Achaemenid Art



The internationalism of the Achaemenid Empire is reflected not only in its laws but also in fusing its Iranian character with Babylonian, Assyrian, Greek, Egyptian, Lydian , Uratarian and Scythian elements . Some of the more reknown areas of Achaemenid Art are : stone relief carving, metalwork, carpets,  cylinder seals


Stone Reliefs


The ancient Persian contued the western Asian tradition of stone carving. Missing is the cruelty seen in Assyrian and Babylonian art, reflecting to more tolerant Persian method of rule.In the stone reliefs of the Persepolis there a serenity which comes from the abstract spiritualism of the Zoroasterism .Most of the reliefs do not represent historical personages, but an idealised verson of the king and other advisors and tell no developing story, but stress the importance of a just ruler providing harmony to the empire .


stone relief Peresoplis

London's British Museum recently exhibited Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia to much critical acclaim. Some 460 impressive works of ancient Iranian art were culled from four international collections: the National Museum in Tehran, Iran's Persepolis Museum, Paris' Musée du Louvre and the British Museum. The exhibition's easily attainable catalogue vividly describes the artistic accomplishments of the Persian Empire's Achaemenid rulers during more than two centuries of the dynasty's reign (550-330 B.C.).






The ancient Achaemenids were skilled metalworkers .They excelled in gold displaying a vivid naturalism .Animal motifs were cleverly used, particularly on vessel handles and rhytons and show a similar animal energy as seen in Scythian metalwork .Many excellent examples of Persian artwork from this period were found in the Tajikistan in the 1880s, known as the Oxus Treasure .The Persian golden dinner service left abandoned after the Persian defeat at Plataea, left the Spartans in awe as to why the Persians would invade such a poor country when theirs was so rich . Egyptians were often employed as well as Medes as gold and silversmiths .Silver was brought in from Egypt, gold from Bactria and India .Armlets and necklets seem to have been worn by men and women alike, and can be seen on Persepolis reliefs, after the Achaemenid period they became charateristic of Parthian and Sassanian dress and spread to India .

golden chariot, from the Oxus treasure  5th cent B.C


              silver ibex  5th cent B.C.

 6th cent B.C.Golden short sword Ecbanta

griffin golden armlet 500 B.C.

winged ibex amphora handle

 winged lion  380 B.C.   Ecbanta





A rhyton is a container from which wines, such as the famous Shiraz wine, were intended to be drunk, or poured in a ceremony .The shape was derived from drinking horns .It is possible they were copied  from the Uratians and made popular popular by the Medes .Rhytons survive in Persia till Sassanian times . However, in Achaemenid times the wine was drunk from the rim as a normal cup, but a Sassanian rhyton was cast to send out a spout to be caught in the mouth .



5~4th cent B.C  Turkey  


                                    6th cent B.C.  Ecbatana




  5~4th cent B.C. Ecbatana  the ram was a symbol of royal power


Persian Carpets


Carpet weaving has a long history in Iran .The oldest surviving carpet in the world dates from the Achaemenid period. This is the Pazyryk Carpet. Historical records mention magnificent carpets Persian palaces of the Achaemenid period.. This was over 2500 years ago. Alexander the Great of Macedonia is said to have been dazzled by the carpets in the tomb area of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade when the Greeks robbed his tomb .


detail of the Pazyryk Carpet


Cylinder Seals


When the Mesopotamians wanted to put an official stamp on a clay document or protect the integrity of the contents of a container, they impressed a design in the soft clay by rolling a small stone cylinder in it. Many Persian seals copy Assyrian these such as hunting lions on a chariot .


This seal represents the goddess Anahita, mounted on a lion and surrounded by the divine radiance, appearing to a Achaemenid king.

Seal of Darius I  found in Egypt


A rare depiction of a woman from

the Achaemenid era





 Achaemenid Architecture