Spolia in Fortifications: Turkey, Syria and North Africa

Download 0.75 Mb.
Date conversion16.05.2016
Size0.75 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11

Spolia Riches in Turkey and North Africa
It is in Turkey and North Africa that the largest numbers of spolia sources have survived, simply because population pressure has destroyed most comparable complexes in the West; so that – to take but one example - streets of tombs of which the Via Appia now provides such scarce remains are better envisaged from Elaiussa Sebaste, Hierapolis, or Assos in Turkey74. In a sense, we can visit such areas today and imagine when we view the large range of surviving ancient monuments that we are actually transported into mediaeval Europe, and confronting ancient monuments there. In spite of depradations and some extremely serious earthquakes75, large quantities of antiquities remain; some antique sites have only recently stopped being inhabited; and the population pressures that were such a devastating feature of later mediaeval Europe are largely non-existent, so that antique sites, except those by the sea, are probably safe for the future.
The re-use of spolia may be observed all over the ex-Greek or ex-Roman world, often by peoples who have no genetic or apparently cultural connection with Greece or Rome, but who affected the antique taste for extravagant materials such as marble, without necessarily wishing to quarry their own. This practice seems most frequently to be taken for granted, and we may suspect the re-use of spolia as totems of Roman grandeur, tradition, or architectural splendour76 – a usage arguably parallel to that of nouveaux-riches who acquire old portraits for their houses in order to give themselves a pedigree. In the case of fortifications, the ideological justification is an old one, because the equation between walls equalling civilisation, and no walls equalling either barbarism or subjection, goes back to the Greeks77. Spolia walls, with the enormous effort needed to construct them, display continuity; but contemporary accounts are as lacking in the East as they are in the West, so we have no mediaeval rationale proffered to confirm this. (Of course, if the spolia are recut - and this might have been systematic78 - then little evidence survives that they are indeed spolia.)
Because of the survival of so much classical material, the study of Turkey, Syria and North Africa can throw fresh light on Western Europe, because it gives us as it were a snapshot of the state of the ancient monuments before the great population expansions of the later Middle Ages in the West, which occasioned a thirst for stone and an astronomical rise in its price, together with the use of spolia, not necessarily antique. (In Douai in 1391, for example, 95% of the stone appears to have been in reuse, with the systematic purchase of old properties for demolition79.) The richer the spolia, the greater the impact and influence: Crusaders and Armenians imitated classical building techniques in many of their castles80, and employed antiquities frequently; the Seljuk Turks did likewise; the Ottoman Turks denuded classical sites for their own vast building works81; and the French relied heavily on Roman roads and fortresses, as well as on Roman water systems and cisterns, for their conquest of Algeria as the new centurions. In other words, the French probably made use of antiquities in the same practical fashion that must have informed most of the Western Middle Ages, when Roman water supplies were convenient for baptisteries82.
In the West documents, luckily, provide some kind of counterbalance to the lack of physical remains, but usually only by inference: explicit references to spolia are rare, although occasionally archaeology can help, as at San Vincenzo al Volturno83. In the East, scholarly attention will not yet allow the production of the level of facts and figures, graphs and charts that may be found, for example, in Randsborg’s work for the West.84 In Greece, the beginnings of a corpus of mediaeval towers is appearing, fighting against scholarly disinterest.85 In Turkey, Syria and North Africa, documents are very scarce, but Foss, Pringle and others are charting the landscape of mediaeval fortifications, and establishing a chronology.
Spolia are plentiful in Turkey and North Africa because in both areas invasions took over a country whose population had dropped dramatically since the hey-day of Roman occupation, and because of the fact that the invaders were without any tradition of their own of monumental architecture. Consequently, they continued at least some of the traditions of those they had conquered, including a respect for classical materials, which they also re-used in much great quantities than the Christians. Note, for example, the 500-plus antique columns in the Great Mosque at Kairouan the sheer beauty of some of which were famous, being admired by for example Leo Africanus86, no doubt partly because the aesthetics imposed on the spolia with symmetry of forms and colours87. El-Bekri88 notes the deux colonnes rouges, tachetées de jaune, dont la beauté est incomparable in the mihrab of the mosque at Kairouan, which he says came from an old church, that L'on raconte qu'avant le déplacement de ces colonnes, le souverain de Constantinople avait voulu les acheter au poids de l'or, aussi les musulmans s'empressèrent de les transporter a la mosquée. It has even been suggested that the Arabs bothered to cut but a few columns until well after Seljuk times, preferring to use spolia instead. 89 Certainly, foreigners were frequently impressed by their use of marble90, and descriptions of sumptuous marble-rich palaces91 and baths92 abound, together with wonder at the quality of the marbles used, their whiteness93 and their smoothness. Even Christian churches as far east as Diyarbakir were rich in marble, and some of this survived past mediaeval times94. But then, some people were clearly obsessed by marble, sometimes mistaking limestone for it.
In North Africa, such large quantities of spolia were available to the Muslims at least in part because of the spolia walls built during the Justinianic conquests of AD 533/554, and because of that same an acceleration of the processes of decay in once-populous cities that we find in Italy.95 Such walls arguably represented a renovatio for North Africa, although there are good reasons for treating such statements in inscriptions with some scepticism96, the more so since dedicatory inscriptions (not to mention Procopius) do not mention spolia, perhaps taking it for granted that their very use betokens a renewal, as they claim. Certainly, some sites do display care in the reuse of spolia - such as Timgad, where the Byzantines generally did not recut any spolia for the fortress (built 539-40, as we know from the foundation inscription), but simply chose the blocks carefully. In the barrack houses, material was recut, but equally carefully laid (although of low quality when compared with the Roman wall). Columns are also reused in the walls, dans l'appareil du mur, remployé sans doute dans le noyeau du mur en cours de régularisation.97 However, the (usually inflated) late antique boast of renovatio tends (in North Africa98, as in the West) to mean making good rather than completely building a fundamentis – although in some cases parallels with the renewal of the whole Empire are implicit, even if only rhetorically99; and the very act may imply the reconstruction’s status as a historical monument, or yet, perhaps, as imitation of the antique 100, as is obviously the case with S. Mark’s, Venice, which struck at least one commentator (as it was certainly intended to do) as comparable to Hagia Sophia101. Civic boasting is always irredeemably upbeat102, and similar boasting, often explicit, is to be found in funerary inscriptions.103 Parallels are to be found in claims of military conquest104, as well as in fort-building by the Arabs.105
Even though Procopius is not explicit on the beautifying properties of spolia, from the actual results we can conclude that he believed spolia helped produce that effect. He describes Justinian's energetic wall-building at length and, even where ruinous walls were rebuilt, presumably with spolia, as at Kertsch and Sevastopol, he writes that the walls had fallen completely into ruin, and he made them remarkably beautiful and thoroughly safe (III.vii.10). But as an antidote to Procopius' exuberance (or mendacity106), Cameron believes that a lot of Justinianic buildings were shoddy, relying on interior marble for their effect - perhaps this is why so many contemporary ekphraseis, including the section on S. Sophia in the Buildings, spend so much of their time praising the coloured marbles. For Duval107, spolia enceintes are a symbol of the continuity of civilization, just as the building of a wall marked the foundation of classical colonies. Assessing intent is always difficult, however. Thus with the Panaghia in Antalya, built with temple spolia, it is argued that the building was indeed a renovatio, being seen as new, not as old - what Gassi calls attualizazione del materiale antico. The spolia, in this interpretation, lose their connotation of antiquity, armonizzandosi perfettamente con quelli bizantini in un contesto ornamentale e architettonico unitario.108 This theory, even if correct, still gives little insight into how the builders viewed the spolia they used, or whether they knew what they were, and how old. But the general idea is surely analagous to display on fortifications; as Uggeri has it, the display of antiquities on churches are I parlanti monumenti della romanita, and the church un vero archivio di pietra, il luogo piu idoneo per conservare le memorie della citta.109
One of the ironies of our study is that Crusaders and pilgrims certainly knew many of the places and monuments in our territories, including monuments which have since disappeared, much better than we can today reconstruct them. Myra, where S. Nicholas was still performing miracles, was a landfall for pilgrims as, further west, was the now-deserted Patara - jadis puissante et belle, a été aujourdhui [late 1330s] détruite par les turcs110. Again, many important antique centres in Turkey (or rather their areas) were targetted for trade in the Middle Ages.111 We may suspect, by analogy with what happened in Europe, that this included trade in spolia, perhaps as ballast (cf.Vasari), along with staple commodities112 - an eastern counterpart to the marmorarii of Rome, whose work reached England and France by the early 11 century.th Certainly, there is at least one narrative account of Christians selling spolia to North Africans, if only from the early 18 centuryth. In a sense, after the Ottoman Turkish takeover, and the cutting of many of the sea and land routes, in the 16 century Western Europe, through her travellersth, had to pick up the pieces of antiquarian study, and re-learn what mediaeval generations of crusaders and pilgrims probably already knew. Such travel accounts are frequently important, because we cannot trust the current appearance of monuments as necessarily identical to the mediaeval appearance - although they help us ponder on the meaning of renovatio113. Even 19 century photographs give us information now otherwise lostth.
Another irony, which hinders any chance we might have had of coherent contemporary discussions of the use of spolia, is the studied indifference that can be read into metropolitan Byzantine attitudes to classical statuary. Thus Cyril Mango believes that, when the Turks took the City the Hercules reliefs on the Golden Gate, and the serpent column, were the only two specimens of ancient sculpture left. He is equally mournful about Byzantine artistic engagement with the classical past, and with the impact of the past on the present: Each time we find a Byzantine representation of a classical subject, it appears, upon inspection, to be separated from its ultimate classical model by a long chain of transmission, usually in the minor arts. A penchant for relief sculpture, not to mention iconoclasm, of course, were the reasons114. But an indifference to the past is surely startling, with the classical tradition killed in a city once crammed with antique artworks - whereas the use of spolia elsewhere in Turkey helps preserve that tradition. Mango's assessment seems confirmed by an early 8 century chronicle which intimates that not much material is left and, when it writes of portrait sculpture, cites work from four centuries beforeth. Krousmmos' sack in 813 AD depleted the stock of antiquities even further. Some travellers much later found such a dearth of antiquities somewhat odd115. Nevertheless, some imitation of the past continued in the matter of spolia, if we accept Foss’ suggestion that 12-century restorations of the Land Walls followed, in using spolia, ninth-century modelsth.

Inhabitants’ Attitudes to Antiquities and Spolia in Turkey and North Africa
What comments we have from travellers about the attitudes of inhabitants to antique monuments do not antedate the sixteenth century, but nevertheless give us an essential introduction to what happened earlier. Such comments may well be prejudiced, but they accord well with the richly documented ones from Western Europe. The usual stance is that all the ruins from the past were built by kings (or giants, because of their stupendous size), and were sites for magic or, if one was lucky, rich with treasure (not too different from the characteristic Byzantine superstitions about antique statues and reliefs116); the majority, what is more, were castles or palaces (and are thus re-named), often with long subterranean passages. Western peasants seem not to have considered that such remains had been built by their own ancestors ; and the Turks or (most) Arabs, of course, were not in Turkey or North Africa when her Greek and Roman cities were constructed. Thus Western toponyms (such as palatium into Piazza Armerina) can be paralleled in Turkey. At Miletus, Chandler notes117- that this is a very mean place, but still called Palat or Palatia, the Palaces - or, in the modern name, Balat118.
Ignorance of antiquities, ranging from lack of interest to a destructive zeal, struck Islamic and Christian foreigners alike. At Pergamum, Fellows complains that The Turks take you round, and show you all they have not themselves built, calling every ruin by the simple name of the “old walls”. They know nothing of traditions, for they are only conquerors here, and extremely ignorant; and at Assos, whilst examining a road flanked by tombs, he reports that all buildings, whether bridge, bath or aqueduct, temple, theatre or tomb, all “Esky kalli”, “old castle.” Conversely (and once again as in Western Europe), the Turks were puzzled by travellers’ investigation of antiquities, the common belief being that they were hunting for gold and treasure, or wishing to worship the “idols” they unearthed. This is because of strong traditions from late Antiquity of finding treasure in old buildings119.
But caustic opinions by Europeans about Turkish attitudes to the past are not necessarily exceptional, nor yet applicable only to Anatolia. Similar comments on attitudes to the antique past are provided by the fourteenth-century writer Ibn Khaldun, whose perceptive comments on the reuse of spolia are unmatched by contemporary accounts from Turkey. He characterises the Arabs as being not only child-like in their attitudes to the past, but frequently destructive as well. (As already stated, this conclusion can be backed up by plenty of evidence120, and by European opinion121 - although travellers to Algeria were later to deplore the génie déstructeur of the Vandals, Turks and French military engineers122.) This social realist, who recognizes the inevitable change in human institutions123, berates them as being generally uninterested in monumental building which, as he remarks124, attests to the civilisation of earlier nations. The conclusion is inevitably that, since sedentary culture is the goal of civilisation (IV.17), since the buildings erected in Islam are comparatively few considering her power (IV.7, IV.8), and since those that are built quickly fall into ruins (IV.9), then the Arabs are not civilised in Ibn Khaldun’s sense. He also hints at supernatural explanations for the size of antique buildings.
His analysis of the building cycle (IV.10; ed. cit. Ii, p. 270f.) is interesting, because it surely proceeds from his own observations, and especially because it incorporates spoliation as a natural part of the process. In the absence of parallel accounts, we may use it as a model for what happened in Turkey. He writes that when cities are first founded, they have few dwellings and few building materials, such as stones and quicklime, or the things that serve as ornamental coverings for walls, such as tiles, marble, mosaic, jet, shells [mother-of-pearl], and glass. Thus, at that time, the buildings are built in Bedouin [style], and the materials used for them are perishable... [But civilization grows and reaches its limit] The civilization of the city then recedes, and its inhabitants decrease in number. This entails a decrease in the crafts. As a result, good and solid building and the ornamentation of buildings are no longer practised. ... Materials such as stone, marble, and other things are now being imported scarcely at all, and (building materials) become unavailable. The materials that are in existing buildings are re-used for building and refinishing. They are transferred from one construction to another, since most of the (large) constructions, castles, and mansions stand empty as the result of the scarcity of civilization [population]. ... (The same materials) continue to be used for one castle after another and for one house after another, until most of it is completely used up. People then return to the Bedouin way of building. They use adobe instead of stone and omit all ornamentation. The architecture of the city reverts to that of villages and hamlets. The mark of the desert shows in it. [The city] then gradually decays and falls into complete ruin, if it is thus destined for it. This is how God proceeds with his creatures.. And he deplores the common belief that the ancients were giants, erecting buildings with their bare hands: They forget the importance of machines and pulleys and engineering skill implied in this connection..
Is Ibn Khaldun’s assessment justified? Probably not in the case of the Vandals who, complains Bourgeois125, have had an unfairly bad press. Nor in the case of the Seljuks, as we shall see. And the Ottomans reuse of spolia both as building materials as well as for their historical value, prestige and size is identical to what happened in the West. But it was just such an assessment of Arab lack of interest in fortresses which informed the French invasion of Algeria in 1830.

The Geography and Chronology of Spoliation
It is impossible to draw chronological charts of spolia usage in Asia Minor or North Africa126. Both areas (with Jordan, Syria, Israel and Palestine) are very rich in antiquities, and many sets of walls and fortresses have survived there, along with the antique cities and sites they once defended. Some spolia received a new lease of life - at least secondary reuse - during the industrious fortification of the Crusades. There we can be certain that fortress- and wall-builders of the Middle Ages had even more remains at their disposal than now survive. The extent to which spolia were reused in mediaeval North Africa, and the time-frame of such use, has been partly addressed by Siraj, who has argued most ingeniously127 that the difference in those sites that al-Bekri (11 century) and Leo Africanus (15thth century) consider to be antique is a direct result of el-Bekri actually seeing antiquities ( - les témoignages de la période préislamique étaient encore nombreux), whereas Leo simply listened to oral traditions ( - quoique les ruines antiques n'avaient pas complètement disparu). Accepting this argument means we must accept that many spolia were reused between the Crusades and the beginning of what we might call a second period of European influence. Indeed, in spite of Ibn Khaldun's strictures about the usual lack of interest of Arabs in the past, such large reuse of spolia by Muslims is easy to demonstrate, and perhaps not inferior to that of Christians in the West, c onceivably for similar reasons practical, aethetic and ideological. Although the French believed that Algeria in 1830 looked much as the Byzantines had left it, Siraj's discussion of Tangier's loss of her antiquities is supporting evidence of enthusiasm for spolia.
To take Carthage, the most famous site of North Africa, and conveniently located on the coast next to a good harbour, we find it first plundered by Africans, not Europeans: El-Bekri asserts a high level of spoliation in the 11th century, because Le marbre est si abondant à Carthage que si tous les habitants de l'Ifrikiya se rassemblaient pour en tirer les blocs et les transporter ailleurs, ils ne pourraient pas accomplir leur tache - the implication is that many people did indeed come from far away, but the quantity of spolia defeated them. Subsequently, Edrisi noted that les fouilles ne discontinuent pas, les marbres sont transportés au loin dans tout le pays, et nul ne quitte Carthage sans en charger des quantites considérables sur des navires ou autrement; c'est un fait très connu.128 Accordingt to Ibn Sa'id Gharnati (died AH 673 or 685), at Carthage se trouvait des idoles de marbre représentant toutes les espèces d'animaux, des hommes [presumably mosaics he saw in the theatre?], but that the ancient city was destroyed in the time of Abd El Melik Ben Merwan (reigned AH 65-8], who transported materials thither to Damascus. There was enough left for Ahmed Ben Qali Mahalli to write, in the 10 century, that La construction en est belle et l'arrangement remarquable: des palais de marbre blanc y etaient surmontés de statues coloriées representant des hommes et toutes sortes d'animaux … aujourd'hui en ruinesth , and Et-Tidjani emphasises129 that there was a large population there in the early 14 century - although by 1832, Falbe finds the remains pitifulth.
One further reason why the chronology of spoliation can be difficult is that cities in both the East and the West have pulled down their walls over the last 150 years, usually for similar reasons: partly because they were now useless for defence purposes (not least because of expanding populations), but also because they were a symbol of the old-fashioned past and, together with their generous field of fire), could easily be sacrificed for up-to-the-minute needs like roads and motor traffic, with the defensive boulevards outside the walls making splendid parks or ring-roads. Sanitation - the need to let healthy air blow through the streets - has also frequently been used as a reason for demolishing walls (Sheer lack of interest may have been the reason for Antioch’s loss of what was still in the last century a splendid set, although a serious earthquake in 1906 did not help.) In East and West, spolia from the late antique or mediaeval walls have been used to make museums (e.g. Konya and Narbonne).
The pace of spoliation in Turkey is generally obscure, but certainly increased greatly in pace in the 18 and 19thth centuries, as cities such as Istanbul needed immense quantities of building stone. Spoliation has continued throughout the centuries, and still continues, with mediaeval layers historically having received much less attention than the classical layers which, by unstated fiat, were the aim of most excavators. Until the sea-change of the past few decades, we have been able to learn much less about mediaeval attitudes toward spolia from archaeology, precisely because the strata in which they lay were considered unimportant and, in the West, had in many cases been dismantled long ago. Hence once again the value of studying Turkey and round the Mediterranean to North Africa. However, just as in the West, much has disappeared in the last 200 years. Beaufort described the rich remains of Soli in 1811 (i.e. Pompeiopolis) as containing a theatre, city walls, tombs and aqueducts, describing nearby Mersin as a small hamlet with a few houses, called Mersyn, on the foundations of an unfinished fort, and two iron guns lying in the sand (just down the coast, Silifke once had a recognisable amphitheatre130.) Since little now remains on site131 beyond the fine colonnade, we may assume Mersin grew at least initially at the expense of Soli: but what need had Mersin for columns, except for a few mosques? Of the colonnaded street, for example, some 450 metres in length, only thirty-seven columns remain; perhaps the rest were carted off much earlier by sea to help build Korykos down the coast, which uses columns of similar girth and coarse stone as tie bars in several of its towers (in thinner walls, they might more properly be called headers; but columns are so long that they tie together skins that are wide apart). Supposedly destroyed by an earthquake in the 6 century, Soli is called in Turkish Viransehir - that is, city of ruins - a common appellation throughout Turkeyth, as is eski kale. Again, when Beaufort visited Antalya, the circuit of walls was still complete; little now remains. He believed that Anamurium (now completely denuded of veneer, and with very few columns indeed) lost most of its spolia well before his visit, being carted off to Cyprus (there being no viable roads along the coast at that date, but plenty of excellent anchorages); and he perceptively compares its style to that of some of the antient castles of Great Britain. Other Turkish sites clearly made less sense in the 18 century, because they were covered in later constructions or detritus. They have been dug since Morritt’s day; so that his description of the acropolis at Pergamum as having been used by the Genoese and Turks, is now one hodge-podge of fine remains jumbled pell-mell into walls and fortificationsth is no longer relevant; instead, such sites have been sanitized down to much earlier layers of little interest to us spoliatori. And at Lindos (Rhodes), Morritt says that a Turkish castle occupies the situation of the ancient Acropolis, and contains nothing remarkable: the area has now been cleared, and the colonnade of the classical acropolis re-erected.
Geography and convenience frequently join hands for the acquiring of spolia, with islands and sites by the sea being targetted. There are plenty of narrated instances from the 17 century onwards where columns made convenient ballastth, as well as being highly prized back in Europe – a combination of immediate utility and later meaning, so to speak. The French were scouting for spolia perhaps on government orders132, and certainly with government encouragement133, and it seems highly likely that they dismantled late-antique and mediaeval walls in various parts of Greece to get at the bas-reliefs they contained. Thus we have the expense accounts of Michel Fourmont, Professor of Syriac Languages, during his travels. Was he after spolia in fortress walls? He was Au monastere de S Cosme et Damien near Tiryns for 2 days; at Tiryns itself, he payed for 12 men for 13 days qui ont travaille a la demolition du chateau - which suggests a Byzantine fort on top, perhaps; at Damala, he payed for 8 men to dig for 5 days; and at Argos, he spent money for la fouille des temples.
Geography and geology also played their part on spoliation, and the very artificiality of some of the ancient cities of Turkey, some of which existed almost as a conjuring trick of marble and water, clearly led to their demise. The water they needed to survive was impossible without maintenance to the infrastructure of harbours, aqueducts or cisterns, and watercourses, the resultant silting and marshes provoking malaria and abandonment134. This point is relevant for spolia, because water is an antique version of conspicuous expenditure, and any systemic breakdown released large quantities of spolia, as can be seen from the fate of Perge135, Aspendos and Side. The elaborate water system at Perge is furred up spectacularly, as can be seen both in the fountain under the acropolis, and in the baths by the south gate. At Side, Beaufort remarked nearly 200 years ago 136 that There is no stream of water here and therefore no inhabitants; no fire-wood is in the immediate vicinity; and the harbours are now too shallow... At Aspendos, the spectacular aqueduct, with its inverse syphon, left the acropolis of the city literally high and dry, and ripe for spoliation from nearby Antalya.
Earthquakes may also have prompted the reuse of spolia, by conveniently dismantling classical structures. There are plenty of examples of earthquake damage throughout our area. At Berenice, for example, Stucchi demonstrates that excavations show the 249 AD earthquake damage not only unrepaired for a century and a half, but the town was also ransacked for useable materials. The extraurban sanctuary of Demeter at Cyrene was destroyed in the 262 earthquake, and never rebuilt; and spolia appear in Christian basilicas at Apollonia, as well as in three fountains at Cirene and one at Tolemaide. In all cases, the appropriateness of the reuse bespeaks aesthetics, and not mere convenience, per un amore per il passato glorioso, forse anche nell'illusione di rinnovarlo. But what about quality? Stucchi cites the base of the minaret of the Giama Sahnun at Agedabia (no longer extant), stato ritenuto a lungo un monumento romano . However, this assessment may be unnecessarily sunny and optimistic. William of Tyre, for instance, also cites earthquakes as occasioning the need for rebuilding, but specifically mentions the mediocrity of some of the results137.
As for typology, there are so many fortifications of various periods in Turkey that we look in vain for anything like a comprehensive catalogue, even of the classical period. A start has been made on typology, in a Survey of the Medieval Castles of Anatolia, which began in 1981, sponsored by the British Institute of Archaeology, Ankara. The series begins with Clive Foss, who believes that the type of spolia used can help dating138. If work on our period is under way in Turkey, it has scarcely even begun for North Africa. Duval139 gives a good bird's-eye summary, but necessarily deplores the lack of digs on truly Byzantine work in N. Africa until Pringle's thesis (itself not the result of any digs).
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page