Strayer Docutexts CH 7

Strayer Docutexts CH 7 - Documents Considering the...

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Unformatted text preview: Documents Considering the Evidence: Axum and the World ‘l:=:l’ n the world of ancient African history, Axum has occupied a unique posi— Ition in several ways. (See Map 7.1, p. 285, and pp. 286—88.) It is one of the few places in Africa, outside of Egypt, for which considerable documentary evidence exists. Some of the written sources—royal inscriptions and coins, for I example—derive from within Axum itself, while others come from Greco— Roman and Christian Visitors. Furthermore, after the rise of Islam, Axum— and its Ethiopian successor state—was the major surviving outpost of a Christian tradition, which had earlier spread widely across north and north— east Africa. Finally, Axum demonstrated an impressive cultural and religious continuity. Even after the decline of the Axumite empire by the eighth cen— tury C.E., the city of Axum remained a major pilgrimage site for Christians, while Ethiopian kings into the twentieth century were crowned there.24 The documents that follow offer a series of windows on this classical—era African kingdom. Document 7.1 A Guidebook to the World of Indian Ocean Commerce The earliest documentary reference to Axum was composed during the first century CE. in an anonymous text known as The Periplus (f the Erythraean Sea. Likely written by a sea captain from Roman—controlled Egypt, the Pmplus offers a guide to the places and conditions that merchants might encounter as they traversed the Red Sea and the East African coast while on their way to India. I According to this text, why is the Axurnite port of Adulis significant? I What evidence does the Periplus provide about Axum’s cultural and economic ties to the larger world? I Based on the list of imports and exports, how would you describe .Axum’s role in the international commerce of the first Century C.E.? _ I How might Axum’s participation in long-distance trade have stimulated and sustained its growth as an empire? 307 308 CHAPTER 7 / CLASSICAL ERA VARIATIONS: AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS, SOO B.C.E.-—1200 (LE. The Periplus of the Erythmean Sea First Century C.E. elow Ptolemais of the Hunts°. . . there is Adulis, Ba port established by law, lying at the inner end of a bay that runs in toward the south. Before the harbor lies the so—called Mountain Island, about two hundred stadia° sea-ward from the very head of the bay, with the shores of the mainland close to it on both sides. Ships bound for this port now anchor here because of attacks from the land. They used formerly to anchor at the very head of the bay, by an island called Diodorus, close to the shore, which could be reached on foot from the land; by which means the barbarous natives attacked the island. Opposite Mountain Island, on the mainland twenty stadia from shore, lies Adulis, a fair—sized village, from which there is a three—days’ journey to Coloe, an inland town and the first market for ivory. From that place to the city of the people called Axumites there is a five days’ journey more; to that place all the ivory is brought from the country beyond the Nile through the district called Cyeneum, and thence to Adulis. Practically the whole number of elephants and rhinoceros that are killed live in the places inland, although at rare intervals they are hunted on the seacoast even near Adulis. Before the harbor of that market—town, out at sea on the right hand, there lie a great many little sandy islands called Alalaei, yield— ing tortoise—shell, which is brought to market there by the Fish—Eaters. And about eight hundred stadia beyond there is another very deep bay, with a great mound of sand piled up at the right of the entrance; at the bottom of which the opsian° stone is found, and this is the only place where it is producedThese places. . . are oPtolemais of the Hunts: near modern Port Sudan on the Red Sea. 0 o . . stadia: I stadium = % mile. 0 . . . opsmn: obsrdian. Source:Wilfred I—I. Schoff, The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (NewYork: Longman, Green and Co., 1912), Sections 4-6- ' governed by Zoscales,° who is miserly in his ways and always striving for more, but otherwise upright, and acquainted with Greek literature. There are imported into these places undressed cloth made in Egypt for the Berbers; robes from Arsinoe; cloaks of poor quality dyed in colors; double—fringed linen mantles; many articles of flint glass, and others of murrhine, made in Diospolis;° and brass, which is used for ornament and in cut pieces instead of coin; sheets of soft copper, used for cooking utensils and cut up for bracelets and anklets for the women; iron, which is made into spears used against the elephants and other wild beasts, and in their wars. Besides these, small axes are imported, and adzes and swords; copper drinking—cups, round and large; a little coin° for those coming to the mar. ket [probably foreign merchants living in Adulis]; wine of Laodicea and Italy, not much; olive oil, not much; for the king, gold and silver plate made after the fashion of the country, and for clothing, mili— tary cloaks, and thin coats of skin, of no great value. Likewise from the district of Ariaca0 across this sea, there are imported Indian iron, and steel, and Indian cotton cloth; the broad cloth called monache and that called sagimtogene, and girdles, and coats of skin and mallow—colored cloth, and a few muslins, and colored lac.°There are exported from these places ivory, and tortoise—shell and rhinocerOs—horn. The most from Egypt is brought to this market from the month of January, to September, that is, from Tybi to Thoth; but seasonably they put to sea about the month of September. 0 . Zoscales: an Axumite ruler. O . a Diospohs: Thebes. O - com: Roman money. 0 . . . Ariaca: an area in western Indla. O . . . . lac: a resmous secretion of an insect, used in the form of shellac. CONSIDERING THE EVIDENCE / DOCUMENTS: AXUM AND THE WORLD 309 Document 7.2 The Making of an Axumite Empire At its high point in the mid—fourth century CE, Axum ruled an empire stretch— ing from Mero'é in the upper NileValley, across most of what is now Eritrea and Ethiopia, and incorporating parts of southern Arabia on the opposite side of the Red Sea. Document 7.2 comes from an Axumite inscription written in Greek on a stone throne adorned with figures of the Greek gods Hercules and Mercury. Commissioned by an unknown Axumite monarch, the inscription dates probably from the second or third century CE. It was copied and then pub— lished in the sixth century by Cosmas, a Greek merchant born in Alexandria, Egypt, who had become a monkThis text describes some of the conquests that generated the Axumite Empire. I What internal evidence from the document itself dates it prior to Axum’s acceptance of Christianity? I How would you describe the point of view from which the document was written? I What techniques of imperial control does the document reveal? I How might you account for the obvious Greek influence that is apparent in the inscription? I How would you describe the religious or ideological underpinnings of this empire? Why might the Axumite ruler who commissioned this inscription single out Ares, Zeus, and Poseidon for special attention? Inscription on a Stone Throne Second or Third Century C.E. HWng after this with a strong hand compelled and Athagaus and Kalaa, and the Semenoi—a people f the nations bordering on my kingdom to live in who lived beyond the Nile on mountains difficult of 63%, I made war upon the following nations, and access and covered with snow, where the year is all by force Ofarms reduced them to subjection. I warred winter with hailstorms, frosts and snows into which 5t With the nation of Gaze [Axum, probably in an a man sinks knee—deep. I passed the river to attack Ipfsrftemal struggle for power], then with Agame and these nations, and reduced them. I next subdued “lgyeaand having conquered them,I exacted the half Lazine and Zaa and Gabala, tribes which inhabit $311 that they possessed. I next reduced Aua and mountains with steep declivities abounding with ,' amoa Called Tziam, and the Gambela, and the tribes hot springs, the Atalmo and Bega, and all the tribes rear them, and Zingabene and Angabe and Tiama in the same quarter along with them.° 0‘?th chomasi 4" Egyptian Monk (LondoniThe 0(Note that scholars are often unable to precisely locate Yt SOCiety, 1897), 59—66. the people or places mentioned in the text.) 310 CHAPTER 7/ CLASSICAL ERA VARIATIONS: AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS, 500 B.C.E.-1200 C.E. I proceeded next against the Tangaltae, who adjoin the borders of Egypt; and having reduced them I made a footpath giving access by land into Egypt from that part of my dominions. Next I reduced Annine and Metine—tribes inhabiting pre— cipitous mountains. My arms were next directed against the Sesea nation.These had retired to a high mountain difiicult of access; but I blockaded the mountain on every side, and compelled them to come down and surrender. I then selected for myself the best of their young men and their women, with their sons and daughters and all besides that they possessed. The tribes of Rhausi I next brought to submission: a barbarous race spread over wide water— less plains in the interior of the fi'ankincense country. [Advancing thence toward the sea,] I encountered the Solate, whom I subdued, and left with instruc— tions to guard the coast. All these nations, protected though they were by mountains all but impregnable, I conquered, after engagements in which I was myself present. Upon their submission I restored their territories to them, subject to the payment of tribute. Many other tribes besides these submitted of their own accord, and became likewise tributary. And I sent a fleet and land forces against the Arabitae and Cinaedocolpitae who dwelt on the other side of the Red Sea [south— ern Arabia], and having reduced the sovereigns of both, I imposed on them a land tribute and charged , them to make traveling safe both by sea and by land. I thus subdued the whole coast from Leuce Come to the country of the Sabaeans. I first and alone of the kings of my race made these conquests. For this success I now offer my : thanks to my mighty god, Ares,° who begat me, and ; by whose aid I reduced all the nations bordering on ' my own country, on the east to the country of frank. incense, and on the west to Ethiopia and Sasu. Of V these expeditions, some were conducted by myself in person, and ended in victory, and the others I entrusted to my officers. Having thus brought all the world under my authority to peace,I came down to Adulis and offered sacrifice to Zeus,° and to Ares, and to Poseidon,° Whom I entreated to befiiend all who go down to the sea in ships.° Here also I reunited all my forces, and setting down this Chair [throne] in this place, I consecrated it to Ares in the twenty-seventh year of my reign. oAres: the Greek god of warfare and slaughter. c>Zeus: the chief god of the Greek pantheon. 0Poseidon: the Greek god of the sea. 0(Note that many Axumite deities derived from south- ern Arabia but came to be identified with the gods of the Greek pantheon.) Document 7.3 The Coming of Christianity to Axum The introduction of Christianity in the mid—fourth century represented a major change in the cultural history of Axum. It meant that Axum would be more closely aligned to Christian Egypt and Byzantium than to South Arabia, from which many of its earlier cultural traditions had derived. Document 7.3 relates the story of the coming of Christianity to Axum. It was written by Rufinus (345—410 C.E.), a Christian monk and writer who was born in Italy but spent much of his life in Jerusalem, where he heard this story from those who had taken part in it. Note that Greco—Roman writers of this time used “India” to refer vaguely to East Africa and Southern Arabia as well as the south Asian peninsula. CONSIDERING THE EVlDENCE / DOCUMENTS: AXUM AND THE WORLD 311 I According to this document, by what means was Christianity intro— duced to Axum? What do you think was the relative importance of Frumentius and Aedesius, as opposed to Roman merchants living in Axum? I Why do you think the Axumite royal family was so receptive to this foreign religion? How might the story differ if told from the ruling family’s perspective? I How does the fact that this document was written by outsiders shape the emphasis of the story? ne Metrodorus, a philosopher, is said to have ‘ e world. Inspired by his example, one Meropius, La philosopher [and a Christian merchant] of Tyre,° :vslished to visit India with a similar object, taking him two small boys who Were related to him 12nd Whom he was educating in humane studies. he younger of these was called Aedesius, the other 7:. rumentius.\Vlien, having seen and taken note of hat his soul fed upon, the philosopher had begun return, the ship on which he traveled put in for Falter or some other necessary at a certain port. It 5‘ (D O c g: g 0 H1 % (D 0" a 0" a ,_.. so :3 U3 o v-n 1"? :3" CD (I) CD to E? Q p F? 9 F» H 5" (D :5 (3% g: o E. :3 on E. 0" (D (/3 8 he 0 21 8 3% S" 9 H E Q ‘ th the Romans is broken, all Romans found ' - Ong them should be massacred.The philosopher’s P was boarded; all with himself were put to the ord. V The boys were found studying under a tree and reparng their lessons, and, preserved by the mercy ,fthe barbarians, were taken to the king [of Axum]. :5» 6 made one of them, Aedesius, his cupbearer. ‘1' yre: a City in Lebanon. “Ice: Quoted in A. H. M.]ones and Elizabeth Monroe, History OfAbyssinia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, .935), 26-27. RUFINUS On the Evangelization of Abyssinia Late Fourth Century C.E. Frumentius, whom he had perceived to be saga—. cious and prudent, he made his treasurer and secre— tary. Thereafter they were held in great honor and affection by the king.The king died, leaving his wife with an infant son [Ezana] as heir of the bereaved kingdom. He gave the young men liberty to do what they pleased but the queen besought them with tears, since she had no more faithful subjects in the whole kingdom, to share with her the cares of gov— erning the kingdom until her son should grow up, especially Frumentius, whose ability was equal to guiding the kingdom, for the other, though loyal and honest of heart, was simple. While they lived there and Frumentius held the reins of govermnent in his hands, God stirred up his heart and he began to search out with care those of the Roman merchants who were Christians and to give them great influence and to urge them to estab- lish in various places conventicles to which they might resort for prayer in the Roman manner. He himself, moreover, did the same and so encouraged the others, attracting them with his favor and his benefits, providing them with whatever was needed, supplying sites for buildings and other necessaries, and in every way promoting the growth of the seed of Christianity'in the country. When the prince [Ezana] for whom they exercised the regency had grown up, they completed and faithfully delivered over their trust, and, though the queen and her son 312 CHAPTER 7 / CLASSICAL ERA VARIATIONS: AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS, 500 B.C.E.-1200 C.E. sought greatly to detain them and begged them to remain, returned to the Roman Empire. Aedesius hastened to Tyre to revisit his parents and relatives. Frumentius went to Alexandria, say~ ing that it was not right to hide the work of God. He laid the whole affair before the bishop and urged him to look for some worthy man to send as bishop over the many Christians already congregated and the churches built on barbarian soil.Then Athanasius (for he had recently assumed the episcopate), hav— ing carefully weighed and considered Frumentius’ words and deeds, declared in a council of the priests: “What other man shall we find in whom the Spirit of God is as in thee, who can accomplish these ? things?” And he consecrated him and bade him return in the grace of God whence he had come_ And when he had arrived in India [Axum] as bishop, such grace is said to have been given to him by God that apostolic miracles were wrought by him and a countless number of barbarians were converted by him to the faith. From which time Christian peoples and churches have been created in the parts of India, and the priesthood has begun.These facts I know not from vulgar report but from the mouth of Aedesius himself, who had been Frumentius’ companion and was later made a priest in Tyre. Document 7.4 A Byzantine View of an Axumite Monarch In the sixth century, Axum became embroiled in the larger conflict between the Byzantine and Persian empires, then the superpowers of the region. In this epic struggle the Persians found an ally in the Himyarite kingdom of Arabia, several of whose leaders had converted to Judaism and were actively perse— cuting Christians. In 5 30—5 31, the Byzantine emperor Justinian sent an emis— sary to King Kaleb of Axum, appealing for his aid in attacking this threat to their common Christian faith.That emissary, named Julian, subsequently made a report to Justinian that contained a description of the court of the Axumite ruler and his now Christian court. I Why do you think King Kaleb was so eager join Byzantium in its struggle against Persia and its Arab Himyarite ally? Consider both religious and strategic reasons. I What evidence in the document suggests that the Byzantine authorities considered King Kaleb an equal? What evidence might suggest that they saw him as a subordinate? I What did Julian find especially striking about King Kaleb’s appearance and behavior? ?_ n the same year, the Romans and Persians broke , Itheir peace.The Persian war was renewed because _ of the embassy of the... Himyarite Arabs to the Romans.The Romans sent the Magistrianos Julian from Alexandria down the Nile River and through V“, the Indian Ocean with sacral letters to [Kaleb], the . king of the Ethiopans. King [Kaleb] received him i with great joy, since [Kaleb] longed after the Roman A: Emperor’s friendship. 5;; On his return (to Constantinople), this same Julian reported that King [Kaleb] was naked when ' he received him but had round his kidneys a loin— cloth of linen and gold thread. On his belly he wore :- linen with precious pearls; his bracelets had five spikes, and he wore gold armlets by his hands. He 5 had a linen—and—gold cloth turban round his head, ‘; with four cords hanging down from both its straps. He stood on (a carriage drawn by) four standing elephants which had a yoke and four wheels. Like V. Source:Theophanes, Chronographia,Annus mundi 6064. V, UnPUbliShed translation by Dr. Harry Turtledove. In ' Ancient Aflican Civilizations: Kush and Axum, edited by Stanley Burstein (Princeton: Markus Weiner, 1998), 3125—26. involved in this trade. 1‘ 1 ‘l ' . ment? Was it state-directed trade, CONSIDERING THE EVIDENCE / DOCUMENTS: AXUM AND THE WORLD 313 JULIAN Report to the Byzantine Emperor on Axum 530—531 any stately carriage, it was ornamented with golden petals, just as are the carriages of provincial gover- nors.While he stood upon it, he held in his hands a small gilded shield and two gold javelins. His coun— selors were all armed, and sang musical tunes. When the Roman ambassador was brought in and had performed the prostration, he was ordered to rise by the king and was led before him. [Kaleb] accepted the Emperor’s sacral letters and tenderly kissed the seal which had the Emperor’s image. He also accepted Julian’s gifts and greatly rejoiced. When he read the letter, he found that it was urgent for him to arm himself against the Persian king, devastate Persian territory near him [in South Arabia], and in the future no longer make covenants with the Persian. Rather, the letter arranged that the land of the [Himyarites] would conduct its business with Egyptian Alexandria by way of the Nile River. In the sight of the envoy, King [Kaleb] immedi— ately began to campaign: he set war in motion against the Persians and sent out his Saracens [Arabs]. He himself also went off against Persian territory and pillaged all of it in that area.After conquering, King [Kaleb] gave Julian a kiss of peace on the head and sent him off with a large retinue and many gifts. Document 7.5 Axum and the Gold Trade The foundations of the Axumite state lay not only in its military conquests and its adoption of a new religion but also in its economic ties to the larger world. Among these ties was its reputation as a major source of gold for the Roman Empire. Document 7. 5 describes the distinctive fashion in which Axumite traders obtained the gold from the African peoples living on the margins of the Axumite state. The author, Cosmas (see Document 7.2, pp. 309—10), was I How would you define the pattern of exchange described in this docu- private enterprise, or both? To what fl 314 CHAPTER 7 / CLASSICAL ERA VARIATlONSZ AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS, 500 B.C.E.‘~1200 C.E. I Who, if anyone, had the upper hand in this trade? Was it conducted between politically equal parties? I What purposes did this trade serve for the people who mined and “sold” the gold? I Beyond the peaceful trade for gold described here, what other purposes did this region serve for Axum? COSMAS The Christian Topography Sixth Century C.E. he country known as that of Sasu is itself near the ocean, just as the ocean is near the frankin— cense country,° in which there are many gold mines. The King of the Axumites accordingly, every other year, through the governor of Agau, sends thither special agents to bargain for the gold, and these are accompanied by many other traders—~upwards, say, of five hundred—bound on the same errand as themselves.They take along with them to the min— ing district oxen, lumps of salt, and iron, and when they reach its neighborhood, they make a halt at a certain spot and form an encampment, which they fence round with a great hedge of thorns. Within this they live, and having slaughtered the oxen, cut them in pieces, and lay the pieces on the top of the thorns, along with the lumps of salt and the iron. Then come the natives bringing gold in nuggets like peas, and lay one or two or more of these upon what pleases them—the pieces of flesh or the salt or the iron, and then they retire to some distance off. Then the owner of the meat approaches, and if he is satisfied he takes the gold away, and upon see- ing this, its owner comes and takes the flesh or the salt or the iron. If, however, he is not satisfied, he leaves the gold, when the native, seeing that he has not taken it, comes and either puts down more gold, ofrankincense country: probably what is now Somalia. Source:].W McCrindle, trans. and ed., The Christian prography (yr Cosmas, an Egyptian Monk (LondonzThe Hakluyt Society, 1897), 52#54, 67. or takes up what he had laid down, and goes away. Such is the mode in which business is transacted with the people of that country, because their language is different and interpreters are hardly to be found. The time they stay in that country is five days more or less, according as the natives, more or less readily coming forward, buy up all their wares. On the journey homeward they all agree to travel well— armed, since some of the tribes through whose . country they must pass might threaten to attack ' 1 them from a desire to rob them of their gold. The space of six months is taken up with this trading expedition, including both the going and the re— , turning. In going they march very slowly, chiefly I' because of the cattle, but in returning they quicken their pace lest on the way they should be overtaken by winter and its rains. For the sources of the river , f Nile lie somewhere in these parts, and in winter, ‘_ on account of the heavy rains, the numerous rivers _ g which they generate obstruct the path of the traveler. ‘ The people there have their winter at the time we have our summer. . . and during the three months the I 1 rain falls in torrents, and makes a multitude of rivers all of which flow into the Nile. The facts which I have just recorded fell partly under my own observation and partly were told me by traders who had been to those parts. . .. For most of the slaves which are now found in the hands of merchants who resort to these parts are taken from the tribes of which we speak. As for the Semenai, where. ..there are snows and ice, it is to that country the. King of the Axumites expatriates anyone Whom he has sentenced to be banished. CONSIDERING THE EVlDENCE / DOCUMENTS: AXUM AND THE WORLD 315 ”_______________________________——————————————— Using the Evidence: Axum and the World 1. Assessing sources: How does each of these documents reflect the distinc- tive perspective of its author? What different perspectives can you notice between those documents written from within Axum and those written by outsiders? How did the particular social role that each author represents (missionary, monarch, merchant) affect his view of Axum? 2. Considering external influences: Based on these documents, how would you describe Axum’s various relationships with the world beyond its borders? How did its geographical location shape those relationships? (See Map 7.1, p. 285.) In what ways did those external connections influ— ence Axum’s historical development? From another perspective, how did Axum actively assimilate foreign influences or deliberately take advantage of opportunities that came from outside? 3. Explaining the rise and significance of Axum: How might you account for the flourishing of Axum during its classical era? What was the religious and military significance of Axum within the region? 4. Comparing civilizations: In what ways might Axum be viewed as a smaller—scale version of the classical civilizations of Eurasia? In what ways did it differ from them? 5. Seeking further evidence: What else would you like to know about Axum? If you could uncover one additional document, What would you want it to reveal? 316 Visual Sources Considering the Evidence: Art and the Maya Elite ‘l:::l’ he ancient Maya world,’_’ writes a major scholar of the region, “was a world of Maya art.”25 In magnificent architecture, carvings, pottery, ceramic figures, wall paintings, and illustrated books, Maya culture was suffused by a distinctive style of artistic expression, more complex, subtle, extensive, and inno— vative than any other in the Americas. Commissioned by Maya rulers, that art centered on life at court, depicting kings, nobles, warriors, and wealthy mer- chants together with the women, musicians, and artists who served them as well as the many deities who populated the Maya universe. Far more than in China, India, or Europe, historians rely on art and archeology for their insights into Maya civilization.While the Maya had writing, their literature was less exten— sive than that of classical—era Eurasian cultures and much of it was tragically destroyed during the early decades of Spanish rule.The images that follow pro- vide a window into the life of the Maya elite during its classical era (see the map on p. 293). Visual Source 7.1 shows a royal couple from the Maya city of Yaxchilan in the. year 724 CE. with the king Shield Jaguar, on the left, and his primary wife, Lady Xok, on the right. In helping him dress for a war—related ceremony or sacrifice, Lady Xok offers her husband his helmet, the head of a jaguar, an V animal that was widely associated with strength, bravery, aggression, warfare, and high social status.The T—shaped frame at the center top, which contains a number of Maya glyphs (written symbols), indicates a doorway and thus sets the action in an interior space. The king is wearing cotton body armor and carrying a knife, while his wife is clad in a huipil, a blouse similar to those still worn by Maya women in southern Mexico. I What elements of their dress and decoration serve to mark their high status? I What aspects of the physical appearance of this couple might represent ideal male and female characteristics in Maya culture? Pay attention to their hair, foreheads, and noses, as well as to the attitude suggested by their faces. I What might you infer about the relationship of Shield Jaguar and Lady Xok from this carving? Notice the relatively equal size of the two figures and the gesture that Shield Jaguar makes with his left hand. Keep in mind that the carving comes from a temple inYaxchilan dedicated to Lady Xok. . 9 7-1 Shield Jaguar and Lady Xok: A Royal Couple of Yaxchilan (Museo Nacional de MlovErrfi 917 318 CHAPTER 7 / CLASSICAL ERA VARIATIONS: AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS, 500 B.C.E.—1200 C.E. Warfare was frequent among Maya cities and thus a common theme in their court art. Fought with spear throwers, lances, clubs, axes, swords, and shields, Maya wars were depicted as chaotic affairs aimed at the capture of individual prisoners, who were destined for sacrifice or slaveryThose prisoners were often named in the glyphs that accompanied the portrayal of battles along with the inscription “He is seized/ roped.” Visual Source 7.2, a reconstructed image, comes from a Maya archeological site in southern Mexico called Bonampak, well known for its Vivid murals. Depicting events that took place in 792 013., this mural shows King Chan Muwan of Bonampak (in the center) holding a staff and receiving nine pris— oners of war fiom his Victorious noble warriors.To the king’s right are two allies from the nearby city of Yaxchilan, followed by the king’s wife, his mother, and a servant—musician playing a conch.To the king’s left are six more high— ranking warriors from Bonampak, while lower—level warriors guard each side of the door at the bottom. The prisoners hold center stage in the mural. Notice in particular the dead captive sprawling below the king’s staff as a severed head lies on a bed of leaves below him.The four small images at the top indicate constellations, showing the favorable position of the sky for this occasion.The turtle on the far right, for example, depicts the constellation Gemini, while the three stars on its back represent what we know as Orion’s belt. I What can you infer about Maya warfare and court practice from this mural? What do the various postures of the captives suggest? I Notice that a number of the captives have blood dripping from their fingers.What does this indicate? What might be happening to the prisoner at the far left? I What status distinctions can you observe among the figures in the mural? Notice the jaguar skins worn by the king and three other warriors. I What meaning might you attach to the presence of the king’s wife and mother at this event? The bleeding and ultimately the sacrifice of the captives inVisual Source 7.2 was only part of a more pervasive practice of bloodletting that permeated Maya religious and court life. Significant occasions— giving birth, getting married, dying, planting crops, dedicating buildings, and many more—were sanctified with human blood, the most valued and holy substance in the world. Behind this practice lay the Maya belief in the mutual relationship of humans and their gods.Two of the major scholars in this field explain:“The earth and its creatures were created through a sacrificial act of the gods, and human beings, in turn, were required to strengthen and nourish the gods.”26 The means of CDNSIDERiNG THE EViDENCE / ViSUAL SOURCES: ART AND THE MAYA ELITE 319 Visuai Source 7.2 The Presentation of Captives (Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA/The Bridgeman Art Library) doing so was blood.The massive loss of blood often triggered a trancelike state that the Maya experienced as mystical union with their gods or ancestors.The lancets used to draw blood———usua11y fiom the tongue in women and often from the penis in men.—were invested with sacred power. Kings and their wives were central to this bloodletting ritual, asVisual Source 7.3 so vividly shows. Here we meet again Shieldjaguar and Lady Xok, depicted also in Visual Source 7.1. The date of this carving is October 28, 320 CHAPTER 7 / CLASSlCAL ERA VARIATIONS: AFRICA AND THE AMERICAS, 500 B.C.E.—-1200 C.E. Visual Source 7.3 A Bloodletting Ritual (© Justin Kerr, K2887) . 709 C.E.The king is holding a large torch, suggesting that the ritual occurs at night, while his kneeling wife draws a thorn—studded rope through her per— forated tongue. The rope falls into a basket of bloody paper, which will later be burned with the resulting smoke nourishing the gods. Shield Jaguar too will soon let his own blood flow, for the glyphs accompanying this carving declare that “he is letting blood” and “she is letting blood.” I What details can you notice in the exquisitely carved work? I What significance might you attribute to the fact that the couple is performing this ritual together? Why do you think Lady Xok is kneeling? l Notice the shrunken head in Shield Jaguar’s headdress. How would you assess its significance? How might it enhance his status? I To what extent is this pervasive bloodletting a uniquely mesoamerican religious practice? What roles do blood and sacrifice play in other religious traditions? CONSIDERING THE EVlDENCE / VISUAL SOURCES: ART AND THE MAYA ELlTE 321 Among the most well—known and intriguing features of Maya life was a ball game in which teams of players, often two on a side, sought to control a rubber ball, using only their thighs, torsos, and upper arms to make it hit a marker or ring. Deeply rooted in Maya mythology, the game was played both before and after the classical Maya era on ball courts found throughout the Maya territory as well as elsewhere in Mesoamerica. On one level, the game was sport, often played simply for entertainment and recreation. But it also reflected and symbolized the prevalence of warfare among Maya cities.As one recent account put it: “[T]he game re—enacted the paradigms for war and sacrifice, where the skillful and blessed triumph and the weak and undeserving are van— quished.”27 The ball game was yet another occasion for the shedding of blood, as losing players, often war captives, were killed, sometimes bound in ball—like fashion and rolled down the steps of the court to their death.Thus the larger ii 7- ' mythic context of the ball game was the eternal struggle of life and death, so central to Maya religious thinking. Visual Source 7.4, a rollout of a vase dating from the seventh or eighth century CE, depicts the ball game in action.The two players on each side echo . the Hero Twins of Maya mythology, famous ball players who triumphed over ‘ the lords of the underworld in an extended game and who were later trans— _ formed triumphantly into the sun and moon. The glyphs accompanying this f, image named two kings of adjacent cities, suggesting that the game may have ; been played on occasion as a substitute for warfare between rival cities. I What might the elaborate dress of the players suggest about the function of the game and the status of its players? P Sual Source 7.4 The Ball Game (© Justin Kerr, K2803) 322 CHAPTER 7 / CLASSICAL ERA VARlATiONS: AFRiCA AND THE AMERlCAS, 500 B.C.E.—1200 C.E. l Notice the deer headdress on the player at the far left and the vulture image on the corresponding player at the far right.What do the head- dresses suggest about the larger mythic context in which the game was understood? I Notice the heavy protective padding around the waist as well as the wrappings around one knee, foot, and upper arm of the two lead players. What was the purpose of such padding? Keep in mind that the rubber ball, shown here in an exaggerated form, was roughly the size of a modern volleyball but weighed perhaps seven or eight pounds. Visual Source 7.5 An Embracing Couple (© Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, D.C.)_ CONSIDERING THE EVIDENCE / VISUAL SOURCES: ART AND THE MAYA mm: 323 I How might you compare this ancient Maya ball game to contemporary athletic contests? Consider the larger social meaning of the game as well as its more obvious features. Certainly not all was war, sacrifice, and bloodletting among the Maya.Visual Source 7. 5, a ceramic figurine from the late classical era, illustrates a more play— ful and explicitly sexual side to Maya art. I How might you describe what is transpiring between this older man and the much younger woman? Notice the position of their hands, the woman’s knee, and the expression of their faces. 7 As was fiequently the case among the Maya, artistic expression had a mythic significance. Here the young woman probably represents the moon goddess, associated with sexuality, fertility, night, death, and frequent change of lovers, reflecting the changing cycles of the moon. In an effort to spy out her infi— delities, her husband/ lover, the aged sun god in Maya mythology, took on the form of a deer as represented in his headdress. I What might this image and its mythological context tell us about Maya views of sexuality? ___________________________________________.__.__————————-—-— Using the Evidence: Art and the Maya Elite 1. Considering art as evidence: What can you learn from these visual sources about the values, preoccupations, and outlook of the Maya elite? What are the strengths and limitations of art as a source of evidence? What other kinds of evidence would you want to discover to further your under— standing of the Maya elite? 2. Assessing gender roles: In what ways are women and men depicted in these visual sources? What might this suggest about their respective roles in the elite circles of Maya society? 3. Making comparisons: How might you compare the life of the Maya elite depicted in these visual sources with that of the Roman elite of Pompeii shown in theVisual Sources section of Chapter 6 (pp. 272—79)? For a second comparison, consider the similarities and differences of Maya and Axumite civilizations. 4. Considering the values of the historian: What feelings or judgments do these visual sources evoke in you? Which of your values might get in the way of a sympathetic understanding of the Maya elite? ...
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Strayer Docutexts CH 7 - Documents Considering the...

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