Greco-Persian gems: pyramidal stamp seals

The shape is Babylonian and the preferred material is blue chalcedony. They were made from the later sixth century into the fifth, mainly in western Anatolia. Several are inscribed with Lydian, some with Phrygian names, presumably for local officials in the Persian administrative capitals (notably at Sardis). Some are mounted in silver in a Lydian manner, as pendants. Most bear Persian subjects done in a style quite close to Greek late archaic, and there are a few with purely Greek subjects. Many are distinguished by having linear devices on them which are the personal blazons of individuals - a practice which was adopted from that of masons in Lydia and later in the east generally. See J. Boardman, Iran 8 (1970) 19-45, and 36 (1998) 1-13.

Gem image

Geneva 20564, from Cyprus. Blue chalcedony. 18mm. Iran 8, no. 6.

A bull, in a style close to Greek late archaic. Inscribed in Lydian 'of Manes'; and with a personal device before the animal.

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Philadelphia CBS.5117. 17.5mm. Iran 8, no. 8.

An eastern monster composed of a horned winged lion, a goat-sphinx and a boar. With a Lydian inscription and a personal device.

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NewYork 86.1.3. Chalcedony. 17mm. Iran 8, no. 11.

A Greek Hermes with winged cap and shoes, holding a caduceus and flower, with a bird before him.

Gem image

Bowdoin College 484, from the Black Sea area. Chalcedony. 20mm. GGFR pl. 823.

A Greek mistress of animals holding lions; a very Lydian subject.

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St Petersburg, from Crimea. Cornelian. 19mm. Iran 8, no.5.

There is the occasional scaraboid in this series. Two Persian royal sphinxes; inscribed in Lydian 'of Manes' (a common Lydian name), with a personal device.

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