Image: Gorytos (bow case)

Gorytos (bow case)

Gold overlay for a gorytos (bowcase) showing scenes from the life of Achilles, 350–325 BCE. 47 x 27 cm. It was found on the northern Black Sea coast and is now part of The State Hermitage collection.

© The State Hermitage, St Petersburg.


This gold overlay is part of a gorytos (a case for a bow and arrows) of the type used by the Persians and Scythians. They favoured a small, recurved type of bow which was housed within a leather case with a metal plate, such as this, attached outside for decoration. The gorytos was slung over the back when a soldier was on the march or using a weapon other than his bow. When shooting, however, it would be slung at the side of the body to allow the archer to draw the arrows over his shoulder with one hand while holding the bow in the other.

It is thought this work was created by a Greek artist and it shows scenes from the life of Achilles. Alexander revered Achilles and considered himself to be in many respects Achilles reborn. He even slept with a copy of Homer’s Iliad under his pillow.


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