Review of Michael Greenhalgh, From Constantinople to Córdoba: Dismantling Ancient Architecture in the East, North Africa and Islamic Spain (Leiden: Brill, 2012)

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 4
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Review of Michael Greenhalgh, "From Constantinople to Córdoba: Dismantling Ancient Architecture in the East, North Africa and Islamic Spain" (Leiden: Brill, 2012)
   205 󰁢󰁯󰁯󰁫 󰁲󰁥󰁶󰁩󰁥󰁷󰁳 Michael Greenhalgh  From Constantinople to Córdoba: Dismantling Ancient Architecture in the  East, North Africa and Islamic Spain . Leiden: Brill, 2012. 576 pp., 91 ill. 󰁉󰁓󰁂󰁎 978-9004212466. This book chronicles the destruction of ancient architecture along the “cres-cent” that runs from Constantinople through the Levant and North Africa to Islamic Spain. The Roman, Late Antique, and medieval heritage of this cres-cent, unlike that of Europe, had survived well into the eighteenth and nine-teenth centuries. It was then that colonial and indigenous forces conspired to plunder and reuse the region’s antiquities. Greenhalgh’s primary line of evi-dence is hundreds of travel accounts from colonists and tourists from all over Europe, especially from France and England. According to the preface, this book is intended to expand on the author’s earlier works, especially his  Monumental Past, Marble Present (Brill, 2009).  From Constantinople to Córdoba is not a conventional scholarly monograph, but rather “a catalogue inter- weaved with a running commentary” (p. xxiv). Indeed, the 󰁦􀁩rst thing one notices about this book is the sheer scale of the scholarly apparatus. Readers are treated to a feast of references and citations from Greenhalgh’s vast reposi-tory of travel accounts. The abundance and frequency of these citations can be overwhelming, even to the point of distraction (some sentences, for instance, contain three footnotes and three endnotes each). By the end of the work, however, it is clear that a synthesis this ambitious could not have been written any other way. Readers must therefore work harder, swimming against a cur-rent of data and resigning themselves to return to the book later to mine its citations. The 70-page bibliography is divided by region and type of source,  which will surely be helpful to specialists of individual regions or writers.The book is divided into three parts. The 󰁦􀁩rst, and by far the longest, is enti-tled “The Mediaeval Landscape and its Features.” Within this section, chapters one and two are the most important because they come the closest to provid-ing a conventional, linear narrative and clear argument. The story is nothing less than a vast, unconscious human and ecological conspiracy to destroy the heritage of Rome in the Islamic world. At the center of this narrative are the ruins themselves: statues mutilated into souvenirs, marble slabs burned into limestone, and columns cut down for use as ballast, cannon fodder, or olive presses. The usual suspects appear: antiquarians and archeologists shopping for European museums, iconoclasts of all sects destroying religious art, and treasure hunters boring into monuments. But many others were clearly respon-sible, too. The expansion of Islamic cities necessarily required stone, which Rome’s monuments provided in abundance. Travelers reported seeing limekilns © 󰁫󰁯󰁮󰁩󰁮󰁫󰁬󰁩󰁪󰁫󰁥 󰁢󰁲󰁩󰁬󰁬 󰁮󰁶, 󰁬󰁥󰁩󰁤󰁥󰁮, 󟿽􏿽󿿽󰀴 | 󰁤󰁯󰁩   󿿽􏿽.󿿽󿿽󰀶�/󿿽󰀵󰀷􏿽􏿽󰀶󰀷󰀴-󿿽󟿽�󰀴󟿽󿿽󰀶󰀸  206 󰁢󰁯󰁯󰁫 󰁲󰁥󰁶󰁩󰁥󰁷󰁳󰁭󰁥󰁤󰁩󰁥󰁶󰁡󰁬 󰁥󰁮󰁣󰁯󰁵󰁮󰁴󰁥󰁲󰁳 󟿽󰀰 (󰀲􏿽󰀱󰀴) 󿿽󰀹󰀹-󟿽󰀰󰀸 built next to Roman ruins so that locals could quickly burn marble into lime for use in building nearby cities (pp. 57-59). Politics and warfare also played their part in devastating monuments as colonial soldiers re-used stones for for-tresses or attacked monuments with cannons and dynamite. Even the forces of nature contributed to this extensive destruction as sand, wind, water, and earthquakes damaged countless Roman buildings and artifacts. But the pre-ponderance of guilt, in Greenhalgh’s account, is laid at the feet of the thou-sands of European tourists who 󐁦􀁬ocked to see ancient ruins in the nineteenth century. They carried copies of the classics and guidebooks in one hand and a chisel and hammer in the other. They struck chips of marble from columns and the heads or noses from Roman statues. One English tourist was heartened to see the names of his friends and fellow travelers carved into ancient walls. As more people journeyed to the Islamic world, they wrote letters and books and more and more tourists poured in to deal the fatal blows to Islam’s Roman heri-tage. Chapters three through eight explore various remnants of Roman civili-zation: “Roads and Ports,” “Fountains, Waterways, and Irrigation,” “Tombs,” “Palaces and Villas,” “Inscriptions,” and “Quarries and Quarrying,” respectively. Thus oriented around objects and spaces, these chapters will be more relevant to art historians, architects, and archeologists than to historians and other scholars. The second section, entitled “Re-using, Dismantling, and Destroying the Landscape,” assesses the actual techniques of dismantling religious architec-ture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It also addresses the “web of superstitions” surrounding the architecture of the past. Chapter Nine explores the re-use of the materials from religious buildings. Because of their impor-tance in Roman, Christian, and Islamic contexts, religious buildings were lav-ished with richly decorated mosaics, sculptures, and columns. But once these marble adornments and structures were stripped away, the limestone rem-nants were of little use to most plunderers of ancient buildings. The marble itself is at the center of the story; Greenhalgh’s careful genealogical work underscores the 󐁦􀁬uidity of marble artifacts as they crossed the boundaries from Christian to Islamic or secular to profane and back again. These complex, contradictory biographies of marble buildings and objects undermine any attempt to apply simplistic motives or intentionality to the use, re-use, borrow-ing, destroying, quoting, or exalting of ancient architectural forms. In this chapter, one sees the advantage of Greenhalgh’s encyclopedic approach: the only way to undermine bland historiographical generalizations about these buildings is to use a vast range of sources from all over the region. Chapter Ten explores the belief—apparently common to both the Christian and Islamic traditions—that material objects, especially antique objects, could be vested   207 󰁢󰁯󰁯󰁫 󰁲󰁥󰁶󰁩󰁥󰁷󰁳󰁭󰁥󰁤󰁩󰁥󰁶󰁡󰁬 󰁥󰁮󰁣󰁯󰁵󰁮󰁴󰁥󰁲󰁳 󟿽󰀰 (󰀲􏿽󰀱󰀴) 󿿽󰀹󰀹-󟿽󰀰󰀸  with a power to heal or prophesy. The prices o􀁦fered by European tourists and colonists seemed so out of proportion to reality that many indigenous people presumed that Europeans had a secret knowledge of antique magic or trea-sure. Chapter eleven explains how European military forces seized and re-used the ruins of the Roman imperial conquest of North Africa to build their own empires there. They used column shafts to strengthen walls, and later, as can-non fodder. The 󰁦􀁩nal chapter of this section details the methods of the (often arduous) process of transporting and shipping plundered antiquities back to Europe.The third, and by far the briefest, section of the book is titled “Travelling, Collecting, and Digging” and discusses the motivations and habits of European travelers and colonists. Not only did Europeans become increasingly interested in traveling to see Roman ruins, new guidebooks and technologies of transpor-tation enabled them to travel long distances and bring home souvenirs from the sites themselves. Generous shipping policies in the nineteenth century, for instance, allowed passengers to bring several hundred pounds of cargo back  with them at no extra cost (p. 380). For their part, local people, especially agri-cultural workers, were puzzled that European tourists would travel such great distances merely to look at “old walls” (p. 379). Unlike the other chapters of the book, Chapter fourteen draws from nineteenth-century military archives. It demonstrates that, as the French military came to dominate the Algerian countryside, it raided Roman and Byzantine forts for building materials. Greenhalgh highlights the irony that the mission civilisatrice  was only accom-plished by destroying monuments that “barbarians” had preserved for centu-ries. With its focus on the modern colonial enterprise, this section of the book is of less immediate value to many readers of this journal.In a work this ambitious, there are always minor objections that readers can raise about one or another of the thousands of examples and citations that appear throughout the book. For instance, neither the text nor the bibliogra-phy on Late Antiquity contains any reference to the works of historians Chris  Wickham, Michael McCormick, or Peter Brown, even when the discussion clearly relates to their seminal contributions. The 91 plates at the end of the  work seem entirely detached from the main body of the text—an afterthought rather than primary evidence. Many readers will object to the vitriolic aside in the preface that rails against the works of Edward Said and his “robotic fan club,” who “should be ashamed of themselves.” More importantly, even a casual reading of the text will uncover an astonishing number of errors in transcrip-tion and orthography in the both text and notes. The two pages of the Spanish bibliography, to cite only one example, contain nearly a dozen errors. The author also insists on archaic spellings of “Moslem,” “Koran,” and “Mohammed”  208 󰁢󰁯󰁯󰁫 󰁲󰁥󰁶󰁩󰁥󰁷󰁳󰁭󰁥󰁤󰁩󰁥󰁶󰁡󰁬 󰁥󰁮󰁣󰁯󰁵󰁮󰁴󰁥󰁲󰁳 󟿽󰀰 (󰀲􏿽󰀱󰀴) 󿿽󰀹󰀹-󟿽󰀰󰀸 throughout the work, even changing the spellings of these words in others scholars’ works. In spite of these and other problems, there can be no doubt about the contribution of this book:  From Constantinople to Córdoba  will remain the de󰁦􀁩nitive work on this subject for quite some time. Every scholar interested in the destruction of ancient buildings in the Islamic world will need to embed their research within the context of Greenhalgh’s vast scholarly apparatus. And every scholar with an interest in ancient architecture, nine-teenth-century colonialism, and the Islamic world, has something to learn from this monumental study.  John Moscatiello Department of History, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, 󰁉󰁎, 󰁕󰁓󰁁  e-mail:
Similar documents
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks

We need your sign to support Project to invent "SMART AND CONTROLLABLE REFLECTIVE BALLOONS" to cover the Sun and Save Our Earth.

More details...

Sign Now!

We are very appreciated for your Prompt Action!