Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1,500 year old Byzantine-era church uncovered in Israel

A 1500-year-old church building, dating to the Byzantine era, was uncovered in Israel on Wednesday. The Israel Antiquities Authority was excavating a site where the Israel Land Authority is beginning new construction on a neighborhood in Moshav Aluma. The 1,500-year-old church building was a surprise to archaeologists, as it was the first of its size found in the area.
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1106606/1500-year-old-church-building-discovered-in-israel-reveals-beautiful-mosaic/#TtY4Xv3Ud3BZASBa.99

A 1500-year-old church building, dating to the Byzantine era, was uncovered in Israel on Wednesday. The Israel Antiquities Authority was excavating a site where the Israel Land Authority is beginning new construction on a neighborhood in Moshav Aluma. The 1,500-year-old church building was a surprise to archaeologists, as it was the first of its size found in the area.
Archaeological finds are always exciting in Israel because of the rich religious tradition and history found in the region. The Byzantine era existed from the 4th century until 15th century, when modern day Istanbul, then Constantinople, fell to the Ottoman Turks. They scattered large basilicas from Europe to Israel. As a continuation of the Roman Empire, they were known for their ornate structures and use of religious relics.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1106606/1500-year-old-church-building-discovered-in-israel-reveals-beautiful-mosaic/#TtY4Xv3Ud3BZASBa.99
A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor with colorful images of animals, botanical and geometrical designs has been brought to light during the excavation of a Byzantine-era Christian church in southern Israel.

The church was part of a major Byzantine settlement located next to the main road running between Ashkelon on Israel's Mediterranean coast and Jerusalem to the east. Previous excavations along the road had found traces of other communities from the same period, but no churches.

The mosaic that was in the church's main hall features 40 decorative medallions. Some of the medallions depict animals including a zebra, a leopard, a turtle, a wild boar and various types of birds. Three medallions contain Greek inscriptions that commemorate two church leaders named Demetrios and Herakles.

Archaeologist Daniel Varga said another mosaic features "a 12-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction." Inside a pottery workshop, archaeologists found jars, cooking pots, bowls and oil lamps.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) say the Byzantine-era structure "probably served as a center of Christian worship for neighboring communities."

The discovery was made during a routine salvage excavation conducted by the IAA prior to the construction of a new neighborhood in the area.

The building is approximately 72 feet long by 40 feet wide and consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. An open courtyard at the front of the structure is paved with a white mosaic floor and a cistern.

Directly off of the courtyard is a rectangular hall with another more intricate mosaic floor with colored geometric designs.

Including among the finds are five inscriptions, one of which mentions Mary and Jesus.

"At its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction," archaeologist Daniel Varga said in a press release.

The main hall has a mosaic with depictions of a variety of animals including zebra, leopard, turtle and wild boar. The designs also include Christian symbols.

Archaeologists also discovered glass vessels, oil lamps, amphorae, cooking pots, kraters, and bowls. These finds "indicate a rich and flourishing local culture" during the Byzantine period.

In order to preserve the site, it will be covered with dirt and the IAA is making plans to remove the mosaic floors to be put on display.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish youths watch as Israeli
archaeologists work on the mosaic.

The intricate artwork was found when a 1,500-year-old Byzantine church
was excavated and has Greek symbols, which archaeologists said show
that it once served as a center of Christian worship.

An ancient mosaic showing a menagerie of animals from birds (pictured) to
leopards, has been unearthed in southern Israel in a town near Tel Aviv.

Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered marble pillars and
the mosaic floor inside the basilica, which measures 72ft by 39ft (22 by 12metres).  Tiles of different colors were assembled to create a geometrical design.

The mosaics in what would have been the church's nave are decorated with vines in the shape of 40 medallions, which each show a different animal, including a zebra, leopard (foreground), wild boar (back left), turtle and winged birds as well as botanical and geometric designs.

Provincia Palaestina Prima
The recently discovered church was located in the Roman Empire province of Judea which later became the Eastern Roman Province of Palaestina.
Rome's involvement in the area dated from 63 BCE, following the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when Rome made Syria a province.  In that year, after the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus, the proconsul Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) sacked Jerusalem and entered the Jerusalem Temple. Subsequently, during the 1st century BCE, the Herodian Kingdom was established as a Roman client kingdom and then in 6 CE parts became a province of the Roman Empire.
Palæstina Prima or Palaestina I was a Byzantine province from 390, until the 7th century. It was lost to the Jewish Sassanid Commonwealth in 614, but was re-annexed in 628, before its final loss during the Muslim conquest of Syria in 636.
(Palaestina Prima)      (Roman Province Judea)

(NBC News)      (Fox News - science)      (Daily Mail)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Gates of Hell Closed by the Byzantines

Pluto's Gate To Hell 
The Emperor Justinian closed the Gate to Hell as part
of his crackdown on freedom of religion.

A “Gate to Hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced a few months ago.

Known as Pluto's Gate -- Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin -- the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.

“This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 AD) wrote.

“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.

Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.

The Gate to Hell
A digital reconstruction of the site in Southern Turkey that has
been discovered by a team of architects from Italy.

D'Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis. Two years ago he claimed to discover there the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.

Founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), Hierapolis was given over to Rome in 133 B.C.

The Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties.

God of the Underworld

“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave,” D'Andria told Discovery News.

Featuring a vast array of abandoned broken ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, the site revealed more ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities of the underworld -- Pluto and Kore.

D'Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave -- all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.

“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D'Andria said.

According to the archaeologist, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.

The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

“We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D'Andria said.
Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the hell gate without any apparent damage.

Emperor Justinian

“They hold their breath as much as they can,” Strabo wrote, adding that their immunity could have been due to their "menomation," “divine providence” or “certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.”

According to D'Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. Indeed, the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli's phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations.

“This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources,” Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.

Fully functional until the 4th century AD, and occasionally visited during the following two centuries, the site represented “an important pilgrimage destination for the last pagan intellectuals of the Late Antiquity,” Filippini said.

During the 6th century AD, the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.

D'Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site.

Rome: Worship in Rome (HBO)  

Pluto and Religious Freedom
The Pagans were right about the Christians.  Once in power the Christians of the Roman Empire did everything possible to prevent freedom of religion with persecutions of their fellow Christians, Jews and Pagans of all types.
Eastern Emperor Theodosius II enacted two anti-Pagan laws in the year 425. The first of these stipulated that all Pagan superstition was to be rooted out. The second law barred Pagans from pleading a case in court and also disqualified them from serving as soldiers.  He also ordered that all Pagan shrines, temples and sanctuaries that still existed were to be destroyed by the magistrates. Magistrates who failed to carry out this order were ordered to be punished with death.
Emperor Marcian decreed, in the year 451, that those who continued to perform the Pagan rites would suffer the confiscation of their property and be condemned to death.
Under the Emperor Justinian the Pagan persecutions began with an inquisition at Constantinople. Many persons of the highest position were accused and condemned. Their property was confiscated.  A large number of Senators, "with a crowd of grammarians, sophists, lawyers, and physicians," were denounced, not without the use of torture, and suffered whippings and imprisonment.
The Ecclesiastical History says that 70,000 Pagan souls were "converted" (by force naturally) in Western Asia Minor. The temples were destroyed; 96 churches and 12 monasteries were founded.  This would have been the area where the Gate to Hell is located.
See our full article The Roman Suppression of Paganism
Location of the Gate to Hell.

During the rites, priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.The ceremony included
leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.

Spectators: The steps next to the temple from where people
were believed to watch the sacred rites.

Just like in the historic texts, birds that flew to close to the opening
were killed by the carbon dioxide fumes.

The network of thermal springs that led archaeologists to the site is
also responsible for the creation of the stunning White
Travertine Terraces of Pamukkale.

The site, in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale in southwestern
Turkey, is said to closely match historical descriptions.

Among the ruins the archaeologists discovered Ionic semi-columns with
inscription to gods of the underworld Pluto and Kore.

(Pluto - God of the Underworld)        (UK Daily Mail)

(Fox News.com/science)        (aworldofmyths.com - Roman Gods/Pluto)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Alanya Castle in Anatolia

The Roman-Byzantine-Turkish Fortress of Alanya

Alanya Castle is a magnificent ruin which sits atop a 250-metre high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The castle was built on the remnants of earlier Byzantine era and Roman era fortifications with walls stretching over 6km.

The origins of the city today known as Alanya date back thousands of years. References to the ancient city of Coracesium, the name for the early settlement, can be found from the 4th Century BC.

The castle rock was likely inhabited under the Hittites and the Achaemenid Empire, and was first fortified in the Hellenistic period following the area's conquest by Alexander the Great.

During much of antiquity, Alanya notoriously sheltered pirates thanks to its perfectly designed bay and harbor.  Antiochus VII Sidetes of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire completed work in 137 BC on a new castle and port.

The period of piracy in Alanya finally ended after the city's incorporation into the Pamphylia province by Pompey in 67 BC, with the Battle of Korakesion fought in the city's harbor.

Isaurian banditry remained an issue under the Romans, and the tribes revolted in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, with the largest rebellion being from 404 to 408.

The castle is in the city of Alanya, Turkey
which is part of Antalya province (in red). 
In 395AD the Roman Empire effectively split into two nations and two emperors. The city of Alanya remained under the Eastern Roman Empire.

The region was under the military governance of the Theme of Cibyrrhaeot.  The castle would have become an important fortification for the southern coast of Anatolia.

In church affairs the area was a suffragan of Side, in the metropolis of Pamphylia Prima.
Islam arrived in the 7th century with Arab raids and major wars going deep into Anatolia for hundreds of years.  The endless 400 years of Arab wars led to the construction of new fortifications in the city though details are few.

681 marked the end of a bishopric in Alanya, although St. Peter of Atroa may have taken refuge here from iconoclastic persecution in the early 9th century.

The area fell from Byzantine control after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 to tribes of Seljuk Turks, only to be returned in 1120 by Emperor John II Komnenos.

Emperor John II Komnenos
reconquered the Alanya area for the empire.

Early in John's reign the Turks were pressing forward against the Byzantine frontier in western Asia Minor, and he was determined to drive them back.

In 1119, the Seljuqs had cut the land route to the city of Antalya on the southern coast of Anatolia. John II and Axouch the Grand Domestic recaptured Laodicea and Sozopolis, re-opening land communication with Antalya. This route was especially important as it also led to Cilicia and the Crusader states of Syria.

John's campaigns continued into central Anatolia and into Syria until 1142.  John's campaigns benefited the Byzantine Empire because they protected the empire's heartland, which lacked reliable borders, while gradually extending its territory back into Asia Minor. The Turks were forced onto the defensive.

Following the Fourth Crusade's attack on Constantinople the empire broke up into Latin and Greek states.

After over 1,000 years Roman rule ended.  The Christian Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia periodically held the port and castle of Alanya.

It was from an Armenian, Kir Fard, that the Turks took lasting control in 1221 when the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Kayqubad I captured it, assigning the former ruler, whose daughter he married, to the governance of the city.

Seljuk rule saw the golden age of the city, and it can be considered the winter capital of their empire. Building projects, including the twin citadel, city walls, arsenal, and Kızıl Kule (Red Tower) made it an important seaport for western Mediterranean trade, particularly with Ayyubid Egypt and the Italian city-states.

Alaeddin Kayqubad I also constructed numerous gardens and pavilions outside the walls, and many of his works can still be found in the city. These were likely financed by his own treasury and by the local emirs, and constructed by the contractor Abu 'Ali al-Kattani al-Halabi. Alaeddin Kayqubad I's son, Sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II, continued the building campaign with a new cistern in 1240.

The harbour and port that shielded Cicilian bandits and pirates in the 3rd Century BC, referred to as the Tersane or Dockyard, was turned into the main naval base of the Seljuk navy.

The Eastern Roman Empire in 1140.
Emperor John II Komnenos fought numerous wars against the Turks to secure the
southern coast of Anatolia for the empire and improve lines of communication
with the Christian Crusader States in Syria.

The Byzantine era Church of Saint George inside Alanya Castle. 

Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi)

Alanya Castle, Turkey

Inside the Castle walls are a number of interesting buildings and monuments, including the palace of Alaaddin Keykubat, as well as several Mosques (including the 16th Century Suleymaniye Mosque) and even a church, proof of the often diverse and tolerant nature of the city.

Opposite the Suleymaniye Mosque is a covered Bazaar or Bedesten, used during the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading base. There are numerous other buildings and fortifications surrounding the Castle, including the Ehmedek (middle battlements), an arsenal (or Tophane) and a Mint (Darphane), although interestingly not a single coin was minted there. There are also many sea caves that can only be reached by boat. The Castle Citadel (or Ickale), dating to the 6th century, contains a platform that today offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula.

That Alanya Castle is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list is testament to its diverse and sprawling history. With over 6km of defensive wall reinforced by 140 bastions and 400 cisterns, Alanya was perhaps one of the best-defended cities in the Mediterranean.

Alanya Castle would have been one of the fortifications in the
Eastern Roman military district - The Theme of Cibyrrhaeot.

Alanya Castle looking down on the city and harbor.

Built in 1226, the Red Tower was completed by the Seljuk Turks immediately
after their conquest of the southern coast.

The Tower and the Castle
The Fortifications at Alanya date back over 2,400 years ago.  It is impossible to know what the complex looked like under the Achaemenid Empire, the Romans or the Byzantines.
It was certainly common that when fortifications were updated they would use the original walls and buildings as a starting point.  After all, why start from scratch?  That would be a waste of time and money.
Looking at the newer Turkish built Red Tower you can see the differences in stone work and color as compared to the older castle walls.  There is also a color difference between the upper wall of the castle itself and the lower portion.  That implies Turkish repairs to existing walls. 
It is logical to conclude that the current castle looks much as it did in Byzantine times.  Naturally the Turks would have done repairs over the years to the existing walls and perhaps even expanded them.   

(John II Komnenos)      (Alanya Castle)      (City of Alanya)