Notebook, 1993-

[From: Woolley, Leonard. The Art of The Middle East, including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine. New York: Crown Publishers. 1961.]

1.Geography and History --- 2.Elam --- 3.Sumer --- 4.Sumer and Akkad --- 5.Syria & Palestine --- 6.Hurri & Hittites --- 7.Anatolia

The Art of The Middle East - Including
Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine

Chapter Seven

Anatolia, 1200-330 B.C.
Notes for this Chapter

I N D E X - [The following are discussed more or less in this order and elsewhere in the text]: Interior decoration - Decorative tiles - Arin-berd [Painted interior walls] - Thessaly [Painted themes . . . . Phrygian came originally from Thessaly] - Striking resemblance to the Etruscan - Phrygians and the Greeks would seem to have had a common tradition [in painting . . .developed independently on the high interior plateau of Asia Minor and on the coastal lands of Greece and the Aegean] - Lycians - developed an art more nearly akin to that of Greece than did the Carians or Lydians - Asia Minor was always important as the melting pot wherein the arts of east and west were amalgamated - metal-workers of Urartu - Empire of Hurri - Assyrian influence - Link between Urartu and distant China - Toprak-kale/Scythians, South Russians, and Mongols

The study of Anatolian art during this period requires as background a rather more detailed account of the country's political history than was given in the brief summary in Chapter I.

The invasion of the 'Peoples of the Sea' which swept over Asia Minor just after 1200 B.C. completely transformed the political map of the country. Of the actual events of the time we know nothing; but when the fog clears we find that the great Hittite Empire has disappeared once and for all. Its place has been taken by the Phrygians, an Indo-European people coming from south-eastern Europe. We hear of them first from Assyrian sources in about 1100 B.C., when they were already firmly installed in the Halys basin and the lands west of it, and under the name Muski or Moschoi were a menace to the outlying provinces of Assyria. Further to the west were the Lydians, a kindred stock to the Phrygians and at the outset their dependents, occupying much of what had been the kingdom of Ahhijawâ, the 'Achaeans'; these latter, who had themselves formed part of the host of the Sea-Peoples, cannot have been altogether ousted but seem to have withdrawn to the Ionian coast and to Caria, which was to maintain its independence until its conquest by Croesus. Another of the invading peoples, the Danuna, had settled in Cilicia. Eastwards of the Phrygians, in the mountainous country round Lake Van, the centre of Anatolia's mineral wealth, there were presumably already the people who, perhaps under foreign masters, were to become under the name Urartu an empire that could vie with Assyria.

This state of affairs was not to last. At the beginning Phrygia prospered greatly under the Midas dynasty; but in the first half of the eighth century a fresh wave or south European invaders, the Cimmerians, attacking with a pincer movement across the Bosphorus and by way of the Caucasus, broke the Phyrgian resistance so completely that King Midas committed suicide in his capital, Gordion. War with Assyria brought the country to a yet lower ebb, and about 696 B.C. a second Cimmerian invasion put an end to Phrygia as an independent power. Lydia then took over the hegemony: the Cimmerians were driven out of Asia by the victories of Ardys and his successor Alyattes, and the conquest of the Greek cities Miletus, Smyrna and Magnesia, [p. 161] carried the Lydian dominions to the shore of the Ionian Sea. In the time of Croesus the kingdom attained its apogee and with the occupation of Caria extended its sway over the entire peninsula; but the king ventured to challenge Cyrus the Persian, and his daring proved fatal.

Meanwhile Urartu had prospered. Probably to secure an outlet oversea for the trade on which its wealth had been built up, it gradually won suzerainty over the minor states, mostly Syro-Hittite, which in north Syria lay along the Assyrian frontier and in the first half of the eighth century could boast an empire reaching to the mouth of the river Orontes, i.e., to the Mediterranean Sea. But in 742 B.C. Tiglathpileser of Assyria seized those outlying provinces; the second Cimmerian invasion affected Urartu disastrously, so weakening it that Sargon, in 714 B.C., had little difficulty in reducing it to impotence; it lingered on in a decadent state only to be destroyed utterly by Cyaxares the Mede in 585 B.C. Under Cyaxares the Medes had grown so strong that after a preliminary defeat they could invade Assyria and lay siege to Nineveh itself, this in 614 B.C.; it was perhaps in answer to an appeal for help from the king of Assyria that the Scyths of south Russia, who apparently had for some time past been infiltrating peacefully into Asia Minor, suddenly swept down in arms and began to devastate the whole of Anatolia. Urartu again suffered; Lydia was hard-pressed and for a quarter of a century anarchy seems to have prevailed over much of the country. Then Cyaxares, having finally disposed of Assyria and having by agreement left the Mesopotamian lowlands to Babylon, could turn his attention to the enemy nearer home. He crushed the Scyths, destroyed Urartu [585 B.C.], but after six years of indecisive warfare in the end came to terms with Lydia, dying a year later. His successor Astyages was overthrown by Cyrus, king of Persia, who profited by the inertia of the monarch and the discontent of his subjects. It was because Astyages was his ally that Croesus ventured upon war with the Persians, now installed upon his frontier, but he was defeated and Sardes, the Lydian capital, fell; in 547-6 B.C. Lydia ceased to exist; Harpagus, Cyrus' general, overran Caria, reduced the Greek cities one after another, and Asia Minor became a Persian satrapy.

It is not necessary to study individually al the shifting pieces in this kaleidoscopic world, nor indeed would our scanty knowledge make such a study possible. In the first place, the cultures and the arts to some extent overlap; thus, the painted pottery which is for us the most [p. 162] distinctive product of Phrygia is found far beyond the Phrygian boundaries--not only at Gordion but at Lake Van, at Samsun and at Carchemish: again, of bronze vessels found at Gordion some would seem to be actual imports from Urartu while others were produced by a contemporary local school working under Urartian influence. In the second place it must be remembered that political changes need not imply complete social or cultural change. The Hittite Empire had vanished, but not all the Hittites had been killed, and the Hittite farmer clung obstinately to his fields: the conquerors imposed their rule upon the survivors of the old rŕgime and were not ashamed to learn from them. Thus, the Phrygians continued to use the old Hittite hieroglyphic script; the Urartians wrote for the most part in Akkadian cuneiform, but also had their own hieroglyphic script adapted from the Hittite and sometimes even employed the Hittite itself. In the sphere of the arts we shall find the same thing. A certain proportion of the old population of the land survived, and with and through them survived some of the old traditions, and because political boundaries had changed such traditions disregarded frontiers and might instill a measure of unity into the superimposed cultures. From the point of view of the history of art, to assess the contribution to art made by Anatolia it is therefore better to deal with this hotchpotch of peoples as a whole. It will be convenient to describe any particular invention or activity under the heading of the region in which it is, to our knowledge, best exemplified, but we shall find that examples often must and should be drawn from other regions indiscriminately because all were in fact Anatolian.

Of the early stages of Urartian civilization and art nothing is yet known. When we first hear of these mountain people they are already organized as a power formidable enough to challenge the might of Assyria and as metal-workers and traders they were, by the export of manufactured goods, already exercising a profound influence upon the arts not only of their Anatolian neighbours but also of lands far distant. They were keen agriculturalists who by elaborate works of irrigation had greatly increased the fertility of their soil, and they were builders on a grand scale with an architectural style quite unlike that of the Mesopotamian countries or of Syria.

Within fifty kilometres of the shores of Lake Van there have been noted over forty fortresses or walled towns of the Urartu period. The defense walls are of cyclopean masonry, very large squared blocks built as a rule dry-stone, though mortar was used in some eighth-century [p. 163] walls at Toprak-kale; each course was set back a few centimeters behind the line of the course below, giving a slight slope to the wall face. Obviously this method of stone-laying constitutes a weakness for the defense in that it affords finger- and toe-holds for anyone attempting to scale the wall, [1] and it might be interpreted as a sign of inexperience on the part of builders who distrusted the stability of their work; but it might have been rather a sensible precaution against the earthquakes so prevalent in that region, and certainly in other respects the Urartian architect shows no lack of competence.

Apart from defense-works building construction was generally in mud brick on heavy rubble foundations. Shallow buttresses relieved the wall face and were carried up to a projecting cornice, often decorated with open-work composed of bricks laid diagonally, and capped with stepped battlements. The town's main building, palace or citadel, might be very large, measuring as much as eighty metres in either direction; its basement would consist entirely of magazines--of the seventy magazines beneath the citadel of Karmir-Blur seven were for wine and contained 360 huge clay vessels holding in all more than 350,000 litres! --with the living-rooms above, approached by a ramp or staircase; and the building might have three or more storeys. Doorways were sometimes flat-topped, sometimes arched; the roofs and flat ceilings were supported by columns--one large room at Arin-berd had no less than thirty columns, and the Russian excavators may well be right in suggesting that we have here the prototype of the apadana, the columned hall of Achaemenid architecture. For interior decoration the Urartians seem to have relied for the most part upon painting, but from Toprak-kale come fragments of a marble frieze with an incised design of cattle, and from Toprak-kale again [from the temple of Haldis] we have basalt floor-slabs inlaid with concentric circles of white limestone and marble, a form of decoration curiously reminiscent of that used at Brak, in the Khabur valley, in the Jamdat Nasr period, more than two millennia before. [2] Much of our knowledge of the domestic architecture of Urartu is based on a bronze relief from Toprak-kale now in the British Museum. A further source of information is an Assyrian relief illustrating the campaign of Sargon against Urartu [714 B.C.] and his capture of the city of Musasir: there are shown house façades exactly like that in the bronze relief, and also a front view of the temple of the god Bagbartu. The temple stands on a podium. It has a gabled roof, apparently tiled, the gable tip surmounted by an acroterion in the [p. 164] form of a colossal spear-head. The roof is supported in front by four [or six] pillars; two of these, like the wall behind them, are adorned with the concentric circles known to us from Toprak-kale; the two innermost have against them huge spears whose points rise just above the temple eaves. The 'pillars', drawn as such by the Assyrian artist, may well be in fact columns: if so, the Bagbartu temple bears a striking resemblance to a Greek temple in antis; but it has no parallel in the architecture of any of the Middle Eastern countries which we have considered so far. But there is a reasonably close analogy to be found in the Phrygian buildings at Pazarli: there to we see the raised podium, the columned porch, the pediment-like gable-end and the tiled sloping roof: moreover, a sixth-century building, probably a temple, found at Gordion is described by the excavators as tristyle in antis, consisting of a cella and a six-columned portico, which would correspond fairly closely with the Musasir temple. In that case it would seem that a type of temple not unlike the Greek was used over a large part of Anatolia in the 8th-6th centuries B.C. Certainly the constructional methods employed at Karmir-Blur, Pazarli, Gordion and Sardes are the same; this results partly from the materials provided by the country and partly from the old Hittite tradition which still persisted there. Although the ruling classes of the new Anatolian states were newcomers, a large part of the population was still the same as that which had formerly constituted the lower orders of the Hittite empire--as indeed has been demonstrated by the Pazarli excavators--and in many respects we can recognize a survival of old traditions. Sometimes those traditions go back amazingly far; a Jamdat Nasr parallel for the circular inlays of wall-slabs has already been cited; not less surprising is a floor-decoration at Pazarli, a mosaic made of terra-cotta cones with painted butts driven into the mud plaster--the system used on the walls and columns of the palace at Erech in Mesopotamia towards the end of the fourth millennium B.C. Similar cones have been found as far to the west as Gordion. It would therefore be a mistake to treat of the arts and crafts of Urartu, Phrygia, Lydia and even Caria in isolation: regional variants [p. 165] undoubtedly there were, but on the whole there was sufficient homogeneity to justify the use of the term 'Anatolian art'. That art was to a large extent traditional: to some extent--but it is difficult as yet to say how far--old traditions were modified by those of the Indo-European invaders, and in the case of goods manufactured for export the demands of foreign clients introduced alien fashions; but the basic characteristics of it are native to the soil.

An outstanding feature of 'Anatolian' architecture is the practice of reverting the walls of buildings with decorative tiles. Such have not yet been found in Urartu, but at Akalan [near Samsun], at Pazarli, at Gordion and Sardes, i.e., over the whole length of the peninsula, evidence of the practice has been forthcoming. Below the caves of a building there would run a broad frieze of terra-cotta tiles nailed to the wall face. The tiles were moulded in relief and coloured: some have simple geometrical designs, others show warriors on the march, groups of wild animals, gryphons or heraldic goats facing each other or rampant against a sacred tree; on a white or cream-coloured ground the figures are outlined in black and touched up with red or brown: above these, a row of semicircular antefixes similarly decorated covered the ends of the tile-ridges. The effect must have been extremely gay.

The warriors on the tiles look remarkably Greek and can be paralleled with those on a Mycenaean vase; galloping centaurs carrying branches might be thought purely Greek, and even the sphinxes and the gryphons might be matched on Corinthian pottery of the 'Orientalising' period: accordingly the Phrygian painted tiles have often been held to show the influence of Greece upon Asia Minor, and that being so their importance for the student of Anatolian art is relatively small. It is a conclusion natural enough for anyone to arrive at who is familiar with Greek art and approaches similar but new and alien material with that unconspicuous bias.

The warriors seem to wear Greek armour, but it is the armour of the Syro-Hittites as pictured on the Carchemish reliefs and of the Lycians as shown on a relief from Isinda now in the Istanbul Museum; moreover, the Greeks themselves say that the armour of their hoplites was derived from Caria. The goats [or chamois] with the sacred tree are definitely oriental; the centaurs, carrying branches as in the oldest Greek pictures, are not necessarily borrowed from Greece; according to Greek legend they came from Thessaly, i.e., from the regions north of Greece proper, the regions from which the Phrygians [p. 166] came; in later Greek legend they are associated with Dionysus, and therefore with Asia Minor; lastly, it is only in the 'Orientalising period' of the eighth--seventh centuries that the sphinxes and gryphons are taken over by Greek art from the art of Asia. In short, the subjects of the Phrygian wall tiles are not necessarily borrowed, and their technique can be proved to be local. [3] Contemporary pottery is decorated in red or black upon a white or cream -coloured ground, generally with geometric designs but sometimes with figure compositions, and such pottery goes back [at Kara HŻyńk] to the early days of the Phrygian occupation: it is indeed a direct descendant, so far as the technique is concerned, of the polychrome pottery of Kanesh of the nineteenth century B.C. Moreover, although painted tiles have not been found in Urartu, yet at Arin-berd the interior walls of the big apadana-like buildings are painted with designs including human figures, gods, trees and rosettes outlined in black and touched up with [p. 167] red on a white ground, these forming a frieze not unlike the out -door tile friezes of Phrygia.

There is also the question of date. The Gordion tiles [not found in situ] have been assigned to the sixth century B.C., which might accord with a Greek origin. At Pazarli the tiles belong to the earliest of the three Phrygian occupation levels and must be as early as the eighth century--the destruction of the building by fire may be associated with the Cimmerian invasion at the beginning of the seventh century. At Akalan the upper Phrygian level is of the sixth century but the lower, in which the tiles occurred, was assigned by Makridy to "a very remote antiquity". The painted building at Arin-berd was deserted in the late eighth or early seventh century B.C. The Phrygian wall-tiles are therefore at least as early as the eighth century, which was the time when Phrygia reached the zenith of its prosperity; their genesis may be earlier. In any case they are contemporary with or earlier than any parallels to them that can be found in Greek art. That eighth-century Greece should have influenced in any way the interior of Asia Minor is inherently unlikely; but it is a recognized fact that at that date Greece was strongly influenced by oriental art, through the two channels of Phoenician trade and trade with the Greek cities of the Ionian coast: it is fair to conclude that this striking architectural feature of faced walls was an Anatolian invention, and that any Greek parallels result from borrowing by the Greeks, not vice versa.

In the Samsun region there have come to light two tombs each consisting of a dromos and a vaulted stone chamber whose painted decoration bears a striking resemblance to the Etruscan; they too are of late date, probably of the first century B.C., but they may well result from a tradition going back for many centuries; like the Phrygian painted tiles they seem to represent at least 'a collateral branch of Greek ancestral art', [4] and it is still possible that fresh discoveries may link them more intimately with Etruria. Thus, of the very fragmentary remains of wall-paintings in tempera found in the 'Painted House' at Gordion, dating from "round about 500 B.C.", the excavator remarks: "The style of painting recalls East Greek art . . . stylistically too there is much in common with some of the archaic Etruscan tomb paintings, perhaps because both spheres were subject to a common influence; . . . but in all probability it will be found that the iconography behind the Phrygian paintings is entirely different from that of Etruria." The old idea that Phrygian art, in painting at [p. 168] least, was due to Greek influence must certainly be discarded. At Gordion work has been carried down to the eighth century levels and "there is little or no evidence of intercourse with Greece at this early time, or of influence from one direction or the other; rather, the Phrygians and the Greeks would seem to have had a common tradition which was developed independently on the high interior plateau of Asia Minor and on the coastal lands of Greece and the Aegean." The other problems, that of Etruscan connections, is quite independent of the first and must still be considered sub judice [5] so far as any explanation of how the connection came about is concerned; but the fact of connection can hardly be disputed.

At Gordion there has been found an astonishing screen of boxwood inlaid with yew in a geometrical pattern which recalls the decoration of the rock shrines at 'Midas City' where many of the same or similar motives are used. Inlaid wooden furniture has a long history in Anatolia, but these geometric designs seem to mark a new departure and to be distinctively Phrygian. From the same tumulus burial come small animal figures exquisitely carved in boxwood, but amongst them is one of "a horse decorated with grooved concentric circles, in style very reminiscent of the bronze figures inlaid with silver from the royal tombs of the early Bronze Age at Alaca Höy&uul;k." Here, as in the case of the painted tiles, Phrygian art carries on the techniques, if not the styles of the older population of Anatolia whom the newcomers had enslaved.

The Lycian tombs in the Xanthus region are well known to classical scholars. "The Lycians", wrote Professor Gardner in 1924, "developed an art more nearly akin to that of Greece than did the Carians or Lydians; later it fell completely under Greek influence so that from the 6th century B.C. downwards Lycian monuments like the Harpy Tomb are commonly quoted as typical specimens of Greek sculpture." Now not only is the type of tomb alien to Greek practice but the architecture is definitely un-Greek, the obvious parallel being the tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae, and in one case at least, the so-called 'Tomb of the Satrap', the relief is both in subject and in style purely Persian. Even where the sculptures seem reminiscent of Greek art it is difficult to believe that models from Greece proper were available to artists of the Xanthus area, and as regards Ionian influence they are hardly likely to have been inspired by such examples of Ionian art as the Branchidae statues. Professor Gardner went on to say: "But there are some few monuments which probably belong [p. 169] to a period earlier than the rise of Greek sculpture; and so far as they may appear to resemble archaic Greek works this is not due to the influence of Greece upon Lycia but to an independent development of similar types and resources." If the fourteenth-century AhhijawIa of western Anatolia are rightly identified as Achaeans, and if their descendants still occupied the south-western corner of the peninsula, then the 'Greek' tradition may have been just as much theirs as it was that of the Ionian coast-dwellers and the style of their sculpture may signify not a borrowed but a common culture.

In 1957 there was found in the Phrygian level at BogazkŻy a sculptured limestone group of three figures, a goddess between two male musicians. Of this Professor Bittel, the discoverer, says, "In detail one cannot fail to recognize connections with archaic Greek art: the pleated skirt, the lower hem of the skirt with the protruding feet in their shoes, also the mouth. There is, however, a remarkable contrast between the goddess and her attendants, who are shown in easy movement, and this, together with the generally un-Greek head of the goddess, indicates that the work cannot be derived directly from any known school of art." He would date the group "at the latest to the middle of the 6th century B.C." No Ionian influence is likely to have penetrated so far to the east as BogazkŻy at that date; on the other hand the 'unknown school' to which the group must be assigned may be derived from an 'Achaean' tradition which was behind the Xanthus monuments also. Asia Minor was always important as the melting pot wherein the arts of east and west were amalgamated; but that may have been due not so much to foreign influences as to the fact that its population combined European and oriental elements.


[Woolley, Leonard. The Art of The Middle East, including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine. New York: Crown Publishers. 1961.]



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