Mounted Combat Scenes on the Bronze Plaque from Sana’a, Amazonomachia in Yemen?

Document Type : Original Research Article


PhD Student, Siedlce University, Institute of History, Poland


The cavalry battle scene depicted on the Himyarite bronze plaque, being possibly a part of horse harness, reveals some relation with Iranian iconography of Parthian and Sasanian times. The relation is not direct and there are numerous differences with the Iranian fighting scenes. The composition does not directly refer to any of the Parthian or Sasanian battle reliefs or toreutics and seems to follow earlier, Hellenistic traditions, enriched by the Iranian and local detail. The direct confrontation, without immediate determination of the victorious and defeated sides, was avoided in Iranian iconography which aimed in glorification of royal heroism, being always victorious and only victorious cosmic power. The differences between the equipment of the depicted personages, clashing in cavalry combat, allow to identify the scene as a local version of classical amazonomachia with some Iranian iconographic elements added. Generally, the long lances were in Parthian and Sasanian times perceived as Iranian element of warfare and included to Iranian iconography of royal power, even if the tactical idea of employment of long lances, most likely, reached Iran with the Macedonians. It is possible that the female warriors in capalin/morion types of helmets of post Hellenistic origin clash with the warriors wearing scale armour covering entire body. The possibly-female warriors are shown in garments or nude and they seem to refer to iconographies of Athena-type goddesses in oriental environments. The latter motif of naked Amazon in combat is not popular in main-stream classical art but is occasionally attested. Scale overalls may refer to Roman imagery of heavy cavalry of Sarmatian origin. The piece, together with another rock relief, prove knowledge of Iranian-type heavy cavalry among Himyarites who attempted to follow or imitate the prestige of both great empires of the time.


Main Subjects

🔓 © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Tissaphernes Archaeological Research Group, Tehran, Iran. Open Access. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeriv- atives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. The ethical policy of Persica Antiqua is based on the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines and complies with International Committee of Persica Antiqua Editorial Board codes of conduct. Readers, authors, reviewers and editors should follow these ethical policies once working with Persica Antiqua. The ethical policy of Persica Antiqua is liable to determine which of the typical research papers or articles submitted to the journal should be published in the concerned issue. For information on this matter in publishing and ethical guidelines please visit