Rhyton with a horse protome

  • Black Sea region
  • 4th century B.C.
  • Gilded silver
  • H-20.8 D-10 W-21.5
Catalogue Entry

4th century B.C.
Gilded silver
H. 20.8 cm, Mouth dia. 10.0 cm
This rhyton is fitted with a finial shaped like the forequarters of a horse. The cup portion of the rhyton is decorated with vertical grooves, and the mouth rim area is surrounded by a band of ivy. The horse's two legs are extended to the front in a leaping posture, and there is a spout between the legs. The forehead section of mane has been clumped into a pillar-like form, while the rest of the mane has been cropped close to the back of the head and neck to stand in a short board-like fashion. The lowest section of mane has been divided into three long strands which hang down on either side of the horse's withers. The head is fitted with a bridle and a bell-like form hangs from the chest band in the middle of the horse's chest. Overall the rhyton is covered in a blackish tarnish, but we can see the detailed expression of the face and the correct musculature of the body beneath the tarnish. The important areas have been decorated with gilding. The horse's pose, with head pointing almost directly down, the form of the mane, and the musculature of the horse's upper legs all resemble the horses depicted in the relief carvings at Persepolis which are characteristic of Achaemenid period style. On the other hand, the band of ivy decoration around the rhyton's mouth rim and the realistic formation of the horse's body are both Greek stylistic elements. The fusion of these two styles led to the creation of this rhyton characterized by vibrant power and regularly
formed elegance.
Another rhyton that is extremely close to this work in style is a silver rhyton with horse finial which was excavated in Borovo, Bulgaria. This work from Borovo dates from the era of Kotys I of the Trachian culture, in other words, the first half of the 4th century BC. The Borovo horse is not fitted with a harness, but the otherwise shared handling of details suggests that the two works may have been created by the same workshop.


The "vessels" division is represented by a relatively large number of objects.There are 22 items of gold (cat. Nos. 123-144) and 26 of silver (cat. Nos. 97-122). Among the silver vessels, there are 6 goblets (cat. Nos. 103-106, 108, 109) tall libation vessels Achaemenid in form, but decorated in a style which is typically Hellenistic. Similar cups are held by the magi represented on the relief sculptures and votive plaques. Three rhyta made for a similar purpose are unfortunately in a fragmentary condition (cat. Nos. 118, 119, 122). In addition there are 8 shallow bowls (cat. Nos. 97-99, 101, 102, 111-113) for ritual libations. The gold vessels were used for the same purpose; there are 18 libation bowls, of simple form, most of which have a rounded base and everted rim (cat. Nos. 123-140). One tall vessel of a pyxis type with a lid (cat. No. 142) appears to be the earliest of the vessels in the collection. Of special interest is an incense burner in the form of a censer with four rings for suspension (cat. No. 141).
Although the number of vessels in this collection is considerably larger than those of the Oxus Treasure in the British Museum, they probably served the same function. The vessels of both collections are closely paralleled by the vessels held by worshippers depicted on the Persepolis reliefs. This observation makes it possible to date them. It is worth adding here that the manufacture of goblets of similar shape and of rhyta in the Persepolitan style is depicted on a relief in a pronaos on the northern wall of the tomb of Petosiris at Hermopolis Magna in Egypt. According to Muscarella, the reliefs attest the manufacture of embossed articles in Egypt right up until 300 BC.

Rhyton with a Stag Censer Shallow Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Shallow Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Phiale with a Rosette Pattern Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Phiale Fragment of a Shallow Bowl Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Bowl with a Lotus and PalmettePattern Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Bowl with a Human Heads Decoration Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Shallow Bowl with a Leaf Plate with Ketos Bowl Kotyle with Mythical Figures Situla with a Lion's Head Horse (Fragment of a rhyton) Winged Human-headed Bull(Fragment of a rhyton) Decoration of a Ladle Disk-like Round Mirror Lion Griffin (Fragment of a Rhyton) Shallow Bowl with a Rosette Pattern Sallow Bowl Sallow Bowl Bowl Sallow Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl Bowl with Lid