Constructing the Past


This paper will address the interpretations of the “dancing girls” within four specific examples of Sasanian silver vessels. Within these vessels, we will examine both the external origins of the imagery and the internal explanations that arise. These readings are largely confined to: 1. religious (goddess or priestesses), 2. royal (depictions of noble women), or 3. decorative (with a primarily erotic connotation). After we address all of the possible meanings attributed to the “dancing girls,” we will examine the importance of these labels and ask if identity connotes value. Does this necessarily mean the works must have symbolic or metaphorical meaning? Their true meaning lies in the wiggle-room, as it were, that the imagery creates. The ambiguous nature of these figures has allowed them to be adapted to fulfill multiple needs for various social, religious, or scholarly groups. It is in their flexible nature, their iconographic malleability, that the “dancing girls” truly exert their power.