(New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1991) 3 vols., 2,283 pp., 125 illustrations, $275.00
The raw data alone are overwhelmingly impressive: 5,200 entries by 127 experts from 17 countries; a small-print catalogue of bibliographic abbreviations that runs for 24 pages and includes items in at least a dozen languages; frequent illustrations, maps, plans, genealogical tables; three volumes totaling ten and a half pounds. Underpinning this parade of statistics are the expertise of the contributors; the range, depth and clarity of the coverage; the editorial precision; and a distinct aura of authority in this meticulously produced monument of cooperative scholarship.
No aspect of Byzantine civilization, from the foundation of Constantinople (325 A.D.) to its capture by the Ottoman Turks (1453 A.D.) is omitted: art and architecture, theology, history and government, hagiography, literature, trade and economics, ecclesiastical policy, social history and daily life, Islamic influences, major sites and monuments from Egypt to the Balkans, Ravenna to Georgia. The editor acknowledges making a “selection … among saints, patriarchs, writers”; nonetheless, there are 13 “Basils” (a name meaning “imperial,” “royal”)—including an archbishop of Seleukeia and Basil the Bastard, a tenth-century emperor and art patron—and 22 “Theodores” (meaning “God’s gift”), a truly divine bounty of holy men, emperors and theologians.
Entries on Biblical topics are frequent and fascinating. Their focus is, naturally, Byzantine. “Crossing the Red Sea” is presented as a theme decorating a fourth-century catacomb and sarcophagi as well as an Old Testament foreshadowing of the ritual of baptism; the miraculous defeat of pharaoh’s army in the waves is also interpreted as a “preview” of the Emperor Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River in 312 A.D. The entry for “Old Testament Illustrations” has numerous helpful cross-references and marvelously synopsizes the subject. The popular Christian method of exegesis, which finds specific (sometimes ingenious) links between the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures, is fully exemplified in the entry for “Prefiguration,” with a complementary notice on its application to art in “Typology.” Various Gospel episodes have individual entries: In the article on Acts, one learns that this history of the Apostles’ deeds is rarely illustrated in the Byzantine tradition; “Apocalypse” notes that the authenticity of the Revelation to John was generally doubted in this period.
An eccentric type of Byzantine literature is the “Cento” (patchwork), a pastiche of borrowed lines adapted to a new topic: Lines from Euripides’ plays were reused to form a “tragedy” of Christ’s passion and death; and the fifth-century Empress Athenais-Eudokia composed a life of Christ by adapting homeric verses to her Gospel topic. Another exotic composition is the “Palaia” (meaning “ancient,” “old”), a “narrative [most popular among the Slavs] of events from the Creation to Daniel, based on paraphrased and apocryphal versions of O.T. [Old Testament] episodes,” supplemented by Christian writers.
Several entries that stand out for their interest and scope are “Cross” and “Cross, Cult of the,” a review of the pervasive influence of this primary Christian symbol; “Hippodromes,” a historical and structural survey of the arenas that were the sites, throughout the East, of chariot-racing, the sport mania of the Byzantine people; and “Women,” a balanced, cogently written overview of the ambivalent image and status of women in life, literature, law and art.
No respectable library can afford to forgo the immediate purchase of the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, because it will be cited, throughout the world, as the scholarly reference on all matters Byzantine.
The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem
Dan Bahat with Chaim T. Rubinstein; translated by Shlomo Kerko; foreword by Benjamin Mazar; introduction by Eric Meyers
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990) 152 pp., $95.00
The authors of The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem aim “to present the main situations and events [in Jerusalem’s history] in graphic and cartographic form [and to ensure] that it is scientifically exact” (p. 11). They are highly successful. The result is a very attractive and concise presentation of the history of Jerusalem from its beginning to the present day.a
Dan Bahat, the principal author, has served during the last decade as the district archaeologist of Jerusalem. He knows the city and its history intimately. His previous experience includes work as field director at the Masada excavations. He is also a lecturer on the history of Jerusalem at Bar-Ilan University. Chaim T. Rubenstein, Bahat’s co-author, specializes in the history of Jerusalem during the last 100 years and has written several books and articles on this topic.
The atlas contains 15 chapters illustrated by a vast number of maps, plans, sections, reconstructions and photographs. It opens with a preface detailing some of the history of research in Jerusalem and ends with a detailed bibliography and an index.
The first chapter deals with the topography of the city and has a sub-chapter on the history of archaeological study in Jerusalem. A topographic map, aerial views and several sections show the locations of important sites and their interrelationships.
The second chapter is devoted to the history of Jerusalem before the time of David (c. 1000 B.C.E.).b It includes a thorough discussion of extra-biblical texts in which Jerusalem is mentioned, such as the Execration and Amarna texts from Egypt. With the help of isometric drawings as well as maps, chapter three covers subjects related to the period of the First Temple (1000–586 B.C.E.), including the water systems, fortifications, the Temple and burials. Chapter four examines the period of the Second Temple (538 B.C.E.–70 C.E.), including such topics as the Hasmonean period, the Upper City, the Temple Mount and Herodian 009Jerusalem. An interesting series of four maps tracks the step-by-step siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans led by Titus in 70 C.E.; they show the various movements of Roman and Jewish troops and the areas known to have been burned by the Romans.
A chapter on Jerusalem during the time of Jesus highlights sites mentioned in the New Testament and in other traditions that are related to the life and death of Jesus. The next chapter describes Aelia Capitolina, Roman Jerusalem (135–326 C.E.), after the Bar-Kokhba rebellion. Beautiful drawings help us envision what Damascus Gate looked like in the time of Hadrian.
In the same manner, the next five chapters describe the Byzantine (326–638), Early Arab (638–1099), Crusader (1099–1187), Ayyubid (1187–1250) and Mameluke (1250–1517) periods. The chapter on the Ottoman period (1517–1917) contains a well-illustrated sub-chapter describing Jerusalem in the 19th century. The concluding three chapters cover the time of British rule (1917–1948), the period of divided Jerusalem (1948–1967) and united Jerusalem (since 1967).
The excellent illustrations help bring life to the up-to-date text, resulting in an atlas that is a must for every library and every student who can afford it. Unfortunately, at $95, many will not be able to.
Earthquakes in the Holy Land
(Produced by Chris MacAskill, Stanford Univ. Geophysics Dept.) $45.00, running time: 55 minutes, 24 seconds
When a strong earthquake shook the Holy Land in 1927, the event was reported on the front page of the New York Times under the following headline: “Quake rocks Holy shrine in Jerusalem. Church of the Holy Sepulchre damaged and three tourists buried beneath hotel in Jerusalem.” A similar natural catastrophe some 2,750 years ago was vividly described in the Bible: “ … and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof towards the east and towards the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove towards the north, and half of it towards the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains … like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judea … ” (Zechariah 14:4–5).
Past earthquakes of the Levant in general and the Holy Land in particular are better documented than those of any other 010region. This seismically active area, situated on a fault that marks the boundary between the Arabian plate and the Mediterranean plate, has been inhabited since the dawn of civilization, and chronicles describe tremors great and small going back more than three millennia.
Although the archaeoseismicity of Israel has been extensively researched, this video is the first time the evidence has been presented on film. Noted Stanford University geophysicist Amos Nur, who wrote the script and serves as on-camera guide, spins a fascinating tale that juxtaposes the striking archaeological evidence against dramatic and often familiar quotes from the Old and New Testaments as well as from other sources.
Nur leads us on a tour of selected sites where traces of ancient earthquakes are particularly well preserved because the sites were abandoned immediately following the devastating shocks. Our journey starts in Qal’at Nimrud, the imposing Crusader fortress at the foot of Mt. Hermon in the north, and winds southward to Sussita,c Beth-Shean,d Khirbet el-Mafjar (Hisham’s Palace), Jericho,e Jerusalem, Masada and Qumran. While on the trail of historical earthquakes, we are introduced to magnificent landscapes that yield fascinating tidbits of history and archaeology, which Nur never fails to incorporate in his narration. Dubi Tal’s stunning aerial photography enhances the excellent script by revealing the unexpected patterns and refined planning at many of these ancient sites. The presentation is further enhanced by a well-chosen soundtrack that evokes the mystery of the Levant.
A few more maps and diagrams to clarify the geological analysis would have been helpful, but overall, Nur clearly and compellingly presents the complex, multidisciplinary subject of past seismic events—their cause, frequency and magnitude, and how they are tracked. The enthusiasm conveyed in his personal presentation adds to the film’s authenticity and captures the viewer’s attention throughout.
This film should interest a broad audience, ranging from the layperson with a cursory knowledge of the Bible and the history of the Holy Land to professional archaeologists and geologists.
The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
Alexander P. Kahzdan, Editor-in-Chief
(New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ., 1991) 3 vols., 2,283 pp., 125 illustrations, $275.00
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“ki” is an unpronounced determinative indicating that the name which precedes it is the name of a city, building, or region.
Biblica, 60 (1979), 461–490.
The work of such scholars as Herman Kees, Ancient Egypt, a Cultural Topography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) and Jac. Janssen, Commodity Prices from the Ramesside Period (Leiden: Brill, 1975) stands out as notable exceptions.