Author: Irfan Shahîd
Publisher: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection
Release Date: 2009
This fourth installment of "Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century" resumes the previous volume's discussion of the Ghassanids by examining their economic, social, and cultural history. Throughout the volume, the author reveals the history of a fully developed and unique Christian-Arab culture.
The poetry of pre-Islamic Arabia is a neglected tessera in the mosaic of Late Antiquity. It is the only literary corpus of that time that embodies the voices of the Arabs, and is, thus, a critical complementary resource for understanding the history not only of Arabian poetry, but also of Arabian ethos and ideology. Yet, as such, it remains little exploited for reasons large among which loom the ‘question of authenticity’, belief in the myth of ‘the empty Hijaz’, and indefensible assumptions of a primitivity that precludes self-awareness and abstract thought, let alone anything truly ethical or religious. By adopting a transparent approach that addresses these negative assumptions and more, this study demonstrates what is implicit in its title: that the ethics and poetry of sixth-century Arabia are an inseparable equation. Offering, first, a critical overview of key figures from the last hundred years – from Goldziher to Izutsu – who have substantially exploited this corpus to advance views on early Arabian ethos and religion, and, then, an analytic survey of recent major approaches to interpreting its meanings and forms, the study proceeds to a graded semantic analysis of select poems to build a ‘vocabulary’ that elucidates both the mechanisms of the poetry’s content and structure, and its profoundly psychological character. The poetry emerges as a stylized, common discourse, based in an organicist system of ethics that exploits concepts of gender, health and commerce, to reflect a distinct cosmology: one where the heart and body of the individual man is the micro-universe of a greater macrocosm. Weighed against the revolutionary vision of the Qurʾan, the language and figures of this world-view allow us to observe seminal details of a transformation that recasts a universe governed by chance, where virtue is to ‘gamble’ communal resources to ‘purchase’ life for generations to come, as a quasi-commercial investment of belief and striving, which may ‘purchase’ life in a world hereafter.
Author: G. W. Bowersock
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Release Date: 2017-04-10
Little is known about sixth-century Arabia. Yet from this distant time and place emerged a faith and an empire that stretched from Iberia to India. G. W. Bowersock illuminates this obscure yet most dynamic period in Islam, exploring why arid Arabia proved to be fertile ground for Muhammad’s message and why it spread so quickly to the wider world.
Paramount in the shaping of early Byzantine identity was the construction of the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (532-537 CE). This book examines the edifice from the perspective of aesthetics to define the concept of beauty and the meaning of art in early Byzantium. Byzantine aesthetic thought is re-evaluated against late antique Neoplatonism and the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius that offer fundamental paradigms for the late antique attitude towards art and beauty. These metaphysical concepts of aesthetics are ultimately grounded in experiences of sensation and perception, and reflect the ways in which the world and reality were perceived and grasped, signifying the cultural identity of early Byzantium. There are different types of aesthetic data, those present in the aesthetic object and those found in aesthetic responses to the object. This study looks at the aesthetic data embodied in the sixth-century architectural structure and interior decoration of Hagia Sophia as well as in literary responses (ekphrasis) to the building. The purpose of the Byzantine ekphrasis was to convey by verbal means the same effects that the artefact itself would have caused. A literary analysis of these rhetorical descriptions recaptures the Byzantine perception and expectations, and at the same time reveals the cognitive processes triggered by the Great Church. The central aesthetic feature that emerges from sixth-century ekphraseis of Hagia Sophia is that of light. Light is described as the decisive element in the experience of the sacred space and light is simultaneously associated with the notion of wisdom. It is argued that the concepts of light and wisdom are interwoven programmatic elements that underlie the unique architecture and non-figurative decoration of Hagia Sophia. A similar concern for the phenomenon of light and its epistemological dimension is reflected in other contemporary monuments, testifying to the pervasiveness of these aesthetic values in early Byzantium.
Author: Michael Decker
Publisher: Westholme Pub Llc
Release Date: 2013
A Complete Overview of One of the Most Important Military Forces in the History of the World The Byzantine Art of War explores the military history of the thousand-year empire of the eastern Mediterranean, Byzantium. Throughout its history the empire faced a multitude of challenges from foreign invaders seeking to plunder its wealth and to occupy its lands, from the deadly Hunnic hordes of Attila, to the Arab armies of Islam, to the western Crusaders bent on carving out a place in the empire or its former lands. In order to survive the Byzantines relied on their army that was for centuries the only standing, professional force in Europe. Leadership provided another key to survival; Byzantine society produced a number of capable strategic thinkers and tacticians--and several brilliant ones. These officers maintained a level of professionalism and organization inherited and adapted from Roman models. The innovations of the Byzantine military reforms of the sixth century included the use of steppe nomad equipment and tactics, the most important of which was the refinement of the Roman mounted archer. Strategy and tactics evolved in the face of victory and defeat; the shock of the Arab conquests led to a sharp decline in the number and quality of imperial forces. By the eighth and ninth centuries Byzantine commanders mastered the art of the small war, waging guerrilla campaigns, raids, and flying column attacks that injured the enemy but avoided the decisive confrontation the empire was no longer capable of winning. A century later they began the most sustained, glorious military expansion of their history. This work further sketches the key campaigns, battles, and sieges that illustrate Byzantine military doctrine, vital changes from one era to another, the composition of forces and the major victories and defeats that defined the territory and material well-being of its citizens. Through a summary of their strategies, tactics, and innovations in the tools of war, the book closes with an analysis of the contributions of this remarkable empire to world military history.
Author: John F. Haldon
Publisher: Psychology Press
Release Date: 1999
Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World is the first comprehensive study of warfare and the Byzantine world from the sixth to the twelfth century. The book examines Byzantine attitudes to warfare, the effects of war on society and culture, and the relations between the soldiers, their leaders and society. The communications, logistics, resources and manpower capabilities of the Byzantine Empire are explored to set warfare in its geographical as well as historical context. In addition to the strategic and tactical evolution of the army, this book analyses the army in campaign and in battle, and its attitudes to violence in the context of the Byzantine Orthodox Church. The Byzantine Empire has an enduring fascination for all those who study it, and Warfare, State and Society is a colourful study of the central importance of warfare within it.
Author: Greg Fisher
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2011-04-14
An examination of the complex inter-relationships between the Roman and Sasanid Empires, and some of their Arab allies and neighbours, during the last century before the emergence of Islam. Greg Fisher stresses the importance of a Near East dominated by Rome and Iran for the formation of early concepts of Arab identity.
The Cult of St Anna in Byzantium is the first undertaking in Byzantine research to study the phenomenon of St Anna’s cult from the sixth to the fifteenth centuries. It was prompted by the need to enrich our knowledge of a female saint who had already been studied in the West but remained virtually unknown in Eastern Christendom. It focuses on a figure little-studied in scholarship and examines the formation, establishment and promotion of an apocryphal saint who made her way to the pantheon of Orthodox saints. Visual and material culture, relics and texts track the gradual social and ideological transformation of Byzantium from early Christianity until the fifteenth century. This book not only examines various aspects of early Christian and Byzantine civilisation, but also investigates how the cult of saints greatly influenced cultural changes in order to suit theological, social and political demands. The cult of St Anna influenced many diverse elements of Christian life in Constantinople, including the creation of sacred spaces and the location of haghiasmata (fountains of holy water) in the city; imperial patronage; the social reception of St Anna’s story; and relic narratives. This monograph breaks new ground in explaining how and why Byzantium and the Orthodox Church attributed scriptural authority to a minor figure known only from a non-canonical work.
Using a comprehensive evaluation of recent archaeological findings, Avni addresses the transformation of local societies in Palestine and Jordan between the sixth and eleventh centuries AD. Arguing that these archaeological findings provide a reliable, though complex, picture, Avni illustrates how the Byzantine-Islamic transition was a much slower and gradual process than previously thought, and that it involved regional variability, different types of populations, and diverse settlement patterns. Based on the results of hundreds of excavations, including Avni's own surveys and excavations in the Negev, Beth Guvrin, Jerusalem, and Ramla, the volume reconstructs patterns of continuity and change in settlements during this turbulent period, evaluating the process of change in a dynamic multicultural society and showing that the coming of Islam had no direct effect on settlement patterns and material culture of the local population. The change in settlement, stemming from internal processes rather than from external political powers, culminated gradually during the Early Islamic period. However, the process of Islamization was slow, and by the eve of the Crusader period Christianity still had an overwhelming majority in Palestine and Jordan.