The Vassil Bojkov Collection has been impressing people from all around the world for years. It is the largest private collection, consisting of over 3000 archaeological pieces with some of them dating from the 4 000 BC to the 6th century AD. There have already been several exhibitions, organized in Bulgaria and abroad, that put on display some of the most valuable exhibits deriving from numerous ancient lands.
Undoubtedly, the collection of artefacts belonging to Vasil Bojkov is unique not just because of the number of items accumulated over time but also because of their nature. Every single piece carries an immense historical, cultural, political, and symbolic significance and each one has a story to tell – be that through its shape, the material it is made of, the place where it is found, or the ornamentation and scenes depicted on the surface.
One such artefact is this silver rhyton that combines unmatchable craftsmanship, history, and moments from the mythological world. This particular piece goes back to the 420-410 BC and clearly matches the classical definition of what a rhyton typically represents – a horn-shaped cup with a forepart of an animal’s head, produced over large areas of ancient Eurasia. As we can see, the silver rhyton from Bojkov’s collection in question has exquisitely modelled protome in the shape of a running goat. Some of the gilding has been well preserved. Traces of it can be seen on the long beard, the hair in separate flocks on the neck, and the hoofs of the animal.
Like many other rhyta produced, this one has 2 openings – one for pouring liquid in and another one, at the bottom, for pouring the liquid out. Nevertheless, there are examples that lack the latter opening. The use of such vessels is obvious even from the name of the object – it derives from the Greek “rhein” which means “to flow”. With that in mind, rhyta had a very specific purpose, especially among the elite at that time. People used to drink wine from the front opening of a rhyton during some sort of a ceremony, including rites of purification, feasts, liberation and others.
As it seems, the entire artefact is interesting to explore. It is not just the goat protome that catches one’s attention. This horn is covered with elegantly modelled tongue-shaped flutes. The lines continue all the way to the mouth rim that is boarded by a band of pearls and ovules. Apart from these elements and patterns, there is something else that makes the object even more extraordinary – a scene that presents the death of Orpheus.
The image of Orpheus appears on a number of other artefacts. But this legendary hero is different compared to other well-known Greek heroes. The stories which surround him are not related to war accomplishments. The thing that makes him truly popular both in the ancient Greek mythology and the present day is his superior musical and poetic talent that was capable of enchanting all living things.
The scene shows us Orpheus who is down on his knees leaning against his lyre and trying to protect himself from the angry Bacchants who chase him in attempt to kill him. One of them holds his hair ready to cut his throat with a machaira, another one approaches holding a shield, pelta, in one hand and a spear in the other hand, while a third woman stands in front of the singer ready to throw a rock at him.
It may seem a bit brutal, yet, this episode is quite significant. It tells the tragic fate of the legendary hero that has inspired other stories, poems, songs, theatrical and even movie adaptations.