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Dīwān Ḥassān ibn Thābit, ed. W. ʿArafāt, Gibb Memorial New Series 25 (London, 1971), I, 316, verse 8.
Architecture and Decorative Art
some artistic features have survived, illustrates his fourth observation, on mosaics.
So, one can conclude that Iṣfahānī’s passage contains some measure of truth. Some
individual points can be made about three of the monuments.
praetorium of Mundir at Ruṣāfa/Sergiopolis. This structure may be
analyzed within the context of military architectural monuments of sixth-cen-
tury Byzantine Oriens, an approach supported by the discussion in
of its various functions during the phylarchate of Mundir in the second half of
the sixth century. An architectural historian has recently challenged the view (first
presented by Jean Sauvaget) that the structure was a
praetorium, reverting to the
older position that it was a church, but two arguments can be raised here in favor of
the newer orthodoxy.9 First, Mundir was a pious, enthusiastic Christian; he would
not, in order to blazon forth his own glory, have engraved a slogan from the hip-
podrome—ΝΙΚΑ Η ΤΥΧΗ10—in the holiest part of a church, the apse. Second,
Ruṣāfa was well-supplied with churches within its walls; it and its saint needed not
another church but a
raid such Christian shrines, attracted by their treasures.
2. The monastery tower of Qaṣr al-Ḥayr al-Gharbī. This tower is impressive in
its height and in the strength of its masonry, and it dominates what must have been
an extensive settlement in sixth-century Oriens. In the preceding volume,
II.1, it was set within the larger context of Ghassānid religious architecture.11
In this context it is enough to draw attention to two features. First, the height
and the strength of the tower clearly imply that Ghassānid structures were impres-
sively monumental. Second, the Umayyad occupation of former Ghassānid sites,
such as this one, has sometimes obscured the original structure beyond recogni-
tion. However, the tower remains an outstanding example of the Ghassānid sub-
strate in later Umayyad structures.
3. The church at Nitil. The remains of Ghassānid structures such as the
torium at Ruṣāfa and the tower at Qaṣr al-Ḥayr allow only a superficial survey of
the possible Ghassānid contribution to the art and architecture of the period and
the region. Although they have survived, one is dilapidated and the other stands
in splendid isolation. Scarcely any other Ghassānid building has survived except
as a toponym and possible site. This circumstance explains the importance of the
9 See J. Sauvaget, “Les Ghassānides et Sergiopolis,”
Byzantion 14 (1939), 115–30—followed
by C. Mango,
Byzantine Architecture (New York, 1976), 94–95, and challenged by G. Brands, “Der
sogenannte Audienzsaal des Mundir in Resafa,”
Damaszener Mitteilungen 10 (1998), 211–35. See the
present writer in the festschrift for T. Mathews, forthcoming.
BASIC I.1, 501–2, and note 350.
11 On Qaṣr al-Ḥayr al-Gharbī, see
BASIC II.1, 203–11; on Ghassānid religious architecture, see
143–219. The long discussion there focuses mainly on identifying and listing the churches and monas-
teries related to the Ghassānids, which have survived mostly as toponyms rather than actual structures.
For their possible influence in the Roman Occident and the Islamic Orient, see 213–15.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
church at Nitil: though it is in ruins, its plan is traceable and some of its mosaics
have survived. It remains the sole example of a Ghassānid church, and so to recover
the appearance of their churches one must draw on literary evidence. Such efforts
will not diminish the value to the researcher of the church of Nitil, which should
be a touchstone for testing the validity of the conclusions derived from other
As frequently noted in this volume, the most significant fact in the religious life
of the Ghassānids was the martyrdom of their relatives in Najrān ca. a.d. 520.
It profoundly influenced their thought and action, and the translation of the
relics of these martyrs to Oriens affected the form of Ghassānid churches. This
translation occasioned the rise of pilgrimage centers in Najrān and Maḥajja in
Trachonitis, where the relics were deposited. Even more importantly, it encouraged
the Ghassānids to include a reliquary or martyrion in their churches, which would
gain added sanctity from the relics of their recently martyred relatives. Indeed, the
excavation of the church at Nitil has revealed that a reliquary or martyrion had a
place in its architectural plan.13 Should more Ghassānid churches be discovered,
they are likely to contain a martyrion as an important element in their architecture.
Their other distinguishing features remain unknown, since to date no
Ghassānid church other than the church of Nitil has been discovered or exca-
vated. But in view of the importance of religion in the life of the Ghassānids, many
churches must have been built during the episcopate of Theodore. One can therefore
hypothesize that Jābiya, their capital, had a more impressive church than the one in
Nitil. This church in Jābiya was probably the seat of their newly appointed bishop,
Theodore, and thus was something of a “cathedral” church.14 Its architectural fea-
tures, which must have reflected those of a sixth-century Byzantine cathedral (possi-
bly nuanced to suggest a partiality to Arab architecture), remain unknown.15 Three
12 Long before the church at Nitil was excavated, I wrote an article suggesting that the form of
Ghassānid churches might have reflected the Ghassānids’ background as Arabs and Monophysites. The
dome would have reminded them of the
qubba, a conical tentlike structure used by the Arabs on impor-
tant occasions, while the ambulatory would have reflected the importance of circumambulation in the
religious life of the Arabs. For these features and others, see my “Ghassānid Religious Architecture,” in
13 See Piccirillo, “The Church of Saint Sergius at Nitl,” 278. For a picture of the martyrion, see ibid.,
photo no. 28. To the martyrion of the church at Nitil may be added that of Ḥarrān (Trachonitis), dedi-
cated to St. John by the Ghassānid phylarch Sharāḥīl. For its being a martyrion in the literal sense and
not just an
BASIC II.1, 149–50.
15 Rudolf Brünnow, who visited Jābiya more than a century ago, after recovering a sculpture from
its ruins vouched for its “former magnificent buildings”; see “I. Mitteilungen,”
ZDPV 19 (1896), 18 (dis-
BASIC II.1, 103–4).
Architecture and Decorative Art
pieces of evidence confirm that the church at Nitil, attractive as it was, did not com-
pare to other, more architecturally advanced, Ghassānid churches.
1. Iṣfahānī, as cited above, refers in specific detail to the beauty of the
Ghassānid churches. He notes their height, the mosaics on their walls, and the gold
and silver of their appointments and ceilings. It is natural to assume that a “cathe-
dral” church in the Ghassānid capital had all these features.
2. Yāqūt mentions one particular church, the votive church at Najrān in
Trachonitis, a Ghassānid-related foundation. Impressed by it, he eloquently calls
attention to its splendor and describes it as “great, beautiful, built upon marble
columns and decorated with mosaics.”16 Columns, an element not included in
Iṣfahānī’s general characterization, may thus be added to the speculative recon-
struction of the church of Jābiya.
3. Conclusions can also be drawn by analogy from the cathedral of Bostra,17
which is so close to Jābiya, geographically and otherwise, that it could have been
the model for the principal Ghassānid church there. This cathedral was of special
interest to the Monophysites and to the Ghassānids in particular, since Bostra had
been the capital of the Nabataean Arabs and now was the capital of the
with which the Ghassānid archphylarch had close connections. In addition, it
was the repository of the insignia of the Ghassānid king.18 In a.d. 512 the cathe-
dral was consecrated with great pomp during the reign of the Monophysitically
inclined Anastasius.19 In attendance were celebrated Monophysite figures,
such as the soon-to-be patriarch of Antioch, Severus; Philoxenos of Mabboug;
and most likely Jabala, the then Ghassānid king and phylarch—his presence is
especially probable in light of the cathedral’s dedication to Saints Sergius and
Bacchus, the first of whom was the patron saint of the Ghassānids. It was there
in November 513 that Severus the Monophysite patriarch of Antioch was conse-
crated, when he delivered his cathedral homily denouncing Chalcedon and the
Tome of Leo.20
The cathedral of Bostra was domed, strongly suggesting that the “cathedral”
of Jābiya likewise had a dome. This leads the argument back to the question of what
other features this church in Jābiya could have had that reflected the Ghassānids’
16 For the quotation from Yāqūt, see
Muʿ jam al-Buldān (Beirut, 1957), IV, 758, and the present
writer, “Byzantium in South Arabia,”
DOP 33 (1979), 79.
17 For the cathedral of Bostra, see G. G. Guidi, “Problemi di recostruzione della chiesa tetraconca
dei SS. Sergio, Bacco, e Leonzio a Bosra,” in
La Siria Araba da Roma a Bisanzio, ed. R. F. Campanata
(Ravenna, 1989), 133–70; R. F. Campanata, “Bosra; chiesa dei SS. Sergio, Bacco e Leonzio; I nuovi
ritrovamenti (1988–1989),” in
Rey-Coquais (Damascus, 1992), 173–78.
BASIC I.1, 469.
19 See BASIC I.2, 699.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
character as both Arab and Christian. On the basis of the foregoing analysis, it is
possible to say that it probably had a dome, a martyrion, and an ambulatory.21
The importance of poetry in the life of the Ghassānids both as an instrument of pol-
icy and as a form of entertainment strongly suggests that a special venue was nec-
essary for its performance. As demonstrated in
BASIC II.1, the Ghassānids were
great builders of many structures related to the various aspects of their lives as Arabs,
urban landscape a structure especially designed for poetry recitals, particularly since
it would also have been used for oratory and for the performance of some types of
music, sometimes accompanying the recitals of poems.22 Such a structure would have
been necessary, in view of the importance accorded by the Arabs to the art of poetry
recitation, which they called
inshād.23 Although its nature is not entirely clear, it evi-
dently was an art highly prized, and the reciter, the
munshid, must have been a per-
forming artist who resembled the Homeridae and the rhapsodes of classical Greece.24
In those days when the culture was largely oral, such performances must have taken
place frequently, encouraged by the poet himself and welcomed by an audience that
appreciated poetry recitals, an Arab partiality that has persisted to the present day.25
The importance of providing the poet or the orator with an appropriate
setting was recognized by the peninsular Arabs. The famous Christian orator
Quss ibn Sāʿida delivered his speech—heard by the prophet Muḥammad—while
mounted on a camel.26 A red leather dome used to be set up for the poet al-Nābigha
21 For the inclusion of an ambulatory, see note 12, above.
22 For example, the Ghassānid king Arethas insisted that he would listen to a panegyric by the
poet ʿAlqama only when the latter chanted it; see Abū Naṣr al-Fārābi,
Khashaba and M. al-Ḥifnī (Cairo, 1967), 73.
23 An attempt to recover the secrets of
inshād was made in recent times; see the work of the
Franciscan Father Auguste Vicini, translated into Arabic by I. Salim and I. Ḥusayni as
al-Shiʿr al-ʿArabi (Jerusalem, 1945); see also D. F. Reynolds, Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography
of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition (Ithaca, 1995). Plato’s dialogue Ion (ca. 390 b.c.) pro-
vides a wealth of information on similar recitation in classical Greece; see B. Gentili,
Poetry and Its
Public in Ancient Greece: From Homer to the Fifth Century (Baltimore, 1988).
24 Much attention has been given to
riwāya and rāwī, usually considered the transmitter of pre-
Islamic poetry, but not to the
munshid and to inshād, the artistic recitation of poetry. The verb from which
rāwī is derived, rawā or rawiya, primarily signifies not to transmit but “to drink to satiety,” though the
rāwī and munshid could be used interchangeably and the rāwī is often the munshid. When the poet
had an unattractive voice (as did the ʿAbbāsid poet Abū-Tammām) or a weak voice (as did Ahmad Shawqi,
in modern times), a
25 Whereas the Greeks perfected other forms of artistic expression such as drama, the Arabs had
only poetry; hence the intensity of their interest in it and response to it as entertainment, and their need
to provide an appropriate venue for its recitation.
26 For Quss mounted on a camel, see al-Jāḥi
al-Bayān wa al-Tabyīn, ed. A. Hārūn (Cairo, 1961),
I, 308–9. On the delivery of speeches by pre-Islamic Arab orators, who sometimes leaned on a bow, see 370.
Architecture and Decorative Art
in the fair of ʿUkā
z, near Mecca, to judge the relative worth of poems presented
to him.27 The Prophet himself let Ḥassān, his poet laureate, recite poetry at the
mosque in Medina,28 sometimes from the pulpit. Whatever structures Byzantium
had for artistic performances of poetry and music must have strongly influenced
the Ghassānids. It is therefore necessary to sketch briefly the rise and develop-
ment of the
In fifth-century Athens, Pericles erected at the foot of the Acropolis the first
ōdeion, a rectangular roofed structure for musical performances; and Herodes
Atticus reprised the work of Pericles in the second century a.d. After being a sepa-
rate structure in Athens, the
The Oriens of the Ghassānids contained a remarkable number of theaters,
favored by the Rhomaic Arabs long before the Ghassānids; many were built in
the Nabataean towns and cities, such as Petra and Bostra (the two capitals), and
in Elusa in the Negev.31 Before them, the great Herod, representing the Edomite
Arabs,32 filled his domain with Graeco-Roman structures—theaters among them.
In the Byzantine world of late antiquity, there was a reaction against the theater
and other pagan entertainments. Church Fathers and imperial legislation frowned
on them33—especially on the mime, the bawdy farce to which the comedy of classi-
cal Greece had degenerated.
The Ghassānids were settled in a region in Oriens dotted with towns in which
many theaters were to be seen,34 some of which still presented mimes. The Maiumas
festival was still being celebrated in Oriens in the fifth century.35 The Ghassānids
27 On Nābigha at ʿUkā
z, see Ibn Qutayba,
al-Shiʿr wa al-Shuʿarāʾ, ed. A. M. Shākir (Cairo, 1966),
28 On Ḥassān’s recitation of his poetry in the Medina mosque, see Abū al-Faraj Iṣfahānī,
(Beirut, 1955), IV, 148.
29 Theaters have received more attention than odeia in scholarship on this early Byzantine period;
ODB has no entry titled “odeum.”
30 On this history, see the long footnote in A. Segal,
Theatres in Roman Palestine and Provincia
Arabia (Leiden, 1995), 85 note 187; see also 85 note 185.
theatron became teiatra in Nabataean also indicates how common the buildings were
32 On the Arabness of the Edomites, see the present writer in
BAFIC, 240–43, further treated in
“The Ethnic Origin of the Edomites,” a paper delivered at the Tenth International Conference on the
History and Archaeology of Jordan, held in Washington, D.C., in May 2007 (forthcoming in
33 See A. Karpozilos, “Theater,”
ODB, III, 2031.
34 These included Bostra and Petra in the Provincia Arabia, Elusa in Palestina Tertia, and cities of
the Decapolis close to the Ghassānids such as Pella, Skythopolis, and Gerasa; all are discussed in Segal,
Theatres in Roman Palestine and Provincia Arabia.
35 For this festival, orgiastic and licentious in nature, see “Maiumas,” in
Paulys Real-Encyclopädie der
classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. A. F. von Pauly and G. Wissowa (Stuttgart, 1930), XIV, cols. 610–12.
byzantium and the arabs in the sixth century
rejected the theater or whatever survived of its performance in the sixth century;
as good Monophysites, they viewed the mime and the theater as un-Christian. But
they embraced the
nant with their ethos and mores as Arabs. These contrary attitudes must have been
reflected architecturally in the separation of the odeum—a venue for the perfor-
mance of their favorite art, poetry—from the theater.36
The case for the existence of a Ghassānid odeum, or some structure that was
used as an odeum, rests mostly on references in the verses of Ḥassān. These refer-
ences in his
Dīwān may first be set against the general background of entertain-
ment venues in Ghassānland.
The tavern was a place where poetry could be heard, sung by the songstress,
qayna, to the accompaniment of a musical instrument, such as the mizhar.
Another venue was offered by the three fairs held in Ghassānland, at Dayr
Ayyūb, Adriʿāt, and Bostra; they, like the pan-Arab
z near Mecca,
featured cultural activities as well as commercial transactions.37 The tavern and
the fair, however, were frequented by the common people and thus must be dis-
tinguished from the royal Ghassānid
the principal source.
In one couplet, Ḥassān commends the union of song and poetry.38 Song is the
miḍmār of poetry, the venue where it should be recited, just as the miḍmār is the site
where horses are trained and their strength is developed. More crucial evidence of an
ōdeion/odeum in Ghassānland is a verse which says that after drinking wine in the
tavern, he would then listen to song in
buyūt al-rukhām, “marble mansions.”39
36 Although there are references to
ōdeia as independent structures in Italy, Greece, and Cyrenaica,
those in the cities surrounding the Ghassānids in the Provincia Arabia and in the Near East in general
do not seem to have been separated from
ōdeia that had already been detached, as more suitable on Christian doctrinal grounds. For the
ōdeion in Italy, Greece, and Cyrenaica, see Segal, Theatres in Roman Palestine and Provincia Arabia, 85
note 187, which also discusses the thirty theaters in the Provincia Arabia and Palestine that apparently
in the Odeum at Gerasa,”
Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 335 (2004), 37–47.
37 On the fairs, see above, Part I, Chapter 4.
Dīwān, I, 420. The second verse in the couplet suggests that setting verse to music and
singing it is the true test of its quality, just as fire separates false from true silver.
Do'stlaringiz bilan baham:
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