Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
The Achaemenid Empire's bull capital in the Louvre showcases Persian power around 500 BCE. Found in Susa's ancient city, it topped 36 columns in the audience hall or 'apadana'. The massive stone structure, with detailed craftsmanship, supported a high wooden roof, making visitors feel small and emphasizing the king's authority. Speakers: Dr. Steven Zucker & Dr. Beth Harris. Created by Steven Zucker and Beth Harris.
Want to join the conversation?
- Could someone please tell me why this course about the "Ancient Near East" shows only 97% finished when I have effectively gone through EVERYTHING -including ALL Quizes...(5 votes)
- Is this from the palace that Alexander the Great burned down?(4 votes)
- These are absolutly amazing and I find it really cool that they were put back together as if they were a puzzle, piece by piece found by field work. So intresting.(4 votes)
- I can imagine being in the audience hall itself and how overawed I'd feel. The ancients had a sure grasp on the symbology of power! They knew how to make an impression. I've seen similar things at the museum of the Oriental Institute. They were involved in archaeological expeditions all over that region, and although they did not get to keep all of their finds -- some had to remain in the country where they were found, they did get a large portion of them.
Was the Louvre itself involved in sponsoring the digs where these figures were found? Or was there another French agency that then placed the figures in the museum?(4 votes)
- Very good point! French Government actually "stole" it from the originating country and put those in Louvre. Sometimes French angencies were involved in digging, and sometimes wasn't. Louvre is a fascinating space indeed, but many of it's assembly of arts were stolen when French invaded the originating countries directly / or bought it from othere country who stole it. Many of originating
country want these items back, but Louvre is not letting them go. (ofcourse, there are some pieces that they had bought it legally from originating country.)
I'm using "originating country" as a term for which art pieces were derectly from(1 vote)
- Would the bulls have been influenced by Egyptian artwork who used bulls to symbolize deities? And would it have represented the same meaning to the Persians? If not was there any specific reasons they chose to depict bulls in their capitals?(2 votes)
- I'm studying the history of ancient Mesopotamia and have learned that bulls have been a symbol of royal power (and of gods) from mankind's earliest use of representational imagery. The fact that Mesopotamian kings at times ruled areas in what's now Iran suggests that these were recognizable symbols to all cultures of the Near East.(3 votes)
- Why does Kahn academy insist on using "B.C.E." part of the time, but B.C. the rest of the time? Besides you can twist B.C.E. to mean Before Christ's Era.(2 votes)
- We use B.C.E. instead of B.C. because we reach millions of people around the world including learners who are not Christian. To understand this issue in more depth see: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-history-basics/beginners-art-history/a/common-questions-about-dates(3 votes)
Voiceover: We're standing in the Louvre, looking at an enormous top of a column and capital formed of two bulls heads. This is such a strange motif to me. It's so different than capitals we see in ancient Egyptian or ancient Greek art. Voiceover: And we're in a period when ancient Greece was, in fact, beginning to produce its most famous architecture. This was about 500 B.C.E. We're in the area that is currently Iran. Voiceover: This is the Achaemenid Empire and they have ruled over a vast area of the Mediterranean in the Near East. Voiceover: They tried to rule over ancient Greece, but the Greeks would be successful, much to their surprise. And just from this bull capital, because of its massiveness and because you know that this is just one of dozens of such capitals, you get a sense of the scale of the royal architecture of this dynasty and the power of the Persians. And just how frightening that must have been to the ancient Greeks. Voiceover: This capital was one of 36 that topped enormous columns in the audience hall or 'apadana'. Voiceover: So, we're in the ancient city of Susa. This capital comes from one of two major palaces that were built by the Persian king Darius. Look at the size of those bulls. I wouldn't stand as tall, even though it's crouching. Voiceover: So, imagine this in a hypostyled or columned hall. This dense forest of columns. And this is where the king would receive visitors. So, this expression of power within an entire palace complex, built of precious materials, brought from all over Darius' empire. Voiceover: The large scrolling forms, which remind us a little bit of Ionic architecture from ancient Greece would themselves have only been a transitional layer, because below that would have been an additional capital, and then below that would have been the shaft of the column itself with a base. The bulls themselves would have been quite high up and would've probably have been much more dimly lit than we're seeing them now. You can see how the two bulls are actually connected into a single form, with only the heads and the front part of the bodies doubled. And then in the notch that is created in their backs, we have the beams of the palace cradled. Voiceover: These capitals supported a very high wooden roof, probably 40, 50, or 60 feet high. They seem to be kneeling, and yet, towering above us. So, I imagine anyone entering this hallway, would have felt very small. Voiceover: In part, because you have this great mass, that is at the very top of a slender column, which emphasizes that sense of scale. The other issue is that these are carved out of stone, which would have been imported from local mountains, whereas most of the palace was made out of mud brick that had been fired. And so the monumentally of the density of this stone, would have been impressive as well. Voicover: One of the things you notice immediately when you look at the capital, is that it seems to be comprised of two different colors of stone. And this is because what we're looking at is actually a composite restored by archeologists from several different capitals. Voiceover: Even though the bulls themselves are fragments that have been put together, some of the craftsmanship is still evident. Look for instance at the patterning of the curls of the fur. You can see that especially on the bulls' breasts, the delicacy of the ears and the horns and the eyes. They really are expressive creatures. Voiceover: But frightening and everything in this palace was meant to impress. Some of the glazed brickwork survived from the palace. There are images of griffins, of sphinxes, of guards. Voiceover: The guards are interesting. They're holding spears and they've got bows wrapped over their shoulders. You can actually see their quivers just over their backs. Voiceover: This accumulation of images of power as you made your way up to the audience hall, through this field of columns. Voiceover: By the time you got your audience with the king, You would've been most impressed. And the power that he wielded over so much of the Mediterranean, over so much of the Near East was clear.