Bowl with Anchor and Dolphin Medallion

Unknown100–1 B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

The motifs that decorate this silver bowl tell the story of where and when it was made--by a silversmith in the 100s B.C. in the present-day area of northwest Iran.

Iran had been part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire until Alexander the Great conquered it. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., the Hellenistic Greek Seleucid dynasty, whose kingdom stretched from Turkey to Afghanistan, ruled this area. In the later 200s B.C., the Parthians, a group of semi-nomadic people from the steppes of south central Asia, began challenging the weakened Seleucid regime. After an indecisive military campaign, the Parthians and the Seleucids ruled Iran jointly in an alliance that lasted from the closing years of the 200s B.C. through the first three decades of the 100s B.C.

The decoration of this bowl reflects that short-lived period. The inverted anchor in the central medallion was a symbol of the Seleucid dynasty, and the dolphin was a symbol for the Parthians. The intertwined symbols on this bowl testify to the delicate politics of Iran in the early 100s B.C.


  • Title: Bowl with Anchor and Dolphin Medallion
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 100–1 B.C.
  • Physical Dimensions: 4.3 × 18.5 cm, 0.4087 kg (1 11/16 × 7 5/16 in., 0.901 lb.)
  • Type: Bowl
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Silver; gilding
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 81.AM.84.1
  • Culture: Near Eastern (Parthian)
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown
  • Classification: Vessels (Containers)

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