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, 2020

Archaeologists Unearth 2,200-Year-Old Mosaics

One of the most important cities in the Eastern Roman Empire was Zeugma: A once flourishing city home to 80,000 inhabitants situated in the present-day province of Gazientep in southern Turkey.

Now, researchers are digging up exciting ancient mosaics. Excavations began in 2007 and just seven years earlier, in 2000, the ancient city was completely submerged underwater.

To this day, 25 houses of the 2000-3000 discovered remain under water. Not only were the finding of the houses remarkable, but three incredibly well preserved colored glass mosaics that date back to 2nd century BC were also discovered.

The first mosaic depicts the nine Muses – the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science and the arts.

The second mosaic depicts Ocean – the divine personification of the sea – and his sister Tethys. The third, smaller in size mosaic, depicts a young man.

“From now on, we will work on restoration and conservation. We plan to establish a temporary roof for long-term protection. We estimate that the ancient city has 2,000-3,000 houses. Twenty-five of them remain under water. Excavations will be finished in the Muzalar House next year,” said head of the excavations, Professor Kutalmış Görkay.  

--- from Can You Actually

Zeugma is an ancient city of Commagene; located in modern Gaziantep ProvinceTurkey. It was named for the bridge of boats, or zeugma, that crossed the Euphrates river at that location. Parts of Zeugma have become submerged in the Euphrates River since the construction of the Birecik Dam.

The use of mosaics was a practical, albeit expensive, means of creating a smooth, level floor; but they were also highly decorative, designed to impress with their beautiful and sophisticated use of decorative tesserae, which were carefully placed to create geometric patterns or scenes with mythological themes. 

More than 2,000m of mosaics were uncovered at Zeugma, and most are now exhibited over the three floors of this museum. While the majority of the mosaics come from Zeugma, there are also some examples recovered from other sites around Gaziantep, including some 6th century AD artworks from churches in the region.

The mosaics from Zeugma are displayed as they were found, positioned according to their original on-site locations: those uncovered closest to the Euphrates are the first on view inside the museum entrance; those from higher up the terrace above the river bank are laid out beyond and on the upper floors of the building. 

Visitors ‘enter’ Zeugma as if from the river level, then rise up as though climbing the terrace sets on a stroll through the city. The effect is of wandering through the villas, seeing how the people lived, their beliefs, their culture, and their daily life. Gigantic photographic displays of Zeugma on the walls add to the illusion, and those mosaics where part of the image has been damaged or lost have been ‘filled in’ by light projection.

The bathhouse is displayed on the lowest level of the museum, along with the magnificent statue of Mars, God of War. On the next level are the houses that once sat along the banks of the Euphrates, now given the names ‘Poseidon’, ‘Euphrates’, and ‘Dionysus’, according to the subject of their fine mosaics.

One of the most striking mosaics portrays the Titan Oceanus and his wife Tethys – mythological primordial sea deities, parents of the world’s rivers, fountains and lakes – with each of their 3,000 daughters, nymphs called Oceanids. But the most famous artwork is the haunting mosaic nicknamed ‘Gypsy Girl’. In fact, she is a Maenad – a follower of Dionysus – and her beautiful portrait, housed in a special room with labyrinth-themed decorations, has become the unofficial symbol of the Zeugma excavations.

--- from Turkey Cultural Tour

Mars, God of War

(canyouactually.com)    (Zeugma -Commagene)    (turkeyculturaltour.com)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

General Belisarius in Sicily and Constantinople

General Belisarius in Syracuse, Sicily
(Illustration of Mile Jakubiec, drawn for the book "Ancient Generals").

One of Rome's Greatest Generals

This beautiful painting of General Belisarius during his conquest of Sicily caught my eye.

Belisarius, December 31, 535

Procopius of Caesarea, "History of Wars"

(...) because, having received the dignity of the consulate because of his victory against the vandals, while he had that honor, and after having won all Sicily, on his last day of consulate, he marched to Syracuse, being applauded by The Army and the Sicilians and throwing gold coins to all of them. That coincidence, however, did not intentionally come out of him, but it was something happy for that man, who after having recovered the whole island for the Romans left to Syracuse on that particular day; and even though he was not in the Senate of Byzantium, as usual, delivered the mandate of the consuls and became ex-Consul. Therefore, that gave good fortune to Belisario ".

Belisarius then refused to accept the western imperial crown offered by the Ostrogoths in Italy. Not only that, but led to Constantinople the crown crown to offer it to Justinian.

Although it seems amazing, the history of Sicily was repeated 621 years later there and in Southern Italy when the imperial army was launched to the reconquest of Southern Italy and Sicily in 1156. The citizens of Bari opened their doors And they welcomed Emperor Manuel Komnenos as a liberator.

Thanks to Facebook: Life in the Eastern Roman Empire

Artist conception of Vandal and Alan warriors
defeated by Belisarius in North Africa.

By Procopius of Caesarea
(AD 500 – c. AD 565)

After the re-conquest of North Africa, General Belisarius war given a Triumph in the Hippodrome of Constantinople where he was awarded the office of Consul.

A Triumph in Constantinople
January 1, 535 A.D.

Belisarius, upon reaching Byzantium with Gelimer and the Vandals, was counted worthy to receive such honours, as in former times were assigned to those generals of the Romans who had won the greatest and most noteworthy victories. And a period of about six hundred years had now passed since anyone had attained these honours, except, indeed, Titus and Trajan, and such other emperors as had led armies against some barbarian nation and had been victorious.

For he displayed the spoils and slaves from the war in the midst of the city and led a procession which the Romans call a "triumph," not, however, in the ancient manner, but going on foot from his own house to the hippodrome and then again from the barriers until he reached the place where the imperial throne is.

And there was booty,—first of all, whatever articles are wont to be set apart for the royal service,—thrones of gold and carriages in which it is customary for a king's consort to ride, and much jewelry made of precious stones, and golden drinking cups, and all the other things which are useful for the royal table.

And there was also silver weighing many thousands of talents and all the royal treasure amounting to an exceedingly great sum (for Gizeric had despoiled the Palatium in Rome, as has been said in the preceding narrative), and among these were the treasures of the Jews, which Titus, the son of Vespasian, together with certain others, had brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem.

The Hippodrome of Constantinople
Image from Istanbul Life.org

And one of the Jews, seeing these things, approached one of those known to the emperor and said: "These treasures I think it inexpedient to carry into the palace in Byzantium. Indeed, it is not possible for them to be elsewhere than in the place where Solomon, the king of the Jews, formerly placed them. For it is because of these that Gizeric captured the palace of the Romans, and that now the Roman army has captured that the Vandals." When this had been brought to the ears of the Emperor, he became afraid and quickly sent everything to the sanctuaries of the Christians in Jerusalem.

And there were slaves in the triumph, among whom was Gelimer himself, wearing some sort of a purple garment upon his shoulders, and all his family, and as many of the Vandals as were very tall and fair of body.

And when Gelimer reached the hippodrome and saw the emperor sitting upon a lofty seat and the people standing on either side and realized as he looked about in what an evil plight he was, he neither wept nor cried out, but ceased not saying over in the words of the Hebrew scripture: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." And when he came before the emperor's seat, they stripped off the purple garment, and compelled him to fall prone on the ground and do obeisance to the Emperor Justinian.

This also Belisarius did, as being a suppliant of the emperor along with him. And the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora presented the children of Ilderic and his offspring and all those of the family of the Emperor Valentinian with sufficient sums of money, and to Gelimer they gave lands not to be despised in Galatia and permitted him to live there together with his family. However, Gelimer was by no means enrolled among the patricians, since he was unwilling to change from the faith of Arius.

A little later the triumph was celebrated by, Belisarius in the ancient manner also. For he had the fortune to be advanced to the office of consul, and therefore was borne aloft by the captives, and as he was thus carried in his curule chair, he threw to the populace those very spoils of the Vandalic war. For the people carried off the silver plate and golden girdles and a vast amount of the Vandals' wealth of other sorts as a result of Belisarius' consulship, and it seemed that after a long interval of disuse an old custom was being revived.

These things, then, took place in Byzantium in the manner described.

Belisarius and his Staff
(Johnny Shumates Portfolio)
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