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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

Carmela Vircillo Franklin

(b Berlin, Aug 18, 1911; d Cambridge, MA, Sept 6, 2006).

German historian of antiquity and the Middle Ages, active also in Italy and America. Bloch was trained at the University of Berlin under the historian of ancient Greece Werner Jaeger, art historian Gerhart Rodenwaldt and medievalist Erich Caspar from 1930 until 1933, when the rise of National Socialism convinced him to move to Rome. There he received his tesi di laurea in ancient history in 1935 and his diploma di perfezionamento in 1937. He then participated in the excavations at Ostia, Rome’s ancient port, which was an important site in the revival of Italian archaeology under Fascism. At the outbreak of World War II, he immigrated to the USA, and began his teaching career in 1941 at Harvard University’s Department of Classics, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. His experience of totalitarianism shaped both his personal and professional beliefs.

Bloch applied a deep knowledge of epigraphy, history and material culture, art history, literary and archival sources to his research and he had a propensity for uncovering the significance of new or neglected evidence. One such area was Roman history. His first publications, on ancient Rome’s brick stamps (many of which he discovered ...

Article

In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ad 330 and 1453, studies of Byzantine art often encompassed Post-Byzantine art and that of culturally allied states such as Armenian Cilicia, Macedonia, and portions of Italy. As such fields as Palaiologan family manuscripts and wall paintings, Armenian manuscripts, and Crusader manuscripts and icons emerged, scholars identified new intersections between Western medieval and Byzantine art. Subtle comparisons emerged with the recognition that Byzantine art was not static but changed over time in style and meaning, although most analyses identified Byzantine art as an accessible reservoir of the naturalistic, classicizing styles of antiquity. Scholars considering the 7th-century frescoes at S Maria Antiqua and mosaics at S Maria in Cosmedin, both in Rome, and the 8th-century frescoes at Castelseprio and Carolingian manuscripts such as the Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne (Vienna, Schatzkam. SCHK XIII) used formal comparisons with works such as pre-iconoclastic icons at St Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, along with the history of Byzantine iconoclasm, to argue for the presence of Greek painters in the West. Similarly, Ottonian and Romanesque painting and luxury arts, such as ivories, provided examples of the appropriation of Byzantine imperial imagery. Yet the study of works such as the great 12th-century ...

Article

Gerasa  

M. Rautmann and J. M. C. Bowsher

[anc. Antioch-on-the-Chrysorrhoas; now Jerash]

Ancient city in Jordan, set in the hills of Gilead c. 45 km north of Amman. It flourished from the 2nd century bc to the 7th century ad; the site is in the modern town of Jerash. Founded by Antiochos IV of Syria (reg 175–164 bc), Gerasa first rose to importance as Antioch-on-the-Chrysorrhoas during Hellenistic and Roman times. Its location between Pella and Philadelphia ensured its continued prosperity as one of the cities of the Decapolis in Roman Syria. Gerasa’s shift to the new province of Arabia in ad 106 sparked its greatest urban flourishing, which continued until its capture by the Persians in ad 614 and the Arabs around ad 635. Although ancient Gerasa remained occupied until the 8th century ad, it was devastated by a major earthquake c. ad 746, and later sources suggest that it was abandoned. The site was discovered in 1806 by the German traveller ...

Article

Harran  

Seton Lloyd

[anc. Carrhae]

Ancient city on the Anatolian plateau in Turkey, c. 30 km south of Urfa, where a trade route from the Euphrates crosses the modern Turco-Syrian frontier. The site was visited and described from the mid-19th century by such travellers as R. C. Chesney, C. Preusser, Gertrude Bell, K. A. C. Creswell and T. E. Lawrence. From 1950 onwards it was surveyed and excavated by S. Lloyd, W. Brice and D. S. Rice. The main mound, in the centre of the site, rises 20 m above the level of the plain, undoubtedly covering the ruins of an Assyrian temple to the moon-god Sin.

Harran was probably already a centre for the cult of the moon-god in the 2nd millennium bc. After the fall of Nineveh (c. 612 bc) the last Assyrian king, Assur-uballit II (reg 612–609 bc), transferred the remains of his court briefly to Harran. Three stelae bearing cuneiform inscriptions of the Babylonian king ...

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Dominique Collon

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Dominique Collon

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Dominique Collon

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Dominique Collon, Judith Pullar, Pierre Amiet, Michael Roaf, Eric de Waele, David Stronach, Guitty Azarpay and E. Haerinck

[Persia]

Region in which several cultures and civilizations flourished from the Palaeolithic period until the Arab conquest in ad 651. There is evidence that ancient Iran was inhabited from c. 100,000 bc, but the earliest named inhabitants were Elamite (c. 3000–mid-6th century bc), whose language, insofar as it has been deciphered, bears no relation to any known group. The ancestors of the present Indo-European or Indo-Aryan inhabitants of Iran, including the Medes and Persians, entered the country only in the second half of the 2nd millennium bc. Besides the Elamites, the three major Iranian dynasties of the pre-Islamic period are the Achaemenid or Persian (550–331 bc), the Parthian (250 bcad 224) and the Sasanian (c. ad 224–651).

This article covers the major art forms in pre-Islamic Iran. Each major bold subsection has cross-references to individual sites that have made a particular contribution at a certain period or in a given field. The development of some types of object, such as seals or jewellery, and the use of some materials (e.g. faience, glass and ivory) are best seen in the wider context of the ...

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John Curtis

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Maskana  

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 ...

Article

Dominique Collon, Joan Oates, Harriet Crawford, Anthony Green, David Oates, John M. Russell, Michael Roaf, E. J. Keall, Pierre Amiet, John Curtis, Jane Moon and A. Nunn

Region of the ancient world corresponding roughly to modern Iraq, north-east Syria and parts of south-east Turkey. The name Mesopotamia (anc. Gr.: ‘between the rivers’) was coined by ancient Greek historians and originally applied to the land between the River Euphrates and its tributary the Khabur. It later came to mean the land between two of the great rivers of antiquity, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and by extension includes the surrounding regions. Modern political boundaries, however, do not reflect the fluctuating cultural patterns of antiquity, nor did the ancient inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys have one name to describe the area, and the term Mesopotamian is therefore used in this article to define various cultures that grew up in the Land of the Twin Rivers. It was here and in Egypt, ancient that two of the earliest civilizations evolved.

This article covers the major art forms in Mesopotamia before the Islamic conquest (...

Article

G. Herrmann

[Sassanian]

Name given to the Iranian dynasty that ruled from c. ad 224 to 631. The Sasanian empire was the foremost power of late antiquity in the Middle East; it was administered by an efficient bureaucracy and controlled by a monarch symbolically invested with power by the state religion, Zoroastrianism. Under the dynasty innovations were made that later permanently influenced Islamic architecture, and Sasanian rock reliefs and silverwork are famous. Influences on Sasanian art can partly be explained by the political and economic situation of the empire. In the west it was in contact with the Romano-Byzantine empire. In the east the situation is less clear, though contacts and a rich and flourishing trade were maintained with the Chinese. One of the dynamics of the period was an insatiable western appetite for eastern silks and spices, and the control of this trade was a major Sasanian interest and source of wealth....

Article

G. Herrmann

[Pers. Ṭăq-i Bŭstăn]

Site of rock reliefs in western Iran, 5 km north-east of Kirmanshah, a city founded by the Sasanian (224–651 ad). Three rock reliefs of the Sasanian period are the major feature of the site and were carved on a spur of a hill adjacent to deep springs. No contemporary buildings have been discovered in their vicinity, and it is possible that the site was within a paradeisos or hunting park. Two of the carvings can be dated to the late 4th century, while the third probably belongs to the 6th.

The two 4th-century works consist of a simple rock relief showing the king, either Shapur II (reg 309–79) or Ardashir II (reg 379–83), being invested by two deities, Ahura Mazda and Mithra (see Zoroastrianism, §1), and a more ambitious carving that dates to the reign of Shapur III (reg 383–8), son of Shapur II. This features statues of father and son on a ledge at the back of a small grotto or iwan, which is carved out of the living rock. The two kings can be identified by their crowns and by accompanying inscriptions. The change from simple relief to statues set within a room-like setting is significant, particularly as no further simple reliefs were commissioned by the Sasanian kings. Clearly, they had ceased to be considered an appropriate form of dynastic propaganda. Instead, artistic effort was concentrated on the decoration of buildings in stucco, and the two statues in the small grotto at Taq-i Bustan are almost certainly stone versions of statues more frequently worked in stucco....

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Dominique Collon

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Dominique Collon

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