Looking Through Your Eyes – Eye of Horus

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The Egyptian Eye of Horus, also called “all seeing eye”, was frequently used as a protective amulet made of gold, lapis, and faience to ensure the safety and health of the bearer and provide wisdom and prosperity.

In fact, there are three different names applied to this symbol: the eye of Horus, the eye of Ra, and the Wadjet. According to later traditions, the right eye represented the sun and so is called the “Eye of Ra” while the left represented the moon and was known as the “eye of Horus” However, in many cases it is not clear whether it is the left or right eye which is referred to. The name Wadjet is derived from “wadj” meaning “green”, hence “the green one”, was the Egyptian “iaret” meaning “risen one” from the image of a cobra rising up in protection. The cobra is a symbol of the goddess Wadjet, who has her own connections to the Eye symbol.

Horus was the ancient Egyptian sky god who was usually depicted as a falcon, most likely a lanner or peregrine falcon. His right eye was associated with the sun Ra. The eye symbol represents the marking around the eye of the falcon, including the “teardrop” marking sometimes found below the eye.

In myth, when Set and Horus were fighting for the throne after Osiris’s death, Set gouged out Horus’s left eye. The majority of the eye was restored by either Hathor or Thoth. When Horus’s eye was recovered, he offered it to his father, Osiris, in hopes of restoring his life. Hence, the eye of Horus was often used to symbolise sacrifice, healing, restoration, and protection because it was thought that the goods offered became divine when presented to a god.

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The Eye Of Horus has a very specific meaning. The eye is represented as a figure with 6 parts. These 6 parts correspond to the six senses – Touch, Taste, Hearing, Thought, Sight, Smell. These are the 6 parts of the “Eye”. The eye is the receptor of “Input”. It has these six doors, to receive data. The construction of the eye follows very precise laws. The senses are ordered according to their importance. And according to how much energy must be “Eaten” by the “Eye” for an individual to receive a particular sensation. All of the sensory data input is “Food”

Interestingly to note that if the pieces are added together the total is 63/64 but not 1. Some suggest that the remaining 1/64 represents the magic used by Thoth to restore the eye, while others consider that the missing piece represented the fact that perfection was not possible. However, it is equally likely that they appreciated the simplicity of the system which allowed them to deal with common fractions quickly, after all they already had a symbol for the number “1” and they had other numerical notations available when they needed to use smaller fractions.

As the ancient Egyptian was so industrious and imitation, and believed so completely in the virtue of models, that he carried out his ideas in imperishable material more widely than any other people. The great variety of over two hundred and seventy different amulets used in Egypt, and the amount of light thrown on them by statement of their properties, or descriptive names, renders Egypt one of the most favourable lands for a general study of amulets.

 

 


Coptic Textiles

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Due to the Coptic custom of burying them with the dead, and to the aridity of Egyptian graves, there are remarkable number of Coptic textiles survive today. The textiles are commonly linen or wool and use the colors red, blue, yellow, green, purple, black and brown. The dyes were derived from madder, indigo, woad, saffron, the murex shell, and the kermes insect. The first looms used were horizontal low-warp; vertical high-warp looms were introduced later. The basic garment was the tunic, which would become the dalmatic. Some tunics were woven in one piece. They were decorated by clavi, a stylistic import from Rome.

The cultures which most influenced the Coptic period of Egypt include the ancient Egyptians, the classical Greeks, and the Romans. The influence of these cultures is visible in Coptic art. For example, many Coptic textiles incorporate some ancient Egyptian symbols and motifs, including the ankh, the cross-like symbol for life. The ankh was used as an alternate form of the Christian cross, and some textiles incorporate both symbols. However, Coptic art in general shows the stronger influence of the Greeks and Romans.

It is very rare for ancient textiles to survive in the archaeological record because fabrics decompose easily. Many Coptic textiles have survived because they were preserved in the dry desert tombs of Egypt. The large number of Coptic textiles located in museums and collections throughout the world make the Coptic period one of the most fully documented eras in textile history. However, the Coptic period of Egypt is often overlooked in favor of the more studied periods of the ancient pharaohs and the Arab conquest.

The name Copt derives from the Arabic word “Qibt” for Egyptian, which was taken from the Greek word for Egyptian, “Aigyptos.” The term “Copt” originally referred to the native Egyptians, as opposed to the Greek or Arab invaders. While later “Copt” became a religious designation referring to Christian Egyptians, the Coptic period is considered to be confined to the first millennium of the Christian era, when Christianity thrived in Egypt. Thus, Coptic textiles are the products of the Egyptians, who may or may not have been Christian, and who lived in the beginning of the Christian era.

The Uses of Fabrics

Textiles had various uses in Coptic Egypt. The household uses of textiles included bed sheets and covers, towels, napkins, tablecloths, and carrying sacks. Textiles were used both in households and in public and church buildings as decorative curtains and hangings.

The most common use of textiles was as apparel. The standard form of clothing in Coptic Egypt during Roman times was the tunic, a rectangular shirt-like piece of cloth that fit over the head, and was sometimes fastened at the waist by a belt. Textiles were also used for belts, cloaks, and shawls as well as for burial garments. When mummification was outlawed in the fourth century, the Copts stopped wrapping the bodies with linen strips and began using regular clothing in which to bury the dead. Other textiles such as shawls, bed covers, and curtains were probably used as external wrappings of the dead.

For both the pharaonic Egyptians and the Greeks, clothing was indicative of social and economic status. Clothing continued to distinguish between social strata for the Romans. The Roman citizens wore togas and non-citizens wore tunics. For the Copts, tunics were made of plain wool or linen and were decorated with either a single vertical band (clavus) that ran down the center of the garment, or two decorated vertical bands (clavi) that extended over each shoulder down to the knee area or the bottom of the garment, on the front and back. The clavi were decorated and were generally purple. Tunic decorations derived from the army’s use of decorations to designate rank during the Roman era.

During the Byzantine period, the tunic evolved into a variation called the dalmatic. The dalmatic was wider and longer and was decorated with round ornaments (roundels) on the sleeves or at the knees, sleeve bands, and neck bands, as well as the clavi. The Byzantines made new regulations to restrict the use of the more luxurious items of silk, purple dye, and gold thread to the imperial classes. The lower classes made imitations on the use of imperial styles, like dyeing red over blue to make an imitation purple. The Copts sometimes removed the colored ornaments from the old and worn-out clothes to reuse them on new clothes.

Textiles rarely survive in the archaeological record given their organic nature and their rapidity of decomposition in wet and acidic conditions. It may seem remarkable that the Coptic textiles have survived, given their old age. But they survived because of the burial practices of the Copts and the dry climate of Egypt. By burying the dead fully clothed in the dry sands of Upper Egypt, the textiles were conserved. The textiles that were preserved were woven for everyday use rather than explicitly for burial garments. Many of the surviving textiles have been mended and patched, which testify to the fact that they were worn and used during life and were not just burial garments.

The Technology of Egyptian Weaving

 Materials: Linen and Wool

The two most common materials used by the Copts were linen (made from flax) and wool. The Egyptians used linen from pharaonic times onward. Linen was favored because it is strong and durable. The fibers are smooth and not easily abraded. Flax flourished in Egypt with the fertilizing annual floods of the Nile. Linen could be woven in different levels of quality, from a very fine, sheer fabric, to a thick canvas-like fabric. Around 300 BCE, cotton was introduced from India, silk from China and sheep were imported. However, linen continued to be the most favored fabric because silk was very expensive. During pharaonic times the Egyptians did not use wool because it was regarded to be ritually unclean. Linen garments were also cooler than wool garments, which was important in the hot climate of Egypt.

However wool became common about the time of the Roman conquest, around 30 BCE. The Romans liked wool and since Egypt was a major center of textile production for the Roman Empire, wool increased in use. Wool has an advantage over linen in that it is easily dyed, while linen must first be soaked in an acidic mordant in order to take on a dye. Wool and linen were used both alone and in combination together in the same textile. Most commonly, weavers used linen as the background or main material, as in the shirt of a tunic, and wool as the material for the colorful narrow bands (clavi) that descend from the shoulders of the tunic and for the ornaments on the sleeves and at the knees of the tunic.

Dyes

The dyes used in the textiles can aid in the dating of textiles because, in general, the earlier Coptic textiles were monochromatic, while the later textiles (from around the sixth century) had more varied colors.

The Copts used dyes made from animal and vegetable compounds. The colors first used by the Copts were purple, red, and yellow. The dyes may reflect the Roman custom of color usage, whereby certain colors indicate social status. Purple was a preferred color, but it was time consuming and expensive to produce. The purple dye was made from the secretions of the purple-shell. This mollusk was only found offshore of Syria, and great quantities were needed to make the dye. Purple was restricted to the court circles in Alexandria, although there were other imitation recipes to make purple dyes.

Red dye was procured from the madder root and the female coccus insect during early times. Yellow dye was obtained from weld and saffron, and blue dye was obtained from woad and indigo. Later on the colors used also include green, which was made by dyeing yellow over blue.

Looms

Reconstruction of the type of looms the ancient Egyptians used can be made from the wall paintings of tombs from the Middle Kingdom and from the burial gifts of miniature models of weavers’ workshops. The oldest type of loom appears to have been a horizontal low-warp loom that was attached to the ground with pegs to stretch the fabric. Around 1650-1500 BCE a vertical standing high-warp loom which used weights to stretch the warps was introduced. During the Roman era, the foot-powered draw loom came into use. The draw loom permitted fast mechanized weaving of intricate patterns.

 Techniques of Coptic Weaving

The development of pattern weaving is one of the important achievements of the Coptic weavers that distinguishes their textiles from those of the Ancient Egyptians. Patterned textiles were brought into the mainstream around the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in the fourth century BCE. Some Greek textiles were patterned and featured the use of dyed wool. Patterned textiles were valued because their production was quite labor intensive.

Coptic textiles are characterized by the “S-twist” of thread. After washing, the natural flax fibers have an inherent sense of rotation, in the anti-clockwise direction. Therefore, when they are spun into thread, they were twisted in this direction, which is called “S-twist.” Wool does not have a tendency to rotation, so it followed convention that wool was also spun in the “S-twist” technique.

The Egyptians used the weaving techniques of tabby weave, half basket weave, and looped or soumak. Tabby weave is the simplest form of weaving, consisting of horizontal threads (weft) interweaving with vertical threads (warp). Soumak had the effect of making distinct outlines of the designs. Other techniques they used were brocading and tapestry. The tapestry technique allowed wool decorations to be woven into the surrounding linen. The Copts invented the flying shuttle technique, which uses a second shuttle to insert an extra linen weft thread into the fabric.

Coptic Weavers

While during the pharaonic era weavers were associated with temples, Coptic weavers were organized into small workshops in towns, under the supervision of the state. During various phases of history, the weavers were under the control of the Ptolemies, Romans, and Arabs. Alexandria had an imperial center of textile manufacture during the fifth century, and was a trading center from that time onwards. Interestingly, while it was mainly women who were weavers in pharaonic times, it is males who are documented as weavers inthe Christian era. When the vertical loom was invented, it was mostly operated by men. Men turned textile making into a commercial industry, although textiles continued to be made domestically.

 


Coinage in Ancient Greece

Coinage Greek

 

Traditionally, the collecting of ancient coins and, in particular, ancient Greek coins, has been viewed by some as a pursuit only of the nobility, or the very wealthy, because all ancient coins must be very rare and expensive to acquire. While this is somewhat true – with specimens of great rarity or superb quality of preservation commanding record prices – it is still possible for the dedicated and knowledgeable collector of more modest means to assemble a collection that will not only provide the collector with enjoyment, but also help to expand the field of numismatic knowledge. Some collectors of Greek coins do so primarily for the aesthetic value and rarity these coins offer – works of ancient art in miniature; others collect for the historical and social associations these coins might provide. Many collectors, however, are attracted by both aspects, and fall somewhere in-between.

In the ancient Greek world coinage production did not follow any particular pattern. Some city-states and kingdoms issued coins on a regular, apparently systematic basis; in other places issues appeared only intermittently; in others again, notably Sparta in the classical period, coinage was not produced at all. Two principal factors were involved in the production and issue of coinage. Firstly, the raw materials and technology necessary for the manufacture of coinage had to be available. Secondly, the prospective coin issuers had to make the positive decision that they needed coinage, as opposed to some other form of currency; in other words there had to exist a demand for coinage.

The advantages of using precious metals were multi-fold: they possessed a broadly accepted intrinsic value, they could be stored for long periods with no detrimental physical effect, they were generally easier to transport over long distances and at short notice, and they were simpler to use in transactions. Once coinage was invented there was a tendency for regions that had plentiful mineral resources to convert their precious metals into coinage. This was only natural; as well as the domestic needs for currency in states which had taken up the use of coined money there was also the international trade in precious metals which could now be supplied in the convenient form of coinage.

Unlike modern coins, every ancient coin is an individual product, by virtue of its manufacture. Every part of the process was done by hand and could be affected by a number of variables, from the execution of the dies, to the metal quality of the flan, and the actual striking of the coin. As a result, examples of the same issue, or even the same die pair, can exhibit a number of differences. The striking process comprised placing a flan of a specific weight and metal between two dies, usually set within an anvil and punch, and applying sufficient pressure to fill the voids of the die with the metal and thus stamping the flan with the intended design. The anvil die typically formed the obverse (front) of the coin, and the punch die the reverse (back); these are more conventionally refered to as the obverse die and reverse die, respectively. From this process, a coin of a specific value was produced to facilitate a number of economic transactions.

As coinage was the medium with which the Greek cities and kingdoms usually transacted their financial business, such as the payment of expenses and salaries and the collection of revenues, it is only natural that coinage output should have been related to fiscal needs. Not only would overall output have been regulated in this way, but also production of different denominations, since the size and value of a coin would have affected its usefulness for any specific function. Military expenses were particularly important in ancient finances, mainly because wars were so frequent; apart from that, there were also other State expenses, which might have prompted the production of coinage issues. Normal administrative costs, such as the payment of officials and the maintenance of public works (harbors, buildings etc.) would usually have been covered by regular income raised in taxation, but a sufficient amount of coinage had to be kept in circulation to support this system, taking into consideration the loss of coins through hoarding and trade. Also, occasional heavy expenditure on public works was necessary. By coinage production, the State could maximize the profitability by making it obligatory for certain official payments to met in standard coins; from metal struck into coin, it was given more value than its worth in bullion in order to pay for the costs of production.

In the ancient Greek world coins were issued not only by free cities, either individually or in federations or alliances, but also sometimes by cities or other political units that owed allegiance to a greater power. For the latter, formal permission from the higher authority was sometimes required before an issue could be produced. Aristotle observed that the design impressed onto a coin was its essential feature. This mark guaranteed its value by identifying the issuing authority, and on Greek coinage whenever the authority can be identified, for example by an accompanying inscription, it seems invariably to have been the State or an individual acting for the State. This authority was vital to the coin and it is not surprising that most ancient Greek coins were known by the names of their issuing cities, e.g. Kyzikenoi(‘coins of Cyzicus’), or of the rulers whose authority lay behind them: ’Alexanders’. However some coins were known by the designs, which identified them, for example, the ‘owls’ of Athens.

 

The categories into which Greek coin design can be divided are many and varied: heads or figures of favoured deities, attributes of deities, especially animals associated with them such as the eagle of Zeus or the owl of Athens, characters from mythology or local legends, local products or other features identifiable to a specific city or country, and designs which provide a pun on the name of the issuer.  All these categories of coin types are represented on Greek coinage of the sixth to fourth centuries. In the early part of this period animal types are being ‘heraldic’ devices, and this probably helps to explain the frequent appearance of animals, animal parts and other simple types. Heads of deities are rare on the earliest coins, but in the fifth and fourth centuries BC they became increasingly common. By its technical sense, the round shape of the coinage and head design had become an established convention for coins and the concept of portraiture had been adopted. After Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire the Greek world underwent a radical transformation; no longer was it dominated by independent city-states, but instead the leading powers were the kingdoms formed out of Alexander’s empire, and on the coinage of these kingdoms portraits of rulers tended to replace the earlier heads of gods or goddesses. These coins, which usually had a seated or standing figure of a deity on the reverse, became the effective prototypes for the coinage of Imperial Rome and, ultimately, modern coins.Another important feature of Greek coin design is the use of subsidiary pictorial elements, usually referred to as symbols, which sometimes appear alongside the major type. These are rare in the earliest coinages, but they occur with increasing frequency from the fifth century BC. They often seem to have acted as control marks, by identifying the official directly responsible for the authorization of a particular issue of coinage. In this way they would have had the same purpose as a signature, and they sometimes occur alongside names or monograms.

Other inscriptions on Greek coins include names which identify figures represented on the designs, such as local river gods or city founders, names of denominations, though these are exceedingly rare and mostly confined to later Greek coinages and, much more commonly names that indicate in some way personal responsibility for the issues. The names of artists also sometimes appear on Greek coins. They can usually be distinguished from other name such as those of magistrates, because they tend to be included within the coin designs in a discrete, and sometimes in an imaginatively discrete.

As in seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe, traders had books to enable them to determine the comparative value of the coins likely to pass through their hands and scales to weigh them. Till the archaic period it was the value of the silver and the convenience of the coined unit, which caused wide circulation from the area of issue. In later times certain coinages, which had gained a trustworthy reputation, were deemed to be officially acceptable far from the city of origin and without, necessarily, any political implications.

The testing of the coinage is circulation must have been a daily occurrence in the Greek world. Such a official person required in most cities were response for testing coins were used as debt collectors, because their knowledge would save the creditors from being cheated.  By scratching the surface of the gold coins this allowed comparison of the colour with samples, such as Lydian, of known fineness, to provide a fairly accurate examination of the purity. For silver coins serious adulteration of the metal might have been visible to the wary eye, like plating on a copper core, which normally produced a lightweight coin, required a cut or punch to break through the surface and reveal the true nature of the piece. Another remarkable identification is personal ‘countermark’. Which was used with the earliest electrum coinage, like the original die, could have the effect of a mark of guarantee. 

With the arrival of Romans in the second century BC little change took place locally, either in the coinage or in the accounting, and it was not until the time of Augustus that the Thessalian League, for example, turned from accounting in League staters to accounting in imposed by the Romans became ever more notice until Greek coinage ceased in the third century AD.

 

Table of Denominations Based on the Tetradrachm

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Table of Denominations Based on the Stater

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Fibula – Pin in Your Love

梨子

What influenced Ancient Roman fashion? It was the Roman expansion across the Mediterranean area, North Africa, Egypt and Europe brought them land and taxes and contact with many different cultures. The Romans incorporated many of these styles, designs and gemstones in their own jewellery and combined them with their own designs.  On the beginning the Roman jewellery found an inspiration in Greek and Etruscan jewels. Romans found inspiration in other countries later as their expansion continued: Egypt, China, India, Sarmatia and even Germania.

In Roman period, both men and women wore items of jewellery including rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The most common jewellery item of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together. The Romans tended to pin items of clothes rather than sew them. To this end they developed the fibulae or clasps. The fibula, was resembled a safety pin and was used as a clothing fastener and was decorated with a cameo or a winged Victory emblem.

A fibula is the Latin term of an ancient brooch, which refers to Roman brooches. Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae were not only decorative; they originally served a practical function: to fasten clothing, such as cloaks, or, in some cases, purely for decoration. Fibulae replaced straight pins that were used to fasten clothing in the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. In turn, fibulae were replaced as clothing fasteners by buttons in the Middle Ages. They are perhaps most famous as the fastener on Roman military cloaks – the sagum and paludamentum. However, they were used centuries before Rome was founded and for centuries after it fell. By their designs, it can mostly signify culture, tribe, sex, status or profession. These fibulae were used on robes, shirts and dresses as well as cloaks; however they were never used on was the toga, which was simply folded and draped and was not fixed by any pin.

The first fibulae appear in Mycenaean Greece in the 12th(?) century BC and consist of a long pin looped back on itself with a small catch at one end. It resembles the simple safety pin still in use today – 32 centuries later.

Fibulae quickly spread through the Archaic Greek world and then to the peoples of Anatolia, the Balkans and Italy. A huge diversity of forms appeared, often delineating different cultures, peoples and tribes, though most were bow fibulae with spring mechanisms.

Fibula use appears to have declined among the Classical Greeks, the Hellenistic Greeks and the early Romans during the second half of the first millennium BC but they were widely used throughout the Celtic world.

Fibulae gained a new popularity among the Romans at the start of the Empire though most early Roman types appear to derive from Celtic or, in some cases, early Germanic types. The Roman military, and its associated civilian followers, helped spread different fibula designs throughout the Empire. The increasing use of foreigners, or barbarians, in the Roman military ensured that many Roman designs spread beyond the borders of the Empire as well.

Plate fibulae spread quickly throughout the Roman world. By the 2nd century AD their decorative potential was often enhanced through enamel-work or other fancy decorative techniques.

During the Imperial Roman era fibula use expanded among the Germanic and Sarmatian peoples to the north and northeast of the Empires frontiers.

Fibula use continued after the fall of the western Roman Empire among the Germanic peoples and with the Byzantine military. However, the later steppe nomads of the Turco-Mongol peoples did not adopt fibulae and instead used belt-sets as status symbols. In Western and Central Europe fibulae use declined as cheaper and simpler buttons replaced them for everyday use and as the use of burial goods disappeared.

Fibulae remained in use in the early Middle Ages by the pagan Nordic and Baltic peoples. In the High Middle Ages brooches – basically plate fibulae – had a resurgence in popularity though they were by this time purely decorative.

brooches


Fat Ladies

麗人1

“Many beauties take the air by the Changan waterfront,

Receptive, aloof, sweet-mannered, sincere,

With soft fine skin and well-balanced bone.

Their embroidered silk robes in the spring sun are gleaming…”

The Tang dynasty (618 – 906 AD) is generally regarded as the Golden Age in Chinese History. Under one of it’s greatest Emperors, Taizong (reigned 627 – 649 AD), military conquests extended Chinese domination as far as the Parmirs.

The Tang Dynasty is the only period in Chinese history to have known a female sovereign -Empress Wu Zetian (625-706). As a result, many women in this period were able to enjoy the sophisticated life style that evolved. Women acquired an equal position in society and especially those of the upper classes had enormous freedom. The various fashions are reflected in Tang terracotta models of court ladies, where we can follow the development in styles during this period.

The first style derived from the previous Sui dynasty (581-618) and is characterised by short, close-fitting bodices and long skirts. Following this, was a fashion based on clothing worn by foreigners with more ornamentation as well as bold and exotic colours. A more voluptuous or plump figure became the final and dominant trend for the Tang Dynasty. These ladies were dressed in loose-fitting garments with high waistlines and full sleeves, usually brightly coloured with hairpin ornaments in the coiffure.

One popular theory for their appearance is that the favoured concubine of the Tang Emperor Xuanzong (712-756) was of generous size. As showing respect was of utmost importance to the Emperor, ‘plumpness’ would have gained status at the court. Yang Guifei was known for her love of fresh lychees, which  were transported by post horse from Lingnan in the south over the whole length of China especially for her. As the Tang dynasty poet Du Mu wrote;

‘Looking back at chang’an, an embroidered pile appears,

A thousand gates amoung mountain peaks open each in turn.

A single horseman in the red dust-and the young Consort laughs,

But no one knows if it is the Lychees which come……

The golden age of Tang Dynasty is regarded as the forty years governed by the Emperor Xuanzong (Illustrious August – 712 – 755 AD).

This remarkable time reached to the peak when poetry, dance, painting, music and crafts flourished in a rich and powerful empire.

This was also a period of tolerance both in religious and social matters where elite and middle-class Chinese women enjoyed almost total freedom. Never before had the female so closely rivalled traditional male superiority in Chinese society.

Merchants and travellers returning from long journies along the silk roads brought back new fashions, hairstyles and social traditions, many of which were quickly embraced by the Royal Court. Keen to gain the favour of the Emperor, courtiers, officials and their families would adopt these new trends with relish.

For the first twenty years he was a vigorous and conscientious ruler and highly respected by officials and commoners alike however, as in many tragic love stories, later years were to be less than acceptable to the court.

He became obsessed with one of his sons wives. In 740 AD he ordered a eunuch to sieze the women from the prince’s mansion and placed her in a Taoist temple where, some time later, he ordained her as a priestess. Soon after he moved her to his palace and four years later he stripped her of her religious title leaving the door open for him to legally accept her into his court.

Yang Gufei, as she is known to history, was a plump beauty accomplished in dance and music and, out of the hundreds of concubines, the emperors favourite. Her “mature” figure demanded clothes that were stylish but that also concealed her ample charms so now, for the first time, long, loose fitting robes with high necklines became court fashion accompanied by elaborate hairstyles.

One pariticular hairstyle is often seen on fat lady statues. Returning from a hunting trip one day Yang fell off her horse and the high arrangement of her hair came loose on one side. If anything, the delightfully dishevelled state of her hair made her look even more beautiful, so it was not surprising that the other palace ladies rushed to copy her Duo Maji or, “just fallen off the horse look”.

The height of these (and other) fat lady statues were controlled; Royalty and the elite could have examples up to about 1 meter whereas less important people had to contend with smaller, more modest statues.

When the Emperor died he wanted to be accompanied to the next world with the tallest, most beautiful fat ladies.

Xuanzong spent so much time with Yang Gufei that he ignored matters of state just to be with her. His Chief Minister, Yang, a cousin of Yang Gufei plotted to remove the Emperor from the throne but was thwarted by a powerful lord, An Lushan who had raised an army of 150,000 troops and marched on the capital to confront Minister Yang.

In the summer of 756 AD, Xuanzong made a disastrous decision. He ordered the imperial forces to confront the rebel forces but was soundly defeated leaving the path clear for An to enter the capital.

On 14 July, Xuanzong, the Chief Minister, Yang Gufei and a small escort of troops slipped out of the capital and made their way to a rapid relay station to the west of the capital. Here the escort rebelled, killed the Chief Minister and demanded the life of Yang Gufei who they blamed for the dynasty’s destruction.

The Emperor had no choice but to order his most trusted eunuch to strangle the love of his life with a horse whip.Although the Tang dynasty continued under various Emperors, the golden age had come to an end. Fat lady statues were still used as Minqi for the elite until the end of the dynasty but when it eventually fell to what is known as the Five Dynasties in 907 AD, they ceased to be produced.


“Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

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Back to the ancient time, people did not have glass or plastic to make containers out of. Fortunately, clay was an important resource in Greece. Once clay is fired it is  almost indestructible and also fairly waterproof. These features made clay a wonderful material to make containers out of. It was used for big storage containers, buckets, cups, perfume bottles, wine bottles, jewelry boxes, and any other type of container for storing things in. All of these uses made the potters in ancient Greece very busy. Their skills became so refined that they were just as important as the clay itself, although they were often poor people or even slaves.

Greek Pottery from 1000 to 400 B.C. provides not only some of the most distinctive vase shapes from antiquity but also some of the oldest and most diverse representations of the cultural beliefs and practices of the ancient Greeks.

Materials & Production

The clay (keramos) to produce pottery (kerameikos) was readily available throughout Greece, although the finest was Attic clay, with its high iron content giving an orange-red colour with a slight sheen when fired and the pale buff of Corinth. Clay was generally prepared and refined in settling tanks so that different consistencies of material could be achieved depending on the vessel types to be made with it.

When clay is first dug out of the ground it is full of rocks and shells and other stuff that needs to be removed. To do this the potter mixes the clay with water and lets all the impurities sink to the bottom. This is called levigation or elutriation. This process can be done many times. The more times this is done the smoother clay becomes after it is fired.

The clay is then kneaded by the potter and placed on a wheel. A wheel is a machine that the potter uses to spin the clay and form it into shapes. Once the clay is on the wheel the potter can shape it into any of the many shapes shown below or anything else he desires. The pots were usually made in sections such as the body and feet and spout. Even the body, if it were larger than 30 centimeters, might be made in separate sections and glued together later with a thin watery clay called slip. After the pot is made then the potter paints it with a very pure black slip (made from the same clay) and a brush.

Greek pottery, unlike today’s pottery, was only fired once, but that firing had three stages. After the pottery is stacked inside the kiln our potter can start the first stage. He heats the kiln up to around 800°C with all the vents on the sides open to let air in. This turns the pottery and the paint red all over. Once the kiln reaches 800°C the vents are closed and the temperature is raised to 950°C and then allowed to drop back to 900°C. This turns the pottery and the paint all black. The potter then starts the third and final phase by opening the vents and allowing the kiln to cool all the way down. This last phase leaves the slip black but turns the pottery back to red. This happens because when the clay is given air it turns red, but when the black slip is heated to 950°C it no longer allows air in. So the slipped area stays black while the bare areas stay red.

Shapes

Pottery in Greece has had a continuous evolution from the Minoan period down to the Hellenistic era. It was not until 5th and 6th century that Greek pottery shined for its beauty. Most Greek pottery was shaped for a special function or multi-functions. They were used around the house, or for ceremonies, or even entertainment. The most common forms of pottery were amphorae for storing wine, large kraters for mixing wine with water, jugs (oinochoai) for pouring wine, kylixes or stemmed cups with horizontal handles for drinking (especially practical if lifting a cup from the floor when reclining on a lounger at dinner), hydra with three handles for holding water, skyphoi or deep bowls, and lekythoi jars for holding oils and perfumes. Precisely because these objects were for practical us e, handles (when present) are generally sturdy affairs, yet the potter, by using carefully considered shapes, often managed to blend these additions into the overall harmony of the vessel and was aided in this endeavour with subtle decorative additions by the painter.

Proto-Geometric Pottery

Greek pottery, particularly in terms of decoration, evolved over the centuries and may be categorized into four broad groups. These groups or styles, however, did not pass abruptly from one to the other but rather in some cases ran contemporary for decades. Also, some city-states and regions were either slow to catch on to new styles or simply preferred the old style decoration long after they had gone out of production elsewhere. Before about 1050 B.C., the Greek islands were occupied by people called Mycenaeans. Their culture collapsed and Greece went through a “dark” period, much like the Dark Ages in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Historians call the period from 1050 to 900 B.C. the protogeometrical (Earliest phase of geometric art in Greece ) period after the decorations on pottery from this time. During this period, the Greeks resumed cultural activities, including pottery-making. The production of pottery tells archeologists that the people had become comfortable and settled enough to not only make pottery and decorate it with fairly intricate designs, but to make the necessary paint and brushes as well. After the 9th century B.C., the geometric pottery designs became more intricate and complex. Around the 7th century B.C., human figures began to appear on the pottery.

Orientalized Pottery

From the 8th century B.C., Geometric pottery decoration began to include stylized human figures, birds, and animals with nearly all the surface of the vase covered in bold lines and shapes painted in brown and black. Towards the end of the period in the 7th century B.C., the so-called Orientalising style became popular in Corinth. With its eastern trade connections, the city appropriated the stylised plants (e.g. lotus, palm, and the tree of life), animal friezes (e.g. lions), and curved lines of Egyptian and Assyrian pottery to produce its own unique Greek version. The rest of eastern Greece followed suit, often preferring red on a white slip background. Athens also followed the new trend and it became widespread with, for example, the Cyclades also producing pottery in this new freer style, often on very large vases and with more spacious decoration. At the end of the 7th century B.C., Proto-Corinthian pottery reached new heights of technique and quality producing the finest pottery yet seen, in firing, shape, and decoration. The black stylized figures became more and more precisely engraved and were given ever more detail, grace, and vigour. The celebrated black-figure pottery style was born. 

Black-figure Pottery

Although first produced in Corinth, then with fine examples made in Laconia and southern Italy (by Euboean settlers), it would be the potters and painters of Attica who would excel above all others in the black-figure style, and they would go on to dominate the Greek market for the next 150 years. Not all figures were painted black as certain colour conventions were adopted, such as white for female flesh and purple-red for clothes and accessories. A greater interest in fine details such as muscles and hair, which were added to the figures using a sharp instrument, is characteristic of the style. Black Figure pottery is one of the most recognizable Greek pottery designs emerged. Black figure pottery bears iconic representations of figures from Greek mythology. The mainly black figures are more intricate than mere silhouettes, with facial features, clothing and weaponry depicted in reds and yellows. Zeus, Achilles, Athena and other gods and mythological figures adorn the pots from this period.

Red-figure Pottery

Alongside such red-figured vases we also find pieces decorated in outline over a white ground. The use of aw hite slip was, developed around 530 B.C. which would endure for the next 130 years or so. At first the decoration was done in the regular black-figure technique, but soon the effect of outline drawing was tried. This idea was quickly taken up, especially by artists now trained in the red-figure technique, with its advantage of the brush over the graver, could attempt to more realistically portray the human figure and eventually it became the favoured style of Greek pottery decoration. Perhaps influenced by contemporary wall painting techniques, anatomical detail, diverse facial expressions, greater detail in clothing (especially of folds, following the new fashion of the lighter chiton dress which also fascinated contemporary sculptors), greater attempts at portraying perspective, the overlapping of figures, and the depiction of everyday life such as education and sporting scenes are all characteristic of this style.

Later Designs

From the 6th century B.C. on, a variety of pottery styles and artistic designs continued to develop. Artists discovered new pigment materials to make paints, and potters developed firing methods to glaze and finish the pottery. Red figure pottery followed black figure using many of the same designs and techniques. The white ground technique used the white background that came from white pottery, with paintings in multiple colors. Greek pottery making declined during the Hellenistic period, which stretched until about the 1st century B.C. when Rome was replacing Greece as the center of the civilized world.

vase

Ancient Greek paintings and structures did not survive as well as Ancient Greek Pottery, so the paintings on the jugs, vases and pots provide the majority of the information archeologists discovered about ancient Greek life. Further, pottery, with its durability (even when broken) and lack of appeal to treasure hunters, is one of the great archaeological survivors and is, therefore, an important tool for archaeologists and historians in determining the chronology of ancient Greece.

Whatever their artistic and historical value though, the vast majority of Greek vases, despite now being dusty museum pieces, were actually meant for everyday use and, to paraphrase Arthur Lane, it is perhaps worth remembering that standing on a stone pavement and drenched with water, they would have once gleamed in the Mediterranean sun.    

 


Golden Era of The Ancient Scythians

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Scythian, member of a nomadic people originally who migrated from Central Asia to southern Russia in the 8th and 7th centuries bce. The Scythians founded a rich, powerful empire centred on what is now the Crimea. The empire survived for several centuries before succumbing to the Sarmatians during the 4th century BC to the 2nd century AD.

What we have known about Scythians history is coming from the account of them by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. The Scythians were among the earliest people to master the art of riding, and their mobility astonished their neighbours. The migration of the Scythians from Asia eventually brought them into the territory of the Cimmerians, who had traditionally controlled the Caucasus and the plains north of the Black Sea. In a war that lasted 30 years, the Scythians destroyed the Cimmerians and set themselves up as rulers of an empire stretching from west Persia through Syria and Judaea to the borders of Egypt. The Medes, who ruled Persia, attacked them and drove them out of Anatolia, leaving them finally in control of lands which stretched from the Persian border north through the Kuban and into southern Russia.

The Scythians were remarkable not only for their fighting ability but also for the complex culture they produced. They developed a class of wealthy aristocrats who left elaborate graves filled with richly worked articles of gold and other precious materials. This class of chieftains, the Royal Scyths, finally established themselves as rulers of the southern Russian and Crimean territories. It is there that the richest and most numerous relics of Scythian civilization have been found. Their power was sufficient to repel an invasion by the Persian king Darius I in about 513 BC.The Royal Scyths were headed by a sovereign whose authority was transmitted to his son. Eventually, around the time of Herodotus, the royal family intermarried with Greeks. In 339 the ruler Ateas was killed at the age of 90 while fighting Philip II of Macedonia. The community was eventually destroyed in the 2nd century BC, Palakus being the last sovereign whose name is preserved in history.

Scythian contacts with craftsmen in Greek colonies along the northern shores of the Black Sea resulted in the famous Scythian gold adornments that feature among the most glamorous artifacts of world museums. Ethnographically extremely useful as well, the gold depicts Scythian men as bearded, long-haired Caucasoids. “Greco-Scythian” works depicting Scythians within a much more Hellenic style date from a later period, when Scythians had already adopted elements of Greek culture.Scythians had a taste for elaborate personal jewelry, weapon-ornaments and horse-trappings. They executed Central-Asian animal motifs with Greek realism: winged gryphons attacking horses, battling stags, deer, and eagles, combined with everyday motifs like milking ewes.

Scythian art is art, primarily decorative objects, such as jewelry, produced by the nomadic tribes in the area known classically as Scythia, which was centred on the Pontic-Caspian steppe and ranged from modern Kazakhstan to the Baltic coast of modern Poland, to Georgia and Armenia. This art is also known as steppes art and was produced in a period from 7th-3rd century BC to 4th century BC to 2nd century BC, when the Scythians were gradually displaced by the Sarmatians. As the Scythians came in contact with the Greeks, their artwork influenced Greek art, and was influenced by it; also many pieces were made by Greek craftsmen for Scythian customers.

The Scythians worked in a wide variety of materials such as gold, wood, leather, bone, bronze, iron, silver and electrum. As nomads, the Scythians worked in decorative materials for use on their horses, tents and wagons and many of the pieces are small so as to be portable. Earlier pieces reflected animal style traditions; in the later period many pieces, especially in metal, were produced by Greek craftsmen who had adapted Greek styles to the tastes and subject-matter of the wealthy Scythian market, and probably often worked in Scythian territory.

Scythian jewelry features various animals including stags, cats, birds, horses, bears, wolves and mythical beasts. The gold figures of stags in a semi-recumbent position are particularly impressive approximately 30.5 cm long. These were often the central ornaments for shields carried by fighters. In the most notable of these figures, stags are displayed with legs tucked beneath its body, head upright and muscles tight to give the impression of speed.

The popular motifs of appliques like a gold cut-out plaque in the shape of a bird, at its back of the plaque are five loops for attachment. This plaque was evidently attached to cloth or leather, and is probably either a dress ornament or a harness ornament. Stylised birds heads with round bulging eyes and hooked beaks are a characteristic feature of Scythian art.

Scythians clothing has also been well made many trimmed by embroidery and appliqué designs. Wealthy people wore clothes covered by gold embossed plaques. Men and warrior women wore tunics, often embroidered, adorned with felt applique work, or metal golden plaques. Scythian women wore shawls with long, loose robes, ornamented with gold plaques. Because of Scythians dressing style is filled with gold or other metal ornaments, the name of ”Goldend men” then has been owned.