Lions' Gate (Hattusa)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Lions' Gate was one of six gates in Hattusa (also Ḫattuša or Hattusas) and was named for the two lion statues that flanked the gate. The gate was located on the southwest side of the city and had wooden doors, probably overlaid with bronze for additional defense, that opened into the city. Perhaps the most famous of Hattusa's defensive structures is the Lion Gate. The Lion's Gate, is one of the three most notable gates of Hattusa's Upper City fortifications, other two being King's Gate, the Sphinx Gate.


The capital of the Hittites - Hattusa - was surrounded by massive fortifications (inspect) when the Hittite civilization had a status of the Near East superpower. The walls were erected using the natural shape of the terrain or completely changing it, depending on the architectural and strategic needs. At least six gates let people enter the interior of the city. The Lions Gate is similar to the construction techniques seem in Mycenaean Greece, in particular, to another Lion Gate - the one at the entrance to the city of Mycenae.

Historical Context

circa 1500 BCE

According to the discovered Hittite texts, the city gates were guarded by the representatives of the city administration, controlling the movement of people to and from the capital. At night, the gates were closed, and the seal was attached, and in the morning the seal was broken in the presence of the relevant authorities. The gate, dated to the 13th century BCE, was flanked by two towers. The head of the lion on the left had already been broken away in antiquity. It has been reconstructed in 2011. The lions were put at the entrance of the city to ward off evil.


circa 1500 BCE

The Lion Gate, built in the early 14th century BCE, is located in the south-western part of the fortifications. It is flanked by two towers and the upper parts between the towers have been destroyed. The gate consists of two access openings of parabolic shape: an internal one and an external one. Once they were mounted with wooden doors that opened inwards. Most probably, the exterior doors were sheathed in bronze to increase their resistance.

circa 1500 BCE

The eye sockets of the lions were in the past lined with various decorative materials. It is worth to take a careful look at how skilfully these sculptures were carved. Particularly in the case of the right lion (inspect) that has been completely preserved, it is possible to see its beautiful mane, the fur on its chest and its head. The lion on the left (inspect) has been preserved survived in much worse condition as it has lost almost the entire head. It has recently been restored.

circa 1500 BCE

The statues of the front halves of two lions that gave the gate its customary name, were carved in huge blocks of rock on both sides of the external doors. The silhouettes of these wild animals with open jaws and wide open eyes probably played a protective function - they were to scare away evil spirits from the city. This explanation has been deduced by the researchers on the basis of the similarity of the lion theme to other such representations, known from Hittite and Mesopotamian architecture.

circa 1500 BCE

The Lion Gate demonstrates the details of Hittite sculpture of the 14th century period and represents excellent craftsmanship of Hittite masons. The blocks of stone that were used for its construction are connected with so-called polygonal technique. In this technique, the visible surfaces of the stones are dressed with straight sides or joints, giving the block the appearance of a polygon. It is said that in the case of the Lion Gate in Hattusa not even the thinnest sliver of paper could be put between the stones as they fit perfectly together.

circa 1500 BCE

The Hittites, after having their city destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, finally reconstructed and expanded it in the 14 century BCE, adding impressive architectural works, like the Lion Gate. Tudhaliya IV also strengthened the defense of the city to help protect it from enemies and invaders. One of the ways he did this was with fortifications, or large and thick walls that were difficult to break down. The walls of Hattusa were mostly made of mud-brick (inspect), which was mud and straw baked or dried into brick form. The fortifications contained watch towers to allow soldiers to see incoming forces.


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