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Celtic Art

When the general public pictures Celtic art what generally comes to mind are pictish stones, Insular high crosses and a tie to Ireland. On the other hand when scholars refer to Celtic art the culture and artistic elements of the La Tène is generally what is considered as the basis of Celtic art. This paper focuses on a more scholarly approach to Celtic art through a discussion on external and internal influences on art, abstraction and patterns, and the cultural and religious influences on material art. One reason such a discussion can occur is due to the availability of artifacts found belonging to Celtic tribes who were able to keep their society intact until about 70 AD. The Celts were able to keep their society intact by, “[responding] eagerly to other cultures and [becoming] active transmitters, through trade, to their neighbors.”  A major artistic transmission came from drawing on Greek designs that were incorporated into Celtic art.

The strongest influence of Greek design can be seen in Celtic stone temples that were of Greek design and not their own. This heavy influence was due to the fact that stone was the material that has lasted through the centuries which the Celts liked least to work in. As a distaste for the material ensued the Celts were therefore, “more susceptible to foreign influence.” Greek influence was also transmitted into Celtic floral ornamentation. In contrast to their willingness to adopt stone temple designs without deviation the same style guidelines are not applied to the borrowed use of floral ornaments. “Celtic artist took over and reproduced even the smallest details of Greek floral ornament, but they did not feel bound by the original system, but broke it down into ‘meaningless’ individual elements from which they could create something new.”  This meant that the Celts developed their own artistic style based on abstraction that, “despite heavy borrowings from Scythian and Greek models” was uniquely their own. This element of abstraction within Celtic society came to a high point in the La Tène period.

The fondness for abstraction in the La Tène period resulted in the sometimes gemetocizing of patterns along with motifs consisting of, “S-shapes, arabesques, chevrons, and many others.” The abstraction of the images on Greek coinage in Celtic tribes displays a prominent example of abstraction within pictures and not purely within design motifs.

“For instance the reduction of faces to triangle forms or in the rendering of hair by straight lines drawn back from the forehead, or in the reduction of the joints of an animal’s legs to mere circles; sometimes abstraction of a more fluid type, in powerful swinging curves or wild whorls and volutes.”

The abstraction on Celtic coinage was also displayed in the beard and hair of individuals on acquired Greek currency. The use of abstraction was not the only artistic change made to foreign currency in Celtic society over the years. The artistic changes made to the Gallo-Belgic B issue reveal an important cultural aspect of Celtic society through art on coinage.

“The Gallo-Belgic B issue,” was the first coin to be released in Britain in any substantial amount. One one side of the coin the image was of a “horse drawn charioteer, on the other was the beardless head of Apollo.” In Celtic Britain the horse and chariot had been replaced by a lone horse “which was one of the most potent symbols of the Celtic world.” In his work, Visions of Power: Imagery and Symbols In Late Iron Age Britain John Credington states that the horse was culturally significant due to the role it held in inauguration ceremonies of Celtic Kings. The Celts believed for society to flourish the proper king must marry, ‘the land herself, or the local goddess of sovereignty.” The horse therefore held a special position in these ceremonies either as being explicitly involved or involved in a symbolic nature. The involvement of horses might entail, “the use of a horsewhip on a man. Or it could involve the king getting down on all fours as if in imitation of a horse.”  In the initiation of King O Conchobhair the king got on all fours and allowed an ecclesiastical to climb on his back before proceeding to climb aboard the horse of the king. Speculation can be made about the role of the horse as an intermediary figure between the divine and human kind or as representation of deity. The reduction of the image on the Gallo-Belgic issue to simply that of the horse was due to cultural significance rather than merely the love of the abstract. The image of a horse on Celtic coinage continued until the Roman conquest of Britain. At about this same time a large profusion of stone heads had also been produced in Britain in large part due to the emphasis Celtic religion placed on the head.

“According to Paul Jacobsthal, ‘Amongst the Celts the human head was venerated above all else, since the head was to the Celt the soul, centre of the emotions as well as of life itself, a symbol of divinity and of the powers of the other-world.’ ” As part of this worship of the head, the Celts practiced ritualized head hunting on enemies. This naturally was then incorporated into their art and many simply carved heads were created as part of a head cult in Celtic religion. These stone heads often had no neck or torso and were representations of deities in head form alone. Here again abstraction can be seen the simply carved features of the head. This was because, “the Celts believed realism and mimesis of the human form was unnecessary in divine image making… [and] there may have been a conscious attempt at a kind of divine ‘short-hand’ or reduction to essentials” to make the head stand out even more.

This meant that if a neck or body was attached the torso would be virtually unmolded  to make the head  even more prominent. “ It has been suggested that some Celtic stone heads were produced as cult objects to be used as surrogates for actual decapitated human heads.” It has also been found that some of these stone heads had depressions in them for offerings of real human heads, other offerings, and venerative practices. These stone heads were made even after the Roman conquest of Britain but with more details and realism as Roman image making leaned more to portraiture. The stone heads with more realism were a product of the popular districts with more exposure to Roman influence. In the outlying regions traditional unadulterated methods of simple Celtic stone head making  prevailed and Celtic art went through a Renaissance because of these backwater regions. This is why Celtic art and society was able to hang on for an extended amount of time and left behind a great profusion of material art

Stone heads were in Celtic art as a result of the head being considered the holiest part of the body.

Stone heads were in Celtic art as a result of the head being considered the holiest part of the body.

The image of the horse was used on Celtic coinage because the horse held cultural significance in the inauguration ceremonies of kings.

The image of the horse was used on Celtic coinage because the horse held cultural significance in the inauguration ceremonies of kings.

Celtic temples were derived from Greek temple design. This is the excavation site of a Celtic temple.

Celtic temples were derived from Greek temple design. This is the excavation site of a Celtic temple.

This is what some of the Gallo-Belgic issues might have looked like.

This is what some of the Gallo-Belgic issues might have looked like.

Greek floral ornament was broken down into abstract patterns that typified Celtic design motifs.

Greek floral ornament was broken down into abstract patterns that typified Celtic design motifs.

The abstract patterns on this sheild are typical of the design motifs during the La Tène period.

The abstract patterns on this sheild are typical of the design motifs during the La Tène period.

Works Cited:

Daderot, 7 September 2012. Exhibit in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland. Photograph. Database on-line. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Celtic_Head,_about_100-300_AD,_Romano-British,_Northern_England,_sandstone_with_traces_of_red_paint_-_Cleveland_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC08460.JPG. (accessed April 30, 2015).

Johnbod, 17 September 2010. Iron Age shield boss in La Tène style.  Photograph. Database on-line. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brit_Mus_17sept_061-crop.jpg. (accessed April 30, 2015).

John Creighton. “Visions of Power: Imagery and Symbols in Late Iron Age Britain.” Britannia 26 (1995): 285-301. http://www.jstor.org/stable/526880 (accessed April 17, 2015).

Judith E. Mederos. “Influence of Barbarian Art on Romanesque Art.” Gesta (1963): 4-7. http://www.jstor.org/stable/766598 (accessed April 17, 2015).

Keith Parfitt and Miranda Green. “A Chalk Figurine from Upper Deal, Kent.” Britannia 18 (1987): 295-298. http://www.jstor.org/stable/526460 (accessed April 17, 2015).

Mididoctors, 27 January 2007. Romano celtic temple construction phase at 56 Gresham Street, London. Photograph. Database on-line. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Romano_celtic_temple003.png. (accessed April 30, 2015).

NumisAntica, 30 October 2014. Northern Gaul, Remi tribe, ¼ gold stater. Photograph. Database on-line. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Celtic_gold_1-4_stater_Remi_tribe.jpeg. (accessed April 30, 2015).

Otto-Herman Frey and Frank Schwappach. “Studies in Early Celtic Design.” World Archaeology 4, No. 3 (February 1973): 339-356. http://www.jstor.org/stable/124193 (accessed April 17, 2015).

portableantiquities, 19 July 2012. Hoard of Gallo-Belgic gold staters, found at Sedgeford, Norfolk. Photograph. Database on-line. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sedgeford_Hoard.jpg. (accessed April 30, 2015).

Ramsay MacMullen. “The Celtic Renaissance.” Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte 14, H.1 (January, 1965): 93-104. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4434870 (accessed April 17, 2015).

Stephen Fliegel. “A Little-Known Celtic Stone Head.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 77, No. 3 (March 1990): 82-103. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25160110 (accessed April 17, 2015).

Unknown, 24 October 2011. Antique ornament in the shape of a flower in a pot, green. Photograph. Database on-line. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flower_in_Pot_Ornament_Green.svg. (accessed April 30, 2015).

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. “Celts.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celts#cite_note-104. (accessed April 18, 2015).

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Roman Marriage Practices

In Roman society there were a series of laws and customs that characterized the institution of marriage. For example, marriages were often not love matches but rather marriage was used as a means to obtain political or “financial gain.” Marriage thus provided a way to make an alliance that would be helpful later on to the individual. If one could not secure a useful alliance through marriage this could lead to failure in personal wealth or a person’s career. Another custom that characterized Roman marriage was for the groom to give his future wife a present before they were married. “These gifts might be tokens of esteem; they might also be a reward, sometimes substantial, given to the bride for her virginity- a highly valued quality.”

This is not surprising considering the fact that Rome was a very sexualized society. However, these gifts were not given after marriage because it was illegal according to Roman law for married partners to exchange gifts. The exchange of gifts between marriage partner was illegal because it did not keep the property of the husband and wife separate. This law meant that if the couple later divorced the woman would not be required to give the gift back to her husband. However, if the gift was given after the marriage started and the couple later divorced then the husband could take the gift back because it wasn’t lawful to give in the first place. This brings up another good point that if a woman started living with her fiance then the couple was considered to be married and no ceremony had to be performed for this to be a legally bound marriage. Marriage without a ceremony meant that the woman still held the title as wife and not concubine unless the woman starting prostituting herself out.

This is why monogamous marriage is an aspect that stayed constant over time. Divorce on the other hand is an institution that changed over time. At first marriage was an institution that was thought to last forever. However, “By the first century BC and subsequently…divorce became common, and remarriage after divorce was quite frequent.” The later toleration and frequency of divorce led some to believe that values had denigrated in Roman society. Although divorce later became acceptable marriage was still an institution that was prized in ancient Rome. This is why even in the event of a divorce remarriage commonly followed.

A marriage ceremony as depicted in this picture was not required in Roman law to be considered legal.

586px-Roman_marriage_vows

Ad Meskens, latter part of 4th century. Sarcophagus of the Dioscures, detail depicting a marriage. Marble. Database online. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_marriage_vows.jpg. (accessed 9 April 2015).

This picture is the fragment off the front of a sarcophagus showing that even in death marriage was considered to be a special institution.

El-matrimonio-romano

Statue depiction of Ancient Roman Matrimonium. relief in blue-veined marble with large crystals (probably Proconnesian). Database online. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:El-matrimonio-romano.jpg (accessed 9 April 92015).

Works Cited:

Josiah Osgood. “ “Nuptiae Iure Civili Congruae”: Apuleius’s Story of Cupid and Psyche and the Roman Law of Marriage.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 136, no. 2 (Autumn  2006): 415-44.http://www.jstor.org.hal.weber.edu:2200/stable/4543298?Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&%26amp%3Bq6%3D%26amp%3Bq1 (accessed April 9, 2015).

Archie C. Bush and Joseph J. McHugh. “Patterns of Roman Marriage.” Ethnology 14, no. 1 (January 1975): 25-45. http://www.jstor.org.hal.weber.edu:2200/stable/3773205?Search=yes&Bq6%3DBf6%3Dall%26amp%3BSearch%3D%26a%3D%26amp%3Bar%3Don%26amp%3Bc1%3DAND%26amp%3Bacc%3Don%26amp%3Bwc%3Don%26amp%3Bc2%3DAND%26amp%3Bpt (accessed April 9, 2015).

Ad Meskens, latter part of 4th century. Sarcophagus of the Dioscures, detail depicting a marriage. Marble. Database online. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_marriage_vows.jpg. (accessed 9 April 2015).

Statue depiction of Ancient Roman Matrimonium. relief in blue-veined marble with large crystals (probably Proconnesian). Database online. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:El-matrimonio-romano.jpg (accessed 9 April 92015).

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Hellenistic Science

After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 331 BCE he influenced the set up a university in Egyptian Alexandria called the museum. As a result of this, “a great center of learning grew up here which was to have much influence for several centuries to come” (Wise, 623). One of the main things that Alexandria was famous for was scientific knowledge (Mathisen, 276). Greek scientific discoveries in math and astronomy would influence how science was viewed not only theoretically but in the practical use of science as well. Prior to this, one of the first people to transform the traditional idea of Greek science as being, “based on imaginative hypothesis and convincing argumentation” to observation based on the natural world and experimentation was Aristotle (Mathisen, 274).

Aristotle called this observation of the natural world natural philosophy and, “considered [such fields as] biology, zoology, astronomy, and chemistry” to be natural sciences (Mathisen, 275). The scientific ideas of Aristotle obviously had a profound effect on Alexander the Great because in 343 Philip II of Macedonia had had Aristotle called to his court to tutor his son Alexander (McClellan and Dorn, 71). The scientific study under Aristotle caused a desire in Alexander the Great to spread Greek Scientific thought and  consequently Ptolemy I opened the museum as part of his, “policy in spreading the Greek culture and making scientific conquest” (Wise, 623). However, this thirst for scientific study would continue in Egyptian Alexandria even after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE  with several Hellenistic scientists who made great scientific discoveries (Wise, 623). One such individual in the field of mathematics was Archimedes.

Archimedes was educated in Alexandria and developed such concepts as the value of pi, “the method for calculating the area of sphere,” and “the law of hydrostatics.”  He also excelled in showing the physical application of  principles of mathematics. Another one of Archimedes’ great accomplishments is making machines of war, “but he did not make record of them possibly due somewhat to the general adversity of the Greek mind to the practical application of science.” (Wise, 624). This shows that even though practical application of science was already available the scientific community was not accepting of this practical application and as a result many scientists hid their inventions so as not to be ridiculed by their scientific peers. Greek scientists therefore valued pure scientific theory over unreasoned technological development. Hellenistic Greek scientists also valued traditional scientific thought over novel ideas that challenged preconsisting notions. An example of this occurred within the realm of astronomy with the idea of heliocentrism.

“Aristarchus of Samos” came up with the concept of heliocentrism (Witty,105). This concept of claiming that the sun was the center of the universe and that the earth revolved around the sun was rejected by the wider scientific community. The theory that that the scientific community held instead was that of Greek astronomer Hipparchus who proposed, “the universe with the earth at the center…. [and] that the planets move in a circle at the end of an imaginary spoke which itself rotated around the earth” (Wise, 624). Hipparchus’ theory was so pervasive that it lasted throughout the rest of ancient Greece, “in[to] the middle ages and early modern times” (Witty, 105).  However, In the end, even though Aristotle and Alexander the Great had started the world onto the path of observational science and the beginnings of revolutionary ideas through practical applied science, the scientific community was not ready for these ideas at the time. The Hellenistic Greeks did however leave the world as lasting legacy for what would modernly be seen as the beginning of formal scientific thought.

Head of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great was greatly influenced by Aristotle and Scientific Greek Hellenistic thought.

_Alexander_

Leochares. Head of Alexander the Great. ca. 330 BC. Acropolis Museum, Athens.Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Uploaded by Marsyas. Web. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great#/media/File:ACMA_1331_Alexander_1.JPG

Bust of Aristotle

Aristotle is the philosopher and scientist that used the term natural philosophy to describe the natural world.

Aristotle

Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos. Bust of Aristotle. 330 BC. Marble, the alabaster mantel is a modern addition. National Museum, Rome.Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Uploaded by Jastrow. Web.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575.jpg

Works Cited

Wise, Charles D.“The Status of Biology in Alexandrian and Graeco-Roman Science.” The American Biology Teacher 27.8 (1965): 623-631. Web.

Mathisen, Ralph W. Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations: From Prehistory to 640 CE. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Print.

McClellan III, James E. and Dorn, Harold. Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2006. Print.

Witty, Francis J. “Reference Books of Antiquity.” The Journal of Library History  9. 2 (1974):101-119. Web.

Leochares. Head of Alexander the Great. ca. 330 BC. Acropolis Museum, Athens.Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Uploaded by Marsyas. Web. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great#/media/File:ACMA_1331_Alexander_1.JPG

Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos. Bust of Aristotle. 330 BC. Marble, the alabaster mantel is a modern addition. National Museum, Rome.Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Uploaded by Jastrow. Web.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575.jpg

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The Code of Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi’s code of law on a basalt stele in Louvre Museum Paris, France.

Statues with laws written on them was a way for King Hammurabi to present his laws to the general public.

Hammurabihttps://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/HAMMURABI-S-LAWS-Hammurabi-and-His-Code-of-Laws

The Code of Hammurabi showed the Babylonian legal innovations that King Hammurabi was trying to enforce upon the kingdom and the values this ancient Sumerian society held. Originally, in what would be united as Babylon under Hammurabi, an individual would have to track down a person guilty of committing a crime and get that person to court in order for the victim to receive justice. However, in about 1780 B.C. the code of Hammurabi brought about a change in the legal system where the government hunted down criminals and brought them to justice. That being said, there was no real incarceration system or police force. This is why so many punishments consisted of the death penalty. Quick death penalty justice was the only real way to administer judgements and keep control since no such institutions existed. For example the second law in the code of Hammurabi reads,

“If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.”

This quick sort of justice was used as a determinant for those seeking to commit future crimes and impose control of an unstable empire that was barely unified. It also set up a system of state based crimes for religious infractions displaying the value of religion in Babylonian society. This value of religion in the second law states that if you drown it was a choice by the Gods as a sort of secondary punishment of breaking the law. The first was leaping into the river because an individual was accused.

On the reverse side there was also a direct governmental punishment for disobeying religious rules as pointed out in the hundred and tenth law. “If a ‘sister of a god’ open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.” Here a a direct punishment for a religious woman drinking or coming in close contact with alcohol is issued.This law shows that although women had some governmental rights under the code of Hammurabi Babylon was still a predominantly patriarchal society.

Even though though the code of Hammurabi was a high point in ancient legal administration it still did not retain a perfect control over the empire and not everyone received unbiased justice. The value of men over women meant that women were more likely to be killed for crimes committed whereas men sometimes received lesser punishments. Higher social status meant that nobles received justice in favor over those of lower positions namely free persons and slaves. Lastly the code of Hammurabi did not permanently install unity though governmental control and by Hammurabi’s death in 1686 B.C. Mesopotamia had fractured to a state of disunity once again.

Bibliography:

Fordham University The Jesuit University of New York. “Ancient History Sourcebook: Code of Hammurabi, c. 1780 BCE,” http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.asp (accessed March 7, 2015).

https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/HAMMURABI-S-LAWS-Hammurabi-and-His-Code-of-Laws

Mathisen, Ralph W.. Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations: From Prehistory to 640 CE. 2nd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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Why I choose the username Tutankhamun-not-tut-duh

The reason why I chose this username is because I used to be really into Egyptology when I was a kid. As a result of this I read anything I could get my hands on about ancient Egypt. When I heard people call King Tutankhamun King Tut it really bugged me because I always read things that used his full name.

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