The Re-Use Of Classical Antiquities In Later Struc Essay, Research Paper
The Re-use of Classical Antiquities in Later Structuresa) Aims and Significance:Antique building materials, statuary and bas-reliefs were re-used throughout the Middle Ages not only for convenience, but also because of the political messages they could convey. I have demonstrated this in my The Survival of Roman Antiquities in Mediaeval Europe (London 1989, 288 pp), and in papers presented at conferences in Venice and Rome, as well as in contributions in 1984 and 1985 to two volumes of Einaudi’s Storia dell’Arte Italiana. In these publications, I wrote in general terms and also with specific reference to Western Europe (especially Italy and France). Why concentrate on fortifications? This topic not only narrows the focus and geographic range from that of my 1989 book, but has strong internal justifications: (a) often from Greek times, fortifications were acknowledged as the main means of displaying a city’s pride to those who approached it; (b) fortification sites have not changed significantly down the centuries, hence later fortifications tend simply to remodel and build on top of earlier ones – so that the evidence still remains to be seen; (c) because of their privileged location, guard castles have often not been demolished for building stone; (d) city walls have frequently survived in whole or in part in Turkey – whereas most in Western Europe were demolished in the 19th/20th centuries to accommodate increased population levels. Study tours of Western Turkey in 1989, 1990, 1991 & 1992 convinced me that (a) the re-use of antiquities could best be studied on the ground in Turkey, because of the plentiful supply of antique sites almost untouched by population expansion and indistrialisation, and therefore offering prime evidence – whereas in Western Europe documentary evidence had to be used as a substitute; (b) re-use is not restricted to people from the same broad culture, because Islam apparently prized antiquities (including some figured ones) just as much as the descendants of the Romans; (c) importantly, the time-span available for such study in Turkey, and hence the variety of material re-used, stretches from the classical Greeks, through the imposing remains of the Hellenistic Kingdoms to the Romans and their Byzantine successors – all of whom, including the Turks, re-used material from previous generations. Archaeologically, Turkey is blossoming, with important discoveries being made every year; gradually, more and more notice is taken of Byzantine levels (little noticed in earlier years). As well as large and important sites, there is a myriad of smaller ones – and all tend to have later occupation, often in the form of civic buildings and fortifications (such as Bursa, Aphrodisias, Miletus, Ankara and Ephesus). Again, many imposing stand-alone castles were constructed during the Middle Ages (such as Kizkalesi and Anamur), sometimes on earlier foundations, and often re-using classical antiquities ranging in date from Greek through to Roman.
The aim of the research is to broaden and deepen our knowledge of this important aspect of the mediaeval world, by establishing how widespread it was, and the mix of reasons – political? economic? aesthetic? – for which it was done. If political conditions allow, it would be most useful to extend the scope of the research into Syria and Jordan, where similar characteristics are to be found in mediaeval architecture.The finished product of this research will be a long paper, for a journal such as Antiquity or Byzantion. MethodsThe study of mediaeval defensive walls in Turkey is a relatively new subject, and is generally done from the military not the “antiquarian” point of view, as in Clive Foss’ Byzantine Fortifications: An Introduction (Pretoria 1986), or Robert Edwards’ The Fortifications of Armenian Cilicia (Washington DC 1987). The first need, therefore, is to make a close study of actual fortifications, with a cataloguing of the types and quantities of antique spolia to be found in re-use. The best examples are to be found in West and South Turkey, but also as far inland as Ankara. The second need is for a review of all publications from previous centuries (i.e. before modernising changes, accelerated theft for house-building, etc) offering descriptions of mediaeval architecture in Turkey. This can conveniently be done both at the ANU and in libraries at the Universities of Ankara and Istanbul. There is useful material in Arab travellers’ writings, and these are available in English, French or German. The third feature of the project is a typological comparison of spolia with what happened further West, where objects Greek were very rare indeed.The fourth feature is also comparative, in that it consists of an attempt to see if the various waves of civilisations in Turkey viewed the re-use of spolia differently.