501 Treasures of Byzantium: No. 52 The David Plates, Constantinople, circa 629-30 CE, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.

The David Plates are a set of nine lavish silver plates with scenes of David’s life. They were originally discovered in Karavas in Cyprus in 1902. Today, the Met Museum owns six of these plates, including the largest plate seen here in the above image. While the other three reside at the Cyrus Museum in Nicosia.

Interestingly, on the back of all the plates, Emperor Heraclius control stamp can be found, which immediately links the silver plates to the early seventh century.

The were presumably commissioned by the Emperor to celebrate his great victory over the Sassanid Empire in 628-29. (This period also saw Heraclius restore the True Cross to Jerusalem.) It is believed he likely chose the biblical story of David verses Goliath to draw a connection between himself and the hero David. Was Heraclius, like David, the underdog who defeated the giant? In Heraclius case, the giant, Goliath was the Sassanid Empire?

Photo credit: The David Plates image is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.