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Parthian Faience Figure of a Syrian Warrior

Parthian Faience Figure of a Warrior
SKU LK.355
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 12" (30.5cm) high
Medium: Faience
Origin: Syria
Gallery Location: UK

The Parthians defeated the Seleucids towards the end of the third century BC and went on to found an Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley. Formerly a Central Asian nomadic people, the Parthians acquired great wealth by controlling caravan cities along the Silk Road. Led by the Arsacid Dynasty, they were Rome’s strongest opponents in the East. The Romans disputed territory in Syria, Armenia and Mesopotamia but were often defeated in battle by the superiority of the Parthian cavalry.

In contrast to their hostile relationship with Rome, the Parthians seem to have courted the favor of the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian who visited Parthia and described it as an advanced urban civilization. As a result, trade soon flourished with China. A detailed account of Parthian civilization has yet to be written partly because so little of their own literature has survived. Historians are thus forced to rely on foreign histories and numismatic evidence. It is nevertheless clear from Parthian coins that their Kings were consciously modeling themselves on their Achaemenid predecessors and attached great significance to the visual arts.

Glazed turquoise green ceramics are one of the most distinctive Parthian art forms. Glazed ceramics were extremely rare in the Middle East prior to the Islamic period. Only in China were glazed wares common at such an early date. Trade and diplomatic ties most likely encouraged such a development in the Parthian region. Their color was created from copper and iron oxides mixed with an alkaline glaze which was applied on top of a fine white paste so that the reddish surface of the clay would not show through. The shapes of the vessels reveal a reliance on Greek and Mesopotamian forms while the green glaze has often been likened to the patina that bronze acquires over time.
Source: Barakat Gallery

Conical helmet with a scale neckguard, what looks like mail or scale armour, short sword on the right hip, looks like a bow slung on the back. Said to be from Syria, which perhaps casts doubt on the "Parthian" identification. Rather reminds me of the "Eastern auxiliary archers" on Trajan's Column whom some analysts are keen to dismiss as artistic fictions.
I'd suggest that the sword on the right hip would be quite rare in a Parthian context - I think most or all of the swords at Hatra for instance are worn on the left - and might be a Western feature.
Duncan Head

See also a Seleucid or Parthian Cataphract and a Lion, Iraq, 3rd Century BC-2nd Century AD
Parthian stucco relief of soldier at Zahhak castle, Hashtrud, Eastern Azerbaijan, Iran.
Other Parthian Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

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