A Quickly-Changing Word

The word "nice" originally mention "foolish". In the 1400s, the word came to mean "coy," then in the 1500s, "fastidious." By the 1700s, nice had assumed its modern meaning.

This beautiful art piece depicts a shaman's raptorial bird spirit, by combining flat painting and clay modeling. Click through the image gallery to see all of its sides. The bird's head, including the raptor's deadly pointed beak, and the tips of its wings and tail protrude from the vessel. Around them, the artist painted the spirit's wings and tail feathers, as well as human forms on either side. Each of the two figures grasps a staff topped by a human skull. Nicaragua, circa 1000 - 1350 CE.

Medieval Chola Well Discovered In India

A group of college students in India recently discovered a well dating to the 1000s CE. The well was constructed with two terracotta rings measuring seven feet across and six inches tall that were placed one on top of the other and sealed with clay. The well was connected to a tank, and when the tank filled, the water would flow into the shallow well. It is unclear if the tank was filled with rainwater or from a nearby river and estuary.

The excavation team also recovered pieces of Chinese celadon pottery, a spout, iron ore, terracotta roof tiles, and pieces of conch shells. Some of the pottery dated to earlier than the rest of the Chola-period site, and may have been brought to the surface when the well was dug. When the well became lost in the sand, so did the ancient artifacts, preserving them both.

One Is None, Two Is One: The Byzantine Tradition of Co-Emperors

Did you know that the Byzantine Empire sometimes had two emperors? This was an old tradition dating back to Roman Emperor Diocletian in the late 200s CE, who created a system of four emperors, two senior emperors and two junior emperors. Byzantine co-emperors go back to at least the 400s CE with Leo II crowning his father Zeno co-emperor and promptly dying, making Zeno sole ruler. Not exactly off to a good start. But the co-emperor tradition continued. By the 900s it was common enough that there were distinct terms for the junior co-emperor (basileus) and senior co-emperor (autokratōr or occasionally megas basileus).

One of the more interesting co-emperors had not one co-ruler but four! Romanos I Lekapenos, an Armenian who became a major Byzantine naval commander, seized the royal palace and the reins of government in 919. In March he married his daughter to the reigning emperor, fifteen-year-old Constantine VII. In September Romanos decided that was not enough and had himself crowned co-emperor with his own made-up term for equal emperors "Caesar," before finally, in December, naming himself the senior co-emperor or autokratōr.

Romanos eventually crowned his own sons co-emperors: Christopher in 921, Stephen and Constantine in 924. For the time being, Constantine VII was regarded as first in rank after Romanos himself, Baileus to his autokrator. For his kindness to the man he deposed, Romanos I Lekapenos was given the nickname "the gentle usurper."

Early Globalization In One Object

Ming Vase (circa 1540-1550) with Chinese designs on the stem and a Portuguese armillary sphere on the body.

A Beautiful, Classic Example of Ethiopian Manuscript Art

You can see on this leaf, John the Evangelist has already copied John 1:1-2 in Ge'ez. It comes from a gospel book, all written in Ge'ez, the traditional language for worship in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This particular manuscript, dating to the 1st half of the 1500s, is exceptionally well-preserved and represents the golden age of what has been termed the Gunda Gunde style of Ethiopian manuscripts.

The Gunda Gunde style is characterized by bold blocks of color defined by detailed and often delicate linear motifs. Figures are highly stylized and expressive, like John the Evangelist on this page. And around the figures are beautiful geometric and interlaced designs, like the chair that John is sitting upon

The City of Perpetual Peace

Chang’an, capital of the Tang Dynasty of China (618-904 CE), was a true metropolitan city. It not only accommodated all sorts of religions, ethnicities, languages, sexualities, and arts but also exported its own language, art and religion. Archaeological and written evidence points to Chang'an housing communities and places of worship for Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.

Chang'an was considered such a center of culture that Japan's emperor sent delegations to Chang'an to learn Chinese knowledge, religion, and arts. For example, Japanese doctors studied Chinese medicine, and priests studied Chinese Buddhist practices. Chang'an not only took in many cultures, it contributed back its own amalgamated culture to the world.

Chang'an, by the way, means "perpetual peace." It was renamed by the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368 CE) to Xi'an, or "western peace."

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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