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European History


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Ancient Europe

New Perspectives on Late Antiquity by David Hernandez de la Fuente (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) Perhaps it is fully justified to think of Late Antiquity (3rd 7th centuries) as the first Renaissance of the Classical World. This period can be considered a fundamental landmark for the transmission of the Classical Legacy and the transition between the ancient and the medieval individual. During Late Antiquity the Classical Education or enkyklios paideia of Hellenism was linked definitively to the Judeo-Christian and Germanic elements that have modelled the Western World. The present volume combines diverse interests and methodologies with a single purpose unity and diversity, as a Neo-Platonic motto providing an overall picture of the new means of researching Late Antiquity. This collective endeavour, stemming from the 2009 1st International Congress on Late Antiquity in Segovia (Spain), focuses not only on the analysis of new materials and latest findings, but rather puts together different perspectives offering a scientific update and a dialogue between several disciplines. New Perspectives on Late Antiquity contains two main sections 1. Ancient History and Archaeology, and 2. Philosophy and Classical Studies including both overview papers and case studies. Among the contributors to this volume are some of the most relevant scholars in their fields, including P. Brown, J. Alvar, P. Barcela, C. Cododer, F. Fronterotta, D. Gigli, F. Lisi and R. Sanz.

It is essential for the History of Ideas to consider how the cultural legacy of Classical Antiquity was transmitted and reinterpreted as a faithful reflection of each epoch in order to understand the key moments of change in the history of mankind. Be it from the general viewpoint of history or the more particular fields of history of religions, literature, or philosophy, any cultural transformation of the Western World, as W. Jaeger has put it, has included a reinterpretation of the classical legacy, when it has not been directly caused by it.

Perhaps it is fully justified to think of Late Antiquity (3rd-7th centuries) as a first Renaissance of the Classical World. If we understand this concept as recreation and reaffirmation of the given cultural tradition that is recognized as the prestigious source of our civilization, this period can be then considered a fundamental landmark for the transmission of classical legacy. It was no doubt a time of drastic changes between two different conceptions of the world, which gave way to what would be the medieval Christian World in both the East and the West. In any case, it is during Late Antiquity when the classical heritage of the Hellenic enkyklios paideia was linked definitively to the Judaeo-Christian and Germanic elements that have modeled the Western World.

During the last half-century scholars have devoted great academic interest to the diverse impact of the cultural, historical and spiritual transformations of this period throughout the Mediterranean basin. The period known as Late Antiquity, after the pioneering coinage of the term Splitantike by A. Riegl (1901), has been the subject of intense and fruitful scientific debate among historians, philosophers and philologists in the last thirty years.

No doubt, Peter Brown is the most conspicuous scholar in this area of study, of which he has been a founder and promoter since his famous book The World of Late Antiquity (London 1971). Throughout his many books, from his biography of Augustine of Hippo until his essay Authority and the Sacred (1995) and beyond, Professor Brown has always upheld the interdisciplinary study of this distinct period, with special emphasis on the interaction between the changing society and the private spiritual life. Other authors (Averil Cameron, The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, London and New York 1993) have also promoted this label. More recent critics, however (B. Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. Oxford, 2005) have questioned it as corresponding to the interests of the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic scholarship.

In any case, the differential validity of a study of this period has been already established enough in several disciplines, from`history and philology to archeology. Issues such as the`emergence of Christianity along with the booming of Neo-Platonism, the economic crisis and the crisis of values, the movement of population, the ethnic and linguistic contacts and many other factors of this time of change have marked its analysis. Particularly in the realm of the spiritual, from the seminal study of E.R. Dodds (Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety, Cambridge 1968), many efforts have been devoted by the scholarship to clarify the concepts not only of religious change and cult syncretism (cf. e.g. W. Fauth, Helios megistos: zur synkretistischen Theologie der Späitantike, Leiden 1995), but also of a certain "fundamentalism" avant la lettre (cf. P. Barceló, ed., Religiöser Fundamentalismus in der römischer Kaiserzeit. Stuttgart, 2010.) Thought and literature especially reflect a new aesthetic sensibility and a peculiar interpretation of the traditional legacy of Hellenism in the light of new philosophical and spiritual trends. As for literary studies, it should be also noted that the rhetoricalization of the educational system results in a noticeable increase of the importance of certain literary instructors and schools throughout the Eastern Empire (see R.A. Kasterl Guardians of Language: The Grammarian and Society in Late Antiquity, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London 1988).

Nowadays, the interdisciplinary study of Late Antiquity is offering important materials for a better understanding of the most influential phenomena of this period of change in historical, socio-political and spiritual dynamics (see works such as G.W. Bowersock, P. Brown, O. Grabar, Late Antiquity. A Guide to the Postclassical World, Cambridge, 1999). More than ever, it is necessary to work on this period from the joint point of view of`philology, philosophy and social and religious history in order to provide a transversal analysis of the transformations of the classical legacy that shaped the foundations of Western civilization.

However, new trends in the study of Late Antiquity, and the reactions for and against, require a periodical scientific update. In this sense, and following the aforementioned studies, the present volume proposes a periodical overall approach to Late Antiquity beyond traditional boundaries between academic disciplines: History, Classical and Semitic philology, History of Philosophy and Archeology. A scientific update from a cross-sectional view gathered in a single volume.

Thus, the collective book presented here under the title New Perspectives on Late Antiquity combines the diverse interests and the common desire of the contributors —unity and diversity, as a Neo-Platonic inspiration— and aims at providing an overall picture of this era, with particular attention to the texts and sources that testify the historical contamination of cultures, religions and languages, and their reflection upon literature and thought. This book focuses not only on the analysis of new materials and latest findings —as, for example, the new contributions of archeology—, but rather puts together the different pieces of this mosaic of materials and offers a dialogue from a plural perspective.

The origin of this volume is in the First International Congress "New Perspectives on Late Antiquity," which was held in`Segovia (Spain), 21-23 October 2009, and has now taken shape here. This colloquium opened a series of international conferences that intend to regularly gather prestigious researchers from different universities and research centers to foster an academic debate on the current state of our knowledge about Late Antiquity. This series of meetings in the town of Segovia is not only a forum for scientific update, but also a meeting of international academic reflection and discussion about this historical period.

The present monograph consists of two sections, which include overview papers and case studies, introduced by a key note paper on the field of Late Antiquity by Professor Peter Brown. The first section summarizes the contributions of Ancient History and Archaeology, among which there is a historical study of Pedro Barceló on the demise of imperial power, an analysis of cultural interaction between paganism and Christianity by Jaime Alvar, a picture of the decline of rhetoric and the social role of rhetoric in Late Antiquity, by Rosa Sanz and, last, a scientific update about the latest archaeological evidences of the trade to the Mediterranean (4th to 7th centuries) by Enrique García Vargas. The case studies of a select group of Spanish, German and Brazilian scholars (Javier Andreu, María J. Pérex, Eike Faber and Marta Herrero among others), present a very enriching variety of historical and archaeological issues, ranging from conflicts between Germans and Romans to the economic and social history of Late Antique Hispania.

As to the second section on Philosophy and Classical Studies, the general papers provide an overview of the position of Neo-Platonism between tradition and innovation in the History of Ideas, with an assessment of its insertion in the Platonic tradition by Francisco Lisi and three comprehensive studies on the reflection of philosophy upon Greek and Latin literature. The first of them, by Carmen Codoñer, examines the Pervigilium Veneris between unity and diversity in the framework of the Latin Poetry of the fourth century.`Two Late Antique Greek poets, Nonnus of Panopolis and John of Gaza, illustrate the impact of Neo-Platonic ideas in poetic ekphrasis, as it can be seen in the contribution of Daria Gigli and in my own paper. And a Latin Encyclopaedist, the fifth-century African pagan Martianus Capella in Paula Olmos' paper, exemplifies the boundaries between Rhetorics and Neoplatonic contents in Late Antiquity. As for case studies, presented by several Italian and Spanish scholars such as Francesco Fronterotta or Miguel Herrero de Jauregui among others, they reveal an interesting panorama of the philosophical and literary trends of the time, examining the contamination not only of genres and categories, such as rhetoric, mythology and apologetics, but also of cultural traditions as Platonism, classical paganism, Christianity or Judaism.

I would like to express my gratitude to all individuals and institutions who have made possible both the First symposium "New Perspectives on Late Antiquity," and this monograph. First of all, I thank Professor Antonio López Peláez, Director of the Centre of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) in Segovia, whose enthusiasm has made of Segovia a center for the study of Late Antiquity, since he has warmly supported and hosted the first of a series of meetings at this wonderful Roman city; for their fundamental support, I am deeply indebted to Professor Francisco Lisi, Director of the Institute of Classical Studies at Universidad Carlos III and to Professor Pedro Barceló (Geschichte des Altertums. University of Potsdam), two excellent scholars and persons with whom I am honored to have worked in recent times between Spain and Germany; I thank both Professor Rosa Sanz Serrano, from the Universidad Complutense, and Maria J. Perk, Head of the Department of Ancient History at the UNED, who have also contributed greatly to the success of the first workshop and beyond. I cannot but warmly thank Javier Andreu Pintado, Rosa García-Gasco, Eike Faber, David Alvarez Jimenez, Jorge Cano Cuenca, Diony Rend& Gonzalez and Susana Torres Prieto, dear colleagues and friends. Local institutions such as the City of Segovia, Caja de Ahorros de Segovia and the Royal Academy of History and Art of San Quirce have generously embraced our seminar in a city of Roman character and history.

Last, but not least, this book is dedicated to Professor Peter Brown, who has honored us accompanying both the birth of these colloquia and of this book. An entire generation of scholars working on Late Antiquity is deeply indebted not only to his vast erudition but also to his kind-hearted humanistic values.

The Great American Plunder of Persia's Antiquities, 1925-1941 by Mohammad Gholi Majd (University Press of America, Rowman & Littlefield) documents in detail how the Americans, to be specific, the State Department and the Oriental Institute, removed virtually all the antiquities from Iran during the 20s and 30s.

The author, Mohamad Gholi Majd, Iranian-born, who holds a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Cornell University , conducted research at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park . His extensive research into rich State Department records provides the basis for this study. While the American record is well documented, the vast majority of incriminating Iranian documents from the period were destroyed during the reign of Reza Shah’s son. All the correspondence between the museums and their field directors in Persia were conveyed by diplomatic pouch, and copies were made and preserved. Further, all telegraphic exchanges were also preserved. Since the American minister to Persia acted as the representative of the museums, we know what transpired between the museums and their offices in Persia . And what transpired is that “the museums conspired to violate the terms of their concessions with the Persian government and then concealed the violation with connivance and assistance of the State Department.”

In addition to the Introduction, which builds the stage and then provides an overview, chapters include

  1. Arthur Upham Pope and Persian Artifacts
  2. The Opening of Persia to Foreign Archaeology, 1923-1930: the Antiquities Law of 1930
  3. The Rush to Persia
  4. Expedition to Persepolis by the Oriental Institute
  5. American Pressure and Persian Surrender
  6. Persepolis Expedition’s New Field Director and New Concession
  7. Schmidt’s Airplane and Turbulence in Iran-America Relations
  8. The Final Phase, 1937-1941: A Tale of Deceit and Coercion

The book also documents the long-term damage this action did to US-Iranian relations. In the analysis of the deterioration of the loss of goodwill over the long haul, the importance of the antiquities plunder has not been fully appreciated. In the 1930s, having had their oil fields exploited by Standard Oil, having had no help from America in overcoming the hold of the British, having received no help in World War I, and being in the middle of the plunder of their antiquities, Persians began to see America as just another superpower bent on exploitation. By 1941 all antiquities were “safely out of Iran .”

This academic book, which reads like an extended journal article with documentation in notes at the end of each chapter, proves fascinating in light of the Iraqi war and plunder of Iraq ’s antiquities. The Great American Plunder of Persia's Antiquities provides provocative food for thought about long-term US involvement in the Middle East .

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