A new book about the ever fascinating Theodora. Following the pre-release of the first four instalments of the story, Erudition is pleased to announce that the complete edition of The Eagle and the Swan was launched on 7th November.
It is AD 518 in Constantinople. Theodora was a circus performer and prostitute, famed for her notorious interpretation of the “Leda and the Swan” myth, before catching the eye of a clever young military officer. The soldier and the swan dancer set out on a treacherous path to power that would lead all the way to the throne. The events that ensue, amid the struggles and politics of a society in flux, will leave a city in smouldering ruins.
Despite having been supremely powerful and progressively liberal, Theodora is little known today, having been cruelly maligned by history. While Strickland was researching the architecture of the Hagia Sophia, her curiosity was piqued as she encountered numerous references to Theodora. Strickland became ardent about setting the record straight and wrote The Eagle and the Swan to give Theodora a voice.
Strickland is author of the bestselling The Annotated Mona Lisa. She is also a regular correspondent on the subjects of art, architecture and cultural topics for various publications, such as The Christian Science Monitor and Art in America, and has contributed feature stories to The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
The Eagle and the Swan represents a new approach to historical fiction publishing. A Readers Club allowed members to sample the beginning of the story first, and to contribute to the project via feedback and discussion forums. Members will also have an opportunity to obtain a 50% discount on the full publication and will have access to beta versions of the enhanced publication prior to its launch.
What are readers saying about The Eagle and the Swan?
“A fascinating time in Byzantium made more fascinating by Strickland’s compelling storytelling. I am impatient to read it all, and strongly recommend it.”
“I look forward to reading much more about Theodora and her climb from the bottom of the ladder to its top rungs. Thank you to Carol Strickland for uncovering her history and making her come so vividly to life.”
“LOVE THIS BOOK! By the fifth page I was already riveted by the characters – I could smell the wafting perfume in the throne room and feel the chill in the monk’s chambers. I can’t wait for the next instalment!”
A comprehensive website featuring further background to the title and a blog written by Strickland on related historical and current affairs is available at http://www.theeagleandtheswan.com. The publication will be available directly from the publisher via The Eagle and the Swan website and on the Amazon Kindle store on 7th November 2013.
Full of beautiful Greek handwritten text, and lively, colourful images, this famous work by John Scylitzes is available to view digitally on the World Digital Library. If you are very brave you can download the full 138 Mb pdf.
This Greek manuscript on parchment dating from the 12th to the 13th centuries is one of the most valuable codices in the National Library of Spain, treasured for the richness of its illumination. The work, by Ioannes Scylitza (flourished 1081), is a history of the Byzantine emperors from 811 to 1057, covering events from the proclamation of Michael I Rangabe in 811 to the reign of Michael VI in 1056–57. The manuscript contains 577 miniatures by different artists. Most of the scenes are accompanied by a caption that explains their meaning. The miniatures illustrate the passages in the text, and include views of fortresses, war scenes, scenes of life at court, depictions of corporal punishments, and other more refined and delicate scenes of a religious nature, such as baptisms and the ordination of patriarchs. The first illuminations, in clear tones, are distinguished by their simplicity and the realism of the figures. These are followed by complex scenes drawn with rough lines, sometimes with grotesque traits of naturalism, followed by larger compositions of vigorous and vivacious design, with simple costumes, well-modeled bodies, and realism in the popular types. The manuscript was probably written in Palermo, Sicily. It belonged to the monastery of San Salvador de Faro de Messina until the end of the 16th century, when it passed to the cathedral at Messina. In 1690, it became the property of the dukes of Uceda, until Philip V confiscated the rich ducal library, after which it came into the custody of the National Library in Madrid.
To view it go here and then click Open just below the image or select the pdf download. We are thankful that Laura Diaz-Arnesto had a quiet day at work and found this!
After a drought revealed the seawall of a Byzantine Empire harbor town near Istanbul, archeologists excavated what was a thriving ancient center. But how does it fit into the city’s 1,600-year history?
By Jennifer Pinkowski.
First published in Scientific American, 2 Jan 2013.
Hidden for a millennium, it took a 21st-century drought to reveal the ruins of a long-lost port city. Five years after archaeologists discovered its four-kilometer-long seawall on a polluted lake 20 kilometers from Istanbul, they continue to unearth Bathonea, which is yielding a wealth of rare artifacts and architecture spanning a thousand years of the Byzantine era.
Excavations this year have essentially doubled Bathonea’s known size, bolstering the idea that it was a well-connected, wealthy, fully outfitted harbor city that thrived from the fourth to 11th century, when a massive earthquake leveled much of it.
Bathonea is a rare and important find because little remains in Byzantium proper (now the modern city of Istanbul) of the first few centuries of the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire. The ancient urban center has been built over too many times in its 1,600-year history to leave much behind.
Located on a long-farmed peninsula on Lake Kucukcekmece, once an inlet on the Marmara Sea, Bathonea reappeared in 2007 after a drought lowered the lake’s water table, exposing portions of the seawall. It turned out to be almost half the length of the wall that once surrounded Constantinople (as Byzantium had been renamed for Constantine the Great).
The wall’s substantial size suggested Bathonea was a significant safe harbor for ships on their way to Constantinople beginning in the fourth century, just as the city became the seat of power for the Eastern Roman Empire.
In previous years archaeologists, led by Kocaeli University’s Sengül Aydingün, have unearthed some of the seawall, a multistory villa or palace, an enormous cistern, the round foundations of a Greek temple, and the toppled remains of a Byzantine church and cemetery. Nearby, stone roads crisscross each other and 1,500 years of history.
This year they discovered a large multistory building and a series of smaller rooms adjacent to the villa that artifacts indicate was a monastery with workshops for making metal, jewelry and glass that began production in the fourth century. The jewelry molds they discovered may be the first archaeological evidence for jewelry production in Constantinople, a tradition known from historical sources.
Another key find is the exceptionally preserved, two-part network of underground water channels hundreds of meters long that kept Bathonea’s cistern and buildings supplied with freshwater. They also found a Hellenistic building hiding in plain sight among 19th-century structures and a road connecting it to a second-century B.C. harbor, providing more evidence of Bathonea’s earliest days.
A massive earthquake in the 11th century seems to have largely destroyed Bathonea. Archaeologists continue to find toppled walls (including one that killed the three men found beneath the rubble) from all the buildings. Yet judging from the pottery found, some residents eked out a life at Bathonea as late as the 12th century.
Many questions remain: What was Bathonea’s connection to Constantinople? Who lived there? If it was a major harbor inhabited by the wealthy and powerful—the region was a well-known country retreat for Constantinople’s elite for centuries—why doesn’t it appear in known historical sources? (Its name is a placeholder, inspired by two references eight centuries apart.) And what was its relationship to Rhegion, an imperial compound located just across the lake on the Marmara Sea?
To try to answer these questions, Aydingün and her team will focus next year’s dig on the seaward tip of the peninsula, where ground-penetrating radar has detected underground anomalies that may be structures. They also hope to restart underwater exploration. In 2008 they discovered an edifice that may have been a lighthouse. Local lore holds that it is a magical minaret that rises in warning whenever nearby villagers sin too much.
View a slide show of the discovery here.
Laura Diaz-Arnesto, who is the author of some of the most popular blog articles (see below) got in touch to tell me that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made available the complete book – Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century – available online. It is based upon their successful 1977 exhibition.
It is not so easy to read it this way but with a large screen it should be ok. I think the book is out of print so this is a good opportunity to read it.
Access it here.
Related articles by Laura Diaz-Arnesto:
A fascinating little on-line resource for those of us who love maps.
I hope it is accurate! Enjoy. Click the link above or the map to start.
A bit late but I had to take a break; I was all blogged out. The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for the blog. What it does not say is that we have passed the 200,000 mark for visits. Thank you for reading the blog, and to so many of you for being active by making comments, sending emails, and coming up with great ideas!
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 84,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
The 22nd Annual Runciman Lecture will be given by Professor Carole Hillenbrand, OBE, FBA, FRSE, FR HIst.Soc. It will take place as usual in the Great Hall King’s Building Strand Campus on 7 February 2013 with a 6.00 pm start. Entrance is free.
There will be a reception following the lecture.
Carole Hillenbrand was educated at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Edinburgh. She was appointed Professor of Islamic History in 2000 and served as Head of the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, from 1997-2002 and from 2006-2008. She was Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA in 1994 and 2005 and at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands in 2002.
In 2005 she was awarded the King Faisal Prize for Islamic Studies, 2005 (the first non-Muslim to be awarded this prize). She has been Islamic Advisory Editor at Edinburgh University Press since 1983 and Editor of the series entitled “Studies in Persian and Turkish History”, published by Routledge since 1999. She is Head of Sub-Panel L48 in the Research Assessment Exercise, 2008. She has just been named in the 2009 Queen’s New Year’s Honours list and is to be awarded an OBE for services to Higher Education.
Her research interests include the Seljuqs of Iran and Turkey, the Crusades, medieval Muslim political thought, especially the work of al-Ghazali.