Thursday 17 October 2019

Symbols of the seasons

If we look at the zodiac circle, we can see that each of the seasons either starts or ends with a sign representing a large animal:

Spring ends with Aries (ram). In my post "Ram and Bull" I explained that the ram symbol marks the end of the lambing season of the wild Eurasian sheep in Europe. 

Summer starts in Taurus (bull). In my post "Ram and Bull" I explained that the bull symbol marks the beginning of the calving season of the wild Eurasian cattle in Europe. 

Autumn starts in Leo (lion). In my post "Entemena vase" I postulated that this symbol marked the beginning of the mating season of the Eurasian lions in Europe. 

Winter ends in Capricorn (goat). In my post "Goat" I explained that the goat symbol marked the beginning of the mating season of the wild European Alpine ibex goat. 

So these four animals are symbols of the four seasons 

I wonder if this is the reason why the Achaemenids made their rhytons, ceremonial drinking, libation vessels, with the heads of these 4 animals?

Silver rhyton with horned ram head (Spring), Persia, Achaemenid Period, 538-331 BCE, Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, Washington.

Silver rhyton with bull head (Summer), Persia, Achaemenid Period, 600 - 400 BC, Cincinnati Art Museum

Gold rhyton with lion head (Autumn), Persia, Achaemenid Period, 500 BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Silver rhyton wih goat head (Winter), Persia, Achaemenid Period, 400 - 100 BC, Met museum, New York

Now interestingly, three out of four of these animals are large wild Eurasian herbivores. There is one more large wild Eurasian herbivore, a deer. Is it possible that it somehow fits into this picture? Well it is. August, the beginning of autumn is the time when Persian fallow deer and European red deer start their mating season. Is this why we also find Achaemenids rhytons, ceremonial drinking, libation vessels with the heads of stags? Or is stag equivalent of the bull, considering that stag is linked with summer solstice and that we find "lion killing stag" scene equivalent to "lion killing bull" scene? I am not sure about this one...

Silver Rhyton with stag's head, Persia, Achaemenid Period, late 400 - 300 B.C. The George Ortiz Collection

What do you think about this?

Interestingly, the same types of rhyta, with the same animal heads, were made in Levant during the second half of the second millennium BC. 

This is a late Bronze Age ivory plaque from Megiddo (Israel) ca. 1200 BC. The ruler, seated on an imposing throne, drinks wine being served from a large krater behind him, using lion and goat headed horns (rhyta)

"...Egyptian armies which reguralrly invaded Retenu or Canaan during LBA, made certain that they brought back animal-headed rhyta and drinking horns as tribute. Two lion-headed examples in silver are depicted on the frescoes inside the Theban tomb of Amenmose, a commander of the infantry under Tuthmosis III and his son Amenothep II. Tuthmosis III raided levant 14 times over the 54 year period of his reign. The records say that "wine flowed like water" and that "have been drunk...every day as if at feast in Egypt". The pharaoh's annals also record that bull-headed, ram-headed and lion-headed vessels were taken as booty. They are said to have been made in Retenu..." From "Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture" by Patrick E. McGovern


  1. I find interesting old cultures rely a lot in animal/astrological furnitures and today our scientifical society marks all these as magic or pagan things, throwing to the bin centuries of nature studies that carefully composed our evolution as collective beings.
    Also, I love your blog, keep it up with the good work!

    1. Yeah! Add to that ignoring rather concise scientific mathematical and astronomical knowledge embedded in symbols, art and architecture, all covered with nonsensical interpretations or, even worse, attributed to coincidences, and you could really thing that prehistoric people and early civilized people were much simpler and dumber than they actually were.

  2. Throughout history globally, imagery is largely appropriated to communicate various perceived attributes to viewers.Well researched.

  3. I believe the deer (stag/buck) has its own image linked to European myths as well as the Gods.

    1. Definitely...It is the equivalent of the Ibex goat, the symbol of winter...

  4. Forgive me if I missed something but on the zodiac circle shouldn't the equinox line be the other way? With Spring on the left and Autumn on the right?