Helmet of the Sixth Century
Department of ClassicsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley, CA 94720
Department of Objects ConservationMetropolitan Museum of ArtNew York, NY 10028
bronze-decorated iron helmet excavated at Sardis in
may be dated to themid-sixth century
and may be associated with the capture and partial sack ofSardis by Cyrus the Great of Persia. The skull-piece design, unusual for helmets ofGreece and the Near East before Roman times, resembles that of helmets of the sec-ond century
The helmet presumablybelonged to a soldier of either Croesus or Cyrus, but it is not clearly identifiable withLydia, Persia, or other regions that supplied auxiliaries for Lydian and Persianarmies.
he helmet recovered during the 1987 exca-vations at Sardis appeared as a small,unglamorous heap of corrosion fragments(Greenewalt 1990: 11, fig. 14).l Metal had been al-most completely replaced by corrosion products,and the identity of the artifact was established onlyafter two weeks of steady sorting and examination.Nevertheless the discovery yielded a considerableamount of information. The context is a secure oneto which a specific date, the mid-sixth century
may be confidently assigned; furthermore, the con-text may be identified with a famous historicalevent, the siege of Sardis by Cyrus the Great ofPersia. The remains of the helmet preserve firmevidence for its design and construction in generalaspects and in many particulars. It is one of a rela-tively small number of Greek and Near Easternhelmets made of iron; and it establishes the antiq-uity of certain helmets with multipart, radially-designed skull-pieces (Strebenhelme, Bandhelme)as older by half a millennium than previous evi-dence had indicated.
PROVENIENCE AND CONTEXT, DESCRIP-TION, HISTORICAL COMMENTARY
Provenience and Context
The helmet was recovered from ruins of a largeLydian building, evidently a fortification, locatedat the north foot of the Acropolis of Sardis, some400 m east of the Pactolus stream. Conspicuouslandmarks from subsequent history in the same lo-cale are the Roman Bath-Gymnasium complex ca.50 m north, and the modern Ankara-Izmir high-way, which has destroyed one end of the building(probably at the time the highway was widened inthe early 1950s; fig. 1). The relationship of thebuilding to the topography of the Lydian cityremains unclear due to uncertainties about the de-sign and specific defensive role of the building andthe size, organization, and growth pattern of theLydian city. The design of the building, with itsdeep and shallow recesses, has no close match inthe curtain walls and tower-gate complexes ofcontemporaneous Greek and Near Eastern fortifi-cations; and since contemporaneous occupationfeatures occur on either side and at appreciable