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Seleucid or Parthian Cataphract and a Lion
Iraq, 3rd Century BC-2nd Century AD

Picture Source: CAIS
British Museum number91908

Flat fired clay perforated plaque showing in low moulded relief a heavily armoured horseman
(cataphract) wearing scale or lamellar armour and a "coal skuttle" helmet, spearing a lion.
Culture/periodSeleucid or Parthian
Date3rdC BC-2ndC
FindspotFound/Acquired: Iraq
Materialsfired clay
DimensionsWidth: 19 centimetres
Height: 15.2 centimetres
Thickness: 2.3 centimetres
Curator's comments
The armour indicates that he belongs to a type of warrior known as a cataphract although it is surprising to see this being used in a hunting scene such as this. The holes may have been to enable attachment to a wooden coffin. Nicolle (1996: 8-9) refers to the horse having a substantial curb bit with large cheek pieces, and the warrior wearing a hat over his helmet as a typically Iranian and Central Asian practice, with a mail aventail hanging below, and a Central Asian-type sleeveless lamellar shirt. Sekunda proposes that the armour is scale rather than lamellar, and that it is late Seleucid or early Parthian in date.

There is a pair of holes at the top which appear to be original. At some point the object broke into two as there is a repaired crack extending diagonally from the top left to the centre bottom and the two pieces joined by using wire attached through two pairs of small holes, one on each side at the top and bottom of the crack.
Curtis & Tallis 2012 115Curtis, John E; Tallis, Nigel, The Horse from Arabia to Ascot, London, BMP, 2012
Ghirshman R 1962a p.106, fig.122Ghirshman, Roman, Iran: Parthians and Sassanians, 3, London, Thames and Hudson, 1962

Messina V 2007a p.193, cat.116Messina, Vito (ed.), Sulla via di Alessandro da Seleucia al Gandhara, Torino, Silvana Editoriale for the Palazzo Madama, Torino, 2007

Simpson 1997c p.244Simpson, St John, Review: David Nicolle, 'Sassanian armies: the Iranian empire, early 3rd to mid 7th centuries AD', Antiquity, 71, 271 (March), 1997
Sekunda N 1994a p.76Sekunda, Nick, The Seleucid Army, Stockport, Montvert, 1994
Nicolle D & McBride A 1996a pp.8-9, fig. 2ENicolle, David; McBride, Angus, Sassanian armies : the Iranian empire early 3rd to mid-7th centuries AD, Stockport, Montvert, 1996

Referenced as figure 48 in The military technology of classical Islam by D Nicolle
48. Plaque, undated Parthian, British Museum no.91908, London (Maz).

See also Parthian horse-archer plaque, Syria, 1st Century BC-3rd Century AD
Effigy of a Parthian Man, Iran, 1st–2nd century AD, Susa Museum of Iran
Parthia, an extract from ANCIENT ARTS OF CENTRAL ASIA by Tamara Talbot Rice
Ancient Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

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