In January the Scholarly Skater reminded me of the panel painting of Christ mocked found in France and attributed to Cimabue of Florence who died in or after 1302. The panel is not in the best shape, but if you have seen the Maciejowski Bible or some 13th century French sculpture its nothing special. Panel paintings from the 13th century are rare but not as rare as many things. So why the fuss?Read more
Ever since Darius’ inscription at Behistun was deciphered, scholars have puzzled why it is placed high on a cliff where nobody can read it and even the sculptures are difficult to see. Even the ledge on which the builders stood was chiselled away, so that visitors who wished to copy the inscription had to be lowered by ropes from above. A common answer is that he wrote it for the gods, but this does not really work. Darius specifically addresses future kings, and readers who might doubt his words, and includes the boilerplate blessing on those who preserve and proclaim his words and curse on those who alter or destroy them. He also says that after the inscription was composed copies were sent amongst the nations (paragraph 70 of the Old Persian version), and we have a copy in Aramaic from Elephantine on the Nile and a retelling by Herodotus which clearly draws on the official version of the story. Babylonian scholars often had copies of foundation inscriptions and other texts which were buried for posterity in their collections. While the copy at Behistun was placed where nobody could read it, the text which is preserved there clearly has specific mortal audiences which Darius was concerned about, and it influenced many people in the empire and beyond.
At another place in Fars there is a tongue of rock overlooking a river with a fertile plain. On this tongue there is also a large relief carved into the rock about a hundred meters above the plain below. It was there long before Darius, although it is not clear that he was familiar with it like he was with some other rock reliefs.
Since I am too busy this week to spare many words, I thought I would post some pictures instead. This relief from a sarcophagus belongs to the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. The caption dates it to the second quarter of the second century CE and labels it as a battle of Greeks and Amazons, but the barbarians look awfully masculine to me.Read more