Recorded: May 19, 2022
Event: The World of Ancient Iran and the West
Citation: Hyland, John O. "Celebrating Achaemenid Victories: A Glyptic Triumphal Motif and its Greek and Egyptian Victims." Pourdavoud Center: The World of Ancient Iran and the West (May 19, 2022).
by John O. Hyland (Christopher Newport University)
John O. Hyland is Professor of History at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. He is the author of Persian Interventions: the Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta 450–386 BCE (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018), as well as numerous articles on Persian and Greek historical topics. He is currently writing a second book, under contract with Oxford University Press, that reexamines Persia’s invasions of Greece in the broader contexts of Achaemenid and ancient Near Eastern imperial practice.
Celebrating Achaemenid Victories: A Glyptic Triumphal Motif and its Greek and Egyptian Victims
Recent scholarship has shed great light on the glyptic iconography of ancient Persian warfare. In contrast with the absence of battle from Achaemenid monumental art, the corpus of combat scenes on Persian seals illustrates the significance of warfare for imperial elites. The specifics of the imagery vary widely, but one scene reappears with striking continuity across multiple seals and impressions, suggesting the possibility of a palace-based artistic commission associated with the commemoration of royal campaigns. It depicts a Persian king or hero in the act of killing a kneeling opponent, while leading a file of enemies behind him on a rope; the prisoners evoke the line-up of the Bisotun relief, but the added violence of the execution scene is more explicit about the completion of victory and chastisement of the foe. The most unusual feature of this group of seals is the changing identity of the defeated enemy, characterized in one version by Greek and in the other by Egyptian dress. This paper will explore the connections between the depictions of Persian triumph over Greeks on the impressions of PTS 28, and those of Persian triumph over Egyptians in the Metropolitan Museum and Zvenigorodsky seals. It considers a possible historical context for the linkage between the triumphal scenes, and examines the dialogue between their imagery and the patterns of Achaemenid imperial warfare in the early fifth century BCE.