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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Archive : 27th Dynasty Alabastron Inscribed with the Royal Cartouche of Darius I
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27th Dynasty Alabastron Inscribed with the Royal Cartouche of Darius I - X.0188
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 521 BC to 486 BC
Dimensions: 12.25" (31.1cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Medium: Alabaster

Additional Information: SOLD. Art Logic-Antiquarium, Ltd. (New York) 2003

Location: Great Britain
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Alabaster is a fine-grained, massive, translucent variety of gypsum, a hydrous calcium sulphate. Alabaster occurs naturally in many shades of color, from pure white to reddish-tan. Like all other forms of gypsum, alabaster forms by the evaporation of bedded deposits that are precipitated mainly from evaporating seawater. Indigenous to Egypt, alabaster has been quarried for more than seven thousand years from a source just a few miles behind the Valley of the Kings in ancient Thebes. This stone was prized by the pharaohs for its luminous properties. When held up to the light, the stone absorbs the glow and spreads it evenly throughout its structure, becoming almost translucent if carved thinly enough. The Ancient Egyptians used this wonderful material for many purposes, including household items, ritual objects, and for a number of different funerary uses such as sarcophagi and canopic jars.

Although little is known about the first Persian occupation of Egypt, from what evidence remains it is clear that this colony was more prosperous under the wise rule of Darius than during the reigns of any of his followers. When King Cambyses II sought to expand his empire into Africa, he conquered the Egyptians in 525 B.C. at the Battle of Pelusium and established the Persian controlled satrapy that would last until 404 B.C. Thus the kings of Persia ruled Egypt as the 27th Dynasty.

Darius I, one of the most noted Persian rulers and a relative of Cyrus the Great, assumed the throne upon the death of Cambyses after a brief struggle for power. He ruled from 521 to 486 B.C., a relatively lengthy reign of thirty-six years, during which time he tried to legitimize his rule of Egypt by associating himself with the pharaohs of the Saite Period. The inscription on this magnificent alabastron has been translated as: "King of Upper and Lower Egypt, ruler of the two lands, Darius who will live eternally, year 33 of his reign." Darius was a noble statesman and effective administrator who expanded the borders of the kingdom into Europe and Northern India. Darius was not merely concerned with wealth and power; but expressed a real interest in the heritage of the ancient civilization he ruled over. In his third year of rule, Darius sent an order to the Satrap of Egypt to gather all the brightest soldiers, priests, and scribes. Together, they were commanded to write an all- encompassing history of the laws of Egypt, a task that would ultimately take over fifteen years to complete. For this reason, Darius was noted by Diodorus as one of the greatest lawgivers in Egyptian history. Furthermore, Darius re-excavated the canal connecting the Red Sea to the Nile, and thus to the Mediterranean, opening up a forgotten trade route and completing the great project abandoned during the reign of his Saite predecessors. Along the banks of the canal, large relief sculptures commemorating the voyage of twenty-four ships laden with treasure bound for Persia were carved, inscribed in both cuneiform and hieroglyphics. Some of these rock carvings still survive today, testaments to the enlightened rule of Darius I who alone amongst Persian Kings, sought to associate himself with the great pharaohs of the past as a rightful ruler of the people of Egypt. - (X.0188)


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