Minerva 186

Cover Story

The riches of Ravenna In a small city on Italy’s Adriatic coast, faces of all-powerful emperors, empresses, and bishops gaze out from glittering mosaics. But why are these magnificent decorations here? Judith Herrin explores the history of Ravenna, a well-connected city and one-time capital…

Features

Tantra: from Ecstasy to Enlightenment Lindsay Fulcher enters the transgressive realm of Tantra. This rebellious Indian cult, which has overturned religious, social, sexual, and political norms from AD 500 to the present day, is currently…
Aztecs: where eagles dare Buried beneath Mexico City lie the remains of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and its sacred centre. Lucia Marchini reports on an exhibition investigating wealth, worship, and empire in pre-Hispanic…
Thebes: city of myths Sparta is famous for its warrior tradition, Athens for its intellectual and artistic achievement. But what of Thebes? As ancient historian Paul Cartledge explains, Thebes too had a most distinctive…
China: in the beginning Chinese rulers held the disciplines of astronomy and cosmology in high regard for millennia. Dalu Jones previews an exhibition of exquisite objects exploring the connections between Heaven and Earth.

News

New discoveries at Saqqara As well as the coffins, archaeologists also unearthed 28 statues of Ptah Sokar, the main god of the Saqqara necropolis...
What’s in the Box? Plymouth’s new museum opens The large and ambitious opening exhibition, entitled Mayflower 400: legend and legacy, tells the story of the voyage and assesses the impact of the settlers’ arrival on the indigenous population.
The king’s new clothes Researchers had moved the best textiles, including the ‘Eagle Silk’ and a pillow with birds, deemed more fitting for a king, over to Cnut’s shrine, where they are displayed with…
Anglo-Saxon burials revealed ‘We had expected to find some kind of Anglo-Saxon burial, but what we found exceeded all our expectations and provides new insights into this stretch of the Thames in the…
Painting the past Joining the gallery’s collections is an 1819 oil-on-paper painting by Achille Etna Michallon (1796-1822) of The Forum at Pompeii.

Views

Parthenon, Athens, 1907 Places, The Picture Desk Boissonnas headed to Athens and worked to photograph the monuments of the Acropolis, a subject he returned to several times.
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc People Viollet-le-Duc needed connections: he had elected not to study architecture, preferring to learn on the job.

Reviews

Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors In the mid 4th century BC, Greece experienced a seismic convulsion whose shockwaves would be felt as far away as India, when an energetic young commander took the throne of…
Rome in the 8th Century: A History in Art What do we imagine the city of Rome to have been like in the 8th century AD? With the supremacy of Constantinople as the political and administrative centre of the…
Secret Britain: unearthing our mysterious past From a small spindle whorl to an expanse of moorland, there are many objects, individual sites, and entire landscapes in Britain that offer a portal to the past. In her…

From the editor

Facing the threat of Alaric and the Goths, Emperor Honorius moved his capital from Milan to Ravenna in AD 402. This decision launched a new chapter in the history of this small Italian city, paving its way to becoming an unparalleled centre of early Christian art. In the centuries that followed, bishops and royal patrons commissioned new buildings, among them spectacular churches covered in glittering mosaics. For our cover feature, Judith Herrin explores the history of a city whose achievements show that these centuries were not so much a declining ‘late Roman’ period, but the beginnings of something new.

As some of Ravenna’s monuments were being built, a new philosophy emerged in India: Tantra. The name comes from instructional texts, tantras, that detail rituals for invoking deities through visualisations, yoga, consuming intoxicants, smearing the body with human ashes, and sexual activity. It is for this last aspect that Tantra is most widely known today, but a new exhibition, which weaves together philosophy, feminism, and popular culture, delves into the other side of this cult of action, as Lindsay Fulcher reports. Read the article here.

In China, we have evidence of rituals at the Neolithic sites of the Liangzhu culture in the form of beautiful jade objects: bi and cong. The round bi and the more angular cong seem to embrace the notion that the earth is square and the heavens are round, one of the key concepts of ancient Chinese cosmology. Dalu Jones previews an an exhibition in Geneva that charts a millennia-long fascination with the skies.

The all-too-often overlooked ancient Greek city of Thebes has something of a PR problem. Athenians who set the cultural tone for Greece wrote of Theban horrors in their tragedies. Alexander the Great decimated the city. Paul Cartledge reveals its rich mythic history, and reminds us that, when we think of Greece, we should not just think of the arts of Athens, or the warcraft of Sparta, but also the myths of Thebes.

The origins of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, are seeped in myth too. An eagle on a prickly pear cactus showed the wandering Aztecs, guided by a god, where to settle their mighty city. That city thrived for about two centuries, with luxury goods flowing in as tribute from across the empire, until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores.

For our final feature, we take a look at a touring exhibition that draws together art and archaeology from the lost Aztec world.