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19: The Second Chamber of the Gold Room

Comb with a Scythians in Battle

Late 5th - early 4th century BC

In composition this comb recalls the facade of a Greek temple with a colonnade made up of its 12 teeth, a triangular fronton with three battling warriors, and a frieze of five reclining lions. The details, either cast from a wax model or wrought, were first carefully worked up on both sides and then soldered together. The simplified relief figures are executed in a realistic manner, their movements natural, although they are subordinate to a symmetrical overall scheme. In style and quality of execution the comb is clearly the work of a skilled Greek master, one working for a Scythian client and who was well acquainted with the barbarian world, including details of clothing, hairstyles and weaponry amongst the Scythians, Greeks and Thracians.

Since 1913, when N. Veselovsky excavated the Solokha Barrow where this piece was found, many alternative interpretations have been put forward for the battle scene which crowns the comb. A number of scholars have identified it with epic Scythian legends regarding the quarrels between the brothers seen as the founders of the Scythian tribe. A. Alekseev considered that the comb was created after events at the turn of the 5th to 4th centuries BC, when the Scythian king was killed by his own brothers for his hellenophile tastes. Alekseev suggest that at some time in the first third of the 4th century BC the comb was placed by the head of the victor, Octamasad, whose tomb was placed inside the grandiose 18 metre barrow earlier erected for his brother Orik (this tomb was robbed in Antiquity).




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