persia - achaemenian vessels
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
Front: Vessel terminating in the forepart of a fantastic leonine creature, Achaemenid; 5th century B.C.
Gold; H. 17 cm
Fletcher Fund, 1954 (54.3.3)
Horn-shaped vessels ending in an animal's head have a long history in the Near East as well as in Greece and Italy. Early Iranian examples are straight, with the cup and animal head in the same plane. Later, in the Achaemenid period, the head, or animal protome, was often placed at a right angle to the cup, as in this piece. In the manufacture of this gold vessel, several parts were invisibly joined by brazing, which demonstrates superb technical skill. One hundred and thirty-six feet of twisted wire decorate the upper band of the vessel in forty-four even rows, and the roof of the lion's mouth is raised in tiny ribs. Typical of Achaemenid style, the ferocity of the snarling lion has been tempered and restrained by decorative convention. The lion has a crest running down his back; his mane has the disciplined appearance of a woven material; and his flanks are covered by an ostrich plume. The inclusion of the plume, a departure from convention, suggests that this lion is winged and has some supernatural significance.
Fluted bowl, Achaemenid, Darius I or II; 522-486 B.C. or 432-405 B.C.
Gold; H. 11.1 cm
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1954 (54.3.1)
In the sixth century B.C., under the leadership of Cyrus the Great (r. 538-530 B.C.), the Achaemenid Persian dynasty overthrew Median kings and established an empire that would eventually extend from eastern Europe and Egypt to India. Achaemenid rulers included such famed kings as Cyrus, Darius I (r. 521-486 B.C.), and Xerxes I (r. 485-465 B.C.). They built palaces and ceremonial centers at Pasargadae, Persepolis, Susa, and Babylon. The Achaemenid Dynasty lasted for two centuries and was ended by the sweeping conquests of Alexander the Great, who destroyed Persepolis in 331 B.C. The Achaemenid period is well documented by the descriptions of Greek and Old Testament writers as well as by abundant archaeological remains.
Fluted bowls and plates of the Achaemenid period continue a tradition begun in the Assyrian Empire. While they were given as royal gifts, it seems that they were also valued and exchanged simply for the weight of the precious metals from which they were made.
Published on Zondervan's Exploring the Story.