From BBC News Magazine
The animal was feared and admired and this must explain why a statue of a lion twice as high as a human being, weighing 15 tonnes, was fashioned by artists in ancient Palmyra.
With spiralling, somewhat loopy eyes, and thick whiskers swept back angrily along its cheek bones, the lion was clearly a fighter, but it was also a lover. In between its legs, it held a horned antelope. The antelope stretched a delicate hoof over the lion's monstrous paws, and perhaps it was safe. The lion was a symbol of protection - it was both marking and protecting the entrance to the temple.
But no-one could protect the lion when IS arrived and wrecked it in May 2015.
"It was a real shock, because you know, in a way, it was our lion," says Polish archaeologist Michal Gawlikowski, whose team unearthed it in 1977.
As luck would have it, Michal had on his team that year the sculptor Jozef Gazy, who enthusiastically took on the job of restoring the lion.
By 2005, though, the lion had become unbalanced and another restoration job - again led by a Polish team - rebuilt the statue to resemble as closely as possible what is thought to be the ancient design, with the lion appearing to leap out of the temple wall.
After this it was placed in front of the Palmyra museum.
"It's very interesting to find a lion and a female figure in such close association, and no male deities have the lion - so this is something which is unique to her," says McMahon.
The region's kings, however, were keen to be associated with lions, even if male deities weren't.
Some of the earliest known representations of Mesopotamian leaders, from around 3,500 BC, depict them engaged in combat with the creatures.
"They're not shown fighting or killing other people because that's almost demeaning," says Augusta McMahon. "They have to have a lion who is the not-quite-equal-but-near rival - because they're incredibly powerful and sort of unpredictable."
Fatefully, though, during the week in May 2015 when IS took Palmyra and destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, he found the moulds.
"And I thought, OK, that's a message," he says. "And so I reproduced three and put them next to each other and I painted them in white, red and black to represent the Syrian flag."
The lion was often a symbol of vanity and masculine power. It was the badge of self-aggrandising kings and presidents. But in Tajeddin's reproductions of the lion of al-Lat, the lion becomes something else - a protest against the devastation engulfing his country and its ancient heritage.