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Article

Peter Grossmann

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by ...

Article

Arabic School, 10th century, male.

Died 997.

Painter.

None of the works of this artist are known.

Article

Lucien Golvin

Islamic dynasty that governed Tunisia, Algeria and Sicily from ad 800 to 909. The province of Ifriqiya, roughly corresponding to modern Tunisia, had been administered from Kairouan since the Islamic conquest in the 7th century by governors named by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The caliph authorized one of these governors, Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab (...

Article

Aksum  

Francis Anfray

Capital of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, in the modern Tigray Province of Ethiopia, c. 600 km north of Addis Ababa. It flourished between the 1st and 8th centuries ad. The modern town occupies part of the site, which faces south over a fertile plain at the foot of a flat-topped hill, Mt Beta Giyorgis. The ancient city’s importance is attested by the many monuments scattered throughout the modern town, including huge stelae and throne bases, broken pillars, inscriptions and royal hypogea. The first extensive investigations were undertaken in ...

Article

Egyptian, 10th century, male.

Painter. Historical subjects, landscapes.

Al-Kutami was a member of the Kutama tribe and was brought up by Banu-el-Muallim, who painted the mosque situated high up in the Karafa mountains, near Cairo in 976 AD. He painted a work entitled Joseph at the Fountain...

Article

Judith McKenzie, Gordon Campbell, R. R. R. Smith, Wiktor A. Daszewski, A. H. Enklaar, Dominic Montserrat, C. Walters and Wladyslaw B. Kubiak

Reviser Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Egyptian city situated on the Mediterranean coast west of the delta of the River Nile, capital of Egypt from c. 320 bc to ad 642, seaport and centre of ancient Greek culture.

Alexandria was founded in 331 bc by Alexander, on the site of the small Egyptian settlement of Rhakotis. Its location, with access by canal to the River Nile, enabled it to become an important and highly prosperous trading centre, and by ...

Article

Bawit  

C. Walters

Site on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 16 km west of Daryūt in the province of Asyūt, Egypt. A large monastery with rich sculptural and painted decoration originally lay in the desert 1 km to the west. According to tradition it was founded by the monk ...

Article

Simon P. Ellis

Ruined city on the North African coast at the end of a narrow peninsula pointing into the Bay of Tunis. Now an archaeological site at the edge of Tunis itself, Carthage was founded, according to legend, by the Phoenician queen Elyssa in 814 bc. It became a major Mediterranean power until its destruction by the Romans in ...

Article

Faras  

R. G. Morkot

Site in Egypt on the west bank of the Nile, 35 km north of Wadi Halfa. Since the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, Faras has been submerged beneath Lake Nasser. There were three important phases in the history of Faras: the later New Kingdom (...

Article

Fatimid  

Jonathan M. Bloom

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Ifriqiya (now Tunisia) from ad 909 to 972 and in Egypt from ad 969 to 1171. The Fatimids were Isma‛ili Shi‛ites who traced their ancestry back to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, via Isma‛il, the seventh Shi‛ite Imam. They believed that their rightful position as leaders of the Muslim community had been usurped by the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. The first Fatimid success was the toppling of the Aghlabid rulers of Ifriqiya in 909. The Fatimid leader ‛Ubayd Allah assumed the title of caliph and the regnal name al-Mahdi (...

Article

Egyptian, 10th century, male.

Active at the end of the 10th century.

Painter. Local scenes.

Ibn El Azîz was a painter at the court of the Fatimids in Cairo. He was mainly in the service of Vizir Bazuri, for whom he painted among other works a ...

Article

Idrisid  

Marianne Barrucand

Islamic dynasty that ruled in Morocco between ad 789 and 985. It was the first Islamic dynasty to establish an independent state in Morocco and played an important role in the Islamicization of the country. The founder, Idris I (reg 789–91), was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and was thus regarded by Shi‛ites as a rightful successor. Having taken part in a Shi‛ite revolt against the Abbasid caliph in 786, Idris fled from Arabia to north-east Morocco, settling in the region of ...

Article

Thurstan Shaw

Town in Nigeria (pop. c. 15,000 in the 1990s), situated 40 km south-east of Onitsha, which is on the River Niger. The name means ‘Great Igbo’ in the Igbo language. It is also the name given to the ancient culture that produced the elaborate metalwork and ceramics, dated to the 10th century ...

Article

Nubia  

William Y. Adams, R. G. Morkot, Timothy Kendall, L. Török and Khalid J. Deemer

Region in the Nile Valley, immediately to the south of Egypt, in which several cultures flourished, from the Khartoum Mesolithic period (c. 10,000–c. 5000 bc) to the establishment of the Islamic Funj sultanate c. ad 1505. Ancient Nubia corresponds essentially to the ‘Aethiopia’ of Herodotus and other Classical writers and the ‘Kush’ of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews. It extends approximately from Aswan in southern Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan (...

Article

Saqqara  

Christiane Zivie-Coche and Dominic Montserrat

Egyptian site on a desert plateau c. 20 km south of Cairo and just west of the ancient city of Memphis, which flourished as a necropolis and religious centre in the Dynastic, Late and Greco-Roman periods. In the Coptic period it continued in use as a monastic centre. The necropolis of Saqqara, which stretches for almost 8 km, forms the centre of the Memphite necropolis; its site is dominated by the ...

Article

Sedrata  

Margaret Graves

Site of a settlement in the Sahara in the early Islamic period, near the modern-day Algerian city of Ouargla. Sedrata was briefly the capital of the Khariji sect in North Africa until it was destroyed in the 11th century.

In the 7th century, the Kharijites, a highly conservative opposition party that rejected both the succession of ‛Ali b. Abu Talib as well as that of his rivals, fled from persecution to the Maghrib. The Rustamid dynasty of Kharijites established their capital at Tahart (now in western Algeria), but fled from there to Sedrata in 909 when the Fatimids invaded. The Kharijites remained at Sedrata until it was destroyed in ...

Article

Sinai  

Raphael Ventura, A. Dean McKenzie and Susan Pinto Madigan

Desert peninsula in Egypt, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Red Sea to the south, the Nile Delta to the west, and modern Israel to the east. Throughout the Dynastic period (c. 2925–30 bc) the ancient Egyptians built various settlements and shrines in Sinai, mainly in the vicinity of turquoise or copper mines. From later periods dates the important site of the fortified ...

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Tulunid  

Jonathan M. Bloom

Islamic dynasty that ruled Egypt and Syria from ad 868 to 905. It was founded by Ahmad ibn Tulun (b Iraq, 835; d Egypt, 10 May 884), son of a high-ranking Turkish slave at the Abbasid court at Samarra’, Iraq. Ahmad received military training there and theological instruction at Tarsus (now in Turkey). He came to the notice of the caliphs, and when his step-father was appointed governor of Egypt in ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

Muslim dynasty that ruled in parts of North Africa and Spain between ad 972 and 1152. The founder of the dynasty, Ziri ibn Manad (d 972), was a Sanhaja Berber in the service of the Fatimid caliphs, who ruled from Tunisia. In 936 Ziri founded Ashir, the family seat, in the Titeri Mountains 170 km south of Algiers. His son Buluggin (...