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Dominic Montserrat

[anc. Egyp. Per-Medjed; Copt. Pemdje; now el-Bahnasa]

Site on the Bahr Yusuf, 50 km north of el-Minya in Egypt. Little is known of the town in the Dynastic period (c. 2925–332 bc), when it was the capital of the 19th Upper Egyptian nome and played an important role in the mythology of Osiris. Its main importance is as a source of Roman-period (30 bcad 395) papyri, which were preserved by the dry climate, encaustic mummy portraits and Early Christian funerary sculpture.

The rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus were first excavated by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt in 1896, and they have since yielded over 10,000 papyri, the largest number from a single site. They provide unique examples of Roman book illustrations, including circus scenes and stories from mythology, as well as more ephemeral works such as preliminary sketches in wash for wall paintings and coloured designs for textiles (all now Oxford, Ashmolean). Papyrus rolls with fine manuscripts of literary texts attest the art of the calligrapher in Roman Egypt; some luxury books found at the site may have been produced in ...



Philip C. Hammond

[Semit. Reqem; Heb. Sela‛; Arab. Ḥiṣn Sal‛]

Site in the southern desert of Jordan, 262 km south of Amman and 133 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba, near the modern village of Wadi Musa. It is famous for its rock-cut monuments. The site, which may be that of the biblical Rock of Edom, was strategically located adjacent to the ‘King’s Highway’, the major north–south communication line between Aqaba and Amman, and protected on both east and west by parallel massifs of sandstone; it was supplied with perennial springs. As the capital of the ancient kingdom of Nabataea from c. 312 bc to ad 106, it was cited by Strabo, Pliny and other Classical writers under its Greek name Petra (Gk.: ‘rock’). In ad 106 it was incorporated into the Roman province of Arabia by the emperor Trajan (reg ad 98–117). It was destroyed by earthquake in ad 363; during the Byzantine period it was occupied by anchorites. In the 11th–12th centuries the Crusaders knew it as the Valley of Moses, following established Bedouin folklore; with the fall of Jerusalem in ...