The Striding Lion

The Striding Lion
Iraq: Babylon, Processional Avenue north of the Ishtar Gate
Neo-Babylonian Period
Reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, ca. 604-562 B.C.
Molded brick with polychrome glaze
90.3 cm H, 230.5 cm W
Purchased in Berlin, 1931
Oriental Institute, Chicago
OIM A7481

This colorful striding lion of glazed brick with its mouth opened in a threatening roar, once decorated a side of the 'Processional Way' in ancient Babylon (the Biblical city of Babel). The 'Processional Way' led out of the city through a massive gate named for the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, Ishtar, whose symbol was the lion.

Each year, during the celebration of the great New Year Festival, the images of the city's deities were carried out through the Ishtar Gate and along the 'Processional Way' past some 120 lions and 575 dragons and bulls, in 13 rows, on the gate, such as this one to a special festival house north of the city. Not all of these reliefs were visible at the same time, however, for the level of the street was raised more than once; and originally even the lowest rows, which were irregularly laid, may have been treated as foundation deposits. The Iraq antiquities department reconstructed the thoroughfare at one of the higher levels.

The lion symbolizes power and the Babylonians believed that it was Ishtar that gave them their glory.

Robert Koldewey extensively excavated Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon beginning in 1899 and the Deutsche Orientgesellschaft. Among the tremendous complex of ruins was the great Ishtar Gate, beautifully decorated with a series of bulls and dragons in enameled, colored brick.

It was Nebuchadnezzar who said, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?"

Two Striding Lions

Close up of the Striding Lion’s Head