The two lions date from the reign of Nectanebo II and the long inscription on the plinth would suggest they were originally located at Rehuy, likely to correspond to Hermopolis Parva in the Delta, present-day Tell Baqliya. Here the pharaoh had built a shrine to the god Thoth, “he who separates the two contenders”. This epithet derives from the mythological account of the dispute between the gods Horus and Set for Osiris’ legacy on earth, in which Thoth “separates” or rather reconciles them. Nectanebo would have represented the two deities reconciled, symbol of a single and strong reign over Upper and Lower Egypt.
In the Roman Imperial Age the two sculptures were transferred to Rome to be placed in front of the Pantheon or, according to another hypothesis, to decorate the Temple to Isis at Campus Martius.
The lions were rediscovered during the papacy of Eugene IV in the fifteenth century. They were placed on two columns in front of the Pantheon at the behest of Pope Clement VII, and subsequently used to decorate the fountain of Acqua Felice at the Baths of Diocletian under Pope Sixtus V (1586). Upon request of Pope Gregory XVI they were substituted by a copy in 1839, and the originals were placed in the new Egyptian Museum.