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Article

Alamut  

Abbas Daneshvari

[Alamūt]

Mountainous valley in Iran, 35 km north-east of Qazvin, and the name of one of the fortresses that defended the valley. From 1090 to 1261 it was the main headquarters of the Nizari branch of the Isma‛ili Shi‛ites, a religious community organized on a military basis. Their rigid hierarchy, esoteric practices and use of terrorism encouraged the development of romantic tales about them. Reputed to use hashish, they became known in the West as ‘Assassins’ (Arab. hashhīshiyyīn). Like all Isma‛ili fortresses, Alamut is strategically located on rocky heights and has an elaborate storage system for water and provisions so that the fortress was never taken by force. It consists of two parts: a higher and larger western fort and an eastern one.

Enc. Iran. F. Stark: The Valley of the Assassins (London, 1934) W. Ivanow: Alamut and Lamasar (Tehran, 1950) P. Willey: The Castles of the Assassins (London, 1963)...

Article

Abbas Daneshvari

[Ardistāni; Ardestān]

Iranian town in the province of Isfahan, just east of the road from Natanz to Na’in. It occupies an ancient site and preserves the ruins of a Sasanian fire-temple, but the most important monuments date from the medieval period, when Ardistan was a flourishing agricultural centre, renowned for its silk. By the 10th century the town was fortified and had five gates. Its congregational mosque, which now has a four-iwan plan, was first built during this period; a tunnel-vaulted arcade in the south-west corner with a fragmentary kufic inscription and polylobed piers can be attributed to the 10th century, when similar work was done on the Friday Mosque at Isfahan (see Islamic art, §ii, 5(i)(a)). In 1158–60 the mosque was remodelled on the orders of Abu Tahir Husayn ibn Ghali ibn Ahmad by the master Mahmud ibn al-Isfahani known as al-Ghazi (see Islamic art, §ii, 5(i)(b)). The domed bay in front of the mihrab and the adjacent qibla iwan date from this rebuilding and are notable for their original decoration, which includes three stucco mihrabs, brickwork highlighted in red and white and plaster decoration in purple, yellow, white and blue. In ...

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

Hafez K. Chehab

[Crac de Montréal; Montréal; Mons Regalus; Shaubak; Shawbak]

Castle in Jordan, south of Amman. Built in 1115 by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem (reg 1100–18) to menace the pilgrimage road to Mecca, the castle of Monreal surrendered to the Ayyubid ruler Salah al-Din (Saladin) in 1189. It was given to his brother al-Malik al-Adil (reg 1196–1218), whose son al-Mu‛azzam (reg 1218–27) enlarged and restored the fortress in 1226. Under the Mamluks (reg 1250–1517) it was known as Shawbak and became the centre of a district of the province of Kerak. Remains include several round towers and a deep well with a stairway said to lead to a spring, as well as two fragmentary churches with pointed vaults. Most of the fortress was rebuilt by the Ayyubids and Mamluks, but by 1340 the site was described as abandoned.

E. Brünnow and A. von Domaszewski: Die Provincia Arabia, 1 (Strasbourg, 1904), pp. 113–19P. Deschamps: ‘Les Deux Cracs des croisés’, ...

Article

Alan Borg

[Arab. Ḥisṇ al-Akrād]

Crusader castle in Syria. It is generally considered to be the finest of all crusader castles, but this reputation is to some extent an accident of scholarship, for it remains the only such castle to have been thoroughly investigated and restored. This work was done by a French team, led by Paul Deschamps. Krak represents the ultimate development of crusader fortification, however, and the earlier phases are better studied at the equally impressive sites of Saone (Sahyun) and Margat (al-Marqab) in Syria and Kerak (al-Karak) in Jordan. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

The stone castle of Krak occupies a dominant hilltop, near two Roman roads and overlooking a fertile valley (see fig.). The site was apparently occupied by a fortress as early as the 13th century bc. It was mentioned in Arab texts in ad 1031, when a settlement of Kurds was established, with a small castle. These fell to a crusading force in ...

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....