This chapter explores how different people at different times have attempted to explain the origins and purpose of an ancient rock-cut monument in the outskirts of Antioch-on-the-Orontes (Antakya, Turkey). It expounds different ways in which people have made sense of the carving as a physical trace of the past. Using narratives written in Greek, Arabic, and English between the sixth and the twenty-first century CE, it probes different episodes in the long-term history of the monument’s interpretation. In doing so, it aims to trouble the distinction keeping scien-tific—specifically archaeological—inquiry fully separate from its allegedly illegitimate—magical or folkloric—counterparts.
This chapter proposes new evidence for the active, multimedia reception of pre-Islamic antiquity in early modern Iran, found in a select group of manuscript paintings produced in Safavid Isfahan between 1605 and 1655. We argue here that some seventeenth-century narrative manuscript illustrations deliberately depicted figural stone reliefs inspired by Persepolis, the Achaemenid monumental capital. To support this thesis, we first trace a precursor mode of representing pre-Islamic monuments in earlier (thirteenth- to sixteenth-century) manuscripts of poetry and cosmology, which use Sasanian monuments at Ṭāq-e Bostān to represent “Mount Bisutun.” We then reassess direct engagements with the site of Persepolis in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, leading up to the reign of Shah ʿAbbas I. Examining contemporary political circumstances under ʿAbbas—including his 1590 re-conquest of Fars province and his establishment of Isfahan as his capital—we conclude that this artistic evidence exemplifies a creative, Safavid reframing of Iran’s pre-Islamic monuments. Although this chapter focuses primarily on Iran (in its fluctuating, early modern territorial forms), we suggest our case study has international resonances. The embedding of Persepolitan reliefs in pre-Islamic narratives precedes and coincides with increased foreign mercantile access to Fars, Persepolis and Isfahan. We suggest that this shows urban elites of Iran contributing to dispersed global dialogues about antiquity in the early modern period.
The study explores the lives and afterlives of royal representations carved into living stone (rock reliefs). It emphasizes their entanglement with the representations—in the form of images or names—of earlier kings. It considers also the nature of images in Mesopotamia, particularly royal images; issues of presence and absence, bound up in the composite nature of identity; and the materiality and location of the rock reliefs, which permitted the distribution of royal presence and identity not only beyond a king’s immediate body but also beyond his lifetime. The rock reliefs and stelae of the Neo-Assyrian king Shalmaneser III are explored as the primary case study, with references to the monuments of Anum-hirbe, Tiglath-pileser I, and Tiglath-pileser III. Briefly examined, too, are literary references to setting up one’s name for posterity, as in Gilgamesh and Huwawa A and the SB Cuthean Legend.
While Hittite rock reliefs marking sacred and strategic places (e.g., springs, caves, ponds, passes, routes etc.) survived to the end of the empire and enjoyed a second life in the context of renewed cultic and ritual activities in classical and Medieval times, we stress the lack of evidence for the reuse and adoption of the Hittite landscape monuments in the Early and Middle Iron Age, that is the immediate period following the fall of the Hittite empire. In the context of this overall lack of evidence of post-Hittite attention to and adoption of Hittite monuments, a noteworthy exception is the rock-cut set of monuments of Kızıldağ, in the Konya Plain. Here an Iron-Age relief of a seated sovereign featuring both Assyrian and local stylistic elements was engraved in the rock of the ‘Throne’—a red, outcrop of volcanic stone in the shape of a chair on the slopes of Kızıldağ—next to a set of inscriptions that are dated palaeographically and by mise-en-page to the Late Hittite Empire. The second part of the paper provides a historical context for the iconographic interpretation of this unique rock-carved monument.
Herodotus is well aware that the Great Kings of the Persian-Achaemenid empire, the super-power of his own time, made use of monuments and inscriptions to celebrate and proclaim their specific views of the world as well as to disseminate their imperial claims. More than once he challenges this view in a critical and ironic way. In this context the failure of the Achaemenid-Persian kings to expand successfully is a key topic of Herodotus’ work. In this discourse, anthropogenic monuments play an essential role in disclosing haughtiness and failure, over-ambition, and arrogant claims. Within this framework, “real” monuments are important markers in creating authentication and meaning. Since Herodotus is primarily interested in historical analysis and exemplification on human nature and political aspiration, these monuments are recycled and reconfigured to become integral parts of his narrative. This is even true for such famous monumental clusters as Bisutun and Nahr el-Kalb, whose “real” shape and structure are barely recognizable anymore in this masterpiece of world literature.
According to Josephus in his Judean Antiquities, before the flood all that was known of astronomy was inscribed on two pillars, one made of brick and the other of stone, in order that this knowledge would survive the coming catastrophe. This tale was used by medieval and Renaissance European writers to construct a lineage for the history of astronomy back to antediluvian times. Despite a growing awareness of the fictitious nature of Josephus’ account, the story of the two pillars continued to be presented as an important episode in histories of astronomy written in the early modern period. This chapter analyzes several seventeenth- and eighteenth-century histories of astronomy to examine how and why the story of the two pillars was used by the authors of these histories.
This chapter explores the inception, lives, and afterlives of three groups of Egyptian royal living-rock stelae. Taking inspiration from the narrative format of Grant Parker’s “Narrating Monumentality” (JMA 2003), select personal encounters with these stelae and their stone supports, from the ancient past through the modern era, are relayed in reverse-chronological order. This approach calls attention to long-term, even multicultural engagements with the landscapes of these monuments, foregrounding materiality and memory and questioning why certain outcrops were chosen for inscription in the first place. The counter-diachronic narrative also complements the Egyptian understanding of time, whose relationship to living rock—a material associated with timelessness, permanence, and monumentality in the Egyptian view—is also interrogated in this chapter.
This chapter outlines a mythological array of motifs and ideas, which was shared by Jewish apocalyptic authors and some contemporary non-Jewish authors in the Hellenistic-Roman period in the Levant. This mythology focused on pre-diluvian times but was also deeply concerned with the less-distant past of the great empires Assyria and Babylonia. The themes of this mythology were the creation of human civilization by various culture heroes and the dichotomy between civilization and the wild, the latter being depicted as sinning angles. Jewish texts cast these themes within the mythology of the flood and the story of the angels, thus strengthening the Jewish national identity within the Hellenistic cultural amalgam. The main innovation in this chapter is that the Jewish mythology concerning Watchers (i.e., fallen, rebellious angels) gained inspiration from the royal reliefs carved by Nebu-chadnezzar in Lebanon, especially in the site of Brisa. It thus had a strong regional anchoring in the mountain ranges of the Lebanon and anti-Lebanon. These reliefs, showing the king worshipping astral deities, cutting a tree in Lebanon and fighting a lion, acquired a second layer of meaning, in addition to their “original” meaning based on the royal Mesopotamian iconography. In this new layer, the king functions as a fallen angel and operates the above-mentioned mythological themes as an angelic agent. The link between the Jewish texts and the rock reliefs is demonstrated by a series of examples from the Book of Jubilees (Chapter 8), The Book of Daniel (Chapter 4), the Book of Watchers in 1 Enoch, and the Book of Giants (the Aramaic fragments and the Jewish Medieval transmission). The present study firmly anchors the early Jewish texts in their context in the Hellenistic Levant.
Monumental rock reliefs and inscriptions, either carved into the living rock or on highly valued ruins, played an especially important role in the formation, maintenance, and manipulation of memory in ancient Iran. This chapter considers the processes and practices that these visually and discursively articulated landscapes played in the development of Iranian conceptions of empire and, just as importantly, spatial and topographical experiences of the past. While the other vocations of rock reliefs enter into its discussion, such as constructing imperial space and cultivating sacred sites, this chapter focuses on the role rock-cut monuments played in continually reshaping perceptions of the past, bridging huge gulfs of time and losses of memory and creating useful pasts, either as direct interventions into royal or collective memory during the time of their creation or as raw material during later periods. In addition, rock-cut features allowed Iranian dynasties to make a meaningful connection with the architectural and, especially, rupestrian vestiges of the earlier cultures and empires of pre-Iranian Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Iranian Plateau, even if the identity of creators of those earlier reliefs were unknown and the scripts and languages of the inscriptions long since forgotten. Here I focus particularly on the afterlives of rock-cut monuments and the varying roles that cumulative memorial landscapes played in constructing, supporting, and changing cultural memory, both regionally and on an imperial scale.