عنوان مقاله [English]
In many myths around the world, there are some mythological creatures called hybrids. They are combined body parts of two or more natural species. Some hybrids have been used as protomes of ivory rhyta found in the ancient city of Nisa, the first Parthian capital. Majority of the hybrids in the corpus of rhytons, can be classified into three categories. The first category is Leogryphs: creatures combined from lion and eagle which are very popular in Achaemenid art motifs. The second category is Bull-men which are half man-half bull creatures. Third category is Centaurs: half man-half horse creatures which are well known in Greek myths. All three categories represent new looks among Iranian ancient popular motifs. The present study uses historical-descriptive research method and benefits the comparative mythology approach. A library research method is adopted for the study. This paper discusses the role of Iranian and Greek mythologies in composing Nisa hybrids as art motifs and their equivalent related symbols and meanings. The study attempts to answer two questions: Which myths have impressed the iconography of rhyta’s hybrids? What are the equivalent concepts of their representation? The results indicate that Centaur is retrieved from Greek mythology, Bull-Man is affected by both Iranian and Greek myths and Leogryph offers a direct reference to the Achaemenid models. Concepts implicated by these motifs are fertility, immortality, heroism and creating civilization, all connected to the manner the rhyta were used. Considering Nisa hybrids as cultural phenomenon, a real background of Parthian ideological believing system can be realized which was entering into a new chapter due to cultural synthesis besides returning to Iranian traditions.
Keywords: Hybrid, Rhyton, Centaur, Leogryph, Bull-Man.
Ancient art motifs, mythologies and rituals, are mostly linked together and perhaps they would help to comprehend the iconic meanings one another. Considering Nisa rhytons as ritual instruments, recognizing the common mythologies and religious beliefs of their homeland, would be a proper method to approach the iconographic meanings of them. In the early Arsacid period, the interaction of Iranian and Greek cultural elements, impressed motifs of art works. Accordingly, finding the trace of Iranian and Greek mythologies –as cultural elements- illustrated in those time art works, not only helps to Get the depicted symbolic and figurative meanings, but also gives more informations about beliefs of those people. Nisa rhytons, as important archeological discoveries, discuss a different aspect of Parthian art forms and believing system. The iconographic repertory of the rhytons, offers a new background of Arsacid cultural situation including art and ideological beliefs.
The present study uses historical descriptive research method and benefits the comparative mythology approach. A library research method is adopted for the study.
The purpose of this paper is to present a comparative study between Iranian and Greek mythologies related to Parthian rhyta protomes, and find out their equivalent relevant symbols and meanings.
The study attempts to answer these two questions:
- Main question: Which myths have impressed the iconography of rhyta’s hybrids?
- Sub-question: What are the equivalent symbolic concepts represented from Iranian and Greek mythologies?
This research tries to prove these hypotheses:
- Main hypotheses: The iconography of Nisa rhytha hybrids is affected by Iranian and Greek myths. Centaur is retrieved from Greek mythology, Bull-Man is affected by both Iranian and Greek myths and Leogryph offers a direct reference to Iranian Achaemenid models.
- Sub hypotheses: The meanings implicated in iconography of Nisa hybrids, are fertility, immortality, heroism and creating civilization.
In early 1950, in the Old Nisa excavations –the first Parthian capital- a corpus of wonderful ivory rhytons were discovered. The archeological evidence, confirms the high technical and artistic value of friezes carved on rhytons. The carvings on the cornice, protome and the body of the rhyta, include motifs implicating both Iranian and Greek rituals and mythologies.
The art works belonged to any nation, are inspired from their ideological beliefs which are connected to some myths reciprocally. The Nisa rhytons motifs, are therefore informative about the mythologies and rituals of Parthian society, which were entering in a new chapter, as a result of cultural synthesis on the one hand, and returning to Iranian traditions on the other hand, at the very beginning decades of Arsacid dynasty.
The iconography of Nisa hybrids, are notable. The protome –Leogryph, Bull-man and Centaur- as a morphological part of rhyton, holds the reference to concepts of Parthians prevalent myths and rituals. They are somehow new motifs in Iranian art. In the lack of historical data about Parthians, mythological analysis of Nisa rhyta illustrations, would bring to light new findings about Arcasid ideological beliefs.
The representation of Nisa hybrids is obviously iconographic. The Leogryph, offers a direct reference to the solar context of Iranian kingship. At the same time, it points out the meanings connected to Mithra Mysteries cult. The Bull-man, is a representation of Greek Achelous and Iranian Gopath-shah. It refers to the meaning of water as a cosmic element linked to fertility. The Centaur indicates the meanings of water and fertility as well. At the same time, it is connected to the mythology of Greek Chiron and heroic concepts. Therefore, the iconography of Nisa rhyta protoms, recall number of shared meanings Impacted from both Iranian and Greek mythologies, including: fertility, rebirth and immortality, the civilizing hero. These meanings, all together, establish the bliss and cosmic order, the role -from ancient point of view- was guaranteed by the kings and heroes, same as gods.