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Achaemenid silver phiale mesomphalos with an aramaic inscription for the king of Tyre, 5th-4th century B.C.

Conservation:  In a good state of preservation.
Material:  Silver
Dimensions:  18,9 cm of diameter
Provenance:  UK private collection, formed in the 1970-80s / Bonhams London, Auction, 2014
Documents:  Translation by J. R. Ayaso, Professor of History of Israel and the Jewish People at the Hebrew and Aramaic Study Area of the University of Granada / Study carried out by E. García Alfonso, Archaeologist in charge of the Department of Museums and Archaeological and Monumental Ensembles of the Andalusian Ministry of Culture.
Published:  Antiquities, London, Bonhams, October 2nd, 2014.


On request
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This vessel called phiale mesomphalos is an open, shallow bowl-shaped vessel, consisting of a central omphalos that protrudes into the vessel while the outside has a sunken appearance. These vessels were used in ceremonies to make libations as a religious offering.

This phiale is made of silver and has a striated decoration on the outside. The omphalos, on its external side, has an inscription in Aramaic made with very fine characters, stylized and executed with great care. The translation of this inscription reads: “For the king of Tyre”.

The Achaemenid Empire subdued Tyre and the rest of the Phoenician kingdoms from the end of the 6th century B.C., being in the year 539 B.C. when the city of Tyre was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire thanks to King Cyrus the Great, who kept it under his rule until 332 B.C. with the arrival of Alexander the Great. The Phoenician kings were allies and not vassals of the Achaemenids, which allowed the Phoenician peoples to enjoy a wide autonomy and enjoy Persian protection, in exchange for supporting the Persians in campaigns such as the conquest of Greece or Egypt.
Several cities enjoyed the favor of the Persian kings, especially Sidon and Tyre. But after the Sidon rebellion between 351-350 B.C., Tyre became the guarantor of Persian rule over the entire Mediterranean strip of the Levant for some time, allowing it to expand its dominions southward and control much of the current coast of Israel.
Regarding the typology of the piece, a phiale, is a very common type of piece in the Near East during the Iron Age, associated with areas such as Cyprus, Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia, Assyria and Iran, maintaining its use until the Persian period. They were used as luxury objects among the elite and were employed in shrines and tombs.
This piece can be read in two ways: either as a diplomatic gift to a ruler of Tyre in the Persian period or as an offering to the “king of Tyre”, who is none other than Melqart, the main deity of the city of Tyre whose name means “king of the city”.

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