Xerxes killing a Greek Hoplite

A couple of months ago, two of my best friends, Marlous and Marco, spent their honeymoon in New York. They visited several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Marco made photos, like this one:

A Persian King Killing a Hoplite

A Persian King Killing a Hoplite

It is an impression of a Persian cylinder seal, which can stylistically be dated to the first quarter of the fifth century. It represents a Persian king fighting against a Yauna (Greek). As Darius is not known to have fought against them -he had generals like Datis and Artaphernes to do that- it must represent Xerxes. The man fallen on the ground must be someone important; perhaps it is Leonidas. Of course it is symbolic – the two probably never came this close during the fight. Still, it brings to mind that, according to Herodotus, Xerxes hated no one as much as the Spartan king.

Seals like these are, except for Xerxes’ claim (in inscription XPh) to have conquered the “Yauna from across the Sea” and a probably unreliable reference to tapestries with scenes from the Persian War in Babylon (mentioned by Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 1.25), the only evidence for the Persian side of the story. The seals say that the Persians considered it a triumph like any other, and that makes it important.

Besides, isn’t this picture -in spite of the unpleasant scene- beautiful?

2 Responses to Xerxes killing a Greek Hoplite

  1. judithweingarten says:

    The link to the photograph is locked (“not authorized to download”).

    Why is Philostratus unreliable in this case? He wasn’t broad minded enough to have thought, “Now, if I were looking at from the Persian point of view….”)

  2. rambambashi says:

    Sorry Judith, I decided to make a shortcut but it apparently did not work well. It’s now fixed (or should be).

    Philostratus’ description of Babylonia and Parthia is generally considered to be a piece of fiction; everywhere, the Sage of Tyana meets people enjoying the delights of Greek civilization. The Vita Apollonii is not a biography, but a study in Greekness.

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