Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Paisley pattern's Zoroastrian root

The Scottish town of Paisley became a major producer of textiles from the early 19th century and a certain pattern came to be associated with that town.
The "Paisley" design comes from the Persian "buta" design described as being shrub shaped.
It became popular in Britain due to the importation of silk shawls from India during the late 18th century via the East India Company. In the Indian subcontinent the shape is thought to be a mango.
The design is said to have become popular in India during the Mughal era.

Like much else of Mughal culture, this emblem was Iranian in origin.

"We find the first manifestations of this ancient motif in Scythian and Achaemenid art mainly portrayed as the wings of Homa or Senmurv and which lasted in the same manner until the Sassanian period."- Dr Cyrus Parham, in "Nashr-e Danesh" (Iran University Press, Tehran, 1999, volume 16, number 4, page 1378)

These wings were also used on the crown of the later Sassanian monarchs from Khosrow II to Yazdegerd III (6th - 7th centuries). Winged animals within roundels were depicted on costly silk clothing, worn by the elites of the pre-Islamic Iranian world.
A silver Drachm of Khosrow II (from the Yazd mint dated 620AD) that I had owned. Note his crown.

Detail of the wings on the crown.
Sassanian era stucco with the name of "Shapur" above two wings. From:
I wonder if such representation had to be disguised when Islamic persecution of the Zoroastrian people began, that overt religious emblems such as the animals were abandoned but a single wing was retained, becoming more stylised over time until its meaning was no longer clear.
My sketch showing a Simurgh from a Sassanian era stucco and the typical shape of the Paisley (buta) pattern.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

BBC's "Black and British: A Forgotten History: 1. First Encounters" Burgh by Sands African heritage

The first episode of the BBC 2 series "Black and British: A Forgotten History - 1. First Encounters" first broadcast 9/11/2016, presented by David Olusoga (and whose book this series derives from).
The first part of the episode regards how Africans were stationed at a Roman fort along "Hadrian's wall".

At 04:51 into the episode David introduces an Archaeologist, Richard Benjamin (Dr Richard Benjamin).
Dr Benjamin heads the "International Slavery Museum" team at National Museums, Liverpool.
Dr Benjamin states that Roman history was a "conduit for him being of a diverse backround" as he is of Gayanan parentage.
Dr Benjamin then shows an image of the tomb slab found in South Shields of a Roman by the name of Victor who was "MAVRVM" and he states "so a Moor so from the north african provinces".
Dr Benjamin then shows an image from a medieval copy of the Roman "Notitia Dignitatum" of a "military unit" called the Numerus (auxillary) Maurorum Aurelianorum. Richard says the unit was "named in honour of Marcus Aurelius" and who were "stationed at Aballava" (Burgh by Sands in the modern English county of Cumbria).
What Dr Benjamin does not say is this is not the famous Marcus Aurelius, the stoic Emperor and of "Gladiator a la Richard Harris" but the regnal name of an Emperor who is known to us today as Caracalla.
Dr Benjamin also did not mention that the modern descendants of the Roman province of Mauretania are the Moroccans.
Dr Benjamin then states "the likelyhood they were brown or black, not all of them but equally people can't say to me that they weren't, that this unit were all white by the time they got here. For me personally to realise there may have been Roman soldiers, you know, two thousand years ago who may have looked like me or members of my family, that gave me a sense of identity and made me very proud."
Dr Benjamin seems to think that those people (such as myself) who have read the Roman histories that have come down to us think everyone within the Empire was "white" when that was far from the recorded case.  Its absurd.
Dr Benjamin's academic backround, his heading of the "International Slavery Museum" in Liverpool as well as his Gayanan ancestry, shaoes the agenda behind this "discovery" of Africans stationed at Aballava.
David then states: "After some eighteen hundred years the people of Burgh by Sands are reawakening the memory of their villagers African Roman heritage."
Going along with Dr Benjamin, David now conflates a continent with an ethnic group.

(Aside from the racial agenda manipulation, the plaque commissioned by the BBC looks very similar to the popular, and since 2014 cancelled, Channel 4 "Time Team" logo.)
Then a local boy shows a drawing he made of "Septius Servus" (Septimius Severus) to David, he states "ah this is the Emperor who we know was from north Africa".
Septimius Severus, though from north Africa (the town of Leptis Magna) was of Italian, Punic and maybe Libyan parentage. He was a "child" of the Empire, at a time when people who had the means to move around the provinces, did, as his parents clearly did. In his time it was loyalty to Rome that was asked whilst being free to retain a "mother tongue" and local traditions.
Then the boy states "It's spectacular that Romans came from Africa and this is where the Aballava fort was."
Though this sounds scripted, the use of the name Roman is correct as in 212 AD Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius) had made all free men in the Empire Roman citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin by an edict known as the "Constitutio Antoniniana".
At 07:09 into the episode David goes into the local church, St Michael's, which had resued some of the stones from the ruined fort.

It is likely that when this fort was constructed in the 2nd century AD it would have been by masons within the Roman army and the hard, dangerous, work of extracting the rocks would likely have been done by slaves. White slaves, likely from Britannia.
David states: "there could have been as many as 500 soldiers occupying the fortress that stood here and the culture and beliefs that they brought with them would have shaped life around the fort. Beyond the walls of the fort was the Vicus and this was a cilivian area. Roman soldiers were pretty well paid and so there was no shortage of traders and merchants only too happy to provide them with everything that they needed. So out there would have been bars and gambling houses and grocers and take aways and doctors and spirit guides. Now some of these merchants will have travelled across the Empire with the legions. But so perhaps would some of the families of the soldiers and they would have settled here. So what we have here at Aballava is the first community that we know of in Britain that included people from Africa."
Again, the conflation of a continent with an ethnic group, the Berbers, whom the Mauretanians belong to.
A local girl states: "it's quite amazing that a small village like Burgh by Sands can have such like big history".
Then an unnamed man, in front of the gates of St Michael's, states: "we think about the songs the soldiers would have sung and the bed time stories told in the civilian settlement of African songs and African stories here."
Once again the conflation of a continent with an ethnic group (the Berbers). If the man is ignorant of Roman history he can be excused of such a deception.
David then mentions how members of the African (west African instead of Maghrebi, whom the Berbers still live) and Carribean (mostly Jamaica and some of the Lesser Antilles islands) communities, who are said to live alongside "Hadrian's wall" today, have joined in the celebration.
The priest of St Michael's then asks a Ghanan man by the name of Tony to do the honours of unveiling the plaque.
Tony states: "I'm privillaged for me to unveil the plaque to say the Africans were here (sic)."
Then a woman, unnamed, of the "local" Caribbean community states: "For me what started here was the Black presence in Britain, the presence being real rather than just in a history book".
Yet it was due to a "history book" called the Notitia Dignitatum that provided the evidence that a contingent of Mauretanians were based at Aballava.
A man, unnamed, of Black African parentage, then states: "in times when multicultural Britain seems to be breaking down I think its quite interesting that before the formation of Britain there were foreign African Romans working here to protect the borders. So yeah it makes me proud to be African and proud to be British."
(He doesn't state what aspects of multicultural Britain are "breaking down" or why he could not have been proud before of being African until this event. Ultimately we are all Africans since it is where humanity origanted from.) 
After Caracalla's edict the Mauretanians could no longer be classed as "foreign" or even "African". They were Romans. But he can be excused if he is ignorant of Roman history but airing this ignorance on the BBC pushes an erroneous agenda.
Tony then states "I was so pleased that African army brought the children African songs. So the children we promise you if you want to learn many African songs let us know and I will teach you (sic)." Tony then gets some of the white villagers to take part in a rendition of a Ghanan song and chant out the words "che che kulay" a few times whilst holding their hands to their heads.
Great fun but it obscures the supposed aim of the event, commemorating the contingent of Mauretanians who, according to this episode, had been forgotten about and were based at Aballava. Their Berber songs would have been different to the Ghanan songs. 
If truth had been the objective of this event the BBC could have arranged for a representative of the Moroccan community in Britain to come along, unveil the plaque and teach the locals a Berber song.
Maybe for the BBC, Moroccans are not a suitable "African" representation for their program?
At 10:20 into the episode the unnamed woman who was supervising the fitting of the plaque to the gate of St Michael's church then states that she is "fourth generation in the village, Cumbria we go back to the eleven hundreds but not as, not as (sic) far as the Black history that we have revealed today. This is now part of our story in a very real special way."
She may consider herself English but the Cumbrians predate the Roman invasion and are related to the Welsh
If this woman is ignorant of British history she can be excused, but from what she stated it seems an intentional, misleading, statement by her or even scripted for her to read from an autocue by those behind this program. If truth had been the aim of the event and a Moroccan representative had been invited to unveil the plaque it would have been interesting what they would have been their reaction to be simply labelled as "Black".  
Africa is a continent, of a diverse number of ethnic groups rather than one ethnic group and this fact should have been recognised rather than obfuscated to fit an agenda. 
However, an agenda it does seem to be, pushed by the likes of Dr Benjamin.
A further example of obfuscation is the other ethnic groups who had been based at Aballava that were not mentioned, such as the "First Ala of Tungrorum" who were Germans, stationed there in the second century as well as a mixed cavalry regiment called the "First Cohort of Nerva’s Own Germans". 
There was a detachment of mounted Frisians (who still live in the modern Netherlands) stationed at Aballava along with the Mauretanians in the third century.
I doubt the BBC will commission a program about the Arab heritage of South Shields, via the Roman fort of Arbeia
Yet such a subject ("Arabs in the western world") is the "hot topic" of today rather than the "Black v White" issue in the UK that really reached a cresendo in the 1970s.
Concluding that part of the episode David states: "I think if you ask most people to guess where the first African encounters between Britons and Africans took place they wouldn't guess that it was in this tiny Cumbrian village. And I think if you asked the same people to guess when that encounter took place they wouldn't dream that it was nearly eighteen centuries ago. But the people of this village are genuinely proud and excited that their village and the African Romans who were stationed here are the first chapter in this long history."
Roman Africans, David. Roman was their citizenship, thanks to the Italo-Punic-maybe Libyan-Syrian Emperor, Marcus Aurelius II a.k.a Caracalla. They were not ethnic Italian. Didn't you explain that?

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Young Claudius?

In the Louvre Museum, Paris, is a statue titled "young boy wearing a Toga, dated to the 1st century AD". It was aquired by the Museum from the Borghese collection.

I was fortunate to visit the Museum in May 2014 and though short for time I took  as many photos as I could of what Roman statues I came across.

Recently looking through the photos I took I noticed some traits of the statue of the "young boy wearing a Toga".

The ears of the statue have been damaged and would originally have been larger. And "protruding".
The head of the statue is inclined to the right.
The neck of the statue is longer than average.

Having read about the Emperor Claudius, his physical traits and his condition (recently thought to be Cerebral palsy or Tourette syndrome).
One of the traits the historian Suetonius' described about Claudius (in his work "De Vita Caesarum" written in 121 AD) is how Claudius' head would shake.

In most of the statues of Emperor Claudius, his traits (long neck, "protruding" ears) are depicted.
Obviously the Imperial sculptors made the Emperor Claudius look as athletic, heroic and "perfect" as possible (as they did when depicting Augustus for example), avoiding showing his head at an incline or his ears in a realistic size.

So I put forward my theory on this unattributed sculpture in Louvre Museum for your consideration.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Bust of Gordian I or Aurelian?

Bust in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, attributed as Gordian I. From Wikipedia Commons.

The bust attributed to Gordian I in the Capitoline Museums at Rome bears little resemblance to his depiction in his coins.

It looks far more like Aurelian and matches his depiction on his coins, below are some examples I have owned.
AE Antoninianus of Aurelian, mint of Cyzicus. RIC V, I 347, 272-273 A.D.
AE Antoninianus of Aurelian, mint of Cyzicus. RIC V, I 349 variation, 272-273 A.D.

AE Antoninianus of Aurelian, mint of Cyzicus. RIC V, I 349 variation, 272-273 A.D.
Side view of "Gordian I" bust from
 Gordian I reigned for 36 days from around April - May, in 238 AD.
As Emperor he never set foot in Rome.
(The "Gordian I bust also bears no resemblance to Gordian II, son of Gordian I. He was always depicted bald on his coinage. Like his father he never set foot in Rome as Emperor, "reigning" for around three weeks, 22 March - 12 April 238 AD and was killed outside Carthage leading local troops against the third Legion Augusta.)
Gordian I was 79 years old when he committed suicide, after his son was defeated and killed outside Carthage. Whilst it could be thought the "Gordian I" bust depicts him in his prime instead of at age 79 (just as Augustus, 27 BC-14 AD, only had busts issued that showed him in his prime), taking into account the other mentioned factors, this being a bust of him is unlikely.

Aurelian reigned from September 270 AD - September 275 AD.
As Emperor he not only set foot in Rome but ordered the construction of the walls that bear his name.

Yet there is no known bust of Aurelian.
The style of the bust would conform to that of the late 3rd century.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Roman Emperors Horses?

An article in the Daily Telegraph this week has it that a breed of horse is of the type used by the Roman Emperors.

"The archetype of the breed can be seen in many of Rome's bronze and marble equestrian statues, most notably one of Marcus Aurelius which stands in front of the city's town hall, in a piazza designed by Michelangelo in the 1530s for Pope Paul III."

However the horses shown in the photo have long ears, compared to sculptural examples of Roman Imperial Horses.
There was a famous breed of Horse of the Roman era, known as the "Nisean Horse".
Though originating from the Zagros region of Iran, a number of these Horses were brought back to Rome after Octavian defeated Marc Anthony.
Marc Anthony had captured a number of these Horses during his campaign into northern Iran.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Mosaic of "Alexander the Great"?
A mosaic found in the remains of a 5th century Synagogue in Huqoq, Israel, is thought to show Alexander the Great.

To me, the man depicted looks more like Julian the Apostate.

"Battle elephants were associated with Greek armies beginning with Alexander the Great, so this might be a depiction of a Jewish legend about the meeting between Alexander and the Jewish high priest" ~ Professor Jodi Magness, University of North Carolina.

So it is not definitely Alexander the Great.
Battle Elephants also comprised the Persian army that defeated and killed Julian the Apostate.

Above image from Pinterest. From "Sassanian Elite Cavalry AD 224 - 642" by Dr. Kaveh Farrokh, illustrated by the late Andrew McBride. Osprey Publishing.

Julian was blonde and as Emperor, bearded, as shown in the AE2 coin from the Antioch mint below:

More importantly, regarding the Jews, he favoured them.

Note also the imperial purple robe the man is wearing in the mosaic.

So a depiction of Alexander the Great, from around 332 BC when he was campaigning in the Levant against the Persians or Julian the Apostate, from around 361 AD when he was campaigning in the Levant and Mesopotamia against the Persians?

Friday, 10 July 2015

Constantine's Christ

Emperor Constantine I is credited with making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.

However it was a gradual process.
Initially Constantine, like most Roman Caesars and Emperors, venerated a number of deities.
Sol Invictus came to be the deity that featured most often on his coins.
Below, an AE Half Follis of Constantine from the mint of Trier, dated to 310-311 AD, with Sol Invictus on the reverse:

The Edict of Milan in 313 AD granted freedom for Christians to practise without oppression.
Constantine ordered the construction of a Basilica upon the tomb of St. Peter, either between 318 - 322 AD.
Below, photo showing a deity, on the entrance to the "Tomb of the Julii", part of the Vatican Necropolis complex under the Basilica of St. Peter's.
In 321 AD he made the day of Sol Invictus a day to be venerated both by Pagans and Christians.
We call this day Sunday.
In 330 AD at the centre of his new capital, Constantinople, he had erected a column upon which was a statue of himself in the guise of Apollo.
Below, detail from a porphyry sarcophagus, thought by Dr. Jonathan Bardill to be that of Constantine, outside Haghia Eirene, Istanbul: