Stag Rhyton

  • Asia Minor/Black Sea region
  • ca. 4th century B.C.
  • Bronze
  • H-37 D-12 W-25.5

The tip of this rhyton is formed in the shape of the forequarters of a stag, and wine that had been poured into the rhyton’s opening would then be served out of the spout that protrudes from the stag’s chest. This stag has somewhat thick horns with complex branches, and is thus thought to depict a type of Reh deer. The eyes which are holes today would have been originally inlaid with either stone or glass eyeballs, and both eyes are turned toward the back. Mosaics excavated at Pella, one of the capitals of Macedonia show two men hunting a deer with this kind of thick horns, and the eyes on that deer also both turn toward the back.
  The stag’s leg-extended pose seen on this rhyton had long been depicted on Greek pottery, and this iconography shows either a hunted deer, or an offertory deer. This iconography accompanies images of either Artemis, goddess of the hunt, or Dionysus, god of wine, and it is thought that this rhyton had some connection with the worship of these gods. The slightly flaring mouth rim is decorated with an egg and dart pattern, and the center of each of the eggs is pierced with a small hole which then would have been inlaid with a small fiber. We can imagine that this would have been the attachment for some ornament in the shape of vine. Vine imagery can be frequently seen at the rims or shoulders of Greek pottery, and this is especially the case in metal rhyta from Hellenistic west Asian and Thrace which frequently have relief patterns of ivy leaves and fruit around their mouths. Among the Tarente treasures of Italy, there is also a bronze vessel from this period which has three-dimensional ivy decorations.