ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Parthian Turquoise-Glazed Terracotta Rhyton - X.0360
Origin: Iran
Circa: 1 st Century AD to 2 nd Century AD
Dimensions: 14.50" (36.8cm) high
Collection: Near Eastern
Style: Parthian
Medium: Glazed Terracotta

After the death of Alexander the Great, his expansive empire was divided among three of his most loyal generals, with Seleucis assuming control of the eastern portion. The Seleucid Dynasty was thereby established, following in the footsteps of the Persian, Assyrian, and Babylonian Empires, with its capitals at Antioch (in modern Syria) and Seleucia (in modern Iraq). However, as history has shown, maintaining calm and order over such a large territory, encompassing so many different cultures, proved difficult if not impossible. In 245 B.C., the Parthians revolted against the Seleucids under the leadership of Satrap Andragoras, igniting a civil war that would lead to further autonomy, despite the continued recognition of the Greek kings as their superiors. Although the Parthians had been mentioned in Assyrian text as early as the 7th Century B.C., it was not until the rise of Mithradates I that the yoke of Seleucid control was tossed aside and Parthia reached the heights of its glory. Mithradates the Great quickly conquered the lands of Babylon, Media, and Elam, establishing a great empire that would rival Roman dominance and last until 224 A.D. when the Sassanid Empire finally subjugated their lands.
The word rhyton derives from the Greek verb meaning “to run through.” Paintings on the sides of Greek vases depict revelers using rhytons to aerate and drink wine. The wine was poured into the top of the vessel and came out from the animal-headed spout that emerges from the woman’s neck. This gorgeous rhyton has been covered in a stunning turquoise-colored glaze that imitates the hue of the gemstone, a rare material that was highly prized in antiquity. The main body of the rhyton is in the form of a luxurious woman’s head topped by a wide-body vessel that rises from her head. Her hair has been elegantly coiffed and she wears a diadem crown that asserts her royal, or possibly even divine, status. Perhaps she was modeled after a famed and powerful queen. Once, a king or a member of his close circle would have drunk wine from this rhyton. Today, it remains a stunning symbol of the glories of the Parthians and the beauty of their art. - (X.0360)

 

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