Friday, April 29, 2011

The wedding document of princess Theophano


Theophano or Theophanu Byzantine princess and later Holy Roman empress

Married to Otto II on Easter 972, Theophanu (also Theophano) was crowned empress on the same occasion. The marriage was the result of an alliance between Otto I and the Byzantine Empire. Otto desired a princess of imperial descent (porphyrogenita) for his son to help legitimize Ottonian rule. Instead of a porphyrogenita,though, he received Theophanu, a noble kinswoman of the Byzantine usurper John Tzimiskes. Contemporary sources agree that she was not the “longed-for princess,” but her Greek sophistication and enormous treasure overcame most dissent to the marriage.
Theophanu, almost certainly born in 959, soon exerted a strong influence over Otto II, as can be seen in her sixtysix interventions among Otto II’s 317 extant documents. She traveled with him almost continually, even giving birth to her children at monasteries along the royal itinerary, so she could rejoin her husband quickly. She was blamed for Otto II’s ill-fated campaign to southern Italy, although it is unlikely she would have favored the Byzantine government after the Macedonian dynasty was restored in 976.

After Otto II’s death on December 7, 983, Theophanu at first made no effort to claim the regency for her infant son Otto III. After Duke Henry the Quarrelsome proved his unsuitability for the post by trying to make himself king, though, the twenty-three-year-old Theophanu stepped into the vacuum that had been created. She gained power especially thanks to the efforts of Archbishop Willigis of Mainz, who summoned her from Italy to help protect her son’s rights. She then acted as effective sole regent until her death. Although she did not lead troops herself, Theophanu supported the Saxon margraves’s campaigns against the Slavs. Even the frequently hostile Quedlinburg annalist gives her credit for restoring political stability after Otto II’s defeat at Cotrone, the Slav revolt of 983, and Otto’s untimely death. She reestablished alliances with the Danes, Boleslav II of Bohemia, and Mieszko I of Poland through diplomacy, and was also able to maintain loose German control over Italy. In the fall of 989 she was able to visit Rome for business with only a few followers, acting there as “emperor Theophanius,” using the masculine form to give her authority since she could not issue documents in the name of the absent Otto III. Much of her authority as regent came from her close alliance with churchmen who often acted as her agents, especially Gerbert of Aurillac and Bishop Notker of Liège.
Contemporaries accused Theophanu of excessive love of luxury and of talkativeness, perhaps a comment on the unusual role she played as a female ruler. Kinder commentators have called her “eloquent.” She appears to have been pious, acting as a typical royal widow of the time in her alms and prayers for her husband’s soul. She was about thirty years old when she died on June 15, 991, in Nijmegen, leaving a stable realm for her son. She is buried in the monastery of St. Pantaleon, Cologne.

The Document

For the arrival of Theophanu in Rome in 972 a show of Byzantine splendour was put on. In elaborate ceremonies, the princess was first married to Otto II and then crowned as Empress of Rome. AS part of the festivities, Theophanu was issued with a document outlining her rights and the donations of lands as part of her dowry. The document is one of the most beautiful parchment documents that has come down to us from the Middle Ages. It was produced on purple parchment and written in gold ink, a process reserved for Imperial decrees of the highest order.
the document(or probably a copy of it)

The document held at the State Archive of Wolfenbüttel in Germany is probably only a copy, though it might be Theophanu’s personal copy at that. The archive is the legal successor to the dissolved convent at Gandersheim where the Imperial family deposited their personal documents. The document lists the lands that passed to Theophanu by marriage and her rights as Empress and as a member of the Imperial Council. In fact, Theophanu received the same amount of power as her mother-in-law Empress Adelheid.
A copy of the document may be viewed in the Café Theophanu in Quendlinburg, in case you don’t want to go through the hassle of gaining access to the State Archive in Wolfenbüttel.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greek presence in Libya(part 2: The history of Cyrene until Roman times)

The expansion of the Greeks in Cyrenaica.

Archaeological evidence shows that Cyrene since the early times maintained commercial contact with Greece and the Greek colony of Naucratis in Egypt. The Agricultural production was bringing a surplus of products to the Cyreneans and therefore they were able to export it along with wool and ox hides.Trade with the Libyans of the interior developed to an unpremeditated importance.This was due to the discovery of a mysterious plant which in the antiquity was called silphion(silphium).
Exportation of Silphion
The mysterious Silphion
Silphion's root served a variety of culinary and medicinal purposes. The plant was growing only in Cyrenaica and it dissapeared in Roman times. Thus the modern scientists are unable to identify it.It grew in the desert margins south of the Greek territory and the Libyan natives collected its roots.The Kings of Cyrene maintained a monopoly of Silphion trade and this brought them considerable profits. Silphion was so important that  many Cyrenean coins found in Libya that depict Silphion instead of Kings or other important figures of Cyrene.

For a half cetury after its foundation Cyrene remained a small settlement, but a great expansion took place under the third king Battos II, surnamed Eudaimon(means prosperous) who took the throne probably in 583.Battos invited new settlers from Greece promising them allotments of land. There was a flood of immigrants from Crete the Aegean islands and Peloponese.However two problems were raised from this new colonisation. The first was the integration of the new immigrants with the original Therean colonists and second was that land should be taken from the native Libyans to be given to the newcomers.

The Libyans fearing that they would lost their land appealed to the king of Egypt for military aid. The Egyptian king sent an army to deal with the Greeks but he was defeated at Irasa by the greek army. After this the Cyrenean kingdom expanded considerably in the interior of Libya.For the security of Greek estates there were constructions of fortified farmhouses called in Greek pyrgoi(towers) around which small villages developed.

Temple of Zeus . Dates from the 4rth century BC.

With the exception of the first king the reign of the succeeding kings was considered tyrranical. There were civil wars during the reign of some kings and new cities were found in Cyrenaica by the exiled.For example Barce was founded by the exiled brothers of king Arkesilas who tried to usurp his throne.Also however the first involvement of Egyptians was unforunate for them during the period of Cyrenean kingdom the Egyptian kings maintained a strong influence in Cyrenean politics and succession.Eventually after years of instability a king anamed Battus III made some reforms reducing the royal power only on religious affairs and giving the political power to a council of magistrates elected by the rich citizens.However this didn't last long and royal power was restored later at its maximum.

With the Persian conquest of Egypt the  Cyrenean cities became tributary to the Persians.However the Persians weren't stopped of being involved in Cyrenean politics. During an another civil war the a Persian army was sent in Cyrenaica as a request of one of the pretenders of the throne. This army went as westwards as Euesperidae. Since 476 with the defeat of Persians in mainland Greece Persian influence on Cyrenaica was loosened.

From the museum of Ancient Cyrene
After 476 one Cyrenean king called Arkesilas IV became famous in Greece for winning the chariot race in the Pythian games(a similar event with the Olympic games but inferior in importance) and for commissioning the notorious poet Pindar to write to odes about his victory. After his death in 439 BC the Battiad dynasty ended too(Battiad from the name of the first king Battus)

After the end of the Battiad dunasty little is known about Cyrene.  The detailed history of the early years of Cyrene was a legacy of Herodotus who visited Cyrene and recorded all it traditions.It is sure though that there were many democratic reforms after the end of the Battiad dynasty but still internal strife continued to exist.There are also indications of hostilities between Libyans and Greeks. In 413 BC the Libyans besieged Euesperidae  but fortunately a greek fleet that was blown off  course on the way to Sicily relieved the city.
Ptolemaic propylon in Cyrene

During the years 400-350 BC the Greeks achieved crucial victories over Libyan tribes to the west of Euhesperidae and expanded furthermore. The Egyptians at this time were in a weak state and were not able to interfere anymore in Cyrenean politics.

Alexander the Great captured Egypt in 332. In the same year Cyrene sent envoys to offer alliance to Alexander which he accepted. In 322 after Alexander's death the King of Hellenistic Egypt Ptolemy took advantage of the civil conflicts in Cyrenaica and conquered the whole region establishing a garrison in Cyrene and a Ptolemaic governor.Eventually in 96 BC a Ptolemaic king ceded Cyrenaica to the Romans and in 74BC it became formally a Roman province.

Source: The Cambridge history of Africa

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Greek presence in Libya (1rst part: The founding of Cyrene)

Cyrenean coin that depicts Ammon Zeus.
Cyrenaica was  colonized by the Greeks from the 7th century BCE. The oldest and most important foundation was that of Cyrene, established in 631 BCE by colonists from the island Thera, who had left the island because of a famine.

The Greek Pentapolis in the Cyrenean penisula.
Nevertheless various attempts have been made by scholars to prove that the settlement of Greeks of Thera in Libya was preceded by an older wave of Greek settlers. Allusions to this older colonization have been found in the verses of Pindar who tells of the encounter of settlers of Thera with the Antenorids who had come to Libya with Helen after the capture of Troy.Various philologists have sought to attribute distinctive elements  surviving in the Cyrenean dialect to an earlier stratum of Greek speaking settlers .According to Schachermeier Achaeans who had reached Libya by way of Cyrene joined the alliance of Libyan tribes to attack Egypt.

The colonization of Libya by Theran pioneers was among the latest colonizing projects of the ancient Greeks and was an isolated phenomenon.It was a specific situation created by the overpopulation of the Greek island of Thera(modern Santorini) 

According to the Theran tradition Grinnos the king of Thera went to the Oracle of Delphi with Battus son of Polymnestos to consult the Oracle. Pythia told them to found a colony in Libya.The Thereans paid a Cretan fisher named Corobius to come with them to Thera and shortly after, with a small party and Corobius as pilot, they set sail for Libya. The men landed on Platea and left Corobius there with enough supplies for a short while and then returned to their island bringing good news about finding the new colony. Corobius agreed to wait on Platea for a length of time, however his supplies began to run out. Luckily, a Samian vessel bound for Egypt under command of Colaeus was re-routed to Platea due to poor weather conditions. The crew gave Corobius enough food to last one year. Colaeus and his crew were anxious to reach their destination as easterly winds prevented them to travel to Egypt and they were driven as west as the Pillar of Hercules (modern Strait of Gibraltar). By fortunately they landed at the wealthy trading post of  Tartessus.

The route of the Theran colonists.

A group of settlers was formed consisting of one brother from every household of Thera with sons,under the leadership of Battus. Eventually two ships set out for Plataea. After a two years stay on Plataea and another appeal to Delphi the settlers moved to the mainland and passed to Aziris somewhere westwards remaining there sic years. Finally they were led more westwards by natives to Cyrene. Today the historians claim that the colonization of Cyrenaica was a part of a more complex process.There are indications that there was Cretan Samian and Rhodian involvement in the colonization process.

The fountain of Apollo

It is generally believed that the city of Cyrene was founded in 631 BC.The name comes from a fountain called "Cyre", which was believed to have been consecrated to  Apollo. In addition to naming the settlement, Battus made all the colonists swear an oath. There is an inscription dated from the 4th century BC, which claims to contain the original oath. It may be assumed that the small greek settlement found its first foothold on the Acropolis(defensive hill) of Cyrene and the community's weakness and isolation compelled its pioneers to find an accommodation with the Libyan natives.Since the colonists were all men they married Libyan women. Some scholars have believed that Battus is a Libyan word mainly since the first recorded king of Cyrene had a different name(Aristoteles). Herodotus mentions that Battus meant "king" in Libyan.Although, other scholars believe that the personal name Battus became synonym of king for the Libyans.

Herodotus  emphasizes on the mutual influence between the greeks of Cyrene and the Libyan tribe Asbystae who taught them to drive the four horse chariot and themselves adopted Greek customs. However other sources mention conflicts between the Greek settlers and their Libyan neighbors.

Battus died in 600 BC and was worshipped as a  heroic figure by his subjects. His grave is near the marketplace which joins the road he ordered the construction of, leading to the temple of Apollo. A statue of Battus was dedicated at Delphi, by the subjects of Cyrene. He is represented riding in a chariot driven by the nymph of Cyrene, with a figure symbolising Libya in the act of crowning him King .His dynasty is known as The Battiad dynasty. He was succeeded by his son  Arcesilaus I.Although little is known of Battus' reign, he appeared to govern with mildness and moderation.  

sources: Shimon Applebaum , Greeks and Jews in Ancient Cyrene  and Wikipedia

Friday, April 15, 2011

Agnodice: the first female gynekologist

Women Physicians were not uncommon in the ancient world but in the city state of Athens around the 4rth century BC women were forbidden on pain of death to practice medicine because they were thought to perform abortions.
Agnodice defied the law and with the help of her grateful patients ,suceeded in having it changed. Her story is recounted by the Roman historian Hyginus and was traslated into English in 1687. Agnodice was a wealthy woman of Athens.

According to legend, Agnodice wanted to learn medicine. By cutting her hair and wearing men's clothing, she was able to become a student of the famous Alexandrian physician, Herophilus. After her studies were completed, she heard a woman crying out in the throes of labor and went to her assistance. The woman, thinking Agnodice was a man, refused her help. However, Agnodice lifted up her clothes and revealed that she was a woman. The female patients then allowed Agnodice to treat them. When the male doctors discovered that their services were not wanted, they accused  Agnodice of seducing their patients. They also claimed that the women had feigned illness in order to get visits from Agnodice.

Many women died during childbirth or of private diseases because they were too embarassed to visit male physicians . Speaking to one potential patient , Agnodice confessed her secret . The other women then allowed Agnodice to treat her and was cured perfectly . Word spread and she became popular and succesful among women.

The male doctors discovered the truth and Agnodice was put on trial.Her patients among the most influential women in Athens stormed the courtroom.They told the judges that they would no longer account them for husbants and friends but as enemies .
They even threatened to die with her.

When Agnodice was brought to trial, she was condemned  by the leading men of Athens. At this point, their wives became involved. According to Hyginus, they argued that "you men are not spouses but enemies, since you're condemning her who discovered health for us." Their argument prevailed and the law was amended so that freeborn women could study medicine."

Bowing on the women's pressure the men not only released Agnodice  but changed the law.After that any freeborn Athenian woman could become a physician as long as she treated only female patients.

According to an article of  University of Virginia  Health sciences library website Agnodice may "belong to the realm of myth and folktale rather than having been a historical figure. However her story illustrates real problems that women patients and women who gave other women medical help during childbirth, called midwives faced in Athens.

sources : A to Z women in Maths and science ,Lisa Yount
   Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Fabulae: two handbooks of Greek mythology

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Russian pilgrims in Byzantium.10th-15th century.

This is an extract from:

Dumbarton Oaks Papers, No. 56

© 2003 Dumbarton Oaks

Trustees for Harvard University
Washington, D.C.
Printed in the United States of America

Published by
Dumb a rt o n  Oa k s  Re s e a r c  h  Li b ra r  y   a n d  Co l l e c t i o n
Wa s h i n g t o n , D.C.
Issue year 2002

Editor: Alice-Mary Talbot

Russian Pilgrims in Constantinople

In anno domini 1200, Dobrinia Iadreikovich, scion of a wealthy Novgorod merchant family (and soon to be archbishop of Novgorod under his new monastic name, Anthony), visited Constantinople, as he puts it, “by the grace of God and with the aid of St. Sophia, that is to say, of Wisdom, the ever-existent Word” (so states his record of his visit to the city).

His detailed record of his pilgrimage fills thirty-nine printed pages and records his visits to some seventy-six shrines in the “city guarded by God,” as well as another twenty-one in the city’s suburbs. His list of relics preserved in and around the city rivals in size the lists of sacred booty exported to the West in the wake of the Fourth Crusade, which saw the looting of the city just four years later.

 Although it is quite possible that Anthony’s trip to Constantinople was not purely for spiritual refreshment (his subsequent appointment as archbishop of Novgorod, the second see of the Church of Rus’, suggests that he was probably involved in some ecclesiastical politics at the Patriarchate), his notes de visite are clearly of a pilgrim nature, and, indeed, the work he authored has come down to us under the title Kniga Palomnik, “Pilgrim Book.” In fact, Anthony’s description of the shrines of the Byzantine capital is the most complete such medieval work preserved.

Unfortunately for those interested in the topography of Byzantine Constantinople, however, Anthony’s notes seem to be in no recognizable order, suggesting that the author made only brief on-site notes and wrote up his “Pilgrim Book” later, perhaps after returning to Russia (leading at least one scholar who has studied this text to suggest that the pages of the prototype manuscript must have somehow gotten out of order). Despite its
geographical imprecisions, Anthony’s text stands as a marvelous catalogue of what attracted pilgrims to this sacred city.

 Studying Anthony’s list of holy shrines and pious relics along with more or less contemporary works of Western pilgrimage should give us a good idea of exactly what it was that attracted pilgrims to the Byzantine capital in the century or so before the Latin conquest. If one compares the Russian Anthony text with the original Mercati Anonymus text, the longest and most detailed of the three extant contemporary Western descriptions of the shrines of Constantinople, one finds that the Latin text includes only twenty of the
seventy-six religious shrines mentioned by the Russian enumeration.

The two other contemporary Latin descriptions are much, much shorter.The Russian pilgrim text is obviously much fuller in detail.The Great Church, the church of the Holy Wisdom (Aghia Sofia) was clearly the central and most important religious edifice in the city, to judge from both the Russian text and the three Latin descriptions of Constantinople preserved from approximately the same period. All of these texts mention visiting St. Sophia; it was normally the first stop on the pilgrims’ holy rounds.

 St. Sophia was, of course, the patriarchal and imperial cathedral for the whole Byzantine Christian world, and a veritable treasure trove of relics could be seen there. But, interestingly enough, the church itself, as a building, seems also to have been an object of devotion to the pilgrims. Unlike the churches of the other great pilgrimage centers of the Christian world (the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, St. Peter’s in Rome, and the cathedral of St. James at Compostela, for example), the religious value of the building was not a specific single relic (Christ’s tomb, Peter’s or James’s body), but was actually the sacred edifice itself. Thus Anthony of Novgorod begins his description of the shrines and relics of Constantinople with the phrase, “First we venerated St. Sophia,” just as a fifteenth-century Russian pilgrim, the monk-deacon Zosima, begins, his recital of a visit to the city with the words, “First I venerated the holy Great Church of Sophia,” and only then begins his litany of miraculous images and holy relics.

The description of the church of St. Sophia with its relics makes up by far the longest section in Anthony’s text, listing forty-six sacred relics, only ten of which the Mercati text notes (although the two shorter Western texts from this period add three more).The longest section in the Mercati Anonymus, on the other hand, is that dealing with the imperial palace’s Pharos church of the Mother of God, where most of the Passion relics of Christ were shown. Here the relic list of the Mercati work is much longer than that of Anthony (fifty compared to twenty-three), and, although the Mercati text lacks six of the twenty-three sacred objects listed by the Russian source, it includes thirty-three not mentioned by Anthony.

The availability of a relic inventory of the church’s treasury, like the one penned by Nicholas Mesarites ca. 1200,to which both pilgrim catalogues bear some resemblance, would explain the unexpected similarity of the two texts and the detailed nature of the English work. In the nearby Nea church in the palace, to the contrary, Anthony records thirteen sacred relics of various sorts; the Mercati text mentions only four of

This latter general pattern of recording relics is preserved in the two texts’ treatments of the other sanctuaries of the imperial city: Anthony listing more relics than the Western texts do.At the Stoudios monastery, for example, the Mercati text records five of the eight relics listed by Anthony.A similar ratio holds for the monastery of St. George at the Mangana.The church of the Holy Apostles held seventeen important relics according to Anthony of Novgorod, but the Mercati text lists only eleven.On the other hand, both narratives record the same three saints interred at the shrine of the Prophet Daniel.

There are, of course, several ways to analyze these data. One can argue that these religious institutions (along with several others mentioned by both Russian and Western texts, such as the church of Sts. Sergios and Bacchos, the monastery of Sts. Kosmas and Damianos, the martyrion of St. Euphemia, and the monastery of St. John the Baptist at Petra) held an ecumenical attraction in the period before the Fourth Crusade. One might also be tempted to differentiate between Eastern and Western tastes in Constantinopolitan shrines, but it is equally possible that the differences between the number of shrines visited and relics catalogued in the texts from different cultures might reflect nothing more than the level of tour the authors took, with Anthony on the “personalized special deluxe tour” (and seeing both more shrines and more relics in each shrine) and the Mercati author, for example, cataloguing only the regular tour (and visiting fewer shrines and seeing
fewer relics at each shrine). But militating against such a prosaic analysis is what the two authors chose to record when they visited the same building. Both texts list carefully the relics connected with the earthly life of Christ: the swaddling clothes, the gold of the Magi, the Passion relics, the wellhead of Samaria, the basin in which Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, relics of John the Baptist, and, of course, relics of the Virgin Mary, along with Old Testament relics such as Abraham’s table and Elias’s sheepskin, and relics of a few well-known saints. These relics, then, can be accounted the major attractions for Christian pilgrims in
a Constantinople become a sacred city. To these sacred treasures of ecumenical interest, Anthony’s text adds mention of the relics of many saints popular mainly in Eastern Christianity, as well as miraculous icons, stories about which the author had doubtlessly heard at home (images that bled when stabbed, that spoke, etc.). Apparently such things were not objects of devotion for Western Christians ca. 1200, but were special objects of piety in the Eastern Christian sphere.

It would seem, then, that by using these pilgrim accounts one can create a list of the most important Christian shrines in Constantinople in the twelfth century and the most highly revered relics in those shrines for Christians, both Eastern and Western. The methodology employs a kind of “law of citations” so that the shrines and relics mentioned most often in the four texts from this period (Anthony and the three Western descriptions) qualify as the most important. These objects of devotion are what drew pilgrims from
around the Christian world to the city on the Bosporos.

The crusader sack of Constantinople in 1204 changed, among other things, the sacred physiognomy of the city. Holy places were destroyed, or desecrated, or disappeared during Latin rule and seem to have been resurrected only partially when the Byzantines took back the city. Thus, while Anthony of Novgorod visited fully ninety-seven religious shrines in the city and environs in 1200, the five Russian travelers of Palaiologan times who left records of their trips all together mention only fifty-eight sanctuaries. Although it is possible that Anthony had more time to spend in Constantinople than did the later visitors, or was a more assiduous sightseer, it is also clear that there were far fewer Christian sites to visit and relics to venerate after the sack accompanying the Fourth Crusade.

What was pilgrim Constantinople like after the Byzantine restoration in 1261? The Russian travel tales from the Palaiologan period contain much information about pilgrimage in Constantinople in the period after the Byzantine reconquest. The five preserved texts all date from a compact period of seventy years (1349–1419) and form a surprisingly homogeneous group, despite the diverse backgrounds of the travelers—two lower clergy, one petty official/merchant, and two visitors of unidentified background (but one of the last-mentioned texts, the so-called “Russian Anonymus,” might rather represent a recital derived from a guidebook rather than from a visit to the city).

All of the later Russian pilgrims, not surprisingly, record visiting the Great Church, that is, St. Sophia, as their first order of business in Constantinople, and they spend considerable space listing the relics and wonders that they saw there, not unlike the pilgrims before the Latin occupation. All of the later Russian pilgrims visited nine other shrines besides St. Sophia: the Holy Apostles church, the Blachernai shrine of the Virgin, the monastery of Christ Philanthropos, the shrine of the Prophet Daniel, the Hodegetria monastery, the monastery of St. John the Baptist at Petra, the Pantokrator monastery, the Peribleptos monastery, and the Stoudios monastery. Adding to this number the five shrines listed as visited by four of the five later Russian pilgrims (the monastery of Sts. Kosmas and Damianos, the monastery of St. George at the Mangana, the Kyra Martha monastery, the church of St. Theodosia, and the monastery of the Virgin Panachrantos) provides, one would assume, a relatively accurate listing of the Constantinopolitan shrines of most interest to the later Russian pilgrims to the city. Five preserved non-Russian travel descriptions of the sacred wonders of Constantinople from the same period can be combined with the Russian sources to provide a more ecumenical picture of the most popular shrines of the city. The most extensive of these comes from an Armenian visitor to the city in the early years of the fifteenth century.This text is uncannily close to the Russian lists of popular shrines, suggesting a specific Eastern Christian predilection for certain shrines in the period, a predilection apparently not shared by Western Christians (see Table 2).
The other four include two important Western descriptions of the relics of the city that were penned by diplomatic visitors from the Iberian peninsula in the first half of the fifteenth century, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo y Clavijo and Pero Tafur.Also included in this number are two much briefer Western descriptions of the city from the same general period, those of the Italian traveler Buondelmonti and of the Frenchman de la Broquière.Cataloguing visits by the five later Russian travelers and by the Armenian pilgrim, as well as reports
from the four Western visitors, provides a reasonable approximation of the most visited pilgrimage sites in Constantinople in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Allowing for the fact that eleven churches visited by Anthony and the earlier Western pilgrims are not mentioned by the postconquest visitors (most of these sanctuaries can be assumed to have perished or been abandoned during the Latin occupation), this list is quite reminiscent of the set of pilgrim stations recorded before the Latin conquest (seeTable 1); only three of the churches visited by a quorum of the later travelers were not on the “must see” list of Anthony and at least one of the earlier Western pilgrims (two small monasteries of the Virgin on the slope of the first hill of the city Panachrantiu, Pantanassis and the monastery of Kyra Martha, which had yet to be founded when the earlier travel tales were penned). This fact is, indeed, eloquent testimony to the essentially conservative nature of Constantinopolitan pilgrim goals. Once again the basic similarity in the lists of sanctuaries visited by the Russians and by non-Russian contemporary visitors is striking, despite the fewer shrines visited by the Western visitors.

What drew the travelers to these specific shrines during the period 1261–1453? Whether the visitors chose to visit these sanctuaries on their own or whether their choice was dictated by a guidebook or a regularly guided itinerary, the important question is what was special about these buildings that would make them (or the visitors’ hosts or guides) think that they were especially worthy of a visit. Although at the practical level the pilgrims might have visited these sacred establishments because they were on a “package tour” (as certainly the fourteenth-century Spanish diplomats did), or because the sites were listed in a widely used guidebook, the more fundamental answer is numenosity, the sacred power with which certain objects (relics, images, holy water, etc.) were imbued. Such holy objects were available for veneration at the locations discussed here. Again, as with the list of shrines visited, one sees a general consensus among pilgrims from East and West as to what were the most venerable and powerful objects in Constantinople; the list, as was the case in the twelfth century (see Table 1), is dominated by objects connected with the life of Christ and with personages known from the scriptures.

Thus not only did Russian pilgrims share costume and accoutrements with West European pilgrims of the Middle Ages (bell-shaped cloak, pilgrim staff, sack [scrip], and the broad-brimmed “hat of the Greek land”),
but for the most part they also frequented the same shrines and venerated the same sacred relics. One senses a common pilgrimage ethos shared by Eastern and Western Christians, but perhaps not by the Byzantines, who had no need to undertake a long journey to venerate them.


It cannot be purely accidental that the travelers all visited pretty much the same sites and venerated the same religious treasures, but particularly interesting is the fact that to a significant degree the post–Latin conquest Russian visitors did it in the same order. Unlike Anthony of Novgorod’s Pilgrim Book, these later texts have a discernible topographical order in their entries. There is, in fact, an uncanny similarity in the sequence in which
the later Russian pilgrims chose to view the sacred wonders of Constantinople. Although it is perhaps possible that these similarities of itinerary derive from the simple fact that there was a generally recognized set of important sanctuaries and relics in the “city guarded by God,” it would seem much more likely that a guide of some sort (a person or text) dictated the pious pilgrim’s movements in the imperial city, at least in the case of the Russian pilgrims of Palaiologan times.

It is not surprising that all five later Russian visitors first went to St. Sophia, a treasure hoard of relics and a building of mythic renown; nor is it surprising that while there some stopped to see neighboring objects of interest like the Justinian Column outside the church and the Chalke Gate of the Palace across the Augusteon plaza. But unexpectedly, four of these five Russian pilgrims next describe visits, not to a famous church such as Holy Apostles, but rather to a set of churches and monastic foundations east of St. Sophia on the slope leading down to the Bosporos, the area normally spoken of as the “First Region,” a neighborhood little spoken of. The exception to this rule (and to most of the generalizations about later Russian pilgrim itineraries in Constantinople) is Ignatius of Smolensk, who seems to have been in no hurry to do the pious tourist circuit and rather visits shrines at the rate of only one or two per day, probably because he will be in the city for more than two years.After visiting St. Sophia, however, the other four Russian visitors record going
to the various shrines in the First Region area, most notably the Hodegetria monastery of the Virgin, the monastery of St. George at the Mangana, the monastery of Christ Philanthropos, and the Panachrantos monastery of the Virgin.(But among them they list sometwelve ecclesiastical establishments in that neighborhood.) Although they for the most part speak of the same shrines, they do not discuss them in the same order. Apparently they did not all follow the same route through this area. However, these ecclesiastical establishments (some quite large, others very small) were cheek-by-jowl on this hillside, so that the efficient way to visit them would be to wander around; and this is apparently what the Russian pilgrims did.

If St. Sophia is counted as “Itinerary A” for Russian visitors to Constantinople, the galaxy of shrines on the hill leading down to Seraglio Point should be deemed “Itinerary B,” denoted by the four anchor establishments noted above and shrines in close proximity to them (see Map).“Itinerary C” (which might actually be the conclusion of “Itinerary B”) included the Imperial-Palace Nea church, the Hippodrome, the Column of Constantine, and the martyrion of St. Euphemia. Again, these neighboring shrines (see Map) seem to have been visited in no set order.

“Itinerary D” started in the neighborhood of the monastery of Peribleptos in the southwestern section of the city and continued southwest to the Stoudios monastery; next the Russian visitors took advantage of being in that area to visit shrines near the land walls farther north, most notably the tomb of the Prophet Daniel, where pilgrims received their “seal for the road.”Actually, only Stephen and the Russian Anonymus consistently follow this itinerary; Deacon Zosima begins his third excursion in this fashion, but then (rather than continuing on toward Stoudios in the city’s southwest corner) turns north after going part way and takes instead the north branch of the Mese (the main street of the city) and visits the shrines in the geographic center of the city, the area around the church of the Holy Apostles (no. 32); he then goes up to the northwest corner of the city to visit Blachernai (no. 46; see Map).These holy sites would normally be part of “Itinerary E” (see below). Indeed, judging from the recorded visits to shrines that Zosima’s text lists after this entry, he no longer seems to be following anything that looks like a rational itinerary, but rather makes a series of separate visits to discrete neighborhoods. Like Ignatius of Smolensk (who specifies what he saw each day), Zosima seems now to be visiting individual sites one by one; he has apparently decided to spend considerable time in the city and
is no longer rushing about with some sort of excursion bureau. The clerk Alexander, on the other hand, had only a few days in Constantinople, and so, after visiting St. Sophia and the First Region (“Itineraries A” and “B”), he seems to abandon a set itinerary and visits Holy Apostles (no. 32) in the middle of the city, and then he too heads northwest toward Blachernai (no. 46) and from there south to the Tomb of Daniel near the land walls.In what seems to be his final tour (his is a very short text), Alexander tries to fill in what he has missed, going farther south to Peribleptos (no.24) and Stoudios (no. 26), and from there northeast to Kyra Martha (no. 33) and then southeast to “downtown,” to Sts. Sergios and Bacchos (no. 16) and the Hippodrome (no.
13), before heading back to the First Region again to visit the Lazaros monastery (no. 65;see Map).Perhaps Alexander’s unusual wandering in the city was because on certain days some of these churches were having special services that he wanted to attend; or perhaps he had somehow missed these sanctuaries on his first visit to these neighborhoods.

Note that with Ignatius and Zosima making individual forays to specific religious sites rather than following “sensible” routes, and with Alexander cramming everything important into a few precious days, there are, in the end, only two texts that reflect the posited “Itinerary D” and, in fact, also the final tour, “Itinerary E.”

“Itinerary E” (followed only by Stephen and the Russian Anonymus) starts from near Holy Apostles and heads northwest toward the Virgin shrine at Blachernai and the monastery of Sts. Kosmas and Damianos (in the Kosmidion suburb northwest of the city),and then returns, following the shore of the Golden Horn southeast, passing a number of shrines, including the church of St. Theodosia (no. 51; where Stephen ends this tour)(see Map). The Russian Anonymus continues along the shore to a series of shrines (nos. 53–55) at Perama (the “Ferry,” modern Odunkapi).Stephen’s last noted excursion revisits the First Region (although not shrines visited previously),while the final shrines in the list of the Russian Anonymus are in the central northwest part of the city (Pantokrator, Pammakaristos, Lips, and other shrines in the Lykos valley[nos. 28, 50, 33, 34;see Map]). The last sites mentioned in those texts would seem to be shrines the pilgrims
had not seen previously, a pair of, as it were, “fill-in tours.”

The texts of the later Russian travelers to Constantinople include only one clear reference to the use of guides in Constantinople. In summing up his experiences in the Byzantine capital, Stephen of Novgorod notes that, “Entering Constantinople is like [entering] a great forest; it is impossible to get around without a good guide, and if you attempt to get around stingily or cheaply you will not be able to see or kiss a single saint unless it happens to be the holiday of that saint when [you can] see and kiss [the relics].”It would seem safe to assume, then, that Russian pilgrims in Constantinople employed the services of guides, amateur or professional, whenever possible 

The fact that Stephen (in Constantinople during Holy Week in 1349, or possibly 1348) uses the first person singular in the first line of his narrative and then shifts to the first person plural for the remainder of his descriptionsuggests that he was moving around with a group, as well as, it would seem, with a professional guide (note the emphasis on money in his statement on guides in Constantinople). Indeed, most of the Russian pilgrims seem to have visited the shrines of the city in groups.Alexander the Clerk also shifts from the first person singular to the first person plural after the opening lines of his recital (although his account is largely written in the impersonal third person).Similarly, Ignatius of Smolensk’s description of the shrines of the city is in the first person plural (“we saw,” “we venerated,” etc.) from 28 June 1389 until 17 December of the same
year (one of his last touring entries), when he abruptly switches to the first person singular.His group seems to have broken up when a new metropolitan of Rus’ was dispatched from Constantinople, probably taking back to Russia with him the Russians who had come to Constantinople with Ignatius in the train of the previous Muscovite metropolitan and who had been his companions. Deacon Zosima, on the other hand, begins and ends his description of the wonders of Constantinople in the first person singular, but writes everything in between in the impersonal third person (“Near this monastery is a convent”), giving no hint of whether or not he traveled with a group in the city.

The “Russian Anonymus” text might, as suggested earlier, in fact reflect a translation of a written guidebook used by Constantinopolitan guides. As handed down to us, the text is preserved only as part of a pastiche pilgrim tale with massive pieces of the travel tale of Stephen of Novgorod added to it, and, separately, as the topographical foundation for a faux dialogue on the wonders of Constantinople and the blessings of pilgrimage to the Byzantine capital.

The text outlines “Itineraries A–E” discussed above, probably exemplifying a standardized religious tour of Constantinople. The text’s introductory and concluding sections (and added dialogue elements) aside, it reads in fact very much like a guidebook. The verbs are neither in the first person (singular or plural) nor in the impersonal third person, but rather in the infinitive form: a kind of generalized imperative (“Go east from there to . . .”) with specific directions to various shrines and wonders, albeit, interestingly, assuming that the reader possesses a basic knowledge of the layout of the city. The text also includes the kinds of fantastic stories that guides seem to like to tell about the places they are showing. Moreover, the two different versions of the Old Russian text used in the two works preserving it seem to reflect two separate translations, assumedly from
the Greek (although there are few clear Graecisms in the text), for although the two versions essentially “say the same thing,” they tend to say it in different forms grammatically—something that would be quite odd in a normally transmitted pilgrim narrative. Very likely the compiler of the pastiche narrative (probably the author of its introductory and concluding paragraphs) used one translation of a Greek original text, while the dialogue editor used a different translation of the same text. One can even argue that the text was translated by Novgorodians both times, for both versions show heavy traces of northwest Russian dialect. The basic text, however, must have reflected a standard tour of the city in order to find real-life echoes among the Russian travelers to Constantinople.

We may conclude, then, that Russian pilgrims (and probably other Eastern Christians, to judge from the fourteenth-century Armenian Anonymus) were attracted to Constantinople basically by the same relics as were Western visitors both before and after the Fourth Crusade, and visited essentially the same shrines in the city. Beyond the shrines and relics of general Christian interest in Constantinople, however, the Russians (and Armenians and other Eastern Christians?) visited other shrines and venerated other relics, probably because these sacred places and objects coincided with their specifically Eastern Christian tastes. The Russian pilgrims, at least, seem to have followed a basic general itinerary in viewing the holy sites of the city; non-Russian visitors might have also followed these routes, but the available material does not allow for a judgment on this question.
University of Maryland

For the original text and full references visit:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Moni Daphniou( The Byzantine Monastery of Daphni)

a stunning wallpainting of Jesus pantocrator 

Moni Daphniou A Unesco world heritage sight
For those who are interested in seeing Byzantine monuments or early Christian buildings the Daphni monastery is an interesting place to visit.

The Monastery is located in Downtown Athens in a municipality called Chaidari. The surrounding area is idyllic. Behind the monastery there's a forest and near it a park that contains a playground, tennis and basketball courts and a big bust of Alexander the great.Every year in August the municipality organizes a wine festival nearby the monastery were people drink free wine and listen live music.

Some historical tips:
At the sight were the monastery is, in antiquity there was a sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo which was destroyed by a Gothic raid in the 4rth century A.D. The road on which it is situated is called "The sacred way" because it was the route that the participants of the ancient Greek ritual called Eleusinian mysteries should follow.

The monastery was found in the 6th century and many of the Apollo's temple columns were used to be built. However today you can only see one of them as the rest were taken by Lord Elgin to Britain.

The biggest attraction of the monastery is its main church that was built in the 11th century. In the interior there are complex mosaics which depict religious events and are the best examples of Byzantine art of the period and at the dome you can see a big image of Christ pantocrator(almighty) which stuns you with its austere look.
The site was declared a World heritage site in 1990.

The best way to visit the sight is by taxi. I think that from the center of Athens the taxi fare will be approximately 10 euros.

Currently there are still restoration works from the 1999 earthquake and entrance in the church may not be allowed some days of the week.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Olynthos(an account of my visit there)

In Olynthos 

Olynthos is not among the famous archaeological sites where tourists from the whole world would come to visit in fact even in antiquity it wasn't a very important city except for a very short period. Its location in Northern Greece makes it less known since these areas are preferred mainly by Balkan or Russian tourists rather than Western tourists .

the ruins of Olynthos
Some six years ago i was in Chalcidice for vacation. Chalkidice is the main holiday destination for Northern Greeks and for Balkan tourists who visit Greece. Its two legs(if you see the map Chalcidice has three penisulas that look like legs. Although one of them is inaccessible for women it's called holy mountain and is full of monasteres) have nothing less to offer than any of the famous Greek islands.From an archaeological perspective Chalcidice has to offer some interesting sights. Except Olynthus there's also ancient Potidaia the second biggest town of Chalcidice after Olynthos in antiquity and Stageira the town where Aristotle grew up.There is also anthropological interest the area.In a cave with depth of 300m. called petralona excavations have revealed the presence of human homo erectus dating some thousand years ago.

Olynthos used to be a human settlement since the bronze age. According to Greek mythology Olynthos was one of the numerous sons of Hercules. However historically it is mentioned that in the 7th century BC it was inhabited by  Thracians. After the Persian wars Greek colonists from nearby areas made Olynthos a greek city.It was not until the 4rth century that the city came to prominence. Ironically in the same century at the height of its power it was looted and razed by King Philip of Macedon.

The archaeological sight is a bit difficult to find. It is in the inland of Chalcidice and if you don't know the area i suggest you to have a gps or a map with you. When i went there i didn't have to pay a ticket but surely there is a symbolic price.Entering the sight you will see a little building which operates as a litle museum. Inside it there are some exhibits from the main site. I recommend you to bring  with you a bottle of water cause all the refreshments at the nearby shop are expensive and especially if are visiting at summer the sun dehydrates you quickly.A summer hat would also be a good addition to your sun protection.

The main site is a little far from the entrance. You must walk at least 500 metres and ascend a small hill(most ancient greek sites are located on plateaus where they could be better defended from invaders. From a first look there's nothing exciting too see. It's a common archaeological site full with ruins and none of them   containing any columns or any standing classic greek temple.From a general view the only thing you see are the foundations of typical houses of antiquity. However even ruined houses hide some treasures of inestimable value.If you wander though the ruins you'll find some of the most beautiful mosaics of the ancient world that have survived until our days.I am sure these artistic masterpieces will make you revoke all your curses for the effort and the time spent for  reaching the site and then walking towards it.

Since i am a mere observer and not an archaeologist below you'll find a report of the American school of classical studies in Athens  for Olynthos giving a better explanation of the findings in Olynthos.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bulgari the Epirot who went to Rome and created his own Empire.

Sotirio Bulgari

I supose everyone knows the notorious bulgari jewels or bvlgari as it is written according to the Latin writting system. However little is known about the man who set the foundations of the homonymous "empire" of jewels.
Sotirio Bulgari was born in 1857 in the Epirus Mountains, through which flows the Acheron (source of the legendary River Styx) and upon which stands the Temple of Zeus at Dodona.More specifically it was the town of Paramythia in the Thesprotia region. The town of Paramythia existed since 1000 BC and in middle ages it was an importan Byzantine town-fort.

 In this region the silversmith’s art has been passed down from father to son since the Byzantine era(when Constantinople fell in 1204 the refugees went towards two destinations Nicaea in Minor Asia and Epirus.The notorious Byzantine jewerly is a very big subject which i will deal with in an another post), and it was from the power of this tradition, from the technical skills that had evolved over centuries and from the vast classical imaginarium rooted in these very places that the young Sotirio Bulgari cultivated a vision that has proven to transcend the boundaries of time and space, the courage and foresight of which is especially apparent.

The word “vision” derives from Greek and Latin to give us the word “idea”. Sotirio Bulgari discovered that he had a sharp entrepreneurial instinct, so when he sensed an epochal change in the air, he set out for a Europe that was on the verge of becoming modern.

 He left continental Greece for Corfu, winter home of Princess Sissi and the Hapsburg court, and then moved on to the recently unified Italy, heart of the ‘Grand Tour’(grand tour was an early type of tourism. It was for aristocrats or wealthy western europeans who were travelling to Italy to visit its monuments) that was  de rigeur among Europe’s aristocracy, stopping first in Naples and finally in Rome. He brought with him an extraordinary cultural heritage of imagery and traditions and timeless glamour. Driven by a boldness that enabled him to overcome obstacles and conventions alike, Sotirio Bulgari decided not to limit himself to the Eternal City he had chosen as his home.

His journeys, facilitated by new means of transport like thetrain and the automobile, took him to the favoured locales of European high society and the aesthetic sensibility cultivated there. His vision overturned numerous existing assumptions and anticipated many concepts that have since become the norm. From season to season, he brought his style directly to the most exclusive and sophisticated tourist destinations of the time – St. Moritz, Lucerne, Bellagio, Sanremo and Sorrento – and was gradually able to create an international network of ten stores, where his creations generated admiration and wonder among the aristocracy, which in turn consolidated his reputation and fame.

Sotirio Bulgari’s classical sensibility and powerful creative spirit came together to define a path characterised by innovation: from his deep roots there grew a uniquely original aesthetic that challenged  reigning  stylistic orthodoxies. Today, the sign on the storefront in Via Condotti evokes not only Roman epigraphy but an entire philosophy of beauty, wherein the past informs the contemporary in a process of continual transformation. Sotirio Bulgari was, by nature and by choice, a ‘global citizen’ in the most modern sense of the term; a traveller who had embraced and absorbed several cultures and had the ability to combine entrepreneurial spirit with artistic sensibility. Aware that he was destined to transcend the boundaries of his time, he built his empire of beauty; an empire founded on taste and magnificence that his sons Giorgio and Costantino inheritedin 1932, along with the vision that was born with their father and a talent for constantly honing his originality, such that in the years to come they were able to definitively earn a place for Bulgari in the history of fine jewellery.

In the words of Gonzales-Palacios, «the history of jewellery is an infinite cycle of give and take between past and present, between Classical and Baroque, between splendour and restraint”; a history that is born of a living ancient tradition, capable of continually generating formal and technical innovations. Herein lies the vision, as relevant today as 125 years ago, of Sotirio Bulgari.
The Bulgari flagship store in Rome

1857 Sotirio Bulgari was born in Greece where he becomes a silversmith.
1879 Sotirio moves to Rome and begins selling silver at Trinità dei Monti.
(At the very beginning he sold his objects in front of the French Academy on the Pincio. Then a Greek merchant offered to let him display his objects in a corner of the window of his shop, placed at the beginning of Via Sistina.)
1894 The business is transferred to a shop in via dei Condotti 28.
In 1894 he moved to 28 Via Condotti. In 1905 he moved the store to Via dei Condotti 10. It was called "Old Curiosity Shop" from the title of a Charles Dickens novel. This name was chosen in order to attract British and American tourists.)
1905 The Bvlgari store in Via Condotti 10 opens, to become the Bvlgari historic flagship store.
1932 Sotirio passes away leaving the business in the hands of his two sons, Giorgio and Costantino, who developed a passionate interest in precious stones and jewels.

source: The 125 years celebration journal of Bulgari.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The oldest readable writting in Europe found in Greece.

The back of a tablet.
The table fragment with Mycenean Linear B letters alledged to be  3500 years old

Marks on a clay tablet fragment found in Greece are the oldest known decipherable text in Europe, a new study says.
Considered "magical or mysterious" in its time, the writing survives only because a trash heap caught fire some 3,500 years ago, according to researchers.
Found in an olive grove in what's now the village of  Iklaina, the tablet was created by a Greek-speaking Mycenaean scribe between 1450 and 1350 B.C., archaeologists say.
The Mycenaeans—made legendary in part by Homer's Iliad, which fictionalizes their war with Troy—dominated much of Greece from about 1600 B.C. to 1100 B.C. 
So far, excavations at Iklaina have yielded evidence of an early Mycenaean palace, giant terrace walls, murals, and a surprisingly advanced drainage system, according to dig director Mickael Cosmopoulos.
But the tablet, found last summer, is the biggest surprise of the multiyear project, Cosmopoulos said.
"According to what we knew, that tablet should not have been there," the University of Missouri-St. Louis archaeologist told National Geographic News.
First, Mycenaean tablets weren't thought to have been created so early, he said. Second, "until now tablets had been found only in a handful of major palaces"—including the previous record holder, which was found among palace ruins in what was the city of Mycenae.
Although the Iklaina site boasted a palace during the early Mycenaean period, by the time of the tablet, the settlement had been reduced to a satellite of the city of Pylos, seat of King Nestor, a key player in the Iliad.
"This is a rare case where archaeology meets ancient texts and Greek myths," Cosmopoulos said in a statement.
Tablet Preserved by Cooking
The markings on the tablet fragment—which is roughly 1 inch ( 2.5 centimeters) tall by 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) wide—are early examples of a writing system known as Linear B.
Used for a very ancient form of Greek, Linear B consisted of about 87 signs, each representing one syllable. 
The Mycenaeans appear to have used Linear B to record only economic matters of interest to the ruling elite. Fittingly, the markings on the front of the Iklaina tablet appear to form a verb that relates to manufacturing, the researchers say. The back lists names alongside numbers—probably a property list.
Because these records tended to be saved for only a single fiscal year, the clay wasn't made to last, said Cosmopoulos, whose work was funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Commitee for research and exploration. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)
"Those tablets were not baked, only dried in the sun and [were], therefore, very brittle. ... Basically someone back then threw the tablet in the pit and then burned their garbage," he said. "This fire hardened and preserved the tablet."

Not the Oldest Writing
While the Iklaina tablet is an example of the earliest writing system in Europe, other writing is much older, explained Classics professor  Thomas Palaima, who wasn't involved in the study, which is to be published in the April issue of the journal Proceedings of the Athens Archaeological Society.
For example, writings found in China, Mesopotamia, and Egypt are thought to date as far back as 3,000 B.C.
Linear B itself is thought to have descended from an older, still undeciphered writing system known as Linear A. And archeologists think Linear A is related to the older hieroglyph system used by the ancient Egyptians.

Magical, Mysterious Writing
Still, the Iklaina tablet is an "extraordinary find," said Palaima, an expert in Mycenaean tablets and administration at the University of Texas-Austin.
In addition to its sheer age, the artifact could provide insights about how ancient Greek kingdoms were organized and administered, he added.
For example, archaeologists previously thought such tablets were created and kept exclusively at major state capitals, or "palatial centers," such as Pylos and Mycenae.
Found in the ruins of a second-tier town, the Iklaina tablet could indicate that literacy and bureaucracy during the late Mycenaean period were less centralized than previously thought.
Palaima added that the ability to read and write was extremely restricted during the Mycenaean period and was regarded by most people as "magical or mysterious."
It would be some 400 to 600 years before the written word was demystified in Greece, as the ancient Greek alphabet overtook Linear B and eventually evolved into the 26 letters used on this page.

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