god. The depiction of the lion represents power.”
Baytak said the bust would be cleaned and preserved in a depot. “Heracles puts the fur of the lion on his head and ties it to his own body. We have removed the head of the bust only,” he added.
In Greek mythology, Mycenaean king Eurystheus asked Heracles to kill the Nemean lion as one of the 12 labors he was assigned; upon completing the task, Heracles donned the feline’s fur.
The academic said they would give the bust to the Burdur Museum after the end of the excavation season and were planning to unearth the other section of the statue during next year’s excavations.
A divine hero, Heracles
In Greek mythology, Heracles is a divine hero. He is the son of Zeus and Alcmene, and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus. He enjoyed celestial power from the day he was born. When he turned 18, he killed a famous monster living in the Kitharion forests. As an award, he was given the daughter of Thebai king, Megara.
Driven mad by the goddess Hera, Heracles killed his three children and wife. To atone for the crime, Eurystheus ordered him to carry out 12 labors, which included slaying the lion and the hydra and capturing Cerebrus from Hades, among others.