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Work Cypriot cup known as the "Dali" or Idalium cup

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Levant

Coupe chypriote dite de " Dali " ou d'Idalion

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

Near Eastern Antiquities
Levant

Author(s):
Duclos Alain

This gold and silver cup found at Dali, Cyprus, is a masterpiece of Phoenician goldwork. It is decorated with mythological battles, a frieze of sphinxes, and a pharaoh crushing his enemies. The cup bears witness to the cultural and economic relations between Cyprus, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians in the 8th century BC.

A masterpiece of goldwork

This repoussé gold and silver cup decorated with intricate motifs was found at Idalium on the island of Cyprus. It was once part of the collection of the Duke of Luynes. The Louvre purchased it in 1853. The circular center of the cup is decorated with a typically Egyptian theme, a pharaoh crushing his enemies. He is holding a bow and arrows in his left hand and a club in his right hand, poised to strike his adversaries. The victims are already on the ground and the scene seems to be more of an execution than a battle. The pharaoh is accompanied by a servant who is carrying the rest of his weapons and is holding either a fan or a mirror in his left hand. The winged sun of the god Ra and the falcon god Horus are beside the king. Two concentric friezes around the central medallion are separated by tiny rings. The first frieze shows a series of griffons and winged sphinxes, with one foot trampling the head of a defeated enemy; the second repeats the scene of the struggle between a hero wearing the Egyptian "shanti" and a lion or a griffon, alternating with the protective presence of the god Bes, half-man, half-lion, who in turn is carrying the animal on his shoulders or is fighting with it.

Phoenician craftsmanship

This cup belongs with the set of about ten pieces found in the Mediterranean region and in Mesopotamia. They can be attributed to Phoenician gold workshops that flourished in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. This piece in particular, as all those found in Cyprus, was probably made locally by Phoenician craftsmen who had settled on the island. Given the subject of the central scene and the ring of sphinxes, there must have been cultural contact between the Phoenicians and pharaonic Egypt. Relations between the Egyptian civilization and the peoples of the Levant reach far back, certainly to the 3rd millennium BC. In the early years of the 1st millennium BC, the Phoenicians began to expand into the Mediterranean. The island of Cyprus was the first step in this expansion: from the 9th century BC, the town of Citium was a Phoenician colony and by the 8th century BC, the city of Idalium, one of the ten Cypriot kingdoms, was also under Phoenician influence. The city was conquered by the Phoenician king of Citium, Ozbaal, in about 470 BC.

Bibliography

Moscati Sabatino, Les Phéniciens, Milan, Bompiani, 1988.

Technical description

  • Coupe chypriote dite de " Dali " ou d'Idalion

    VIIIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Dali, Chypre

  • Argent et or, technique du repoussé

    Diam. 19.5 cm

  • Ancienne collection du duc de Luynes, 1853

    AO 20134

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

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