Notebook, 1993-

Manual of Oriental Antiquities - Babelon, Ernest. Librarian of the Department of Medals and Antiques in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Manual of Oriental Antiquities, including the Architecture, Sculpture, and Industrial Arts of Chaldæ, Assyria, Persia, Syria, Judæ, Phœnicia, and Carthage. London: H. Grevel and Co. 1906.

The Chaldæn -- Assyria -- Elamites (Archeological Discoveries at Souza) -- The Phœnicians & The Cypriots -- The Hittites

Phœnician and Cypriote Art
[Architecture, Sculpture, Ceramics, Glass,
Bronzes and Ornaments] (cont.)

Cypriote Sculpture
If the very vestiges of Cypriote architecture have disappeared, it is not so with the works of the sculptor. The quarter of a century which has just passed has seen disinterred as if by enchantment from the bowels of the great eastern island, and then transported into the chief museums of Constantinople, Paris, London, Berlin, and especially New York, hundreds of stone statues and thousands of terra-cotta figurines of strange appearance, with picturesque head-dresses and with foolishly-smiling visages, which form a group apart in the history of art, since they are neither purely Asiatic nor purely Greek. Save in rare exceptions, the monuments of Cypriote sculpture were not imported from abroad; they are the work of that mixed race of Greeks and Asiatics, which, by means of the Phėnician ships, was in constant relation with Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor.

The productions of Cypriote sculpture which seem to be the most ancient remind us of the figures [p. 269] in the Assyrian bas-reliefs; the costume is the same: a conical cap, a curled beard, a long tunic, and a short cloak passed over the shoulder. However, there are essential differences: the muscles are far from being expressed with the same vigour; no figure wears that long beard like a regular screw, which is so characteristic of Ninevite sculpture. We feel that the Cypriote artist works at a distance from a model which he only sees with the eye of memory, or else that he imitates at second-hand, and is compelled to interpret a Phėnicain work which is itself only an interpretation of an Assyrian prototype. The most ancient statues discovered in the temple of Golgoi may date back from the epoch at which the Assyrians conqueror Sargon erected at Citium [Larnaca] the triumphant stela on which he relates that his vessels have vanquished Cyprus. They are of all sizes. There is a colossal head 2 ft. 9 1/2 inches high [fig. 214]. It wears a conical helmet; the eyes are prominent, the nose is straight and regular, the mouth small but full-lipped, the cheek-bones projecting; the beard is composed of long parallel tresses slightly curled at the end. This fine head, more than half oriental, may be considered as the type of its kind . . . . [p. 270]

Phoenician Glass
According to Pliny's testimony the invention of glass has long been attributed to the Phœnicians. The following is a translation of his account: "In that part of Syria which is called Phœnicia, and which lies next to Judæ, a marsh named Cendevia exists at the foot of Mount Carmel. It is regarded as the source of the river Belus [Nahr-Halu], which, after a course of five miles, falls into the Mediterranean not far from the colony of Ptolemais. The waters of this river flow slowly; they are deep, muddy and unhealthy, but religious rites have made them sacred. The Belus only deposits sand at its mouth; and this sand, formerly unfit for any use, becomes white and pure as soon as the waves of the sea have rolled and washed it. The bank measures [p. 283] at the most five hundred paces, and yet for many centuries this small space has sufficed for the manufacture of glass. It is related that nitre-merchants, alighting on this shore, were about to prepare their meal, when they perceived that there were no stones to support the pots. They ran in all directions without finding any, and then in despair they took the blocks of nitre with which the vessels were laden and made an impromptu furnace. But scarcely was the fire lighted, when the salt melting mixed with the sand, and streams of a transparent liquid, unknown till then, were seen to flow. Such was the origin of glass." [Pliny, Hist. Nat, xxxvi, 67.]

It is easy enough to recognise the kernel of historical truth contained in the fable echoed by Pliny. The Phœnician merchants having lighted their fire by chance in the cavity of a rock which concentrated the heat, obtained a commencement of vitrification of nitric salt: in this no doubt the invention of the Phœnicians consisted. They had discovered white transparent glass, while before them the Egyptians and the Assyrians only knew an opaque glass produced by the combustion of certain plants.

Opaque glass, or rather glass paste, seems to be of Egyptian origin. The vitreous substance serves as a varnish to terra-cotta from the time of the first dynasty, and it is found thus employed on the posts of the sepulchral door of the step-pyramid at Sakara. In later times it is applied as a glaze to scarab*i, sepulchral figurines, and paintings. Soon it was perceived that his material had consistency enough to be used by itself: "From that time," says M. Frœhner, "the [p. 284] manufacture of what we call glass-ware, that is to say, of small ornaments, beads, armlets, and figurines of opaque glass, isochrome, or of several colours, was invented; it did not stop here, and commerce spread its products everywhere." [W. Frœhner, La Verrerie Antique, Coll. Charvet, p. 10.] The invention of glass-blowing soon followed: the oldest coloured glass vase known bears the name of Thothmes III. [Eighteenth Dynasty]. White glass appears in Egypt much later; bottles of transparent glass, preserved at the British Museum, are of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.

In Chaldæ and Assyria, the progress must have been the same as in Egypt; the vitreous substance was employed at first as varnish on bricks, statuettes and vases; then opaque glass and finally transparent glass were arrived at gradually, perhaps under the influence of Egypt. Assyrian objects of vitreous paste, such as rings, necklace-beads, small vases, are not rare in our museums; but transparent white glass seems to have been imported from Phœnicia, and never used to more than a limited extent in Mesopotamia. The celebrated transparent glass vase of Sargon [B.C. 722-705] at the British Museum is well known: in spite of its cuneiform inscription, it is Phœnician in style and matter, so that we are obliged to suppose that it was executed in the workshops of Sidon at the time when Sargon was master of the country. "This [p. 285] vase," says M. Frœhner, "is the prototype of the unguent-flasks of which we have so many specimens in alabaster [alabastra ] of Egyptian and Phœnician manufacture. Very heavy in form, and consequently of a very archaic style, it resembles a purse; its walls are thick, and two square appendages form the handles. The technical process followed in its manufacture is no less primitive, for it was not blown; the workman took a piece of cooked glass; then with a lathe he rounded the body and hollowed out the interior, exactly as if he were working in alabaster. To put it in its true place, we must remember that the Phœnicians were the first to produce white glass of this purity of tone."

But before chance taught them to utilize the fine sand on the banks of the Belus and to manufacture from it that fine transparent glass so much vaunted by ancieint authors, the Phœnicians had borrowed from their neighbours the Egyptians and Assyrians the art of employing vitrifiable matter as enamel. At Rhodes, Salzmann discovered enamelled vases of Phœnician origin; the geographer Scylax informs us, on the other hand, that Phœnician merchants exported objects of vitreous paste, that is to say, amulets and necklace beads, even beyond the pillars of Hercules. The necropoles of Cyprus have furnished some glasses with thick walls, slightly transparent, which were certainly manufactured in the workshops of Tyre or Sidon. M. G. Rey brought from Phœnicia to the Louvre an idol of vitreous paste in the form of a cone placed between two quadrupeds; but the most interesting Phœnician monument in vitreous paste that we can cite is the necklace from Tharras in Sardinia. It is [p. 286] formed of forty beads, two cylinders, four bulls' heads, and a large grotesque mask of Pygmœus [Louvre].

From the foregoing facts, it results that though the Phœnicians had for many ages a monopoly of the glass-manufacture, they cannot be considered as its inventors. They only made admirable use of the material placed by nature in their hands. The wonderful properties of the sand of the Belus are vaunted not only by Pliny but by Josephus and Tacitus. The glass manufactured by the Phœnicians was purer and clearer than that of Egypt, and consequently more sought after; not only alabstra and amphoriskoi, worthy of medižval Venetian artists, issued from their workshops, but also false gems of coloured vitreous paste, imitating precious stones so as to be mistaken for them; hence the prosperity and reputation of the manufactures of Tyre and Sidon. Lucian says of the complexion of a beautiful young girl that it is more diaphanous than the glass of Sidon. [Amores, ch. xxvi.]

This last city was the centre of the Phœnician glass manufacture from the remotest antiquity to the Roman period; but remains of ancient furnaces, glass fragments of various colours, and scoriž, have been found at Tyre, which attest the existence there also of important glass-works. [p. 287]

A fine glass flask, moulded and decorated with fruit, found at Jerusalem, has been attributed to the age of the independence of Judæ; but it may well be not earlier than the Gržco-Roman period, like the ornaments of vitreous paste found in the tombs of the kings by Saulcy. These objects, as well as flakes of greenish glass, found in Palestine, probably came from the workshops of Hebron or Aleppo, which are in activity to the present day, and produce before our eyes vases which imitate the ancient specimens to perfection.

The glass-workers of Tyre and Sidon signed their works at the Grœco-Roman period, like their colleagues the potters. Those of Sidon added the name of the workshop to their own; the Greek or Latin stamp placed in relief on the thumb-rest or handles had the double advantage of giving the name of the manufacturer and of presenting a rough surface, which made it easier to hold the vase. The best known of the Sidonian glass-workers, Artas, lived in the first century of our era; the productions of his workshops are found with his mark in all the countries bordering upon the Mediterranean. [p. 288]

Bronzes and Ornaments
One of the most original sides of Phœnician art consists of the manufacture of bronze, silver or gold dishes, on which various subjects in Assyro-Eygptian style are chiseled, engraved, or even hammered in repoussé. The skill of the Tyrian and Sidonian artists in this branch of art was celebrated from the highest antiquity. Solomon appeals to them for the furniture of Jehovah's Temple; in Homer, Achilles offers as a prize for the races, in the games organized for the funeral of Patroclus, "a crater of chiseled silver, holding six measure, and without rival on earth for beauty: skillful Sidonian craftsmen made it;" elsewhere the poet speaks of a silver crater, the work of Hephaistos, which a king of Sidon gives to Menelaus. The Phœnician dishes found at Nimroud [fig. 92], in Cyprus, and at some points of the Mediterranean coasts, are specimens of those goldsmiths' works which astonished Homer's Greeks. They are paterž without feet, shallow and hemispherical, such as those seen in the hands of the Assyrians in the bas-reliefs of Nineveh. The figures which decorate them are on the inner surface, and arranged in concentric zones. Engraved or hammered in repoussé, these subjects seem sometimes to represent, not trivial figures nor images of deities, but, on the contrary, genre pictures, and scenes like those in the Egyptian paintings. Thus the subject which decorates the silver-gilt patera [fig. 233] [p. 19] discovered in 1876 at Palestrina, the ancient Pržneste, in Latium, has been ingeniously explained by M. Clermont-Ganneau. [L'imagerie phœnician et la mythologie iconologique chez les Grecs, part i., 1880.] In the concentric zone bordered by a long serpent a small drama is developed in relief in a series of successive phases; it might be called "A Hunting Day, or Piety Rewarded. An oriental play in two acts and nine tableaux." We see: [1] the hero leaving his house in his war-chariot; [2] he alights to shoot a deer; [3] capture of the deer; [4] halt in a wood after the hunt; the horses are unharnessed; [5] preparations for the meal, in which the deer is to be eaten; [6] an ape attacks the hero, who, fortunately, is protected by a winged deity; [7] the ape is pursued and thrown down by the horses; [8] the hunter kills the savage beast; [9] triumphal entry into the house. The interpretation would be complete if a mythical name could be given to the hero of the drama. [p. 290]

Hunting scenes of the same kind, but not so easy to explain, decorate a silver dish from Cære in Etruria, of the same manufacture as the pateræ of Phœnicia, of Cyprus. On one of the silver dishes from Dali [Idalion] possessed by the Louvre, there is a lion hunt; on the patera from Anathus there is the siege of a fortress.

The treasury of Curium furnished Cesnola with a large number of these paterž in silver or electrum, on which appeared engraved subjects of the same inspiration and the same style; figures with four wings, struggling with a lion; Astarte with her hand upon her breast, beside hideous patžci, Isis-Hathor, Egyptian sphinxes and sparrow-hawks; hunts, battles, religious sacrifices. Everywhere on these monuments, which, as the Homeric poems show us, were so greatly sought for by the Greeks of the heroic age, and imported by Sidonian merchants, we find copies of the usual designs on the Egyptian and Assyrian monuments, an unconscious mixture of hybrid scenes, which have nothing original except this quaint amalgam itself, even more striking here than in the other manifestations of Phœnician and Cypriote art. If we had a larger number of these curious dishes, we should find, no doubt, that the motives are little varied, often repeated, even in subjects as interesting as the Hunting Day, and that the effort of imagination here made by the Phœnician artist has been little inventive. Fortunately for the reputation [p. 291] of Phœnician and Cypriote goldsmiths, other monuments show that their metallurgy was not limited to these interesting pateræ. Thus, for instance, Cesnola brought from his excavations in Cyprus a fragment of a large bronze crater, the handles of which are decorated in the most original fashion. We here find lions standing on their hind legs holding œnochož, and clothed in fishes' scales, like the god Anu in Assyro-Chaldæn symbolism.

In Cypriote furniture and ornaments we observe the same characteristics of a hybrid art. There are little silver vases chiseled in the Assyrian style with rare elegance, handles of scepters, and other precious utensils like those of Nineveh. Certain women's head-dresses, are of exquisite workmanship; so are the ear-rings, the necklaces of gold, gems and glass; with figures of lions, rams, deer, masks with curled beards in the Assyrian fashion, heads of Isis-Hathor and lotus-flowers. Some of these necklaces and bracelets end in lions' or serpentes' heads, [p. 292] and form models which Greek artists needed only to copy, for they are masterpieces in their kind. We have men that the Ninevite excavations brought to light ivory tablets carved by Phœnician artists, and imported into Mesopotamia by commerce; plaques of the same style have been obtained from Phœnicia itself: they were ornaments of precious caskets. These products of Phœnician industry were imported into all the coasts of the Mediterranean; and, at Palestrina, in Latium, an ivory tablet was found, on which a vessel manned by rowers is engraved, similar to those in the Egyptian paintings. Ostrich-eggs, found in Etruia, arranged to serve as vases, are adorned with engraved figures, the Phœnician character of which could scarcely be disputed; there are zones of warriors on foot, on horseback, and in their war-chariots; files of animals, fights of lions with bulls in semi-Egyptian style; the frame of these scenes is borrowed from Assyria; the whole is relieved by iridescent colours. [See Perrot and Chipiez, History of Art in Phœnicia, etc. vol. ii. p. 404 f.]

If we had in Phœnicia bas-reliefs like those of Assyria, and paintings like those of Egypt, we should be able to give some account of those brilliant stuffs of dyed purple, described by classical antiquity with so much enthusiasm. It was to the Tyrian god, [p. 292] Melkarth, that tradition assigned the invention of this dye, obtained, as it is well known, from the juice of a marine shell, the murex, which is found especially on the coast of Phœnicia. We can only affirm, according to literary testimony, that the workshops of Tyre and Sidon produced stuffs in abundance, the colour of which, as the ancients remarked, instead of being altered and deteriorated by a bright light, was only rendered more vivid and brilliant by it.

Engraved Gems
The glyptic art, through the multiplicity of its productions, is one of the principal elements of Phœnician archžology, and teaches us more than the miserable fragments which remain of pottery or sculpture. Here, more clearly than in the other branches of art, we find imitation of Egypt and Assyria taken for granted, as a witness of the poverty of invention of the Phœnician intellect. Two cylinders exist in the De Clercq collection which bear a cuneiform inscription by the side of Egyptian figures. That which we give as an example [fig. 238], after M. Menant, [Menant, Le Glyptique orientale, t. ii.] is the seal of "Annipi, son of Addume the Sidonian." Thus the owner of the cylinder is a Phœnician; he has inscribed his name in Assyrian beside the god Set, [The figure representing the god Set has not a hawk's head, as M. Babeon states, following M . Menant. Here, as always, Set has the head of a nondescript animal, somewhat resembling an ass!] Reseph, the [p. 294] warrior god, and Horus with the hawk's head. The style of the inscription, like that of the figures, betrays, however, the unskillful hand of the Sidonian imitator.

We possess, on the other hand, cylinders on which the figures are purely Assyrian, while the inscription is in Phœnician or Aramaic characters. This one at the British Museum is the "seal of Akadban, son of Gebrod the eunuch, worshipper of Hadad" [fig. 239]. The style of the figures and the details of the costume are so clearly Assyrian that this monument discloses to us the plagiaristic method to which the idle imagination of the Phœnicians had recourse. These merchants found it simpler and speedier to appropriate Assyrian or Persian cylinders, satisfied with having their names engraved upon them. They did not blush to wear during their life the ornaments of other nations, until their ashes should rest in sarcophagi stolen from the Egyptians.

However, in Cyprus, they tried to engrave cylinders for themselves. The recent excavations have disinterred a large quantity of them, and, by the side of cylinders brought from the continent by commerce, some have been found which were certainly manufactured in the island. But what astonishes us in these monuments is their extreme barbarism; the design is most summary, the figures are scarcely sketched, and [p. 295] the chisel has only made rough scratches on the jasper, the hæmatite, or the chalcedony. And even the figures of men or animals, the trees and the geometrical ornaments with which the Cypriote cylinders are covered, are copied by unskillful workmen from the productions of the Assyro-Persian or Egyptian glyptic art.

After all, Phœnician cylinders are rare enough. Practical before everything, the merchants of Tyre and Carthage preferred flat seals of multiple form to cylinders, the use of which was difficult; they manufactured scarabžl, scarabœoids, ellipsoids, cones, octagonal conoids, these last especially in the Aramžo-Persian period , and lastly bezels of rings. Among the numerous gems which have come down to us, and which must be attributed either to the Phœnicians themselves or to the Aramæn populations of Syria, some have still preserved their mounting: a ring in the form of a horse-shoe enabled the owner to turn the stone on its axis and to hang it from a necklace. The inscription of one or two lines, when it exists, gives the name of the owner, his father's name, and sometimes his quality. The subjects, naturally more limited than those of the cylinders, are always of Egyptian, Persian, or Assyro-Chaldæn inspiration. There are, for instance, the winged and radiated disk, deer, lions, bulls, sphinxes, gryphons, the divine bust in a winged disk, a pontiff sacrificing at an altar, or in adoration before the pyreum. The Louvre possesses a scarabžoid of red agate acquired in Mesopotamia by M. de Sarzec; a god is seen upon it, holding a serpent in each hand, like the Egyptian Horus; he has four wings, and bears on his head the solar disk supported by two horns. [p. 296] The name, Baalnathan, indicates that its owner was probably an Ammonite or a Moabite. It may be admitted, with M. de VogŸŽ, [Revue archéol. t. xxvii, 1868, p. 432 ff.] that among the Phœnician, Aramæn and Jewish intagli, those in which Egyptian influence appears exclusive are the most ancient, that is to say, anterior to the Assyrian rule in Syria.

From the seventh century B.C. the action of Assyria appears in the Armæo-Phœnician glyptic art, sometimes allied to the Egyptian influence, sometimes exclusive as on a scarabžus in the museum at Vienna, bearing the name of Akhotmelek, wife of Josuah, on which a deity is seen sitting on a throne and receiving a libation from a standing pontiff [fig. 240]. A fine scarabžus in green jasper at the British Museum [fig. 241], with the name, in Phœnician characters, of Hodo, the scribe, shows a principal scene inspired by an Assyrian cylinder, while on the field the Egyptian crux ansata figures, and the scarabæoidal form of the gem is certainly of Pharonic origin.

In this hybrid coupling of Egyptian to Assyrian art the least trained observer can discern what belongs to each of the two constituent elements. The position of the outstretched wings, one raised, the other lowered, before and not behind the figures, the urži, the pshent, the shenti, the hawk-headed gods, the lotus-flower, the sphinx, and the crux ansata, properly belong to Egypt. The long-fringed robe of [p. 297] the priests, the curled hair and beard, the cylindrical tiara, the fire-altar, the sacred tree, and the lions are, besides other features, the property of Assyria and Chaldæ. The writing alone is Aramaic or Phœnician. At the Achœmenid epoch, seals are found in Phœnicia, the workmanship of which shows signs of Persian influence; sometimes even the legend, although Aramæn, gives us a Persian name.

From the fourth century B.C., lastly, the glyptic art, following the same laws as the other branches of art, is rapidly invaded by the Greek genius. Engraved stones with Cypriote or Phœnician legends show subjects incontestably interpreted by Greek artists, even when the incidents are oriental; at last we find Greek subjects, so that the oriental influence is only shown by the legend, which still remains Phœnician. We are then arrived at the age of Alexander, and the ancient civilizations of the East have ceased to live. [p. 298]



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