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Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam (Revealing Antiquity) Hardcover – December 15, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0674022928 ISBN-10: 0674022920 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Revealing Antiquity (Book 16)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition edition (December 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674022920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674022928
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


On the surface this may appear an esoteric and quaint study of an ancient artform, yet the author bestows it with a depth and significance that reaches right to the heart of ancient Near Eastern culture. Despite their great age, marred by neglect and sometimes deliberate vandalism, these mosaics indicate a complex fusion of cultures and religions, illustrations of literary and mythological tradition, iconography, and monuments to civic pride. Bowersock's immense scholarship in this field, combined with a plethora of high quality, colour images, returns the reader to a time of relative peace and harmony in the Near East, when the regions we now know as Syria, Arabia, Palestine, and Jordan were united in a tradition of classicism which bound together Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in a fundamentally Semitic land. (Antiques Magazine 2007-02-15)

A large number of Roman-Byzantine floor mosaics have been unearthed in the Levant over the past few decades, and G.W. Bowersock's Mosaics as History presents a refreshing synthesis of this material...[T]his is a very good book that provides a long-awaited analysis of many new and recent mosaic discoveries across the most culturally diverse regions of the Roman-Byzantine world. (Mark Merrony Minerva 2007-05-01)

This is a splendid book, well composed and closely reasoned...The author convincingly uses the mosaics and their depictions and inscriptions as an important source for understanding late antiquity in the Near East. All the way through, Bowersock emphasizes the contexts—the connection between literature and various groups of material culture—an approach that cannot be encouraged enough. (Birte Poulsen American Journal of Archaeology 2007-10-01)

No one is better qualified to instill in his readers the sense of wide horizons and of unexpected continuities between cultures that are usually held to be irrevocably divided than Glen Bowersock. His recent book, Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam, is an iridescent masterpiece. A vast weight of erudition, unflinchingly precise, is brought to bear on a few crucial (and hitherto unconsidered) problems to produce a book that has the sharpness and the shimmer of an industrial diamond. The clarity, economy, and charm of Bowersock's writing make us forget the iron discipline on which his scrutiny of the evidence is based and the devastating effect of his conclusions on all kinds of conventional wisdom. It is the work of an urbane iconoclast...Those who wish to understand more about the deep and complex history of the Near East in all ages, our own included, would be well advised to read Bowersock's book...Only the sharp tang of scholarship like Bowersock's, devoted to a seemingly distant past, can clean our eyes, a little, of the itch of modern pseudohistory, of modern stereotypes, and of modern hatreds, so that we can view the present, if not with comfort, then at least with clarity. (Peter Brown New York Review of Books 2008-04-17)

About the Author

G. W. Bowersock is Professor Emeritus of Ancient History at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Clifford A. Wright on June 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The two negative reviews of this extremely learned study are so far off the mark I must honestly doubt that either reviewer actually read the book. And if they did, it was over their heads as witness their inability to actually write a review. I agree entirely with the review by the New York Review of Books (see above). By looking at newly discovered and older mosaics from late antiquity as more than just expressions of art Bowersock shows how the mosaics illustrate the society of an age. From the images we can understand the uses of Hellenism among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as pagans with a startling clarity. The mosaics show the entertainments of mime and pantomime and show great urban centers as places in a greater community of shared traditions. The coherence and tolerance in this eastern Mediterranean world explains the deep peace that most of Palestine, Syria, and Transjordan enjoyed over many centuries. Bowersock shows that the late antique Near East was a kind of miracle in terms of deeply rooted cultures interacting in peaceful ways. This is a must book for anyone interested in art history or Middle Eastern history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kate da Costa on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is astounding how Bowersock, one of the greatest historians of late Antiquity writing today, can cover so much important ground in such a short book. This is not a superficial picture book about mosaics, it is a scholarly examination of how mosaics can be used in new ways to tell us more about ancient lives. I refer interested readers to the long, and useful, review on the Bryn Mawr Classical Review site: [...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard I. Pervo on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
B. is an outstanding historian of late antiquity, noted for his own style and views. His most noteworthy thesis is the emphasis upon the generally peaceful and prosperous nature of the near east in late antiquity. Through mosaics recovered in the past century he shows how robust Hellenism remained and the lack of animosity among two, then three monotheistic religions. His study of the impact and source of iconoclasm is interesting.
All B's work must be taken seriously. This tour de force shows what can be gleaned from reflection upon these mosaics.
(Disclosure: took a graduate seminar at Harvard on the Roman East directed by B. 1in 1971.)
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