Illustrated introduction to Ancient Persia, £8.99
Height: 23.000 cm
Diameter: 13.400 cm
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
On loan to
Fluted silver drinking horn (rhyton) with partial gilding
Achaemenid Persian, 5th-4th century BC
Said to be from near Erzincan, modern Turkey
This elaborate silver vessel would originally have been used both as a drinking cup and as a pourer for wine. It was made in two parts and is decorated with the head and forequarters of a griffin. The pair of holes in the griffin's chest could be closed by the drinker's fingers, or opened to allow the wine to flow through. The wings and other parts are gilded.
Vessels of precious metal were widespread at this time. The horn-shaped rhyton terminating in an animal's head was a particularly distinctive form. This example has a griffin very like those on a large gold bracelet from the Oxus Treasure. While a wide variety of styles and forms existed thoughout the Achaemenid empire, because of its great size, there was also a recognizably Achaemenid court style. This was perhaps promoted outside Iran by satraps (provincial governors) and other representatives of the Persian court. This rhyton is an example of the art of the Achaemenid court.
Although vessels of this type were not depicted on the reliefs at the Persian centre of Persepolis, they are shown in use on Greek vases of the late fifth century BC, and indeed the form was copied by the Greek potters. Such vessels continued to be used after the end of the Achaemenid period.
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
St J. Simpson, 'Ancient Iran', British Museum Magazine: Th-20, 19 (1994)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
D.M. Wilson, The forgotten collector: Augus, The Walter Neurath Memorial Lectures 16 (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)