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Pina Belli D’Elia

[Lat. Acheruntia]

Town and commune in the province of Potenza, southern Italy. Known for its strategic position on top of a rocky hill, it was a Roman colony and subsequently coveted by Byzantines, Goths, and Lombards. During this time it was under the authority of Benevento, and later on Salerno. It was conquered in 1043 when the city came under the rule of Asclettino I, Count of Acerenza (d 1045), brother of Ranulph, Count of Aversa (reg 1030–45), and then from 1061 Acerenza was under the control of Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia (reg 1059–85). It was at this time that Pope Nicholas II (reg 1058–61) elevated the city to an archbishopric. The first archbishop was Arnaldo, from Cluny, and in 1080, when the relics of St Canius were discovered, he founded a new cathedral in the centre of town, which is now the main monument. In ...


Stephen Mitchell


Greek and Roman city in western Asia Minor (now Turkey) on a plateau above Yalvaĉ. It was founded by the Seleucids in the 3rd century bc and refounded as a colony for veteran soldiers by Augustus c.25 bc; it flourished until the Early Christian period. The site was excavated in 1924 by D. M. Robinson and was the object of a detailed archaeological survey by S. Mitchell and M. Waelkens in 1982–3. Further excavations have taken place during the 1980s and 1990s, directed by M. Taslianan. About 4 km south of the city Hellenistic remains survive at the sanctuary of Mên Askaênos, where an imposing temenos with porticos on four sides enclosed a mid-2nd-century bc Ionic temple (6 by 11 columns) on a high, stepped podium. The design of the temple was influenced by the layout of the temples of Zeus Sosipolis and Artemis Leukophryene at Magnesia on the Maeander...


Franz Rickert

Roman and Early Christian city at the east end of the plain of the Veneto, c. 90 km north-east of Venice and 5 km from the Adriatic coast. Founded as a Roman colony in 181 bc, it received full town status in 89 bc and became the regional capital of Venetia et Histria. It was strategically sited on the River Natissa, which was navigable to the sea, and at the intersection of routes leading north-west over the Alps and north-east to the Balkans. Written sources indicate that several emperors, including Constantine the Great, had a residence in Aquileia; from ad 294 to the 5th century it also had its own mint. In 313 it became a bishopric and in 381 it was the venue of a council before which followers of Arianism were tried. Civil wars and the invasions of the Huns (452) and the Lombards (568) led to the migration of most of the population and the transference of the see to Grado....



Tania Velmans

Village c. 40 km north of Sofia in Bulgaria. It is famous for its Byzantine church dedicated to St Peter. Built on the edge of the River Nishava, the church has a single nave (4.50×8.50 m) and contains on the west façade fragments of a donor inscription referring to King John Asen II (reg 1218–41), during whose reign it may have been built. There is some controversy regarding the date of its paintings, which have been assigned to both the 13th and the 14th centuries. In the apse all has been lost apart from Four Bishop–Saints Officiating at the Liturgy Accompanied by Two Deacons. The Mandylion was painted on the eastern wall above the apse, between the Virgin and the Archangel of the Annunciation. The Ever-seeing Eye occupies the western niche in the prothesis, and a large bust of St Peter near the iconostasis is surrounded by a masonry frame imitating the appearance of an icon. The scenes and figures painted on the vaulting have disappeared, but part of the ...



Tania Velmans

Village 8 km south of Sofia in Bulgaria, famous for its two Byzantine churches. The earlier of the pair, which stand side by side, is dedicated to the Virgin; various building dates have been proposed, including the 10th century, the 11th and the early 12th. It is a small cruciform structure with a dome over a high drum and an apse pierced with arched windows. Several badly damaged frescoes survive inside, depicting the Fathers of the Church Officiating at a Service, the Dormition of the Virgin and the Crucifixion.

The second church is dedicated to SS Nicholas and Panteleimon, and according to an inscription its construction and decoration were funded by Sebastokrator Kaloyan in 1259. It has two storeys: the ground floor was used for burials and the upper floor as a chapel. Its cruciform plan is surmounted by a dome supported by pendentives. The wall paintings were executed in tempera and are often thought to derive from the Komnenian style of painting found in several churches at ...


Pina Belli D’Elia

[Lat. Brundisium]

City in Apulia, southern Italy. Founded by the Messapii on the southern coast of the Adriatic Sea, Brindisi became famous for its natural, well-protected port, and was chosen by the Romans as the end of the Via Appia-Traiana, then by the Byzantines and Normans who used it as a main point of departure for Constantinople and the Holy Land. Very little remains of the ancient city, which was devastated by the Lombards and Saracens, and reconstructed by the Byzantines (10th century) but deprived of its bishopric, which was transferred to Oria.

The revival of the city started at the end of the 11th century with the Norman conquest, when Brindisi became a fief of Goffredo, Count of Conversano (d 1100). He brought back the bishopric and founded the monastery of S Maria, which was given to Benedictine nuns. Today, the church of S Benedetto has a particularly long ground-plan that is divided by two rows of columns into three naves. Among the capitals and semi-capitals in marble only one has animal decoration. Some of the capitals in the cloister have winged animals. The marble portal on the north side has a sculpted frame and architrave showing hunting scenes....



Çigdem Kafesçioglu

[anc. Prusa; Fr. Brousse]

City in north-west Turkey. Located on the northern foothills of Mysian Olympus (Mt Ulu Dağ), the ancient city of Prusa was a spa town of note and the capital of Bithynia. The city prospered under Roman and Byzantine rule and changed hands frequently between Christians and Muslims in the 11th and 12th centuries. In 1326 it was taken by the Ottoman sultan Orhan (reg c. 1324–60) and served as the capital of the Ottoman empire until 1402. The several important buildings preserved from the early Ottoman period exemplify the Ottoman pattern of urbanization whereby sultans successively built architectural complexes (see Külliye) in unurbanized parts of the city, which then became the nuclei of new quarters. The city was also an international centre for the silk and textile trade.

Orhan began his complex of mosque, kitchen, bath and caravanserai in 1339–40, near the Byzantine citadel in the area that later became the commercial centre of the city. The mosque (rest.) is an early example of the Bursa- or ...


Marco Carminati

[anc. Sibrium]

Italian village in Lombardy, 14 km south of Varese, with a population of c. 1000. It was an important town from the Early Christian period to the late Middle Ages and its architectural and artistic remains were rediscovered, excavated and studied after World War II following centuries of dereliction. In the 4th or 5th century a fortified settlement called Sibrium was established in the hilly area between present-day Milan and Varese. It played an important military and strategic role and was soon granted a parish church, with jurisdiction over a vast territory stretching from Lake Lugano to the gates of Milan. Under the Lombards (569–774) it became the regional administrative centre. During the Carolingian period the surrounding region of Seprio experienced substantial prosperity and independence. Around the year 1000, however, its fortunes turned owing to the desire of the increasingly powerful cities of Como and Milan to extend their influence over this rich and strategically significant territory. Castelseprio sided with Frederick Barbarossa in his conflict with the ...


Clare Harris and M. E. Heston

[Kuchi Bandar]

City on the coast of Kerala, India. Facing the Arabian Sea, Cochin experienced strong contacts with Europe and other parts of Asia from early times, and signs of Portuguese, Chinese, Jewish, early Christian, Dutch and British influence are evident everywhere.

Clare Harris

St Thomas the Apostle is said to have visited the area in ad 52, making Cochin the oldest European settlement in India. The Moplah Christian colony dates from this period, and the first Jewish community in Cochin is said to have been established at around the same time; both Jewish and Syrian Christian communities are reported to have been well developed by the 8th century. A friar named Jordanus was in Cochin in 1347, Chinese travellers stopped there in 1409, and a Persian visited in 1442. Many of the early visitors to the port were seeking spices from the Kerala hinterland: in 1500 the Portuguese explorer Pedralvares Cabral (...


Tereza-Irene Sinigalia

Romanian city in the district of the same name. Constanţa experienced a remarkable economic, political and artistic blossoming in the Greek, Roman, Early Christian and Byzantine periods. It was first founded as the city of Tomis (or Tomi), a colony of Miletos dating from the 7th to the 6th century bc. Under the Romans it became the capital of the province of Scythia, to which Ovid was exiled. The name was changed to Constantiana when the Roman emperor Constantine the Great founded his own city there; from the 4th to the 5th century ad there was a bishopric under the patriarchy of Constantinople. It was apparently abandoned in the 7th century, probably because of Slav and Avar invasions. In the 9th century it was a small port, identified as Constanţa, declining into a village under Turkish domination from the 15th to the 19th century: the remaining mosques include the Hunchiar Mosque (mid-18th century). The modern town was built in the 19th century....


Rahmi Hüseyin Ünal

Small town in central Anatolia (Turkey), c. 100 km south-east of Sivas. Founded in the mid-9th century ad and known as Tephrikè to the Byzantines, the town was taken by the Saljuqs of Rum after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. In the 12th century it came into the possession of the Mangujak (Mengüček) Turkomans, under whom several remarkable buildings and fortifications were erected. The Kale (‘citadel’) Mosque, constructed for the Mangujak sovereign Shahinshah ibn Sulayman ibn Amir Ishak by the builder Hasan ibn Piruz of Maragha in 1180–81, is a simple structure of three aisles perpendicular to the qibla wall. The wider central aisle has a barrel vault, while the side aisles are each covered by four cupolas. A small kiosk once stood against the north-west corner of the building, but only its lower part remains. The masonry portal was once decorated with glazed brick. The sovereign’s mausoleum (?...


Kalinka Huber

[Docimium; now Iscehisar.]

Roman and Byzantine town on the southern edge of the Phrygian plateau in central Turkey, about 40 km north-east of Synada (now Şuhut). Charles(-Félix-Marie) Texier discovered the site in the early 19th century. The town was founded, like many others, in the aftermath of the campaigns of Alexander the Great in 336–323 bc and the subsequent creation of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the eastern Mediterranean. Little remains of the diocesan town apart from the fortification wall around its acropolis.

Phrygia was renowned throughout antiquity for its marble quarries, the most famous of which were those situated to the south-east of ancient Dokimeion. As is attested by inscriptions, they formed part of the imperial assets from at least the middle of the 1st century ad. The price of the greatly valued marble was regulated by officials of the imperial administration. (Prices for marble from Dokimeion are specified in the Diocletian Edict on Prices (...


Dimitris Plantzos


Greek city situated on the island of Crete, by the north-west foothills of mount Psiloritis (anc. Ida), 30 km south-east of the present-day city of Rethymnon. It was a centre for Aegean and Greek culture from the Prehistoric to the Byzantine periods (4th millennium bc–7th century bc).

Ancient Eleutherna is a typical example of a Cretan polis (city) inhabited continuously from at least from the 9th century bc (the so-called ‘Dark Age’ of Greek history) to the late Roman and Byzantine period (6th–7th century bc). Even before that, archaeological finds suggest the existence of a continuous presence on the site from the late Neolithic (4th millennium bc) through to a flourishing Minoan site of the 3rd to 2nd millennia bc. Although later construction all but eliminated traces of prehistoric architecture, there is still significant evidence to confirm unbroken habitation. In historical times (9th century...



Lale Babaoğlu

City in eastern Turkey. Located on the main route between Iran and Turkey, it has been an important military and commercial centre since antiquity. Possession of the city passed between the Byzantines, who knew it as Theodosiopolis, and the Arabs, who called it Arz(an) al-rum (‘Arz(an) of the Byzantines’) after a nearby commercial centre. In 1080 it became the capital of the Saltuqid principality and in 1201 a provincial seat under the Saljuqs of Rum (reg 1077–1307). In the mid-13th century it came under the control of the Ilkhanids (reg 1256–1353) and subsequently it became part of the principality under Eretna (see Beylik). The city was captured c. 1520 by the Ottomans, for whom it held great commercial and strategic importance. The monuments from these centuries exemplify most of the major types of Anatolian architecture and are remarkable for their construction and decoration in finely cut stone (...



Mark Whittow and Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu

[formerly Nicaea; Nikaia]

Turkish town in the eastern bay of Lake Iznik (anc. Ascania), with important Byzantine and early Ottoman remains. The earliest settlements on the site date to the 1st millennium bc. In 316 bc Antigonos Monophthalmos, a general of Alexander the Great, expanded the existing town and called it Antigonia. It was conquered by Lysimachos in 301 bc and renamed Nicaea after his wife. In 281 bc it came under the rulers of Bithynia, gaining importance before falling to Roman domination in 72 bc. In the 3rd and 4th centuries ad it thrived as the site of an imperial treasury and a major military base on the strategic road linking the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire to Italy and the Rhine frontier. Byzantine rule lasted until 1081 when the city was captured by Sulayman and a group of Seljuk Turks and established as capital of the first Turkish state in Asia Minor. In ...


[al-Qayrawān; Qairouan]

City in Tunisia. It was founded in ad 670 by ‛Uqba ibn Nafi‛, the Arab conqueror of North Africa, on the site of a ruined Roman or Byzantine town; the site, slightly elevated above the great interior plain, afforded protection from surprise attacks and floods. In the 9th century Kairouan was the capital of the semi-independent Aghlabid dynasty (reg 800–909) and the most important city between the Nile and the Atlantic. Under the Fatimids (reg 909–72) the capital was shifted first to Mahdia on the coast and then in 947–8 back to the suburb of Sabra–al-Mansuriyya.

In 1054–5 the city was sacked by the Hilali tribe of Bedouin and the town reduced to ruins. Its decline was further exacerbated by the growing importance of Tunis in Mediterranean maritime trade. Under the relative peace established by the Hafsids, the city recovered somewhat, and many hospices (Arab. zāwiya) were built to accommodate the growing number of local Sufi saints (marabouts). The ...


Liliana Mavrodinova

Village in Bulgaria c. 40 km east of Vratsa. Painted caves on the banks of the adjacent River Iskar were in Byzantine times used as chapels or inhabited by hermits. Two of these chapels are particularly noteworthy: that of St Nicholas, also known as ‘Gligora’, which was built rather than carved from the rock, and the rock-cut chapel (5.50×3.90 m) consecrated to St Marina, which has one façade built in masonry. Both date from the 14th century and are now in poor condition; both have had their murals partly repainted.

The principal images painted in the chapel of St Marina include one in the conch of the apse showing the Virgin Greater than the Heavens (Platytera) holding Christ to her breast, and another lower down of the Eucharist, represented by Two Officiating Bishop-saints and the Holy Lamb placed on the paten; the scene of the Annunciation is divided between the two sides of the apse, while the figure of ...



Rahmi Hüseyin Ünal

[Kayṣerīye; Kaisareia]

Town in central Anatolia (Turkey). Located in a fertile plain at the intersection of well-defined trade routes, the site has been settled for millennia. The Byzantine city of Kaisareia was taken by Danishmend Turkmen following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. Under the Saljuq sultans of Rum, who took the city in 1168, Kayseri became a leading centre of commerce and culture second only to Konya. Plundered by the Mongols in the 13th century, it became the capital of the Eretna dynasty in the 14th and was controlled by the Karamanid dynasty for most of the 15th century. It came under Ottoman control some time after 1474. It is notable for several fine buildings from the pre-Ottoman period.

The congregational mosque (Turk. ulu cami) was founded in 1135 by the Danishmend Malik Muhammad as a basilican structure with a dome in the bay in front of the mihrab and a small open dome in the centre, but the irregularity of the plan and the diversity of the materials used attest to repeated repairs and restorations over the centuries. An inscription on the north wall states that the building was restored by ...



Oxana Cleminson

[Rus. Kerch’; anc. Gr. Pantikapaion, Lat. Panticapeum]

Ukrainian city in the eastern Crimea. It was built on the site of ancient Pantikapaion, founded c. 600 bc on a spot previously the capital of the Cimmerian kingdom of the Bosporus. Later the city became one of the furthest outposts of the Byzantine empire; a silver dish (mid-4th century; St Petersburg, Hermitage) with a representation of Constantius II acclaimed by a Victory was found at Kerch. In 1318 the city came under Genoese rule and enjoyed a period of prosperity until its capture by the Turks in 1520. It was part of the Russian (later Soviet) empire from 1774 until Ukrainian independence in 1991. Four km north-east of Kerch is an important burial monument, the so-called King’s Mound, in which a ruler from the Spartocid dynasty is buried. The mound (h. 17 m, circumference 260 m) was built in the second half of the 4th century bc. A dromos (l. 36 m) leads to a chamber (4.39×4.25 m) in the centre of the mound covered by a conical stepped false cupola consisting of 12 circular tiers of progressively diminishing diameter. The church of St John the Baptist was for a long time considered to be the earliest example of ...



J.-C. Margueron

[Mesken; Meskene; Miskina]

Small town in north Syria on the south bank of the River Euphrates near an ancient site known in antiquity as Emar, in Byzantine times as Barbalissos and in Islamic times as Balis. It lay on an ancient trade route between the Mediterranean, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The site was excavated in 1929 and again between 1971 and 1976 during salvage operations accompanying the building of the Tabqa Dam. The minaret was dismantled and rebuilt on higher ground, but the ancient site and Maskana itself have been flooded by Lake Assad. Finds are in the National Museum, Aleppo, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris; objects looted from the site are in numerous private collections.

J.-C. Margueron

This Bronze Age city flourished during the 3rd and 2nd millennia bc as a staging-post on a major trade route, where not only goods but also ideas and influences were exchanged. The city is mentioned in the Ebla texts of the second half of the 3rd millennium ...