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The rich and wide-ranging collection of Sassanian items is the pride of the Museum, which has a vast array of important silverware, glyptics and coins. The majority of Sassanian silverware, jugs and cups for wine, vases and salvers for sweetmeats and fruit, were - surprisingly enough - found by chance in the Urals region and near the River Kama. This is explained by the fact that they were taken there by traders to barter for furs, and were later often used by the local population for religious purposes, or were treasured and passed down through many generations of a family.

Scholarly research based on the examination of written sources, silver dishes with their inscriptions, rock-cut reliefs, and gems and coins, has revealed that Sassanian objects were the reflection of an official art, a state ideology, and in particular, a state religion, namely Zoroastrianism, first found in Sassanian Iran. There is an interesting group of articles with Zoroastrian motif and symbols, such as a fine silver ewer with its body decorated with the representation of the Iranian mythological creature known as a Senmurvs.

Of the Sassanian silverware, the most notable items are a dish depicting King Shapur II hunting lions (4th century) and the famous dish with a well-known episode from Firdousi's poem Shahnameh describing how Azadeh, the beloved of Prince Bahram-Gur, demanded upon seeing a herd of gazelles that with the help of arrows the prince turn a buck into a doe and a doe into a buck. The faces in the hunting scenes were depicted so accurately that it has proved possible to establish their names through comparison with portraits on coins of the Sassanian rulers. In Iran, silver dishes - or to be more exact, shallow bowls for wine - cannot be regarded as simple utensils designed for banquets. Their importance lay in the intricate scenes with which they were decorated.

The collection of Sassanian engraved stones consists of over 1,000 items, mostly of semi-precious stones – sard, chalcedony, jasper, amethyst and garnet, inserted in rings they were used as seals. The seals bear engraved portraits, inscriptions, various images and sometimes heraldic signs.


If you enjoyed this collection, you might want to also visit the other collections at the State Hermitage Museum.

Oriental Coins


King Shapur II Hunting Lions
4th century
Larger view




Prince Varahran out Hunting
Late 4th–early 5th century
Larger view




Silver Ewer
6th-early 7th century
Larger view

 

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