The three panels form part of a well-known incomplete cycle of the “Labours of Hercules”, with the Lernaean Hydra, the Nemean Lion and the Cretan Bull, respectively. They were unearthed in 1828 following the demolition of a modern wall at the so-called “Villa dei Settebassi” on the Via Latina.
This form of slab – known as “Campana”, from the name of the collector and scholar who in 1842 dedicated a valuable illustrated monographic work to it – decorated public and private buildings and was produced mostly in Rome and in nearby areas from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D.
From a stylistic perspective, they appear to be a Hellenistic reworking of well-established classical iconographies. It is possible that they belonged to a temple, considering certain morphological affinities (size, egg frieze, type of holes) and thematic connections to the fine Augustan decoration of the Temple of Apollo Palatinus in Rome, built between 31 and 28 B.C. A slab depicting Heracles and the lion, similar to the Vatican series, was found on the slopes of the Capitoline Hill and possibly decorated the Ædes Concordiæ in Arce.