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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

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

Anjar  

Hafez K. Chehab

[Andjar, ‛Anjar, ‛Ayn al-Jarr]

Late Antique and early Islamic settlement in the Beqa‛a Valley of Lebanon, 56 km east of Beirut. Excavations since 1953 have revealed a cardinally orientated rectangular enclosure (370×310 m) with dressed stone walls. Each side has regularly spaced half-round towers and a central gate. Two colonnaded avenues intersecting at right angles under a tetrapylon link the gates, a plan recalling that of Roman foundations in the Levant and in North Africa. Within the enclosure are the remains of two palaces and the foundations of three others in stone and hard mortar, as well as a mosque, two baths (one paved with mosaics) and a well. The western area has streets intersecting at right angles and housing units with private courts, and the eastern area has open fields beyond the palaces and mosque. The construction of the greater palace in alternating courses of stone and brick is a technique well known in Byzantine architecture. Reused architectural elements from the Roman and early Christian periods, some bearing Greek inscriptions, are found all over the site. A large quantity of archivolts and mouldings, carved with vegetal, geometrical and figural motifs, was found among the ruined palaces. Texts suggest that Anjar was founded in the time of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid (...

Article

D. T. Potts, J. Schmidt, Paolo M. Costa and Alessandro De Maigret

Region in which diverse cultures and civilizations flourished from c. 4500 bc to the rise of Islam in the early 7th century ac. Throughout history the term Arabia has varied according to changing political and cultural conditions. In this article it denotes the Arabian peninsula as far north as the borders of Jordan and Iraq. For regions north of this modern boundary see Syria-Palestine and Mesopotamia.

A supraregional survey is not always possible for the art forms discussed below, either because of distinct regional diversity or because archaeological excavation is more advanced in some parts of the peninsula than in others. In some cases, therefore, this article simply discusses those works of art and architecture that are most noteworthy, either stylistically, technologically or iconographically. Generally, the earliest material considered dates to the latter part of the late prehistoric period, c. 4500–c. 3400 bc. Thereafter there is a range of sites and finds that span the protohistoric (...

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

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

Bosra  

K. Freyberger and Solange Ory

[Arab. Buṣrā; anc. Bostra]

Town in southern Syria, 110 km south-east of Damascus. Originally an Arab settlement, it came under Nabataean rule after 144 bc. After being annexed by the emperor Trajan in ad 106 it became the capital city of the Roman province of Arabia; most of its ancient remains date from this period. Bosra was an important Christian city in the Late Byzantine period; it was captured by the Muslim Arabs in ad 635.

Vestiges of the ancient city walls survive only in the north-west, the areas where pottery sherds from Middle Bronze II period (c. 2000–c. 1550 bc) constitute the oldest traces of settlement. Pottery also provides evidence of Nabataean habitation throughout the city; the eastern section may have been founded by the Nabataeans as there is no indication of an earlier phase of building there. The Roman decumanus (main road), which runs from east to west, is intersected by several north–south streets, mostly crossing it at an oblique angle and in a variety of alignments. It is lined by Roman buildings from the 2nd century ...

Article

Chach  

Yu. F. Buryakov

[Sogdian-Pers. Chach, Chachstan; Arab. Shāsh; Chin. Shi, Chzheshi]

Ancient state centred on the Tashkent Oasis on the north bank of the Syr River in Uzbekistan. From medieval times its chief city has been known increasingly as Tashkent. Although the small domain of Chach was assimilated by a semi-nomadic state in the first centuries bc, the name Chach is first attested in the Sasanian inscription at Naqsh-i Rustam (ad 262) near Persepolis and subsequently found at Dunhuang (4th century), Afrasiab (Old Samarkand; 7th century) and in Chinese and Arabic sources. From the 3rd to the 7th century Chach was a small but powerful kingdom of farmers and herders linked to the nomads of the steppe. Agriculture was made possible by an advanced irrigation system comprising more than 50 canals. Gold, silver, copper and turquoise were mined in the mountain and steppe regions, and 13 mountain communities dating from antiquity have been discovered as well as 30 from the medieval period. In the northern regions the economy developed along the great Silk Route....

Article

N. G. Gorbunova

[Farghana; Fergana; Pers. Farghānā.]

Valley (300×70 km) of the middle Syr River in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The fertile region has been inhabited by farmers and pastoralists for millennia, and numerous archaeological sites from the Bronze Age onwards have been found there. The nearly inaccessible site of Saimaly Tash, at an altitude of 3000 m in the Ferghana Mountains north of Uzgend, has produced over 100,000 petroglyphs dating from the Bronze Age to the 1st millennium ad. The 25 ha Bronze Age settlement at Dalverzin included a citadel, residential buildings and an enclosure for livestock, and yielded many clay vessels and stone, bone and bronze objects. Eylatan (7th-3rd century bc) contained small pisé structures surrounded by two rows of walls with towers. At Aktam the dead were buried in shallow earth tombs on small stone mounds; finds included modelled, painted and thrown vessels, everyday objects of iron, stone and bone, jewellery and weapons....

Article

Hama  

Rupert L. Chapman

[Ḥamā, Ḥamāh; bibl. Hamath; anc. Gr. Epiphania]

City on the River Orontes in inland western Syria. The tell has been occupied almost continuously since Neolithic times.

Hama’s location on the Aleppo–Damascus road ensured its prosperity for long periods (see also Syria-Palestine, §I, 1). Its position also exposed it to influence and domination by a wide variety of cultures. In the 9th century bc Hama was ruled by a Neo-Hittite dynasty, which was replaced c. 800 bc by an Aramaean one (see Aramaean). The city was destroyed by the Assyrians in 720 bc and its population deported, as mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 17:24); occupation on the tell was limited to an Assyrian garrison. Hama was included in the Roman Empire after the conquest of Syria by Pompey in 64 bc. In 1812 J. L. Burckhardt visited Hama and discovered what later proved to be hieroglyphic Hittite inscriptions (see Hittite). The tell, which dominates the modern town, was excavated in ...

Article

Nubia  

William Y. Adams, R. G. Morkot, Timothy Kendall, L. Török and Khalid J. Deemer

Region in the Nile Valley, immediately to the south of Egypt, in which several cultures flourished, from the Khartoum Mesolithic period (c. 10,000–c. 5000 bc) to the establishment of the Islamic Funj sultanate c. ad 1505. Ancient Nubia corresponds essentially to the ‘Aethiopia’ of Herodotus and other Classical writers and the ‘Kush’ of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews. It extends approximately from Aswan in southern Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan (see fig. 1 and fig. 2). The most northerly part, Lower Nubia, has always been regarded as an Egyptian sphere of influence, and it is included within the borders of the modern Arab Republic of Egypt. Egyptian control of the larger, southerly region, ‘Upper Nubia’, was much more sporadic.

Article

Quseir  

[Quṣayr al-Qadīm; al-Quṣayr al-Qadīm; Quseir al-Qadim; el-Kusair el-Kadim; Qusayr; Kuseir]

Port on the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea east of Luxor. Located at the mouth of the Wadi Hammamat, the shortest overland route between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea, the port was known in the 1st and 2nd centuries ad as Leukos Limen and in the 13th and 14th centuries as Qusayr. Despite its proximity to the Nile, the port was never as important as Berenice or ‛Aydhab, probably because it was difficult for ships to sail there against the prevailing north wind. Excavations begun in 1978 have revealed the remains of a Roman port, an industrial area, a Roman villa, houses from the Islamic period, glass, ceramics and a wealth of organic remains due to the dryness of the climate.

Enc. Islam/2: ‘Ḳuṣayr’ D. S. Whitcomb and J. H. Johnson: Quseir al-Qadim 1980, Preliminary Report (Malibu, CA, 1982) G. Vogelsang-Eastwood: Resist Dyed Textiles from Quseir al-Qadim, Egypt...

Article

Henrik H. Sørensen and B. I. Marshak

System of trade routes linking East Asia with Europe that operated from c. the 2nd century bc to the 15th century.

The Silk Route, originally called the ‘Silk Road’ (Seidenstrasse) by the German explorer and geographer Ferdinand von Richtofen (1833–1905), was not a single ‘road’ but a network of routes—both terrestrial and maritime—and silk was only one of the many commodities traded along it (see Silk, §1). Trade along the eastern part of what was later to become the Silk Route began several millennia before the Christian era. Archaeologists found silks from the 2nd millennium bc at Sapalli-tepa, near Termèz, Uzbekistan. In addition to local sources, China obtained jade from Central Asia during the Shang (c. 1600–c. 1050 bc) and Zhou (c. 1050–256 bc) periods (see China, People’s Republic of, §IX). Chinese silk was traded with the West during the later part of the Zhou period (...

Article

Siraf  

David Whitehouse

[Sīrāf; now Tāherī]

Medieval city on the Gulf coast of Iran, 240 km south-east of Bushire. From the 9th century to the 11th, Siraf was the largest and finest port in Iran, but the city declined when maritime trade shifted to other ports in the 12th century, despite a brief revival in the 14th and 15th centuries. Siraf prospered because of the expansion of Islamic rule in the east, the revival of the economies of Iraq and Iran after the Abbasid dynasty (reg 749–1258) came to power and increased sea trade between Gulf ports and those of Arabia, East Africa, India and China. Despite torrid summers, poor soil and low rainfall, the city enjoyed two natural advantages over nearby coastal settlements: a sheltered bay to protect ships from storms and a relatively easy caravan route to the Iranian plateau.

The site already existed in the Sasanian period (ad 226–645). Pre-Islamic remains include a cliff-top citadel, a fort with features that recall Roman frontier fortifications of the 4th century ...

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

N. N. Negmatov

[Ura Tepe; Vagkat]

Town in northern Tajikistan. It has been identified by some scholars as ancient Kurushkada [Cyreschata; Cyropolis], an Achaemenid foundation of Cyrus I (reg 559–529 bc; see also Kurkat). The town contains the Mug Tepe settlement (6 ha), the remains of urban fortified structures on the hilly areas of Tal, Mug and Kallamanora, madrasas, mosques and mausolea (15th–20th centuries), and secular architecture (18th–20th centuries). The earliest finds from Mug Tepe include a bronze seal with a winged griffin on the obverse (4th–2nd centuries bc), a terracotta statuette of a male figure, a fired clay male figure with a triangular face and applied phallus, a ceramic censer stand, a sherd with a lion in relief and a small bronze human face. A hoard of Roman denarii from nearby Mydzhum provides evidence of trade in the first centuries ad.

The earliest structural remains at Mug Tepe comprise part of the clay and mud-brick fortification walls and residential buildings (...