The lion of Piraeus

In front of the Venice arsenal, there are two large marble statues, about 3 m high, representing two lions. The Lions come to Venice from the ancient port of Athens, as an ancient war booty in 1687, by a famous Venetian naval commander, Francesco Morosini, during the sixth Ottoman-Venetian war.  Their construction dates back to the fifth century BC.

At the end of the 19th century, runic writing (ancient Viking language) engraved on the sides of the lion was identified and translated. The inscriptions have been eroded by bad weather and atmospheric pollution, and the intervention of expert interpreters was necessary to recover the meaning of the sentences due to some illegible characters. The runes are carved in what looks like a banner or a ribbon, but is, rather, a cryptozoological lindworm—a headless, serpentine dragon—that bears the inscription.

 On the right side of the lion, the translation reports:

“Asmund engraved these runes with Asjeir and Thorleif, Thord and Ivar, at the request of Harold the High, despite the Greeks considering it forbidding.”

Left side: “Hakon with Hulf and Asmund and Orn conquered this port. These men and Harold the High imposed a heavy tax on the Greeks’ revolt. Dalk is held prisoner in distant lands. Egil went on a mission with Ragnar in Romania and Armenia”.