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Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
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MEDIEVAL HISTORY > ARCHIVE - 11. BYZANTIUM... February 13th ~ February 19th ~~ Part Three - Chapter NINETEEN and TWENTY (203- 220); No Spoilers Please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Hello Everyone,

For the week of February 13th - February 19th, we are reading approximately the next 18 pages of Byzantium by Judith Herrin.

The eleventh week's reading assignment is:

Week Eleven: February 13th - February 19th: :

Chapter 19: Venice and the Fork 203
Chapter 20: Basil II,"The Bulgar-Slayer" 212


We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book was kicked off on December 5th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Byzantium The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin by Judith Herrin Judith Herrin

REMEMBER NO SPOILERS ON THE WEEKLY NON SPOILER THREADS

Notes:

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If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:

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Glossary

Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5...


message 2: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments Chapter 19 makes me think again how tragic it was that the Graeco-Roman civilisation collapsed- in terms of education, literacy, culture, sophisticated customs, logical argument, encouragement/acceptance of critical thinking, they seemed to be far more advanced than contemporary medieval western Europe, also much wealthier,and more urbanised. It's interesting to read about the rise of Venice, and helps one to understand why the Renaissance took off in Italy- but it's also tragic that these beautiful princesses had to be married off to people whose customs and manners and cities were not as polished or sophisticated.
and I never realised that the Bulgarians were once so important!


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Yes to all of the above Aparajita; you had to feel sorry for the princesses who were very much in demand elsewhere.

The Venetians from what I read seemed to be a crafty lot. Take as much from one or the other and line your own pockets seemed to be their motto. We will help you at a cost. I do love Italy and Venice too but the Venetians knew how to get what they wanted.


message 4: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2012 11:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Chapter Overviews and Summaries

Chapter 19: Venice and the Fork

This chapter begins with a story about how the familiar fork returned to Europe thanks to Byzantium. Very quickly the chapter turns to Venice and its founding. The Byzantine kings turned to Venice for naval assistance in thwarting an Arab siege of Bari in southern Italy. Because Venice helped protect the Byzantine territories in southern Italy, it was given most favored trading status. And of course, Byzantine brides were still ever so popular. But they did have their enemies in some of the Western theologians who felt that cultured women were introducing Byzantine customs which were actually fostering cleanlier conditions. Heaven forbid one bathes in clean water and the room smells nice.

Chapter 20: Basil II,"The Bulgar-Slayer"

"Basil II, who ruled four generations after the first Basil (the Macedonian), is commemorated on many streets in Greek cities as "Voulgaroktonos" (Bulgar-slayer) and this chapter is about him and other more far reaching changes that he was responsible for including a "major expansion of the empire beyond the Taurus Mountains in the east, the conversion of the Russians, the forging of numerous important foreign alliances, the patronage of art and learning, and the protection of the poor" - to just name a few. But on the other side of the coin (and there is always another side), according to Ms Herrin he should have also ensured the continuity of the Macedonian dynasty.


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
I was struck in this chapter with the story of the fork. How many of you were also?

"From that moment in 1004/5 when the Byzantine aristocrat Maria Argropoulaina used her little golden fork in Venice, western dining habits would never be the same. Although initially condemned as pretentious, forks became luxury objects, often made of precious metal with ebony or ivory handles, collected by monarch and bequeathed to churches. The Romans had used forks in their ancient style of dining on couches. But both couches and forks were forgotten in the early Middle Ages. Primitive instruments resembling a knife, with a single point, were used for piercing meat and people ate with their hands. Our familiar fork, to which Norbert Elias attributed a 'civilizing" role, returned to Europe thanks to Byzantium. Maria, golden one serves as a symbol of many aspects of Byzantine cultural influence in the West."

What other Byzantine influences were you surprised by or learned about for the first time when reading this book?


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2012 11:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
You might also be asking who is Norbert Elias? The author acts as if he is a household word like "Winston Churchill".

Here is an image of Elias:



And here is a link to his foundation: (this tells a bit more about him)

http://www.norberteliasfoundation.nl/...

And he was quite the author:

The Civilizing Process Sociogenetic And Psychogenetic Investigations by Norbert Elias The Symbol Theory by Norbert Elias The Established and the Outsiders by Norbert Elias Reflections on a Life by Norbert Elias The Court Society by Norbert Elias The Genesis of the Naval Profession by Norbert Elias The Germans by Norbert Elias by Norbert Elias (no photo)

Norbert Elias (June 22, 1897 — August 1, 1990) was a German sociologist of Jewish descent, who later became a British citizen.

Source: Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norbert_...


message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2012 01:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
I am not sure how many of you have visited Venice but the Basilica of San Marco is phenomenal: (how many of you have been to Venice and have seen this marvel?)









There is so much Byzantine influence.


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Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
This quote says it all:

"In 829, they (the Venetians) took advantage of local Christian anxiety in Alexandria about a possible Muslim persecution to smuggle the relics of St. Mark out of Egypt. San Marco became their patron saint and his lion still adorns the flag of the city. When a suitably grand new church was built to house these precious bones, a Byzantine style of architecture was adopted. In 976, this church of San Marco was destroyed in a fire, repaired and later replaced by the great basilica which dominates the Piazza of San Marco today. Architects from Constantinople, inspired by the church of the Holy Apostles in the Byzantine capital, began the construction under Doge Domenico Contarini in the mid eleventh century and created the building characterized by Byzantine style domes and mosaic decoration, as well as western architectural elements.

Bronze doors made in Constantinople were installed at the west entrance and the Pala d'Oro, a magnificent Byzantine gold and enamel altar facade, commissioned by Doge Ordelafo Falier in 1105, was displaced behind the high altar. These tributes to imperial culture were increased after 1204 by materials looted from Byzantium, such as the four bronze horses from the Hippodrome carved pillars from the church of St. Polyeuktos and a porphyry sculpture of the tetrarchs now immured in the external wall. The Basilica of San Marco symbolizes Venice's great admiration for Byzantine culture."

pages 204 - 205


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2012 02:17PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Pala d'Oro (when I was in Venice last August, one could only see this splendid piece if you paid an additional fee)



A picture just does not do this piece justice:


The Pala d’Oro in Saint Mark’s, Venice, is an example of an object with a dual cultural origin. Originally an antependium – which scarcely exists in the Byzantine tradition – it was commissioned by the Venetians from Constantinopolitan craftsmen, in a technique in which the latter were masters. The Pala d’Oro became the altarpiece that may be seen today after a series of alterations and enrichments: a second commission from Constantinople modified it, then the plaques were stolen in Constantinople during the Latin occupation, and finally the Venetian enamels were added.

It is a heterogeneous piece, in terms of both technique and style. Initially a silver antependium, commissioned in Constantinople by Doge Pietro Orseolo (976–78), it had probably already been decorated with enamels. A few enamels on the present altarpiece could date from this first phase. A new commission was made in 1105 by Ordelafo Faliero for a gold altarpiece decorated in precious stones and enamels. The four Evangelists may date from this period: they were among the first works enamelled in Venetian workshops. In 1209, during the rule of Doge Pietro Ziani (1205–29), the Pala d’Oro was made larger. The pieces added were probably Venetian booty from the Fourth Crusade. The patriarch of Constantinople, passing through Venice in 1438 to take part in the Council of Florence, recognised the enamels that came from the Monastery of the Pantokrator in Constantinople occupied by the Venetians in 1204. Venetian enamels were also added during this phase. The Venetians had assimilated Byzantine enamel techniques, but, for all that, the enamels produced in Venice were not of the same quality as those of Constantinople.

The form of the Pala d’Oro as we know it today dates from 1342–45, during the time of Doge Andrea Dandolo. This alteration was linked to the new Gothic arch and was an attempt at moving closer – in the arrangement of the images – to the iconographic canons of the West. New Venetian enamels were added. Later restorations did not further alter the Pala d’Oro and had more to do with maintaining it.

The upper section of the Pala d’Oro comprises six scenes of the great feast days of the Church on one side and the Archangel Michael on the other. Thirty-eight small enamels, as well as precious stones, decorate this part. In the centre, Christ Pantokrator is accompanied by the four Evangelists. Above him is the throne of hetoimasia, flanked by two cherubs and two angels. Above that is a representation of the Virgin between Empress Irene and Doge Ordelafo Faliero. The enamel depicting Doge Ordelafo Faliero has been reworked; it was thought to originally depict a Byzantine emperor whose wife’s name was Irene. Although it is impossible to identify the emperor with certitude, it was probably an emperor of the Comnenus dynasty, perhaps Alexius I (1081–1118) or John II (1118–43). On either side of the central panel, three rows are occupied by six figures each. The archangels, leaning towards the central figure, occupy the upper register. There are full-length portraits of the Apostles and of the Prophets on the lower register. Twenty-seven enamels comprising scenes from the life of Saint Mark and scenes from the Gospels adorn three sides of the central section. They were added during the third phase. The border that frames the Pala d’Oro itself bears a few enamelled medallions.


message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2012 02:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
[image error]

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Detail of one of the gold panels on the Pala D'Oro

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Detail of panel of Christ from the Pala d'Oro.

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Panel of Empress Irene from the Pala d'Oro

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On the back of the Pala d'Oro is this depiction (1345) of the transport of St. Mark's body from Alexandria to Venice. Public domain.


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
We learn that Venice fell out of favor with the Byzantine empire and I guess vice versa; Herrin only mentioned the 10% tax the Byzantines had to pay and it did seem that Byzantines bent over backwards for Venice. What do you think were the true reasons for the break?


message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2012 07:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Herrin spent a great deal of time discussing how the old Western theologians (Otloh and Peter Damian) made violent unsubstantiated attacks against the Byzantine women who had married Western husbands. Their complaints seem ludicrous in today's standards: they preferred clean water to be bathed in (who wouldn't?), they wanted to wear silk dresses (maybe they were cooler). they wanted to live in scented rooms (probably a good thing), and they did not want to eat with their fingers (understood).

These theologians even continued attacking the women's personal habits and good hygiene even after their deaths.

But it was much deeper than that, they were really trying to undermine the Byzantine influence and customs and more than likely exacerbate any of the religious differences.

Why do you think that these stereotypes still prevailed a thousand years later?


message 13: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments Thanks for your reply Bentley, and for this lot of wonderful pictures and descriptions- it was what caught my eye first in the thread. I wonder how awesome original Byzantine enamel work was, if you say the Pala d'oro was inferior.
I have been to Germany on work, but never to Italy. I have always wanted to see Florence cos of its Renaissance associations, and Rome of course, but now have added Venice and Ravenna to the list :)- it's nice to see photos of Venice which show something other than the canals, and maybe the Doge's palace.


message 14: by Aparajita (last edited Feb 17, 2012 12:42PM) (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments Bentley wrote: "Herrin spent a great deal of time discussing how the old Western theologians (Otloh and Peter Damian) made violent unsubstantiated attacks against the Byzantine women who had married Western husban..."
Historical prejuidices? Fear of the "other'?The notion that the East still contained traces of a pagan/alien culture (to the medieval mind). Jealousy at a wealthier and more advanced culture? Religious rivalry, specially at a time when any kind of difference was labelled as "heresy" Horror at the scientific learning and argument promoted in Byzantium? The medieval church encouraged superstition, and some believed that curiosity or learning from learning's sake was a sin- I have read
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco The Name of the Roseby Umberto Eco Umberto Eco
Also in terms of baths-this is a topic that fascinates me. From the historical works and novels I read, I understand that bathing regularly is a very modern practice at least in northern Europe. I can understand because it is extremely cold in winter, and well drawing bath water and spending precious fuel heating it must have seemed like a waste of resource to the poor people, specially when there was not much urban infrastructure or sanitation. From a hygiene point of view I wonder how the population even survived, though of course there were loads of epidemics. But since religion looked down upon vanity and luxury as a sin, maybe even practices like regular bathing seemed like an unnecessary luxury/extravagance to them?


message 15: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments I'm just hoping that the princesses who took baths regularly also managed to convince their husbands to do the same :(- I know this is absurd, but this is one of the first things that came to my mind...and is a question that always crops up when I read medieval historical novels- specially since several authors seem to like including sex scenes...


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Aparajita wrote: "Thanks for your reply Bentley, and for this lot of wonderful pictures and descriptions- it was what caught my eye first in the thread. I wonder how awesome original Byzantine enamel work was, if yo..."

No the Palo D'Oro for me was spectacular. I do not think that the photography does the piece justice meaning that it was even more spectacular in person. Awesome piece.

Venice is special too and you would love Italy - Milan, Florence, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, of course Rome, Lucca - you cannot go wrong.


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 16, 2012 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Aparajita wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Herrin spent a great deal of time discussing how the old Western theologians (Otloh and Peter Damian) made violent unsubstantiated attacks against the Byzantine women who had marrie..."

That could be about the bathing; but can you imagine bathing in somebody else's bath water (Yikes!!!)

Also remember to do the citations correctly. We require the book cover, the author's photo and the author's link. This is part of our rules and guidelines and is not optional. If you need some assistance just ask any of the Assisting mods or myself.

Like this. Please edit message 14

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco by Umberto Eco Umberto Eco

This thread called the Mechanics of the Board in the Help Desk folder may help you out:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...


message 18: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Aparajita wrote: "I'm just hoping that the princesses who took baths regularly also managed to convince their husbands to do the same :(- I know this is absurd, but this is one of the first things that came to my mi..."

Yes, with the bathing practices that they seems to have - you have to wonder about the husbands' hygiene; the poor princesses.


message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2012 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Also, folks did you notice that our book cover is back. Clouded Leopard in the goodreads librarian section helped us get something back in The this topic is about section. Many thanks Clouded Leopard.


message 20: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim | 117 comments Beautiful photos Bentley. Thanks.

It was interesting to read about Venice well before the Renaissance, not something I'd frequently come across before. It reads as though they had quite a cultural head start from centuries before they peaked.

The criticism of "dainty" Byzantine ways struck me as defensiveness in the face of a culture that has much to envy. Along the lines of "What?! You think you're better than me???!" Could be a way to try to avoid being culturally assimilated. Or maybe they just liked dirt. :-)


message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2012 04:45PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
You are welcome Jim. Have you been to Venice and to the Basilica of San Marco because that is where the Pala D'Oro is housed and on exhibit. I agree the Venetians were a crafty lot.

So true Jim, what a great analogy but as Eleanor Roosevelt said nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. And the Byzantines had nothing to feel inferior about.

You made me laugh about the liking dirt. I just cannot fathom going into the dirty water of another human being and think I was cleaning myself. Yuck.

Also, I have to say that churches hold so much historical value and valuable art and art artifacts - I absolutely believe that while in Venice I must have gone to 30 churches (maybe more). There were so many and each one was magnificent in its own right. I find them all incredible. The Ravenna Mosaics I have not seen and I wish that I had during the last trip to Italy.


message 22: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim | 117 comments Sadly, I haven't been to Venice. But it, Ravenna and Istanbul are much, much higher on my to do list since having started this book.


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Jim, I agree with you about Ravenna and Istanbul. Venice I have been fortunate enough to have spent some time there.


Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I loved the brief history of the fork. Note that not only did Maria use a fork, but her eunuchs were required to cut the food into small pieces first. Isn't it funny to think of a grown woman having castrated men to cut up her food? Amazing how customs change...

I've often wondered where the term "doge" came from. Now I know, thanks to page 204: "Duke" became "dux" became "doge". Language is amazing.

Overall, I found the "Venice and the Fork" chapter quite funny. Every time Herrin refers to Pope Leo's and Patriarch Michael's mutual excommunication, it just cracks me up. And being turned-off by someone who baths in clean water is crazy. As a mother trying to teach my preschooler to NOT eat her food by shoveling it in with alternate hands, it is funny that things have turned exactly upside down. Maybe it would help if I told my preschooler it makes her look like she is from the Middle Ages. :)


Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments I forgot to mention, those pictures are amazing! Thanks for look them up and posting them. And thanks also for the information on Norbert Elias. Good to know I'm not the only one who recognizes Winston but not Norbert. :)


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Yes, Herrin slips in the names of these folks like they are household terms (for her they probably are - smile).

Glad you like the photos.


message 27: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments As I said, hygiene in medieval Europe was very poor, apparently even the royals bathed once a year or something like that...I wonder..since the antique world- the romans, the greeks, and these Byzantines, seemed to have bathed regularly and had high standards of hygiene, why did it deteriorate so much in medieval Europe, at least among the higher classes, who could have afforded clean water and plenty of fuel to heat it with? I guess the men must have thought the queen really soft to need her meat cut up for her.


message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2012 11:20AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Once a year - can you imagine the stench of body odor, perspiration, under arm odor with the men. What a smelly medieval world it must have been. The Byzantines however seem to have high standards and maybe they were more intelligent as to how germs and disease spread and linked hygiene to a healthier populace. Hard to tell. The princesses must have been horrified to have to deal with a lack of culture and what they had been used to and to have thrown in with the likes of those who did not even bathe regularly.


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Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
What were your impressions of the second chapter in our assigned reading and Basil the bulgar slayer?


message 30: by Scott (new)

Scott | 134 comments Bentley wrote: "I was struck in this chapter with the story of the fork. How many of you were also?

"From that moment in 1004/5 when the Byzantine aristocrat Maria Argropoulaina used her little golden fork in ..."


Herrin says that forks were used previously, but forgotten in the early Middle Ages. Half a century ago, I was taught that these were the Dark Ages, when the Roman Empire Collasped and civilisation was lost in Europe and Mediterrean area. I was taught that learning only resumed during the Renaissance, when scholars rumaged through the ruins of old monasteries in order to rediscover Plato and Aristotle.
Now, I find out that Renaissance architcture, art, astronomy, and royal ceremonies came from a part of the world that I had always assumed was Islamic for the last 1500 years. I thought that powerful women and female royalty was an abberation until the Renaissance. No wonder western clerics feared the influence of these uppity women.


message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2012 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
I agree and in part they helped with their demise. Roman Catholics may have been called Constantinople Catholics if the chips fell a bit differently and Rome was more attractive than Constantinople, Then who would have heard of the Vatican?

It is also odd that the Muslims in this part of the region make it appear that the Crusaders were the original usurpers when in fact the Jews were there first, then add the Christians and then the Muslims came and muscled their way in. And there is one of the reasons for the Crusades to try to get those territories back.

It is fascinating how a people can rewrite the history of the region. I was under the same impression and how wrong I was.

If not for the Taurus Mountains and if Constantinople was not so assiduous and powerful, who knows how far the Arabs would have pushed into Europe. Their religion was not optional.

Things have gotten better in Istanbul; at least the whitewashing of some of those magnificent mosaics has been rectified as much as they can. But look at the condition and the beauty of the Ravenna mosaics and one can only imagine how the Hagia Sophia was before it was absconded by the Arabs themselves. It really must have been pretty on the outside too without those minarets.

It bothers me when any religion takes over the churches that were built by others no matter what the denominations. The churches are not theirs.


message 32: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2012 02:44PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
I am going to place this on multiple threads.

This is a great brief sampling of some of the Byzantine Art on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It is a permanent exhibit so whenever you are in town.

Byzantium (ca. 330–1453)

Click on the thumbnails and the thumbnail will expand with a wonderful write-up on each sculpture, artifact, etc. Great little reference with wonderful images.

Enjoy.

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/byza...


message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2012 02:50PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
This is for example the portrait head of Emperor Constantine: (this is tremendously lifelike and you really get a feel of how this man looked(



And they show the sculpture at all angles. Awesome.



Portrait head of Emperor Constantine I, ca. 324–337; Constantinian; Late Antique period
Roman
Marble
H. 37 1/2 in. (95.2 cm)
Bequest of Mary Clark Thompson, 1923 (26.229)

Write-up:

Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome, and his reign had a profound effect on the subsequent development of the Roman, and later Byzantine, world. Constantine's reign marked a distinct shift away from the administrative system set up by the emperor Diocletian in 293 A.D., which saw the division of the empire into four territories each governed by one of four imperial partners. This Tetrarchy was founded on the idea of homogeneous authority; all four emperors were depicted together in portraits emphasizing their unity and indivisibility in order to bolster their strength and present the image of a unified empire. Although Diocletian's intent had been to permanently do away with dynastic succession, Constantine's aim was to establish a new dynasty and to found a new capital, named Constantinople after himself. He also succeeded in reunifying the empire with the defeat of the last of his former tetrarchic colleagues, the Eastern emperor Licinius.

Although the court and administration no longer resided at Rome, Constantine was careful not to neglect the old imperial city and adorned it with many new secular and Christian buildings. The most famous of these is the triumphal arch, the Arch of Constantine, which still stands near the Colosseum. This work contains reused material from earlier monuments, a practice that was not only economical but probably also intended to shed reflected glory on the emperor by associating his reign in a very direct and practical way with that of famous "good" emperors from the past. This desire to link himself to his revered predecessors greatly influenced Constantine's official portraiture, and contributed to the revival of certain classicizing features that had been absent from imperial portraiture for over a century.

The full breadth of Constantine's portraiture demonstrates a remarkable evolution: early coin portraits show him in the manner of the Tetrarchs with a stubble beard and blocky physique, while later portraits such as this one, made after his assumption of sole power, show a significant change. In an effort to disassociate himself from his immediate predecessors, Constantine adopted an official image that recalled the calm, youthful faces of Augustus and Trajan. This colossal portrait head once surmounted an enormous statue of the seated emperor, and displays many features characteristic of Augustan and Trajanic portraiture. Most notably, Constantine is clean-shaven and his cap of hair is thick and arranged in comma-shaped locks across his forehead (compare this with the portrait head of Augustus (07.286.115). As part of his plan to reorganize the empire, Constantine's portraiture offered a new iconography to match his new regime.

This monumental head, as in smaller portraits and coins of Constantine, presents the emperor as detached from the real world. It lacks the intimacy and individual expressiveness of earlier imperial portraits. Constantine gazes into the far distance with his eyes lifted as if to heaven. The symbolism is clear and sets the stage for the iconography of the early Christian and Byzantine world, where the emperor was seen as God's regent on earth.

Same source: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-o...

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City


Tacman | 15 comments Bentley wrote: "Once a year - can you imagine the stench of body odor, perspiration, under arm odor with the men. What a smelly medieval world it must have been. The Byzantines however seem to have high standard..."

Sorry, I can't remember the reference, but I recall reading that the space program has done extensive studies of body odor and that, surprisingly, your clothing absorb a very high percentage of your body odor and that if you can change clothes on a regular basis odor will remain at a sort of steady state and not get progressively worse as you might expect.

I also remember that the Army encouraged us combat troops to not wear underwear, and told us that underwear was invented so that people could change them and not change more expensive outer wear.

So maybe things weren't quite as noxious as we might think.


message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
I am highly suspicious but I will take your word for it (smile).


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Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
There are some wonderful videos here which also introduce you to the new and renovated galleries:

New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia
November 1, 2011–Permanent Installation

http://blog.metmuseum.org/newgallerie...


Tacman | 15 comments I just watched the video about the Art of the Arab Lands. Thanks for posting the link.

Makes me wish I could make it to New York to see the full installation.


message 38: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2012 04:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
It is all installed and I saw it last weekend - too much to get through and absorb. I will have to go back. Magnificent and the audio guide is extremely thorough and well done with even musical selections from each period with the instruments from each region as well as other oral works, stories, recitations, extremely well done and artfully crafted. If you get a chance watch more of the videos in full screen = magnificent authentic workmanship and craftsmanship.

You are welcome; well worth your while.


Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2011 comments A question I've always had about those once-a-year bathers: Why bother bathing at all? If it is so distasteful that you only do it once a year, then why bother?

Okay, I know that there are some who like bathing and wish they could bath more often. But for those who think frequent bathing is crude... why ever do it?


message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Well that is true; why bother at all if you are that dirty.


message 41: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments I seem to have kick-started a thread on bathing :(, re the Bulgar chapter, I never realised that the Bulgars were once so important..

In school,in several years of world history we were just taught ONE chapter on Byzantium- that too very basic. However when we were studying the Renaissance, we were taught that one of the drivers was the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453- apparently the monks escaped with Greek manuscripts to the west. What school never taught us, was the important fact that GREEK THOUGHT and philosophical traditions with their insistence on rational arguments etc not only survived but developed and remained dynamic during this period, allowing finally the renaissance to blossom- they just mentioned something about Byzantium being a bastion of Christianity etc.. This book gave me clarity on all the connections.. even I had the impression that the learning was lying buried in some monasteries in Constantinople and was brought over by monks( since learning in medieval Europe was mainly by the priests- though some rulers were scholars and poets as well)- I didn't realise it was so alive and a part of common people's lives in much the same way it is now- It felt good- kind of like a continuity.
and yeah , I agree, even though I am quite fascinated by medieval Europe, when I compare it to antiquity, it does seem like civilization regressed by centuries. It seems like one of the great tragedies of history, that often a more advanced cultured civilisation or cities are destroyed by primitive nomadic or barbarian ones...


message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Aparajita, no problem, bathing or the Bulgar chapter - probably none of us realized that there were so many issues on something so accepted nowadays as being clean.

Very true but I wonder how much of this was not only buried by Rome as by those who sought to occupy Constantinople and eventually took it over. Rome (meaning what the Vatican has become) had even more to gain by the demise of that great city and the Eastern Orthodox religion which went with it.


message 43: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim | 117 comments Bentley wrote: "Aparajita, no problem, bathing or the Bulgar chapter - probably none of us realized that there were so many issues on something so accepted nowadays as being clean.

Very true but I wonder how mu..."


That's a very interesting idea, that Western Europe (and Rome) had a vested interest in downplaying the importance of Byzantium as it raised the prospect of rival Orthodox Christianity being a good idea.

Herrin mentioned dismissing Byzantium to justify the sacking in 1204, but perhaps wanting to dismiss rival theological (and relatively advanced cultural) views might have been at play as well. I suppose it was complicated enough, particularly as the Protestant/Catholic religious wars began.


message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 24, 2012 03:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Yes, Jim that is what came to mind after reading about all of the tensions between the two churches.

True also about the Protestant/Catholic wars but weren't those later.

I think that the Roman Church at some level maybe was not as upset about the outcome in the long run because now they really were able at that point to have clear sailing.


message 45: by Scott (new)

Scott | 134 comments Bentley wrote: "Yes, Jim that is what came to mind after reading about all of the tensions between the two churches.

True also about the Protestant/Catholic wars but weren't those later.

I think that the Roman..."


Before the fall of Constantinople, 'proto-Protestant' groups, such as the Carthusians and Hussites,appeared in Western Europe. They advocated heretical ideas, like refusing to call their leaders 'priest' and 'bishop'; and , like allowing both water and bread in Communion.


message 46: by Scott (new)

Scott | 134 comments Jim wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Aparajita, no problem, bathing or the Bulgar chapter - probably none of us realized that there were so many issues on something so accepted nowadays as being clean.

Very true but..."


Martin Luther and other early Reformers, corresponded with the Eastern Church, in order to build some commonality. It was the Eastern Church that provided the Protestants with writing about using Councils to resolve differences. Also, the Eastern Church introduced native languages into the Divine Liturgy as a way to encourage religious practise. Before 1453, the Vatican was responsible for killing Wyclif and Tynsdale, for attempting to translate the Bible into English.


message 47: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
It seems like some strange stuff doesn't it. Power is a strange commodity.


message 48: by Aparajita (new)

Aparajita | 29 comments Scott wrote: "Jim wrote: "Bentley wrote: "Aparajita, no problem, bathing or the Bulgar chapter - probably none of us realized that there were so many issues on something so accepted nowadays as being clean.

..."

Yes, I had noticed that common point about the native languages too,in the chapter which talks about the Bible being translated into the Slavic language. The other information is also interesting


message 49: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bentley | 44168 comments Mod
Why should a translation hurt anybody....very strange goings-on.


Tacman | 15 comments Bentley, you're obviously not a Catholic. In my own lifetime the church was still not all that hot about the reforms that led to the use of vernacular language instead of Latin. Knowledge is power.

For that matter there are still holdouts. I, myself, miss Gregorian chant.


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