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Large Persian Achaemenid Bronze Shield Boss

Ancient Near East, Achaemenid Persian Empire, ca. 500 to 330 BCE, probably later in the period. A large shield boss, also known as an umbo, made of hammered and stamped bronze, with remains of gilding on the surface and repeated motifs of triangles, lines, and lightning bolt shapes. These motifs ring around a raised, nipple-like projection at the center. Eight drilled holes around the edge allowed attachment via rivets to the larger part of a shield. This item was made to be part of a violin-shield, a double-gripped style of shield known from Persepolis. The shield was oval, with circular cut outs from the side that gave it the appearance of a violin, with a central metal boss. According to Herodotus, it was carried by an elite infantry unit known as the Persian Immortals. Size: 10.75" W (27.3 cm)

Herodotus wrote that the Immortals were so called because, even if one fell in battle, he was immediately replaced by another, keeping the group of 10,000 soldiers at a constant strength. These same guards may be the ones known as the "Susian Guards," depicted in the Palace of Darius I in Susa. A similar shield with boss is known from the Oxus Treasure, dated to the Achaemenid period and found in modern Tajikistan.

Condition: Loss to one part of the edge with a short fissure down from the area of loss. Central raised boss damaged. Interestingly, this boss was cleaned and partially shined save for one small section outlined in tape. This area shows the surface prior to any cleaning and as the piece was found.

Provenance: private Houston, Texas, USA collection; ex-Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger Auction 277-280 - Ancient Objects, Coins, and Medals (February 8-11, 2012, lot 938); ex-private German collection

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