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Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

An islet to the west of Paros and Antiparos in the centre of the Cyclades. It has been identified as ancient Prepesinthos, mentioned by Strabo (Geography X.v.3) and Pliny (Natural History vi.66). The archaeological remains of Despotikon were first explored in the late 19th century by pioneer Greek archaeologist Christos Tsountas, who excavated Early Cycladic (c. 3200–2000 bc) cemeteries at Livadi and Zoumbaria, and identified remains of a prehistoric settlement at the site of Chiromilos. Sixty more graves of the Early Cycladic period, as well as one of the Roman period, were discovered in the mid-20th century by the Greek Archaeological Service. Rescue excavations were initiated again in 1997, focused on the site at Mandra, where an extensive sanctuary dedicated to Apollo has been located. The excavation has yielded a great number of finds, many of which are of prime importance as to the interpretation of the site, its role in the Aegean and its relations with the Near East, from the Archaic to the Roman period....

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

Greek city situated at the foothills of Mt Olympus in northern Greece (district of Pieria), 14 km south of modern city of Katerini. It was an important Macedonian political and cultural centre from the Classical to the Roman periods (6th century bc–4th century ad). By the 6th century bc it seems that the Macedonians were gathering at Dion in order to honour the Olympian gods, chiefly Zeus; according to myth, Deukalion, the only man to survive the flood at the beginning of time, built an altar to Zeus as a sign of his salvation. His sons, Macedon and Magnes, lived in Pieria, near Olympus, and became the mythical ancestors of the Macedonians. The altar allegedly erected by Deukalion remained the centre of the cult life at Dion throughout its history.

King Archelaos of Macedon (c. 413–399 bc) organized athletic and dramatic contests in the framework of the religious celebrations, following the practice of the Greeks in the south, such as at the great sanctuaries of Olympia and Delphi. Philip II (...

Article

Dimitris Plantzos

[Satra]

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...

Article

Nemi  

T. F. C. Blagg

Site with sanctuary of the goddess Diana beside the lake of the same name that fills a volcanic crater in the Alban hills 25 km south-east of Rome, Italy. Both lake and town take their name from the nemus (Lat.: ‘sacred wood’). The sanctuary originated before the 6th century bc as the centre for a local cult in the territory of the Latin town of Aricia; it continued to flourish under Roman rule until the 4th century ad. The peculiar slave priesthood of Diana Nemorensis was the inspiration for Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough (London, 1890–1915), while the picturesque scenery of the area attracted English landscape artists in the late 18th and 19th centuries, notably J. M. W. Turner, who painted several views of the lake.

The main remains of the sanctuary now visible to the north-east of the lake are of a large rectangular terraced precinct (...

Article

Smyrna  

J. M. Cook and William E. Mierse

[now Izmir]

Greek and Roman site at the head of the Gulf of Smyrna in Ionia, now western Turkey. The earlier site, c. 4 km to the north, has significant Archaic architectural remains; when it became too small it was refounded, reputedly in 334 bc by Alexander the Great.

J. M. Cook

Old Smyrna (now Bayraklı Tepe) occupied what originally seems to have been a peninsula. It was inhabited in prehistoric times, but Greek settlers may not have arrived before 1000 bc. Foundations of houses have been excavated (1948–51 by E. Akurgal (Ankara U.) and J. M. Cook (Brit. Sch., Athens); 1966– by E. Akurgal), the earliest dating from c. 900 bc, followed by levels of densely packed small houses, mainly with curved walls, of the 8th century bc. In the earlier 7th century bc the city began to take on a regular plan with streets on a north–south axis, and, since this seems to have coincided with a spread of population on to the mainland, some form of deliberate urban planning may be assumed. The larger, well-built houses, some at least two-storey, had mud-brick walls on stone socles of up to 1 m high and flat roofs. By the later ...