OF THE AUSTRALIAN EARLY MEDIEVAL ASSOCIATION
VOLUME 3 - ABSTRACTS, WITH FULL TEXT WHERE INDICATED
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Spinning Eve: creating Christian woman
R Natasha Amendola
By the late medieval period, Eve was frequently presented as a spinner of thread, both in literature and in images. However, although the nakedness of both Adam and Eve is mentioned in the Bible, there is no mention of the need to create clothing. In fact, God is said to have dressed them both in animal skins. Generally, images of women spinning in the medieval period are interpreted as reflecting on women's industriousness and virtue, aspects that seem dubious in the case of Eve. This paper will present and discuss representations of spinners from the classical period into early medieval times, particularly images of Mary, to suggest that the use of spinning was also a way of representing a woman's biological role as child bearer, an inheritance from Graeco-Roman, but not Judeo-Christian, culture.
Votive customs in early Byzantine Asia Minor
Objects are often categorised as having a religious function on the basis of their form and decoration. However, the situations in which they are found also hold significant information about their purpose and their usage. Votive deposits - items that were deliberately discarded in graves and shrines - are especially helpful for assessing religious beliefs and devotional customs. This paper considers some material evidence of votive practices in early Byzantine Asia Minor, focusing on the archaeological context of pottery flasks and lamps of the late sixth and early seventh centuries CE.
Plague, population, and economy in Merovingian Gaul
Bernard S Bachrach
Most scholars argue that the early medieval plague (541-767), which struck the lands of the erstwhile Roman empire, east and west, had a massive negative impact on the demographic curve. This population decline, in turn, is believed to have resulted in a drastic fall in the production of goods and services. Issue is taken here with this cause and effect model in regard to Merovingian Gaul. Information concerning plague episodes in Gaul demonstrates a pattern of very infrequent strikes of brief duration in widely dispersed areas. In addition, the sources, eg Gregory of Tours, have a parti pris which tends to exaggerate the magnitude of supposed disasters. Consistent with population models developed on the basis of later medieval plague-data, the pattern in Merovingian Gaul allowed sufficient time for rapid demographic recovery and economic growth. These results are consistent with the early medieval written and material evidence that indicates both continuing and substantial population and economic growth even in the most frequently struck cities such as Marseilles and Arles.
The big picture: collocations of action and background scenes in Beowulf and Andreas
This article focuses on the juxtapositions of narrative actions followed by descriptive scenic backgrounds, and analyses and contrasts the effects that this technique achieves in the Old English poems Beowulf and Andreas. It argues that both poets display a sensitive appreciation of the effects of sudden cutting between scenes, but harness these effects in different ways. Andreas, as a saint's life, uses it to underline the omnipotence of God's will and the interconnected nature of his creation, while Beowulf both celebrates and draws attention to the limits of the value of its hero's actions.
'The most important of events': the 'burning-in' motif as a site of cultural memory in Icelandic sagas
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This paper suggests that the 'burning-in' motif in the Sagas of Icelanders and the Sturlunga saga compilation could act as a literary site of cultural memory. Three examples are given to explore the central premise that this lieu de mémoire reflects the medieval Icelanders' perception of the conversion, and of their pagan ancestors: first, fewer burnings-in successfully claim victims' lives as the narrative chronology approaches the year 1000; second, the narrative space devoted to this motif alters as events describe the Christian era; and third, the characters' attitudes toward the incendiaries become progressively more disparaging once the conversion has taken place.
Uncer giedd geador: the shadows of history in Wulf and Eadwacer
160 years of scholarship generated by the poem now widely known as Wulf and Eadwacer has produced a corpus of work that is marked by a divergence of individual interpretations and an emphasis on exegesis through translation. Many times the question has been raised as to how the ambiguities inherent in the poem might best be resolved so that a definitive translation can be constructed. What must be understood, however, is that the poem cannot be translated because the ambiguities so apparently frustrating to modern scholars are not products of incomplete philology nor lack of context; they are deliberate creations of a subtle poet (or poets) who meant their work to be understood on a number of levels simultaneously and who, through the use of these multi-faceted ambiguities, created a range of corollary interpretations that both modify and enhance our understanding of the mental state of the poem's characters.
The crucifixion and the world in the Drogo Sacramentary
The crucifixion miniature contained in the Drogo Sacramentary is a beautiful Carolingian portrayal of the crucifixion. In the image, an ambiguous figure sits to Christ's left at the foot of the cross. Who is he? This article proposes new readings of both the ambiguous figure and subsequently the entire image by examining them in relation to literary sources (John's Gospel and its interpretation by Augustine and Hrabanus Maurus), liturgical and artistic manuscript contexts (Palm Sunday, images for holy week), and historical context (Carolingian imperial iconography). The reading explores some possible interpretations created by the complex layering of meaning in the art and theology of this period.
The Genesis page of the Alcuin Bible: its layout and visual repertoire
The Genesis page of the Alcuin Bible or Bamberg Bible (Staatsbibliothek Bamberg Msc Bibl 1) is, it seems to me, an unusual Carolingian illustration, distinctively different from the Genesis pages of two other great Carolingian bibles of the Tours school, the Moutier-Grandval Bible (London, British Library, Cod Add 10546), and the First Bible of Charles the Bald or Vivian Bible (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Cod Lat 1). This first part of my study of the Alcuin Genesis page concentrates on its composition. Using a series of tracings, I explore the composition of the page, concluding that particularly sophisticated design skills were employed in the Alcuin Genesis layout, and that those skills were not as sophisticated in the Genesis page layouts of the other two Tours bibles. The comparison also indicates a change in the visual repertoires: the Alcuin figures and related motifs and trees - all of which are of a very particular style - were not used in the Moutier-Grandval and Vivian Genesis pages. Their figures, while similar in gestures and position, were drawn quite differently, and their trees belong to another artistic tradition.
Ancient symbolism and theological geography: the image of the enthroned Christ in the Book of Kells
Denise M Doyle, RSM
The early illustrated Christian gospel books, of which the Book of Kells is the most luxuriously decorated of the Insular examples, were not only tangible evidence of the Christian revelation, but were sophisticated tools to impress and educate. The visual combination of the symbolism of ancient classical mythology and the artistic imagination of these Celtic Christians integrates religious complexities. The allusive iconographic compositions convey developing theological beliefs. The Kells portraits of the enthroned Christ and the author, Matthew, have identical geometric construction. It is the decorative symbolism that identifies aspects of Christian belief. This paper will examine the embedded symbolism in the portrait of Christ, in which the Kells scribe-artists creatively deviated from known contemporary prototypes to visually express a theological interpretation of the enthroned Christ in terms of an ancient metaphor.
Digressions in the Histories of Agathias Scholasticus
The digressions in Agathias's Histories make up about a third of the work. Far from being irrelevant and unimportant, these digressions are integral to his purpose in writing history. Digressions are one way in which Agathias draws on and plays with the classical tradition of historiography. This paper also suggests that Agathias uses digressions to structure his work and to preserve certain aspects of Greek and Roman culture. Agathias's views about the entertainment and moral values of history are also elucidated by the digressions. The digressions give insight into late antique historiography and wider cultural concerns in sixth-century Byzantium.
Conquest and conformity in penannular brooch manufacture
Production of penannular brooches gained an impetus in the late seventh to eighth centuries in Scotland and Ireland. These brooches had a very long chronology of manufacture and in Irish contexts have been viewed as emblems of status. In Ireland, production of penannular brooches was a feature of secular and ecclesiastical elite sites, whereas Scotland has only three definitive secular production sites. The manufacture of these signifiers of status at the peripheral site of the Brough of Birsay, Orkney, raises many questions as to the involvement of the Orkney people in the wider Insular community. Orkney's importance is borne out in various Irish annalistic references, the most tantalising being to the Pictish king Bredei filius Bili's conquest of Orkney in 682. This paper seeks to offer an explanation as to the significance of penannular brooch production, with particular reference to Orkney, and asks whether production occurred within a context of political emancipation or imposition.
Invasion, settlement or political conquest: changing representations of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain
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The nature of the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain c 450-600, and the survival of the incumbent Romano-British population, has long been an emotive topic. Traditional views represented the coming of the Anglo-Saxons as an invasion of entire tribes with large and aggressive warbands, and used vivid imagery of the Anglo-Saxons 'storming the earthwork camps ... slaughtering and driving away the Romanised Britons', and of the Romano-Britons being 'as nearly extirpated as a nation can be'. The last 50 years, however, have seen a growing trend towards representations of the Anglo-Saxon arrival as an elite settlement, in which the Romano-Britons assimilated with the Anglo-Saxons, adopting their cultural characteristics in order to fit in to a new social order. This paper aims to consider the process by which views of the Anglo-Saxon arrival have undergone this transformation, and to place this process in the broader context of England's changing position in the world, and its changing relationship with its Celtic neighbours.
Client kings and new boundaries: the establishment of the ninth-century Viking kingdoms in England
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Between 866 and 874 the Vikings conquered three Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in what came to be known as the Danelaw in England, yet the first of these kingdoms was not settled by Scandinavians until 876, after which they were divided, with Scandinavians settling in roughly half of the former kingdoms. In the interim the conquered kingdoms were ruled by Anglo-Saxon client kings chosen by the Vikings. The role of these client kings is rarely examined in works dealing with this period, and this paper will suggest some reasons why the Vikings decided to use client kings, as well as the rationale behind dividing the conquered territory upon settlement. The written sources will be used to assess what the great army expected of its client kings, and also to examine in what areas the great army campaigned prior to settlement, while the archaeological record will be used to examine possible boundary markers used upon settlement. I argue that this particular group of Vikings arrived in England with clear objectives, including utilising the Anglo-Saxon administrations of the conquered kingdoms to its own ends, and the division of the conquered territory to create a Scandinavian settlement zone.
Before Beowulf: on the proto-history of Old Germanic verse
It has long been held that the alliterating long line common to the earliest traditions of medieval Germanic literature is of ancient pedigree. Essential similarities in Old English, Old Norse and early German poetry are typically held up as evidence for a common Germanic use of an alliterating 4/4 metrical line in the earliest vernacular poetry of England, Scandinavia and Germany. The evidence of early Germanic verse afforded by runic inscriptions from late antiquity and the early medieval period, however, suggest a rather different picture - few examples of runic verse are reconcilable with long and widely held assumptions concerning the early medieval alliterating Germanic long lines. This paper summarises the metrical and stylistic evidence from these early epigraphic testimonies and suggests a more nuanced and linguistically plausible scheme for the history of native English, continental and Scandinavian verse in the late proto-historical period.
The Basilica of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin in Velushina
To use the results of excavation and field research to explain the evolution or adaptation of a site more than 1600 years old is a difficult task, limited by historical and archaeological data. There is no doubt that the chronology of the area will be refined by future research and this will explain better the multi-stratigraphy of the building. The basilica in Velushina has over seven different phases of transformation from Roman times to the nineteenth century. This paper offers a description of the various phases across time of an early Christian basilica, then its survival throughout the centuries as a place of worship.
Bede's De Tabernaculo and De Templo
The Temple of Solomon is the most frequently mentioned building in the Bible. The dimensions, a description of the overall plan and the artefacts of the Temple, are described in I Kings 6-8 and Ezekiel 40-42. However, the architectural plan and design of the features of the Temple are a forgotten memory that has been the subject of much speculation. Not a single stone or any contemporary image that can be identified with the Temple of Solomon has survived. However, this has not prevented the Temple from being one of the most important and influential buildings, in both philosophical and physical manifestations, throughout time. In I Corinthians, Paul of Tarsus claimed that he was like a master-builder laying the foundations of the temple of God; this temple was built of faithful souls. Paul turned away from a physical temple to the congregation and the spiritual temple. Solomon's Temple and Paul's master builder analogy become a powerful and enduring temple metaphor in Christian writings. Bede's De Tabernaculo and De Templo reflect this tradition by claiming that the building of the Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple signified one and the same Church of Christ. This paper explores Bede's vision of Solomon's Temple, the building and the metaphor.
Six degrees of whiteness: Finbarr, Finnian, Finnian, Ninian, Candida Casa and Hwiterne
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In the Spring 2001 issue of The Innes Review, Thomas Owen Clancy presented a compelling argument for the identification of Saint Ninian of Whithorn, Saint Finnian of Moville, Saint Finnian of Clonard and Saint Finbarr of Cork as a single historical figure. This followed on from lengthy argument amongst scholars of early medieval Ireland concerning the identity, ethnicity, and probable conflation of the three Irish saints. One view, advanced by Pádraig Ó Riain, was that the 'original' form of the name was the Gaelic form Findbarr, from which Finnian was derived by hypocorism. Clancy posits a British origin for the name, and advances scribal error as the final step in the evolution of the name through Uinniau to Ninian. The common element in the Gaelic names, fin, and its British equivalent, uin, mean 'white'. Ninian's foundation in south-western Scotland is called in Latin Ad Candidam Casam, in Old English Hwiterne, both also denoting whiteness. This is generally held to reflect either the physical nature of Ninian's church (limewashed or of pale stone) or the moral nature of its inhabitants (pure and shining). This paper argues for a further alternative: that the name of the place is derived from the name of its founder.
The communion rites of early medieval France
The actions and prayers surrounding the communion in the indigenous forms of the mass in early medieval France differ considerably from their Roman counterparts. Different manuscripts of the Gallican mass, and of the Gallo-Roman mass which supplanted it, provide a symbolic understanding of the significance of receiving communion which importantly complements that of the Roman liturgy. To assess the symbolism and content of the main manuscripts, comparative evaluation of their background, date and reliability is essential. The history of the Gallican and Gallo-Roman communion rites also illustrates the phenomenon of standardisation during the Carolingian renaissance: in principle, local rites were suppressed in favour of a standard form. However, one important local communion rite, that of Lyons, has survived to this day, probably helped by Lyons' status as a primatial see.
From Kossinna to complexity: excavating 'Germanic Antiquity'
From its place in classical antiquity to its role in the formation of the successor states to the Roman empire in the west, 'Germanic Antiquity' remains a reified construct, something insufficiently appreciated as constructed and contestable in nature. An important concept, 'Germanic Antiquity' informs scholarly traditions concerning the barbarian in antiquity. This paper will introduce 'Germanic Antiquity' and the archaeology associated with it in the context of focussing on changes in archaeological methodology. The work of two German archaeologists will be examined. Early in the twentieth century, Gustaf Kossinna developed the notion of settlement archaeology, a methodological approach that has been dominant in subsequent decades. Sebastian Brather, working in the twenty-first century, uses a methodology which is diametrically opposed to Kossinna's. The differences in approaches have led to a diversity in interpretations of 'Germanic Antiquity', its interaction with the antique west and its role in understanding the place of ethnicity and ethnic identity in the west Roman-barbarian world.
Gennadius of Marseille's De viris inlustribus and John Cassian
Tracy Keefer Seiler
Gennadius of Marseille's De viris inlustribus provides an ecclesiastical group biography and bibliography of immense importance for late antiquity. This work is sometimes our only independent information for many patristic authors who flourished c 390 to 490 and their works. Despite this, Gennadius has received relatively little attention over the years. Several scholars have noted a chronological and thematic organisational structure in De viris inlustribus. Gennadius focusses upon authors whose works dealt with themes he himself wrote about, as expressed in his supposedly autobiographical entry (De viris inlustribus 100): ascetic monastic practice, Nestorianism, and Pelagianism, among others. The reason for his focus on these themes, however, has not yet been identified. This paper will show that Gennadius's own interests were fueled by the works collected by John Cassian, a resident of Marseille. Cassian's interests in turn drove Gennadius's selection of authors in De viris inlustribus. After Cassian's death c 431, Gennadius's more provincial and Gallic-centred focus reflects his increasing isolation as his city was occupied by first the Visigoths and then the Ostrogoths in the process of the decline of the western empire.
The question of origin in late antique and early Byzantine art-historical scholarship
In this paper I will examine the cultural origins of, and influences upon, late antique and early Byzantine and Islamic architecture, in the context of current debates over the alleged orientalist distortion inherent in western scholarship in this area. A long-standing question is the degree of influence stemming from Roman and Hellenistic artistic practices, an influence that has been assumed by many past and recent scholars. But the question of origin is problematic, and some art historians appear to have manipulated the evidence of material culture to support theories of origin. Similar disagreement has in the past centred on the question of whether the palace forms in Constantinople derive their precedents from Rome or from Middle-eastern traditions. Historically implicit in this disagreement is the scholarly projection of racial and ethnic ideologies, as notably evidenced in the 'Rom oder orient' debate of the early twentieth century. However, I will argue that even Said's critique of such projections is itself problematic as a basis for progressing beyond the limits of the east-west divide.