Seal of Darius I (BM)

Seal of Darius I (BM)
Accession number: 
Museum Number 89132
British Museum

Seal of Darius I (BM)

Chalcedony cylinder seal of Darius I, provenance unknown.  Royal figure in horse-drawn chariot galloping r., aiming bow at rampant lion facing l., with two arrows already fixed in head and right forepaw.  Under the feet of the horses, fallen lion with three arrows (?) projecting from shoulder.  Above the scene, male figure in winged disc, facing r. (Ahuramazda?).  Palm trees to left and right; between the palm-trees, trilingual inscription in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian, "I [am] Darius, the Great King" (the word "great" only in the Babylonian).  

H. 0.037, Diam. 0.017. British Museum (BM 89132)

M. Brosius, The Persian Empire from Cyrus II to Artaxerxes I (2000), no. 43; J. Curtis and N. Tallis, Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia (2005), 221 no. 398; M. Garrison, 'The Royal-Name Seals of Darius I', in Extraction and Control: Studies in Honor of Matthew W. Stolper (2014), 67-104, esp. 82-84 and 90.

The provenance of this seal is uncertain; it is traditionally said to derive from Lower Egypt, but the recent discovery of a very similar seal-impression at Persepolis (here, p.90) suggests that it may in fact come from one of the Persian royal capitals. The scene of the royal lion-hunt with bow and arrow from chariot is not a common motif in Achaemenid royal art, but regularly appears in Assyrian palace reliefs (e.g. at the North Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh). There is no reason to think that this was Darius' personal seal, since royal-name seals were also used by officials at lower levels of the royal administration, as shown by the extensive use of name seals of Xerxes and Artaxerxes I at Daskyleion (E. Dusinberre, Empire, Authority, and Autonomy in Achaemenid Anatolia, 2013, 65-68).