Since the semester is winding down — and everyone is remote anyway, this week’s selection is an ebook. All the books in ProQuest Ebook Central have unlimited simultaneous users, so there are no waits or holds and you can read the book right away.
The fifty “things” highlighted in this work range from everyday objects (a coin, an oil lamp) to ships and cities, books and religious artifacts. Covering the Fourth to Tenth Centuries A.D., the cultural icons function as windows into their eras and geographies (Europe, north Africa, and western Asia). Since we’re a little constrained in the travel department right now, this is a good way to travel both through time and across borders to learn more about life just before and during the Middle Ages.
Every chapter and accompanying color plates offers a glimpse into the rich past of its object. What do we learn for instance, from the Circus Races Mosaic from the Villa del Casale in Sicily (c. 300-350 AD)? For starters, professional sports look a bit tame compared to the flamboyant nature of chariot races that originated in Rome. The single-person chariots were pulled by four horses around hairpin turns on oval tracks inside a circus (stadium). The stadiums were jammed with more than 100,000 spectators and the race owners were akin to today’s WWE promoters, taking their shows on the road, stirring up the rabid fans, and raking in the profits. Fans were viciously loyal, staging battles in the streets after races. Charioteers were the celebs of their day. And even the wealthy must have found entertainment in the races, judging by the huge and intricate mosaic commissioned by the owners of Villa del Casale. Perhaps they had sky boxes away from the great unwashed in the bleachers?
Enjoy a little armchair travel and soak up some long-forgotten culture by exploring the fifty “things.”
Fifty Early Medieval Things: Materials of Culture in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
By Deborah Deliyannis, Hendrik Dey, and Paolo Squatriti
Ebook Central Ebooks