Archive of Featured

Eternally Beautiful: Byzantine Art from Greece

Byzantine9

byzantine5For over a millennium, Byzantine artists in Greece produced sumptuous works of extraordinary quality and caliber. Whether inspired by the ethos of the new Christian religion or the tangible legacy of classical antiquity, these Greek artisans and craftsmen created a uniquely “Byzantine aesthetic,” which in time came to influence the artistic traditions of Italy, Russia, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Near East.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Mary Louise Hart, Associate Curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, about Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, on view now at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, CA. This magnificent exhibition explores the breadth, balance, and beauty of Byzantine art from medieval Greece.

Read more…

Yoga as Reflected in Indian Visual Art and Culture

Five_faced Shiva_2014.2.011(1)Yoga is practiced daily by millions worldwide, but few are cognizant of its origins and relative importance to Indian culture and identity. Although its history is long and complex, yoga reflects the rich philosophical and cultural currents that traversed the Indian subcontinent over thousands of years.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. Jeff Durham, Assistant Curator of Himalayan Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, about Yoga: The Art of Transformation and Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism, which are currently on view at the Asian Art Museum.

Read more…

Reimagining The Epic of Kings: The Shahnameh of Ancient Iran

Slipcover_Book

For hundreds of years, the Shahnameh has been revered in the Near and Middle East as the epic of the Persian-speaking peoples. Written over a thousand years ago by the famed poet Ferdowsi of Tous, the Shahnameh shares tales of adventure, romance, conflict, and betrayal. Although its stories and characters have inspired generations of artists and poets, it is still relatively unknown in the West.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Mr. Hamid Rahmanian about Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings, and the process of creating a new edition of this timeless classic (see also AHE’s Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings review).

Read more…

Byzantine Beauty in Berlin

We are happy to welcome back Jaunting Jen to AHEtc!

Surprise! Byzantine at the Bode

church-of-san-michele-in-africisco-mosiac-from-ravenna-in-bode-museum-berlin-detailOne would never guess that the main attraction of the Bode Museum in Berlin is a mosaic from Ravenna, Italy. The Bode Museum, on Museum Island, houses a unique collection of Byzantine art, and I went there specifically for their Byzantine collection. I had no idea that a mosaic from Ravenna was waiting for me at the end of the exhibition hall. Ravenna holds a special place in my heart because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I have not yet been to Turkey to visit the Byzantine splendors there, but I’ve been to Ravenna and the Torcello Church in Venice, and there is just something special about those places and that time period.

The Ravenna Mosaic at the Bode Museum came from the Church of San Michele in Africisco in Ravenna, was dedicated by church-of-san-michele-in-africisco-mosiac-from-ravenna-in-berlinBishop Vittore in May 545 CE, and was consecrated by Archbishop Maximianus in 547 CE.  The mosaic depicts Christ in the center with the Archangels Gabriel and Michael on either side. The frieze of vine and doves is supposed to represent the twelve apostles. The basilica was paid for by a banker, Giuliano Argentario, and was originally intended as an offering to the Archangel Michael. The church survived until the time of Napoleon, when it was dismantled and sold to fill one of his requisitions. The bronze horses of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice suffered a similar fate, but they were eventually returned to the cathedral. The Ravenna Mosaic would never again return to its place of origin.

The fact that this mosaic survives at all is a miracle. The Church of San Michele in Africisco is not one of Ravenna’s Byzantine beauties or even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is in ruin today and used as a shopping area. If the mosaic had not been dismantled and sold in the early 19th century CE, it may have crumbled into ruin with the church. Somehow it managed to survive. In 1843 CE the King of Prussia, Frederick William IV, saw something special in the mosaic when he purchased it and had it brought to Germany. 160 years later, it stands as a monument to the Byzantine past at the Bode Museum.

Part of the mystery of the Ravenna Mosaic in Berlin is what happened to the two saints on either side. Saints Damian and Cosmus (physicians) were depicted on either side of the mosaic, but their images have been completely removed. I’d like to think they were saved and sit on the wall of someone’s private collection today.

bode-museum-mosaic-detail1ravenna-gabriel-apse-mosaic-in-berlin

Images: Byzantine mosaics from the Church of San Michele in Africisco in Ravenna, Italy, now in the Bode Museum, Berlin. Photos by Jennifer Brown, licensed under a Creative Commons – Attribution-Non-Commerical-ShareAlike 3.o license.

All images and videos featured in this post have been properly attributed to their respective owners. Unauthorized reproduction of text and images is prohibited. Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt and Mr. James Blake Wiener were responsible for the editorial process. The views presented here are not necessarily those of the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Original blog post can be found at http://jauntingjen.com/2013/12/30/the-byzantine-beauty-in-berlin/

 

Paint It Black? Understanding Black Figure Pottery

by Karen Barrett-Wilt December 31, 2013 Blogs, Featured 0 Comments
Welcome to our third post on AHEtc! This week we welcome Ancient History Encyclopedia Editor Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt. Karen is a freelance editor, writer, and blogger who loves to tap into her inner history nerd at AHE.  She holds a BA in English, an MA in the History of Art (focusing on Medieval and Islamic Art), and her current obsession is the art and architectural history of Turkey, particularly Istanbul. In the following blog post, she traces the path that she followed to finally really understand how black figure pottery was made by the ancient Greeks. Enjoy!

So how is black figure pottery created, anyway?

Read more…

The Veil of Promise: A Novel on the Life of St. Helena

EmpressHelenaThe life of St. Helena — Roman empress, Christian saint, and mother to the celebrated Constantine the Great — remains shrouded in mystery, controversy, and intrigue. To commence the start of the holiday season, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. María Lara Martínez – a talented Spanish historian and writer — about her award winning novel on St. Helena, The Veil of Promise (El Velo de Promesa), in this exclusive English language interview.

Read more…

The Puzzling Ancient Picts of Scotland

crawstoneblogThe ancient Picts of northern and eastern Scotland were as enigmatic to their contemporaneous neighbors as they are to modern-day scholars. Nevertheless, despite the shadowy and wild stereotypes that still abound in popular imagination, recent archaeological excavations across Scotland have revealed astonishing works of art, impressive fortifications, and evidence of strong links with continental Europe.

In this exclusive interview with the Ancient History Encyclopedia, James Blake Wiener speaks to Dr. Gordon Noble, an archaeologist and professor at Aberdeen University, about these recent archaeological discoveries and how we should best understand the Picts in the history of ancient Britain.

Read more…

The Exciting World of South African Marine Archaeology

underwaterA chance opportunity took Dr. Bruno Werz to South Africa as the country’s first marine archeologist in 1988. For over twenty years now, Dr. Werz has undertaken numerous projects of immense scope, including the excavation of sub-Saharan Africa’s oldest shipwreck. He is also responsible for the discovery of the oldest human artifacts ever found beneath the ocean’s surface.

In this exclusive interview with James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia, Dr. Werz discusses his passion for marine archaeology and the activities of the African Institute for Marine and Underwater Research, Exploration and Education (AIMURE).

Read more…

1 Million Mark Surpassed!

We are pleased to announce that the Ancient History Encyclopedia regularly receives over one million page views per month! This is truly a momentous occasion and we are eager to see what awaits us as we come closer to 2014. At this time, AHE’s staff would like to extend a warm message of thanks to our financial donors, volunteer contributors, virtual visitors, social media followers, and past interviewees for helping us enter into the record books! Your kind words and messages of enthusiasm are a source of pride and inspiration. We would not be where we are today without your continued support and interest.

We thought that we should use this occasion not only to celebrate an important milestone, but also take the time to assemble some statistics about Ancient History Encyclopedia:

  • 1 million page views per month.
  • 500,000 unique visitors per month (compared to 100,000 this time last year).
  • Over 2.2 million visitors in 2013 so far.
  • 66% visitors from the US; 4% in the UK, Canada, and Australia (each).
  • We have spent £830 ($1330) on books to help write our 547 definitions and 350 articles.
  • Record number of social media followers: 90,000+ on Facebook; 4,000+ on Twitter; 2,000+ on Google+.
  • Google has ranked us up in their last “Hummingbird” search engine update.

AHE strives to provide the best ancient history information on the internet for free. We combine different media, subjects, and periods in interactive ways that will help the public appreciate the complexity and richness of the ancient world. Editorial review remains a key component in our process to ensure highest quality. We are an open education resource listed in the OER Commons and we also share our data through the academic Pelagios Network, side by side with institutions such as The British Museum and King’s College London. Committed to the digital humanities movement, AHE’s original content is available under a Creative Commons license that enables teachers to freely distribute it in class, as it allows anyone to re-use our content in a non-commercial context.

Please consider donating to help us reach even more students, teachers, and enthusiasts around the world! You can also share your knowledge by submitting an article, or you can simply recommend us to your friends and colleagues. Thank you very much!

Reconstructing Cuisines and Recipes from the Ancient World

chinesecookingThe reconstruction of ancient recipes challenges experimental archaeologists and chefs alike, while concurrently offering unique glimpses into the culinary tastes of diverse ethnic groups. Ms. Laura Kelley, author and founder of The Silk Road Gourmet blog, analyzes the links between recipes, civilizations, and trade across great distances and over long periods of time. As a frequent traveler, Laura first noted the commonalities between recipes and cooking methods, which in turn provided the catalyst for her research as an independent scholar.

In this interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Laura about her interest in cooking — past and present — as well as how she has been able to reconstruct recipes from ancient Central Asia, Mesopotamia, and Rome.

Read more…