Sword handle and chapes

  • Dated: 7th century, Sasanian period 
  • Culture: Iranian
  • Medium: gold
  • Dimensions: H: 5.0; W: 103.8 cm 

These fittings originally decorated the hilt and scabbard or sheath of a long sword probably made of iron, now missing. The handle is decorated with twisted wire and granulation to form a central braid surrounded by a scroll and vegetal pattern. These patterns are repeated on the metal trimming attached to the two P-shaped mounts. The lower shape is plain, with a rectangular tip.

Swords were an important royal emblem in Sasanian Iran, prominently displayed along with other royal equipment such as the crown. Details of their forms were closely observed and reproduced in royal representations.

Most Sasanian swords hung from a slide attached to the center of the scabbard or were attached to the belt by straps passing through loops on both sides. This example, together with a few other swords with gold or silver scabbards allegedly found in northwestern Iran, was suspended by means of the two P-shaped mounts along the scabbard.

The P-shaped mounts were intended to keep the sword at an oblique angle, an important consideration for warriors on horseback. This form of sword suspension seems to have reached the Sasanians from the Central Asian Hephthalites, probably during the late fourth or early fifth century.

Source: Copyright © 2012 Smithsonian Institution

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