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. First, Irfan Shahîd focuses on the economy of the Ghassanids and presents information on various trade routes and fairs. Second, the author reconstructs Ghassanid daily life by discussing topics as varied as music, food, medicine, the role of women, and horse racing. Shahîd concludes the volume with an examination of cultural life, including descriptions of urbanization, Arabic script, chivalry, and poetry. Throughout the volume, the author reveals the history of a fully developed and unique Christian-Arab culture. Shahîd exhaustively describes the society of the Ghassanids, and their contributions to the cultural environment that persisted in Oriens during the sixth century and continued into the period of the Umayyad caliphate.
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: Michael J. Decker
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: 2016-02-25
Genre: Social Science
The Byzantine Dark Ages explores current debates about the sudden transformation of the Byzantine Empire in the wake of environmental, social and political changes. Those studying the Byzantine Empire, the successor to the Roman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean, have long recognized that the mid-7th century CE ushered in sweeping variations in the way of life of many inhabitants of the Mediterranean world, with evidence of the decline of the size and economic prosperity of cities, a sharp fall in expressions of literary culture, the collapse in trade networks, and economic and political instability. Michael J. Decker looks at the material evidence for the 7th to 9th centuries, lays out the current academic discourse about its interpretation, and suggests new ways of thinking about this crucial era. Important to readers interested in understanding how and why complex societies and imperial systems undergo and adapt to stresses, this clearly written, accessible work will also challenge students of archaeology and history to think in new ways when comprehending the construction of the past.
Author: Nadia Maria El-Cheikh
Publisher: Harvard CMES
Release Date: 2004
This book studies the Arabic-Islamic view of Byzantium, tracing the Byzantine image as it evolved through centuries of warfare, contact, and exchanges. Including previously inaccessible material on the Arabic textual tradition on Byzantium, this investigation shows the significance of Byzantium to the Arab Muslim establishment and their appreciation of various facets of Byzantine culture and civilization. The Arabic-Islamic representation of the Byzantine Empire stretching from the reference to Byzantium in the Qur'an until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 is considered in terms of a few salient themes. The image of Byzantium reveals itself to be complex, non-monolithic, and self-referential. Formulating an alternative appreciation to the politics of confrontation and hostility that so often underlies scholarly discourse on Muslim-Byzantine relations, this book presents the schemes developed by medieval authors to reinterpret aspects of their own history, their own self-definition, and their own view of the 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.
By the sixth century of the common era the Roman Empire already had many hundreds of years of accumulated ceremonial embedded in its government, and practical science embodied in its army. The transition from Republic to Imperium and the more hierarchical structure that entailed, and the absorption of Christianity into state processes, had pushed the development of court ceremonial apace, and particularly driven its embodiment and display in ever more opulent regalia. The regalia embraced not only garments of distinctive form and decoration, but also both dress and non-dress accessories. It was crucial in displaying rank and function on an everyday basis, yet was also varied considerably for special occasions. Military dress largely reflected forms current amongst ordinary men, but with an emphasis on functionality, eschewing the excesses of fashion. Detailed literary and artistic sources, archaeology and insights derived from reconstruction and practical experience has gone into creating an incredibly lavish picture of the clothing of the longest-enduring political entity in history. Links End Links Author End Author
Author: Peter Crawford
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Release Date: 2013-07-16
War of the Three Gods is a military history of the first half of seventh century, with heavy focus on the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius (AD 610-641). This was a pivotal time in world history as well as a dramatic one. The Eastern Roman Empire was brought to the very brink of extinction by the Sassanid Persians, before Heraclius managed to inflict a crushing defeat on the Sassanids with a desperate, final gambit. His conquests were short-lived, however, for the newly-converted adherents of Islam burst upon the region, administering the coup de grace to Sassanid power and laying siege to Constantinople itself to usher in a new era. ??Peter Crawford skilfully narrates the three-way struggle between the Christian Byzantine, Sassanid Persian and Islamic empires, a period peopled with fascinating characters, including Heraclius, Khusro II and the Prophet Muhammad himself. Many of the epic battles and sieges are described in as much detail as possible including Nineveh, Yarmouk, Qadisiyyah and Nihawand, Jerusalem and Constantinople. The strategies and tactics of these very different armies are discussed and analysed, while maps allow the reader to place the events and follow the varying fortunes of the contending empires. This is an exciting and important study of a conflict that reshaped the map of the world.
Author: Robert G. Hoyland
Release Date: 2002-09-11
Long before Muhammed preached the religion of Islam, the inhabitants of his native Arabia had played an important role in world history as both merchants and warriors Arabia and the Arabs provides the only up-to-date, one-volume survey of the region and its peoples, from prehistory to the coming of Islam Using a wide range of sources - inscriptions, poetry, histories, and archaeological evidence - Robert Hoyland explores the main cultural areas of Arabia, from ancient Sheba in the south, to the deserts and oases of the north. He then examines the major themes of *the economy *society *religion *art, architecture and artefacts *language and literature *Arabhood and Arabisation The volume is illustrated with more than 50 photographs, drawings and maps.