A ring of floral tendrils enclosed by a wave pattern decorates the interior of this Parthian silver bowl. Another ring of wave pattern runs around the interior just below the rim. The two areas of engraved decoration were gilded to contrast with the silver of the bowl's body. The floral tendril decoration and the inscription on the rim provide the clues to the bowl's origin.
The bowl was made in the area of present-day Iran in the first century B.C. Iran was 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. By the mid-100s B.C., the Parthians had firm control of this area of Iran.
This complicated political history left its legacy in the art of the area. Although the floral tendril decoration of the bowl has its roots in Seleucid art, the inscription on the rim, giving the weight of the bowl in a Parthian unit of measure, reveals that the bowl's owner was probably Parthian.