Myths from Persia, £8.99
Height: 2.500 cm
Capacity: 1.380 litres (at rim)
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
On loan to
Achaemenid, 5th century BC
From near Erzincan, eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey)
Little is known of the region where this bowl is said to have been discovered during the Achaemenid period. Certainly it would have been distant from the centre of political power. The presence there of the bowl, however, demonstrates the widespread influence of Achaemenid court style. In fact such bowls were used throughout the vast Persian Empire which stretched from Egypt and the Aegean to the Indus Valley.
There is evidence to show that vessels in gold and silver, as well as various other precious objects, were esteemed for their bullion value. They were probably made to carefully prescribed weights of silver, and could have been stored or exchanged as currency. This was a long tradition in the ancient Near East, and continued even after the introduction of coinage. Such bowls would have belonged to the royal treasury, and would have counted as part of the wealth of the state. They were probably also standard items from a royal table-service.
Many Classical authors refer to the great richness of the Persian royal treasuries and it is clear that bowls in precious metals were amongst the treasures. Their importance is shown by the fact that bowls were presented by the Persian king as gifts and they were also considered to be suitable gifts for the great king himself. They appear on the famous reliefs from the city of Persepolis being carried by tribute bearers.
O.M. Dalton, Treasure of the Oxus: with oth, 3rd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1964)