Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Thracian funerary silverware

"From the mid-first millennium, such objects as ceremonial helmets, armor, cups, and ornamental gear for horses—worked from silver and sometimes gilded—have been discovered in graves and in finds that must have been the buried hoards of Thracian princes and chiefs. This silver beaker is a fine example of fourth century B.C. Thracian workmanship. It probably was made in the region of present-day Romania or Bulgaria, as similar beakers have been found in a princely tomb at Agighiol, near the delta of the Danube in eastern Romania. The beaker is raised from a single piece of silver with a stamped, chased, and repoussĂ© design." - The Metropolitan Museum of Art  

This view of the beaker features a stag-like creature with eight legs, although it may indicate the presence of two stags side by side. Its antlers extend into a border of tines ending in bird heads that circle the upper portion of the cup. The opposite side of the beaker depicts a horned bird of prey holding a fish in its beak and clutching what seems to be a hare in its claws. The bird is flanked by one horned and two antlered animals, and, facing the large bird, a tiny bird of prey hovers over the horned animal.  The museum also describes a winged, griffin-like monster chewing an animal leg and grasping a small beast in its clawed feet on the bottom of the vessel that is visible when the beaker is used but unfortunately the museum did not include images from these viewpoints.

"Although certain contemporary Scythian and Iranian stylistic influences can be seen, the iconography of these scenes is clearly Thracian and probably refers to a native myth or legend. The monstrous bird of prey with land and water creatures in its grasp appears to symbolize dominance over land and water. Though a precise interpretation of the iconography remains uncertain, scholars have suggested that these animals were symbols associated with a heroic ruler and served as protective spirits, avatars, and tribal totems." - The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Image: Silver Beaker with birds and animals, Thracian, 4th century BCE, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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