Helmet, 4th century BCE

  • Thracian, ca. 1500 BCE to 46 CE/AD


  • Overall: 9 1/2 × 7 1/8 inches (24.1 × 18.1 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, Sarah Bacon Hill Fund


The richly ornamented helmet was fashioned for a wealthy member of a northern Thracian tribe living near the Danube River in modern Romania or Bulgaria. It was hammered from one sheet of silver with a high dome to accommodate the top-knot of hair worn by many Thracians. The main elements of the design are in low relief; the details were chased and engraved. On the brow piece fierce eyes with bushy eyebrows stare out. One cheek piece bears a horned animal, the other a huge bird of prey with a fish in its beak and a rabbit in its claws. The back and upper edges are embellished with linear designs of rosettes, vines, feathers, and scallops. The interpretation of the imagery is uncertain, but the motifs may refer to traditional myths well known to contemporary Thracians and appropriate to the elaborate armor of a warrior.

Until 1931, Franz Trau [1881–1931] (Vienna, Austria). 1931, by descent to his estate (Vienna, Austria). November 16, 1954, sold through (Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, Switzerland), to (Dr. Hubert A. Cahn of Münzen und Medaillen A.G., Basel, Switzerland)

By 1956, helmet owned in partnership between (Cahn) and (Elie Borowski, Toronto, Canada)

1956-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Bulletin of the DIA 36, no. 3 (1956-57): p. 68 (ill.). Piggott, S. Ancient Europe. Chicago, 1965, pp. 224-6 (ill.) [as Dacian 3rd-2nd second century B.C.] "Arta Traco-Getica," Bibliotega de Archeologie, vol. 14. Bucharest, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste Romania, pp. 83-88 (ill.). Rosu, L. Consiliul Culturii si Educatiei Socialiste Revista Muzeelor si Monumentalor. Bucharest, 1975, no. 12, 2:55-59 (ill.). Nickel, H. Ullstein Waffenbuch. Frankfurt, 1974, p. 60 (ill.). Farkas, Anne E. "Style and Subject Matter in Native Thracian Art," Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 16 (1981): pp. 33-48, p. 34 [for mention of helmet associated with the Getae and Triballi tribes of northern Thrace]. Meyers, Pieter. "Three Silver Objects from Thrace: A Technical Examination," Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 16 (1981): pp. 49-54. Goldman, B. "A Scythian Helmet from the Danube," Bulletin of the DIA 42, no. 4 (1963) pp. 63-71 (ill.). Goldman, B. "Late Scythian Art in the West: The Detroit Helmet," IPEK, vol 22 (1966-69): pp. 67-76. Rosu, L. "Thraco-Getae-Dacian Art Works In The Detroit Institute of Arts," Romanians Celebrating Ontario: Heritage Festival. Toronto, 1984, pp. 166-168. "Family Art Game: Details, Details, Details," The Detroit Free Press (April 29, 1990): p. 25 (ill.) [DIA Advertising Supplement]. Henshaw, Julia P., ed. A Visitors Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 101 (ill.). Fol, A., et al. The Rogozen Treasure. Sofia, 1989, p. 42 [compares Rogozan Beaker #165 to the Metropolitan Museum beaker, the two cups from Aghigol and the Detroit helmet in the iconography of the horned bird of prey which symbolizes ad deity with supernatural powers to defeat evil], p. 194 [Author says that the Metropolitan Museum beaker and the Detroit helmet may have been found near Rogozen].

Thracian, Helmet, 4th century BCE, silver. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Sarah Bacon Hill Fund, 56.18.