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Article

Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

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 Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

Article

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

Judith McKenzie

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 c. 320 bc Alexandria was the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt. During Ptolemaic times (304–30 bc) it became a major centre of learning, with famous scholars of literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and geography, and it played a major role in the transmission of Greek culture to the East.

With the defeat of the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII (51–30 bc), by Octavian (later called Augustus) at the Battle of Actium in 30...

Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

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 Apollo in the late 4th century ad and was inhabited until the late 12th century. The site was excavated intermittently between 1901 and 1913 by the French Archaeological Institute in Cairo; most of the structural finds were removed to the Coptic Museum in Cairo and the Louvre in Paris. The monastery consisted of an enclosed nucleus with other buildings outside the walls, although it is not known how much of the site was occupied at any given time. Within the enclosed area were two churches. A number of two-storey structures were excavated, of which the ground floors were probably chapels and the upper floors served as living quarters, as in the monastery of Apa Jeremiah at Saqqara (...

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 146 bc. Carthage flourished as a Roman city, Christianity reaching it by the 2nd century ad. The city was revived by Emperor Justinian, but it was finally destroyed by the Arabs in ad 698.

For later history see Tunis.

In the 6th and 5th centuries bc the city’s interventions in disputes between the Greek and Phoenician city states of Sicily made Carthage the leading western Phoenician colony, and it formed a close alliance with the Etruscans. From the 5th century bc the Carthaginians spread into the African hinterland, eventually controlling the area that is today the northern half of Tunisia. They also concluded three alliances with the newly emergent power of Rome. Further conflict in Sicily, however, precipitated (...

Article

Egyptian site c. 15 km west of Beni Suef. The city of Henen-nesut was known in the Greco-Roman period (332 bcad 395) as Herakleopolis Magna because of the identification of the local ram-headed god Harsaphes with the Greek Herakles. However, it first rose to prominence as the national capital during the First Intermediate Period (c. 2150–c. 2008 bc), when the Herakleopolitan 9th and 10th dynasties ruled Egypt. The city also flourished during the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1075–c. 750 bc), when it became an independent princedom. The site was excavated by Edouard Naville (1890–91), Flinders Petrie (1904) and the Spanish Archaeological Mission under the direction of J. López from 1966.

The earliest remains, in a necropolis of the First Intermediate Period, consist of an important group of tombs belonging to prominent officials. These are decorated with polychrome reliefs depicting offering-bearers and scenes of rural life, as well as stelae of the false-door type (...

Article

A. J. Mills

Egyptian oasis c. 600 km south of Cairo and c. 200 km west of the Nile. Throughout history, Kharga was closely connected with the civilization of the Nile Valley as an important stage in the great overland trade route known as the Darb el-Arbain (‘Forty Days’ Road’) between Egypt and the Sudan. Ancient texts praise the oasis products. The oasis is narrow but measures c. 160 km from north to south; it is dotted with monuments in varying states of preservation. The earliest of these is the Temple of Amun at Hibis (see fig. and Egypt, ancient, §VIII, 2, (i), (a)), which was begun on earlier foundations in the 26th Dynasty (664–525 bc), completed during the reign of Darius I (reg 521–486 bc) and enlarged in later periods. The temple is a well-preserved example of the Saite Renaissance style, while its sandstone walls are decorated with finely cut Persian period reliefs. A series of mud-brick fortified settlements of the Roman period (...

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 Step Pyramid of the 3rd Dynasty king Djoser (see fig.). The monuments are divided into two groups, those of North Saqqara (see fig.) and those of South Saqqara.

Article

Sohag  

C. Walters

[Sūhāg]

Chief town of the province of Sohag, Egypt, situated on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 490 km south of Cairo. To the west of the town are two 5th-century Coptic churches, known as the White Monastery (Dayr al-Abyad) and the Red Monastery (Dayr al-Ahmar). The White Monastery is the more important of the two. Although the surrounding area was investigated briefly by Petrie in 1907, further excavations were not undertaken until the late 1980s.

The White Monastery itself was founded in the first half of the 4th century ad. Its abbot between c. ad 388 and 446 was Shenute, one of the leading figures of the early monastic movement. The structure is enclosed by high walls of white limestone blocks and comprises a basilical church (35×75 m), probably founded c. ad 440, which is preceded by a western narthex, terminates in an eastern trefoil apse with a single, central altar and is flanked to the south by a long hall of unknown use. Galleries surmounted the hall and the basilica’s narthex and side aisles....

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

W. Eugene Kleinbauer

[now Tebessa]

Algerian town at the foot of the Tebessa mountains. It was probably the site of a pre-Roman settlement that became the residence of a Roman imperial legate and his legion in the late 1st century ad, when it was raised to the rank of colony and served as the capital of an administrative and estate district.

The Roman town is known to have had a forum, a theatre, an oval amphitheatre (c. 86×80 m), public baths and some unidentified public works; a temple and a four-sided triumphal arch (ad 214) are perfectly preserved. In the 3rd and 4th centuries the plain surrounding the town was the location of numerous fortified farms that continued in use into the 6th century and beyond. From the time of the synod of Carthage in 256 there was a Christian community and a bishop in Thevestis. Funeral epitaphs attest to Vandal occupation in the second half of the 5th century. After the Byzantine reconquest of North Africa in 533, however, the town gained in military importance and became a marketing centre. Although archaeological and epigraphic evidence indicates the continued presence of a Christian community in the 6th century when two churches were built, little is known of the town’s history until the numerous references to it by Arab geographers between the 11th and 14th centuries....