A Vase of Xerxes

Babylonian Section

By: A. T. C.

Originally Published in 1910

View PDF

As early as 1762 Count Caylus published an account of a marble vase in the Cabinet des Médailles de Bibliotheque National, at Paris, inscribed with cuneiform and hieroglyphic characters. But at that time it was not possible to read the inscription.

Alabaster Vase of Xerxes the Great
Fig. 2 Alabaster Vase of Xerxes the Great.
Museum Object Number: B10

After some progress has been made in the decipherment of the cuneiform script, through the important investigations made by Grotefend, Abbe Saint-Martin, who had devoted considerable time in studying his results, felt that he was able to read the name of the king inscribed on the vase. Champollion, after he had found the key to the Egyptian hieroglyphics, suggested to the Abbe that they decipher the inscription independently. The test proved conclusively that progress had been made in the decipherment of the cuneiform and the Egyptian hieroglyphs and that their methods were correct, for their results confirmed each other’s progress. It was found that the inscription read : “Xerxes, the Great King.” It was, however, only determined in later years that the three different cuneiform inscriptions found on the vase represented the Persian, Elamitic and Babylonian forms of writing.

A number of similar vases and fragments belonging to the same king have since made their appearance. Loftus, in 1853, found several fragments of a similar vase in the ruins of Susa. These were deposited in the British Museum. Newton, in his excavations of the mausoleum of Halicarnassus, an anoint Greek city of Asia Minor, discovered in 1856 another vase of the same king, which found its way to the British Museum. Less important fragments were also discovered by Dieulafoy at Susa, which are now in the Louvre.

Through the instrumentality of the late E. W. Clark, Esq., of Philadelphia, a similar alabaster vase, with the same quadralingual inscription, was purchased in 1888 from Joseph Shemtob, an antiquity dealer in London. The provenience of this vase is unknown. It measures nine and seven-eighth inches in height and eight and fifteen-sixteenth inches in width. It is now in the possession of the University Museum, and is on exhibition among its treasures (Fig. 2).

The upper line of cuneiform writing shows the Persian script; the second line is in Elamitic; the third is in Babylonian, and the vertical column underneath gives the same inscription in Egyptian hieroglyphics, Xerxes, The Great King.

A. T. C.

Cite This Article

C., A. T.. "A Vase of Xerxes." The Museum Journal I, no. 1 (June, 1910): 6-7. Accessed June 25, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/18/

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to digitalmedia@pennmuseum.org.