The winged bezoar goat was the left handle on a silver amphora, its counterpart ‘from Amisos in Pontos’ can now be seen in the Musée du Louvre in Paris. The solid cast animals originally stood with their front hoofs on the lip of a large vessel. The fixtures below the hind legs were soldered onto the shoulder. The animal is depicted in mid-jump, graceful and powerful at once; it turns its head, beard in tow, towards the viewer with an inquiring look. The opulent vessel to which it was attached was once around 50 cm in height. The large wings lift the bezoar goat (capra aegagrus) into the realm of the mythological. Its feathers have been extremely finely chased into the metal, as have the hairs on its head, ears and beard, the joints in the long horns that arch characteristically at the back, the hoofs and the Silenus mask on the separately fashioned appliqué. In addition, all these parts are embellished with a thin layer of gold sheet, pressed into the engraved ground, which has been chased using an exceedingly fine chisel.This intricate silverwork is a masterpiece of Persian craftsmanship from the time of the Achaemenids. Under their rule, many lavish vessels were created in which gold and silver were used in abundance. These included amphoras with spouts in the animal-shaped handles or at the base. The two wild goat handles in Berlin and Paris once belonged to one such amphora-rhyton; this kind of vessel had an oval, grooved body, a long smooth neck with a wide lip and two pouring holes on either side of the flat base. Our handles distinguish themselves from earlier finds of complete amphora-rhytons from Sinop on the Black Sea or the village of Duvanli in Bulgaria by way of their life-like, vivid and graceful design, and most of all due to the way their heads are turned to face the viewer. The reason for this may lie in the cultural influence that the Greek cities of Amisos and Sinope on the southern Black Sea coast exerted on Persian art. They were directly subjected to the Achaemenid king and played an important strategic role as ports in the expansionist policy of the Achaemenids. Erzincan, near the source of the Euphrates, was a point where Persian caravan routes converged as they led westwards to Amisos (now Samsun).


  • Title: Decorative Persian handle
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: -400/-350
  • Location: Supposedly from Erzincan on the Euphrates, north Anatolia
  • Physical Dimensions: h27 cm
  • Type: Statuette
  • Medium: Silver, partially gilded
  • Object acquired: Acquired in 1891
  • Inv.-No.: Misc. 8180a
  • ISIL-No.: DE-MUS-814319
  • External link: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: Text: © Verlag Philipp von Zabern / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Gertrud Platz-Horster || Photo: © b p k - || Photo Agency / Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Johannes Laurentius
  • Collection: Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz

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