The articles in this volume chosen from late Professor Michael Avi–Yonah's more than 400 publications deal with various aspects of art in ancient Palestine, a subject with the problems that occupied a central place in his studies: the effect of the meeting of occidental and oriental cultures after the conquest of the East by Hellenism. Others articles deal with specific objects (e.g., the Leda sarcophagus) or present the whole range of artistic expression in one medium, as recovered from the past through archaeology (e.g; mosaic pavements.) Also included are three articles (in French) on certain problems concerning mosaic pavements, in particular those of synagogues; up to now it has been difficult to obtain these, as they are based on lectures given at international congresses. A number of illustrations which will appeal to the reader has been added to the plates of photographs published with the original articles and a general index appended.
the Author -- Art in Ancient Palestine
M. Avi-Yonah ---
Prof. Michael Avi-Yonah (1904-1974) was considered to be one of the leading authorities on the archaeology and art history of ancient Palestine during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
THE conquests of Alexander and the Moslem invasion stand out as
the two principal landmarks in the cultural evolution of the Near East. Since
time immemorial the ancient civilizations of the Orient had exercised an almost
undisputed sway over the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. It was the
crowning achievement of Alexander and his successors to have eclipsed Eastern
culture for nearly a millennium (333 B.C. to A.D. 640). In a few decisive years
they changed the orientation of civilized life in the whole Near East; Syria and
Palestine especially continued for centuries to receive their main cultural
impulses from across the sea and not, as hitherto, across the desert. Not till
the Mohammedan conquest was the rule of an Asiatic civilization re-established
over practically the whole of the lost area.
Till 333 B.C. the contacts of Palestine with the Western world
had been sporadic; they came from fragments of the disintegrating maritime
civilization of Knossos or isolated ventures of Greek traders or mercenaries. As
long as the political control of the littoral remained in the hands of the
Eastern monarchies, Western culture was unable to penetrate beyond the
sea-plain. Once, however, the power of Persia had been broken the Greek cultural
invasion rapidly spread to the Euphrates and beyond, submerging as it went the
The rapid progress of Hellenism was greatly facilitated by the
weakness of its opponents. At the time of Alexander the old and once mighty
Oriental art and culture had been decaying for centuries. In art and literature
its creative power had waned; what remained was a tradition, powerful but mostly
formal. Confronted with its still vigorous Western rival the Oriental
civilization could not hold its own; certainly not on the surface. The little
that was kept alive by the Parthian revival stayed beyond the Euphrates; and
even there the conquering Greek spirit had left its mark. There followed a
period of fluctuation which ended when the Romans ensured the survival of Greek
civilization in the Near East as far as the Euphrates and the desert. For the
next 600 years East and West continued to face each other across this line.
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