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Abarquh  

[Abarqūh]

Iranian town in northern Fars province. A prosperous centre in medieval times, by the 10th century it was fortified with a citadel and had a congregational mosque. The octagonal tower of mortared stone known as the Gunbad-i ‛Ali was erected, according to its inscription, by a Daylamite prince in 1056–7 to contain the remains of his parents. The Masjid-i Birun, a mosque to the south of the town, may be slightly earlier, although it has many later additions. The congregational mosque (rest.), with four iwans around a rectangular court, dates mostly to the 14th century, although the base of the dome chamber probably belongs to the 12th-century mosque. The many mihrabs within the mosque include a particularly fine stucco example (1338). There are also several mud-brick tombs in the town. These square structures have plain exteriors and plastered and painted interiors. One of the earliest is the tomb of Pir Hamza Sabzpush (12th century); the finest was that of Hasan ibn Kay Khusraw (...

Article

Agra  

R. Nath

City and administrative seat of the district of the same name, in Uttar Pradesh, India. Situated on the Yamuna River in the fertile north Indian heartland, it is 200 km south of Delhi and 55 km south of the ancient city of Mathura. A centre of Mughal culture and government in the 16th and 17th centuries, Agra has numerous monuments of that period, including the famed Taj Mahal (see §II, 1).

Agra’s antiquity is indicated both by a living literary and religious tradition and by occasional archaeological discoveries of ancient pottery, bricks, pillars and sculpture in and around the city. Pilgrimage centres upstream on the Yamuna are associated with the great epic the Mahābhārata, and nearby Mathura is one of the ancient sites identified with the worship of Vasudeva Krishna. The name Agra may derive from the ancient Hindu sage Angira. The area was ruled by Rajput chiefs prior to the Muslim conquest (...

Article

R. N. Mehta and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Ahmedabad]

City in western India, until 1970 the state capital of Gujarat.

Remains of bones and tools indicate occupation in the area around Ahmadabad during the second millennium bc. The earliest permanent settlement, called Ashaval after its founder Asha Bhil, was established on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati River in the 8th century ad and prospered in subsequent centuries. In 1391 Zafar Khan was appointed Governor of Gujarat by the Sultanate rulers in Delhi. In 1403 his rebellious son, Tatar Khan, proclaimed himself Sultan of Gujarat at Ashaval but died a few months later, possibly from poisoning. His father regained power and, assuming the title Muzaffar Shah I, proclaimed himself Sultan of Gujarat. On his death he was succeeded by his grandson, Ahmad Shah I (reg 1411–42), who built a capital at Ashaval, naming it Ahmadabad. Ahmad’s reign chiefly involved the expansion of his realm and the propagation of Islam....

Article

Ajmer  

Asok Kumar Das

[anc. Ajayameru]

City in Rajasthan, India, that flourished from c. 12th century. Ajmer was an important centre of Jainism in the 8th century, but it was not until c. 10th century that the area came into prominence under the Chahamanas (Chauhans) of Shakambhari. King Ajayapala is said to have founded the city in the 12th century, naming it Ajayameru after himself. He is also credited with building the now ruined hilltop fort called Taragarh. His son and successor Arnoraja (also called Anaka) constructed the massive embankment that created Ana Sagar Lake. The Chahamanas, especially Prithviraja (1178–92), constructed numerous temples and other buildings at Ajmer, as well as bathing ghats at Pushkar Lake some 11 km west. None of these are preserved in their original state.

Ajmer was sacked by Mu‛in al-Din Muhammad of Ghur in 1192 and again by Qutb al-Din Aybak in 1193, the latter incorporating it into the Delhi sultanate. The Sanskrit college complex of Visaladeva and numerous temples were destroyed, and the building materials were reused to raise an impressive mosque in ...

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

Algiers  

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

[Arab. al-Jizā’ir; ‘the islands’]

Capital and largest city in Algeria, located on the west side of a bay opening onto the Mediterranean Sea. The site was already settled in Phoenician times, as shown by a hoard of Punic coins found near the port in 1940. The ruins of the Roman settlement known as Icosium are said to have existed until the 10th century when the Zirid family ruler Buluggin (reg 972–84) founded the Muslim town. Medieval geographers called it jazā’ir banī mazghannā, the islands of the Bani Mazghanna, after a local tribe of Sanhaja Berbers who lived in the region. At the end of the 12th century Almoravid rulers erected a mosque there (see Islamic art, §II, 5(iv)(c)), which preserves a fine wooden minbar and a minaret added in the 14th century. In the 15th century many refugees fleeing the Christian conquest of Spain settled in the city and established themselves as corsairs. Incorporated into the Ottoman empire, it became an important naval base, often enjoying relative independence from Istanbul under the Barbary pirates who made piracy the major industry. The city was repeatedly bombarded by European powers, until the French captured it in ...

Article

Aligarh  

Walter Smith

[anc. Koil]

City in Uttar Pradesh, India, 135 km south-east of Delhi. A Rajput stronghold, Koil fell to Muslim invaders in ad 1194. Several later monuments were built on the foundations of its Hindu temples, no early examples of which survive. During the first half of the 15th century Koil figured in the confrontations between the Sharqis of Jaunpur and the armies of the Delhi Sultanate. The fort, built in 1524 during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi, was rebuilt by Sabit Khan in 1717 and extensively redesigned by the French in the early 19th century. Several monuments attributed to the period of the Mughal emperor Akbar (reg 1556–1605) in the Bagh-i-Gesu Khan (now a public cemetery) include a pillared pavilion with a low dome and the remains of another double-storey pavilion; the supposed tomb of Gesu Khan, an official of Akbar, is a red sandstone structure set on a plinth with lattice screens and crowned by a low dome. The Jami‛ Masjid, at the summit of a long, steep slope called the Bala Qila, was begun in the 17th century but almost completely reworked in ...

Article

J. B. Harrison

[anc. Prayaga]

City of religious, strategic and administrative importance in Uttar Pradesh, India. Located at the confluence of the sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mystical Saraswati, Allahabad has drawn Hindu pilgrims for centuries. The earliest monument is a stone pillar, inscribed with edicts of Ashoka (reg c. 269–c. 232 bc), a panegyric of the Gupta king Samudragupta (reg c. ad 335–76) and a record of its re-erection in 1605 by the Mughal emperor Jahangir (reg 1605–27). Brooding over the Sangam (sacred bathing area) is the massive sandstone fort of Akbar (reg 1556–1605), built in 1584 to guard the river-route to Bengal. As at Agra, Delhi and Lahore, the fort enclosed residential quarters and palace buildings, but these were substantially altered during British tenure in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some indication of their former splendour is given in aquatints by Thomas and William Daniell family.

Mughal residences and gardens straggled along the Yamuna from the fort to the city. Prince Salim, the future emperor ...

Article

Amasya  

Lale H. Uluç

[anc. Amaseia]

Turkish town in northern Anatolia. Situated in a ravine on both banks of the Yeşilırmak (Iris) River, it served as capital of the kingdom of Pontus during Hellenistic times, and the rock-cut tombs of the Pontic kings are set below the citadel. An important Roman metropolis and a Byzantine bishopric and army base, it fell to the Saljuq family dynasty of Anatolia in 1075. Notable buildings from the medieval period include the Burmalı Minare (‘spiral minaret’) Mosque (1237–46; derelict); the Gök Madrasa (1266–7) and adjacent tomb (1278), built by the governor Sayf al-Din Turumtay; a hospital (1309); and several other tombs. In the early 14th century the city passed to the Uighur chief Eretna. In 1386 it was conquered by the Ottomans, for whom it served until the end of the 17th century as a princely residence and provincial centre, known for its educational institutions. Buildings from the early Ottoman period include the Sufi convent (Turk. ...

Article

Amman  

Adnan Hadidi, Alastair Northedge and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Arab. ‛Amman; anc. Rabbath Ammon, later Philadelphia]

Capital of the kingdom of Jordan and site of a city that flourished between the 2nd millennium bc and the 14th century ad. The site lies in a fertile, well-watered area in the tableland to the east of the River Jordan, on the biblical King’s Highway (the ancient Roman Via Nova Traiana), which ran from Bosra in the north to the Red Sea in the south.

The ancient city consisted of the citadel, or acropolis, built in three terraces rising from west to east on a steep-sided, L-shaped hill, and the lower town in the valley of the Wadi ‛Amman to the south. The earliest material found on the citadel dates to the 3rd millennium bc; from c. 1100 bc until 582 bc the city was the capital of the kingdom of Ammon. Excavations around the perimeter of the hill have uncovered Ammonite tombs and Hellenistic and early Roman occupation from the ...

Article

Amol  

Gordon Campbell

Article

Ankara  

Lale H. Uluç and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Gr. and Lat. Ancyra; Mod. Gr. Angora]

Capital city of the Turkish Republic since 1923. Ankara lies near the northern edge of the central Anatolian steppe at the confluence of three small rivers, spreading down the slopes of a mountain on which stands the ancient citadel. It has been a centre of trade and administration since antiquity.

In 25 bc, then a large and prosperous Phrygian city on the Royal Road from Sardis to Persepolis, Ancyra was made the capital of the Roman province of Galatia. It was embellished with buildings, of which the white marble Temple of Roma and Augustus is the most important to survive. Inscribed on its walls is the Monumentum Ancyranum, the most famous of all antique inscriptions. Written in Greek (on the exterior) and Latin (on the interior), the text is an account by the emperor Augustus (reg 27 bcad 14) of his public life and works. Other Classical remains include the Bilkis Minaresi (a column of the emperor Julian (or Jovian)) and the foundations of a large Roman bath on the road to Çankırı....

Article

Ardabil  

Abbas Daneshvari

[Ardabīl; Ardebil]

City in Azerbaijan in north-west Iran c. 180 km east of Tabriz, situated on the eastern slopes of Mt Sabalan, an extinct volcano, and with a population of c. 222,000. Founded in the pre-Islamic period, it flourished after the Arab conquest in the 7th century, often serving as the capital of Azerbaijan. It was sacked by the Mongols in 1220 and was subsequently overshadowed by Tabriz, but its partial recovery was marked by the erection of a new congregational mosque in the early 14th century. Now ruined, this consisted of a rectangular hypostyle prayer-hall with a square domed ‘sanctuary’ in front of the mihrab.

Ardabil became one of Iran’s holiest cities under the Safavid family dynasty (reg 1501–1732), which was descended from a local mystic, Shaykh Safi al-Din Ishaq (d 1334). Through the patronage of the Safavid shahs, his tomb and the associated hospice (khānaqāh) became an important shrine. The main buildings are clustered around a rectangular paved courtyard. On the north side is the Jannatsaray (...

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

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

[Pers. ‛Ashqābād; formerly Ashkhabad Askhabad, Poltoratsk]

Capital city of Turkmenistan. Lying in an oasis south of the Karakum Desert, the city was founded in 1881 on the site of a mountain village (Rus. aul). Linked by rail with the Caspian coast in 1885, it developed rapidly as the center of the Transcaspian region at the turn of the 20th century and became the capital of the Turkmen republic in 1924. It suffered greatly from earthquakes in 1893, 1895 and 1929; following complete destruction by the earthquake of 6 October 1948, the city was rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s.

Saparmurat Niyazov (generally referred to as Turkmenbashi, or leader of the Turkmen), president from 1985 to 2006, used the revenues from huge gas reserves to lavishly embellish the city with grandiose monuments of gleaming white marble and gold. Civic structures include not only the palace, government offices and an exhibition center, but also the Arch of Neutrality, a large tripod in front of which stands a gold statue of Turkmenbashi that rotates to face the sun. Religious structures include the Azadi Mosque, which resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and the Kipchak Mosque, said to be the largest in Central Asia. The National Museum of History (...

Article

A. A. Ivanov and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Pers. ‛Ashqābād; formerly Ashgabat, Askhabad, Poltorack]

Capital city of Turkmenistan. Lying in an oasis south of the Karakum Desert, the city was founded in 1881 on the site of a mountain village (Rus. aul). Linked by rail with the Caspian coast in 1885, it developed rapidly as the center of the Transcaspian region at the turn of the 20th century and became the capital of the Turkmen republic in 1924. It suffered greatly from earthquakes in 1893, 1895 and 1929; following complete destruction by the earthquake of 6 October 1948, the city was rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s.

The region has long been settled. The archaeological site at Anau, lying 6 km to the east, has yielded items dating from the 5th to the 1st millennium bc and has given its name to the Bronze Age culture of southern Turkmenistan (see Central Asia, §I, 2, (iii), (a)). The complex of shaykh Jamal al-Din (...

Article

Aswan  

Edda Bresciani

[anc. Egyp. Abu, Swenet; Copt. Sawan; Gr. Syene]

Egyptian city at the northern end of the first Nile cataract, c. 900 km south of Cairo. The modern town chiefly stretches along the eastern bank of a sandstone valley, which also contains numerous islands formed by the granite outcrops of the cataract; its ancient monuments are found on both the east and west banks and on some of the islands.

In ancient times Aswan was a garrison town marking the traditional boundary between Egypt and Nubia; as such it served as the capital of the first nome (province) of Egypt and the seat of its governors. The town’s wealth was generated by its position on an important trade route between the Nile Valley and the African lands to the south and by its granite quarries, which provided the material for countless ancient monuments. The islands of the cataract enjoyed religious status as the mythological source of the annual Nile inundation, while the Temple of Isis at ...

Article

Baghdad  

[ Baghdād]

Capital city of Iraq. Located on both banks of the Tigris River in central Iraq, the city was founded in ad 762 near several earlier settlements dating back to the 3rd millennium bc. The site marks the closest approach (c. 60 km) of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers before their eventual confluence in southern Iraq. In ad 750 the Abbasid caliphs (reg 749–1258) abandoned the Umayyad capital at Damascus for Mesopotamia but made several false starts in finding an acceptable site for a new capital: the first choice, named al-Hashimiyya, was located between Kufa and Baghdad, a second was located at al-Anbar on the left bank of the Euphrates and a third was near Kufa. The caliph al-Mansur (reg 754–75) selected another site on the west bank of the Tigris not far from the ancient Seleucid and Sasanian capitals of Seleucia-on-the-Tigris and Ctesiphon. He named his new capital Madinat al-Salam (Arab.: ‘City of peace’), although it continued to be known as Baghdad in popular usage. Al-Mansur and his court occupied the city in ...

Article

A. G. Gertsen

[Turk. Baghče sarǎy: ‘Garden palace’]

Ukrainian city in the Crimea, 35 km north-east of Sevastopol, which was the capital of the Tatar in the Crimea throughout the rule of the Giray dynasty (c. 1423–1783). It developed from an important burial ground of the Giray khans, but the Garden Palace (1503–19), founded by Khan Mengli Giray I (reg 1466–1514 with interruptions) and covering over 4 ha in the valley of the River Churuk-Su, represents the historical core of the city. The earliest structure is the Demirkap (‘Iron gate’) with an inscription referring to Mengli Giray and the date 1503. It is thought to be by the Italian architect Aleviz Novy or Aloisio (fl early 16th century), builder of the cathedral of the Archangel Michael (wooden church, 1333; rebuilt 1505–8) in the Moscow Kremlin. Little is known of the layout of the palace in the 16th and 17th centuries as it was badly damaged by fire in ...

Article

Baku  

E. R. Salmanov

[ Bākū]

Capital city of Azerbaijan. Located on the western shores of the Caspian Sea on the Apsheron Peninsula, Baku is largely built from the limestone that covers the peninsula. The oldest signs of habitation are the White Stones, remains of a cromlech and cylindrical mounds from the Bronze Age in the settlement of Shuvelyan near the city. The oldest monument within the town is the Maiden’s Tower (5th–6th century ad; rest. 12th century), which may have originally been a fortress, temple or fortified residence. Numerous ceramic sherds and coins dating from the 8th and 9th centuries attest to the existence of a large settlement, known in written sources as a centre for the extraction of petroleum used for lighting, medicine and military purposes.

The town developed in a dense oval settlement around the Maiden’s Tower. In the 11th century it was surrounded by powerful fortified walls incorporating a strong citadel; according to an inscription, construction was completed under the Shirvanshah ruler ...