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Ancient site destruction thread

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Grundbegriff
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Grundbegriff »

Gavin wrote:The Hagia Sophia was dedicated in 360 c.e. and survived until 1453 c.e. when a Muslim Sultan invaded Constantinople (over a thousand years as a Christian church with monuments and icons that we'll never see again, fortunately some are being restored and have been restored).
One or another church using the name "Hagia Sophia" has been on that site since 360. However, the current building, famous under that name, dates from the 500s, not the 300s.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Grundbegriff wrote:
Gavin wrote:The Hagia Sophia was dedicated in 360 c.e. and survived until 1453 c.e. when a Muslim Sultan invaded Constantinople (over a thousand years as a Christian church with monuments and icons that we'll never see again, fortunately some are being restored and have been restored).
One or another church using the name "Hagia Sophia" has been on that site since 360. However, the current building, famous under that name, dates from the 500s, not the 300s.
Yes, you're correct. There were three versions of the building (due to two fires). 346, 415, and 532. Good call! You should also mention that during the era of Byzantine iconoclasm they had to move relics to safety so it's most ancient items survive to this day (one item purportedly being Mary's Milk... gross and perhaps one of the bizarrely impossible relics to claim ownership of). Byzantine iconoclasm was largely considered to be caused by Islamic iconoclasm (if you're reading about it historically, the Muslims were called the "Saracen" at this time and are referrenced in conjunction with the Jews as being responsible for this belief entering the Byzantine area. It lines up fairly neatly with the Caliph I mentioned earlier who ordered the destruction of Christian icons).

The point is the precedent the event presents. If you walked into a building that was around 1,000 years old would you think, "Man, these blasphemous paintings could really uses some plaster and these ancient icons sure would keep me warm in winter as fuel." Perhaps if you were a practicing Jew or Muslim because both have scriptures and tradition backing them up (again, I have to stess the importance that this is referring to the Sunni expression of the faith which is the vast majority but does not account for all Muslims. I stress this because these iconoclastic views aren't all found in the Qur`an as much as they are in the 6 major hadith collections the Sunni use. Still, 75-90% of the religion is a lot). All I'm explaining is that this particular tradition can be singled out as something that is more extreme than most other societies right now. Most societies have established rules for protecting, maintaining and even restoring culturally important sites. An understanding of the beliefs and traditions that are leading to their actions is important to be able to open knowledgeable dialogues with the Sunni people in the hopes (albeit probably naive due to the backing of religion) of preventing their continuing this path of destroying significant parts of human history. The Sphinx and the Buddhist icons are the most tragic ones in my opinion, that we know of anyways.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Grundbegriff »

Gavin wrote:Good call! You should also mention that during the era of Byzantine iconoclasm they had to move relics to safety so it's most ancient items survive to this day (one item purportedly being Mary's Milk... gross and perhaps one of the bizarrely impossible relics to claim ownership of).
There's a surprising quantity of the Virgin's breast milk. Also, multiple jawbones of St. Peter. And, as Calvin noted in his amusing sendup of the cult of relics, there's enough wood from the True Cross to build Noah's ark.

My personal favorite among medieval "relics" is one I've seen up close: the very footprint of God. Or so the signage said.
Byzantine iconoclasm was largely considered to be caused by Islamic iconoclasm
I believe the rise of the iconoclasts is now largely considered to be the result of numerous factors. Islamic iconoclasm was one of them, but not necessarily the main one. Social, economic, and theological factors were already at work in the early Christian and early Byzantine eras made the terrain fertile for iconoclastic influences.
All I'm explaining is that this particular tradition can be singled out as something that is more extreme than most other societies right now. Most societies have established rules for protecting, maintaining and even restoring culturally important sites. An understanding of the beliefs and traditions that are leading to their actions is important to be able to open knowledgeable dialogues....
No doubt.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Grundbegriff wrote:My personal favorite among medieval "relics" is one I've seen up close: the very footprint of God. Or so the signage said.
I wonder if ANY of the relics are real. Probably none of the cool ones. "The was John's spoon and that relic is Peter's third favorite hat."
Grundbegriff wrote: I believe the rise of the iconoclasts is now largely considered to be the result of numerous factors. Islamic iconoclasm was one of them, but not necessarily the main one. Social, economic, and theological factors were already at work in the early Christian and early Byzantine eras made the terrain fertile for iconoclastic influences.
Yes, there were a number factors that made their culture particularly fertile/susceptible to icnoclasim. The Ecumenical Council of 787 specifically held to respond to the iconoclasm going on blames the Jewish and Saracen (Muslim) influence for the movement even if there were precursers in the culture to be open to it. This is a first hand account/consensus of officials from all over the world (primarily Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople). Here's a quick and easy reference from Wiki.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Seventh_Ecumenical_Council" target="_blank

"The iconoclasts had support from both inside and outside the Church. Outside the Church, there may have been influence from Jewish and Muslim ideas, and it is important to note that just prior to the iconoclast outbreak Muslim Caliph Yezid ordered the removal of all icons with his territory. Inside the Church there had always existed a "puritan" outlook which saw all images as latent idolatry. "

I hadn't read this page before so I'm glad that it mentions the Caliph and how it syncs with its time. I do believe they were related but I also think they (the Christians) underestimated the degree puritanic perspectives on images in churches already. This would have led to not having icons in churches but not going out and destroying them.

Prior to this, a point of major contention before the event (695) was putting the face of Jesus on the main coinage (remember, Sunni Hadith are against any images of living things, human and animals). Today with the Euro we know what an impact changing the standard currency could make, especially in trade. Because the Caliph had to mint their own. I imagine that led to all sorts of contention (such as people not taking their money) that would have built up in the coming years. We have a letter from Germanus (A patriarch of some sort) in 726 saying that entire towns were upset of this: "now whole towns and multitudes of people are in considerable agitation over this matter". This would have led to a depression just like it would today so it set the economic stage for what was to come.

Next, notice the wording of the "illegal" council of Hiera (convened by a ruler rather than the church, utterly condemned in the Ecumenical Council as illegitimate) that brought about Byzantine Iconoclasm: "the unlawful art of painting living creatures blasphemed the fundamental doctrine of our salvation--namely, the Incarnation of Christ, and contradicted the six holy synods. . . . "

Not being able to paint living creatures specifically is directly from Islam. Was painting art unlawful in that day, it says it was but it was only unlawful in Sharia Law from what I've seen. Judaism has historically banned the creation of graven images as worship rather than in general (though a painting of God would certainly have raised anger and iconoclasm against it even if it was just meant for art). Jewish tradition has been fine with animals and partial humans but has generally condemned human faces for some reason (there's a significant amount of art from the middle ages with humans having animal faces to get around religious laws). Today they just require the image or statue be incomplete (like a bust instead of a statue)

The council attributed the "heresy" to three groups: "Fifth Session (October 4, 787) -- It was claimed that the iconoclast heresy came originally from Jews, Saracens, and Manicheans."

(I would argue that Manicheaism both influenced Islam and was later influenced by Islam but I do not know why Manicheaism is listed here. There is a myriad of wonderful art having images of people and things all over the board. So if Manicheaism evolved to be iconoclastic then it was influenced on them or significant changes in belief considering the extent of their art)
Saracens, again being Muslim. So, I think the influece of Islamic Iconoclasm is fairly major. There's other stuff for sure, but I'd say Muslim influence was the biggest part and likely in response to the coins.
Grundbegriff wrote:No doubt.
The reason I felt the need to clarify it is because after 9/11 there was a lot of hate poured out on very innocent and loving Muslims. This hate was rightfully responded to with extreme disapproval and a lot of valuable information came out to prevent discrimination. The side effect of this though, is that expressing any criticism suddenly became taboo and instantly equated to the same level as all the closet racists that used 9/11 to justify their insane views. I don't think shutting out all criticism is the way to prevent racism/discrimination. Having open and real dialogue is.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

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Gavin wrote:Not being able to paint living creatures specifically is directly from Islam.
In truth, the prohibition on depicting living creatures antedates Islam by a couple of thousand years, more or less:
Exodus 20:4 wrote:"You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline."
Of course, the next verse prohibits bowing down and worshiping such things. The debate in Judaism and in Christianity, and for a while in Islam, was whether the prohibition was on representing-and-then-worshiping or on representing tout court.
Judaism has historically banned the creation of graven images as worship rather than in general (though a painting of God would certainly have raised anger and iconoclasm against it even if it was just meant for art).
It's complex. A Jewish synagogue from the CE 200s found at Dura-Europos is lined with paintings mostly pertaining to the life of Moses. They flank the Torah niche. So not only has Judaism often tolerated images, it has even sometimes tolerated (and perhaps expected) them in a liturgical context.

You're right that representing God directly would've been reckoned a no-no in nearly any Jewish context. Christians, on the other hand, have varied in practice on this point.
The Ecumenical Council of 787 specifically held to respond to the iconoclasm going on blames the Jewish and Saracen (Muslim) influence for the movement even if there were precursers in the culture to be open to it. This is a first hand account/consensus of officials....

So, I think the influece of Islamic Iconoclasm is fairly major. There's other stuff for sure, but I'd say Muslim influence was the biggest part and likely in response to the coins.
Don't forget that we lack most of the writings of the iconoclasts. Canon IX of the Second Council of Nicea (the very one you cite!) required that iconoclastic writings be "locked away" or destroyed. So we only have the writings of the iconodules and of those iconoclasts whom the iconodules quoted (however faithfully or misleadingly) or conserved. The eventual "winners", who favored images, blamed the Jews and Saracens for iconoclasm. But blaming Jews and Saracens was a pretty common rhetorical maneuver in the middle ages. So it shouldn't be taken at face value that the analysis offered by iconodules is even tempered in the way we might expect our own histories to be.
I don't think shutting out all criticism is the way to prevent racism/discrimination. Having open and real dialogue is.
Seems reasonable.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Grundbegriff wrote:In truth, the prohibition on depicting living creatures antedates Islam by a couple of thousand years, more or less:
Exodus 20:4 wrote:"You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline."
Of course, the next verse prohibits bowing down and worshiping such things. The debate in Judaism and in Christianity, and for a while in Islam, was whether the prohibition was on representing-and-then-worshiping or on representing tout court.
This is why I brought up that the claim and examples that Judaism has historically taken these verses to refer to creating idols to bow down to rather than all images. The two verses here (the one you cited and then the following one you mentioned) are considered one as they were written long before we added numbers and chapters to the scrolls. The ten commandments place both these verses as commandment number 2. Note that the preceding scripture was no other gods before Me and the following commandment is taking the Lord's name in vain.

Though, I should clarify, there are about three different numbering systems for the big ten. We know that there are ten from other verses but not exactly how these writings make up the ten, I'll just refer to the ones including these verses:

Philonic (this is the earliest division we know of): Verse 20:3 is the the first commandment, verses 20:4-6 are the second.
Talmudic (from the third century Talmud): Verses 20:1-2 is the first commandment and Verse 20:3-6 are the second. This division, considering the importance of the Talmud in Judaism, is most likely the reason the graven images verse is taken as making idols to worship.
Augustinian (5th Century by Christians so kinda irrelevant where Judaism is concerned): Verse 20:3-6 is the first commandment. They actually split up the 10th commandment into two different coveting ones.

I understand the confusion these divisions are having, I personally only see 9 commandments unless the first commandment is as the Talmud says (aka, not really a commandment and just an expression that He is their God) or if idol worship is considered distinct from having no other gods. Either way, it is clear why this is taken as creating idols rather than mere referential art.

So I must somewhat strongly disagree that this was a moratorium on painting referencial art. It does not appear so in the context of the scripture or in the history/tradition of the religion at any point.

I'll also point out that God had them create the ark of the covenant which included statues of the cherubim. Just an example of non-idol related images that Jewish scripture has no problem with even in a deeply religious setting just like the Dura-Europos example you listed below.
Grundbegriff wrote:It's complex. A Jewish synagogue from the CE 200s found at Dura-Europos is lined with paintings mostly pertaining to the life of Moses. They flank the Torah niche. So not only has Judaism often tolerated images, it has even sometimes tolerated (and perhaps expected) them in a liturgical context.

You're right that representing God directly would've been reckoned a no-no in nearly any Jewish context. Christians, on the other hand, have varied in practice on this point.
Exactly, Judaism hasn't taken that verse as a moratorium on paintings of living things. They've taken it in context.
Grundbegriff wrote:Don't forget that we lack most of the writings of the iconoclasts. Canon IX of the Second Council of Nicea (the very one you cite!) required that iconoclastic writings be "locked away" or destroyed. So we only have the writings of the iconodules and of those iconoclasts whom the iconodules quoted (however faithfully or misleadingly) or conserved. The eventual "winners", who favored images, blamed the Jews and Saracens for iconoclasm. But blaming Jews and Saracens was a pretty common rhetorical maneuver in the middle ages. So it shouldn't be taken at face value that the analysis offered by iconodules is even tempered in the way we might expect our own histories to be.
The lack of the iconoclastic writings shouldn't negate what the iconodules stated. It only means there's less evidence to stand on to refute them. It's cute that religion students seeking a phD or research professors trying to stay employed want to stir up some new controversy about history but all of the components of this being Muslim influence are there. We have motivation and we have means. Unfounded conspiracy theories need to stay out of the public view until we have reasons to actually suspect their validity.

You did not respond to the most important point I mentioned regarding the coinage changing to add the image of Christ on one side. This happened just a few decades before all this crap went down and was likely directly responsible for the Yazid II ordering the destruction of all Christian icons. Remember, there was no destruction of Christian icons in Islam before this point. Think about this, Yazid II ordered this in an edict in 722. The Byzantine iconoclasm phase started in 730. Why would the two events spring up independantly within the same 8 year period and within close proximity to the Muslim empire when centuries of time are being discussed here? It does not make sense that Muslim iconoclasm wouldn't have heavily influenced this period. The only part I seriously doubt of the council's words is that Judaism played a role here, let alone the Manicheans.

Changing the coins in 698 to something that the Muslims could not use would have been a serious blow to them. Some, if not most Muslims would likely have been unable to even exchange their own coins (the Caliph had to make these in response to the coins with Jesus on them, previously they were going to adopt the other currency) so trade would have been constricted and seriously harmful to the Muslims. I can easily imagine the economic depression this caused them reaching a head in about two decades afterwards. This led to a significant slowing of Islamic expansion (that and the undesirability of encouraging non-Muslims to convert since they wouldn't have to pay the taxes if they did) that wasn't renewed until the Ottoman Empire gave it a go several centuries later. I mean, look, within a century of the inception of Islam they were already invading Spain. That's an incredible rate of expansion but something happened to slow them down. Amongst other things, I believe financial turmoil to have been one of them and screwing with the currency to put one group at a disadvantage is major and will result in other retaliations. I see no way out of acknowleding that they played a significant role in this event. Do you?
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

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Gavin wrote:The two verses here (the one you cited and then the following one you mentioned) are considered one as they were written long before we added numbers and chapters to the scrolls.
I'll say. The verse numbers weren't added until around 1000 years after the codex format replaced the scroll.
I'll also point out that God had them create the ark of the covenant which included statues of the cherubim. Just an example of non-idol related images that Jewish scripture has no problem with even in a deeply religious setting just like the Dura-Europos example you listed below.
Sure. Add to that the cherubim embroidered into the tabernacle and veil, the (representational) pomegranates on the high priest's garment, and indeed the tabernacle itself, which is a symbolic representation of heaven and the cosmos.
Grundbegriff wrote:Don't forget that we lack most of the writings of the iconoclasts....
The lack of the iconoclastic writings shouldn't negate what the iconodules stated. It only means there's less evidence to stand on to refute them.
It also means, as I noted, that the claims of the iconodules shouldn't be taken at face value. Who knows whether their representations of the arguments of their hated adversaries are charitable. That's not a conspiracy theory; it's responsible historiography.
It's cute that religion students seeking a phD or research professors trying to stay employed want to stir up some new controversy about history but all of the components of this being Muslim influence are there.
It's cute that people attached to a pet thesis try to reduce complex historical causality and indeterminacy to a simple, alluring formula.
You did not respond to the most important point I mentioned regarding the coinage changing to add the image of Christ on one side. This happened just a few decades before all this crap went down and was likely directly responsible for the Yazid II ordering the destruction of all Christian icons. Remember, there was no destruction of Christian icons in Islam before this point. Think about this, Yazid II ordered this in an edict in 722. The Byzantine iconoclasm phase started in 730. Why would the two events spring up independantly within the same 8 year period and within close proximity to the Muslim empire when centuries of time are being discussed here? It does not make sense that Muslim iconoclasm wouldn't have heavily influenced this period. The only part I seriously doubt of the council's words is that Judaism played a role here, let alone the Manicheans.
Nobody informed about the era discounts the Muslim influence. But the folks with whom I studied iconoclasm see it as a complex phenomenon arising over time for many reasons and resist reducing it to the simple catalyst of provocative coinage. I join them in this.

It's ok if you disagree. I have no need to induce you into a more complex historiography.
I see no way out of acknowleding that they played a significant role in this event. Do you?
Nope. That would be why I stated earlier that
me wrote: I believe the rise of the iconoclasts is now largely considered to be the result of numerous factors. Islamic iconoclasm was one of them, but not necessarily the main one. Social, economic, and theological factors were already at work in the early Christian and early Byzantine eras made the terrain fertile for iconoclastic influences.
To be sure, Islamic influence was an important factor. If you think there's a strong reason to reduce the tapestry of such factors to this one the factor, you're free to do that. If you then need to reduce that to a single dispute over the face of a coin, rather than regard that as the incidental occasion for a culture to work out its larger issues, then that's your prerogative. I won't join you; perhaps I do history differently from the way you do history.

In any event, I appreciate your zeal for olden times.

(Edit: fixed incorrect quote tags)
Last edited by Grundbegriff on Mon Oct 08, 2012 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Smutly »

Just want to say I'm impressed with the breadth of knowledge on this subject. Yowzers.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Grundbegriff wrote:I'll say. The verse numbers weren't added until around 1000 years after the codex format replaced the scroll.
Haha, yes, true. I just had the original format in my head as being altered but that's a fair correction.
Grundbegriff wrote: It also means, as I noted, that the claims of the iconodules shouldn't be taken at face value. Who knows whether their representations of the arguments of their hated adversaries are charitable. That's not a conspiracy theory; it's responsible historiography.
I agree that the victors write history and usually with rose colored glasses for themselves. It's just that in the absense of contrary evidence, the evidence at hand is all we have to go on. To believe that the evidence we have is invalid or hiding something and that the other side was covered up is pretty much directly conspiracy theory. To merely suspect it is to be a rational/reasonable person who knows that things are not necessarily as they appear. I'm certainly not so naive as to believe the good guys always win or that the truth is always at face value (not that you were saying I was, I'm just agreeing with the possibility).
Grundbegriff wrote:It's cute that people attached to a pet thesis try to reduce complex historical causality and indeterminacy to a simple, alluring formula.
The idea is that the nature of demanding original work from historians is creating an environment where sensationalizing things is becoming normal and even necessary. Historians don't just look for these alternate possibilities, they WANT the alternate possibilities to be the truth. This means that the experts regularly lie to us and themselves because that's what they're getting pressured or paid to do. Not to lie perse, but to find something "new", which is a lie if the truth has already been found and fully formed. Attaching a change in currency to financial downturns and waning military strength that leads to a greater unrest is by no means a simple, alluring formula. Complexity doesn't have to mean that something can't have knowable causes. A domino effect can be quite complex even if started by one thing.
Grundbegriff wrote:Nobody informed about the era discounts the Muslim influence. But the folks with whom I studied iconoclasm see it as a complex phenomenon arising over time for many reasons and resist reducing it to the simple catalyst of provocative coinage. I join them in this.
Other elements do exist, you're right. I was trying to emphasize the but we're talking about a major change in Islamic policy that occured within 20 years of the event that was followed by a Christian expression of the same policy within 7 years. For this to just be a coincidence would be incredible.

The thing is, historians aren't necessarily well versed in economics. The money making degree I mentioned earlier is in Business. The combination of those degrees give me the perspective of how being unable to use an otherwise universal currency might impact a neighboring region if that nation doesn't have significant financial leverage. My point isn't just that the imagery pissed the Muslims off. If that had been the case we would have seen the Muslim army marching at that moment when they were still quite strong. They were able to invade Spain around this time, 711, and almost took the entire nation. They would have expanded further too, if it weren't for those meddling French, Bulgarina and Byzantine kids. This stopped Muslim expansion around the year 718. Two years before Yazid's edict to destroy Christian icons that I believe directly informed Byzantine iconoclasm against their own icons.

The idea is that they minted their own coins in response to the coins they couldn't use and the iconoclast movement against Christian icons were in response to the insuing economic downturn which likely also had something to do with slowing the expansion of the Muslim empire around that time. The feeling of being slowed down and weakened would have been palpable to them and the fact that the Christians were the ones heading them off couldn't have helped. So, like a child in rage at having control taken away, they struck out at things that were in their control that felt symbolic of their obstacle, icons, even though their own prophet had spared Christian icons in the Kaaba. This edict would have at least reached the ears of Byzantine Muslims and the next seven years of influence eventually led to converting Byzantine Christians to believe in iconoclasm because Constantinople was the border city between the Muslim Empire and the Byzantine Empire. A knowledgeable Muslim would have pointed out that the Old Testament says no images of God and yet they have images of Christ who they believe to be God. From there it isn't terribly difficult to push further, especially not in the ignorant era of the middle ages.
Grundbegriff wrote:It's ok if you disagree. I have no need to induce you into a more complex historiography.
Disagreement is good, it means one of us can learn from the other if the truth could be knowable. What sort of factors do you believe had a stronger impact on the advance of iconoclasm specifically?
Grundbegriff wrote:Nope. That would be why I stated earlier that
Well, if you agree that they played a significant role in this then I'm not sure what more we're debating about. Did you think that I was saying the coins were the only thing causing the Muslim influence? We must just be in disagreement over the degree of Muslim influence. I see a clear chronological progression leading up to it that indicates a direct influence taking advantage of the existing unrest there. You seem to be giving the unrest itself a greater elevation as a cause but I don't think the unrest would necessarily have found an outlet in iconoclasm without Muslim influence here.
Grundbegriff wrote:
me wrote: I believe the rise of the iconoclasts is now largely considered to be the result of numerous factors. Islamic iconoclasm was one of them, but not necessarily the main one. Social, economic, and theological factors were already at work in the early Christian and early Byzantine eras made the terrain fertile for iconoclastic influences.
To be sure, Islamic influence was an important factor. If you think there's a strong reason to reduce the tapestry of such factors to this one the factor, you're free to do that. If you then need to reduce that to a single dispute over the face of a coin, rather than regard that as the incidental occasion for a culture to work out its larger issues, then that's your prerogative. I won't join you; perhaps I do history differently from the way you do history.
I'd agree that there were factors at work for civil unrest already there, but not iconoclasm. The discussion at hand is specifically regarding the change in policy that led to the destruction of icons that had otherwise been safe for the previous 700 years. I do think that Islam was soley responsible for introducing iconoclasm as an acceptable outlet for the frustrations already existing but I don't think Islam was by any means soley responsible for the unrest. That being said, they had laid siege to Constantinople twice before that probably did lead to this unrest. Constantinople was a battle zone for all this time. This would have impacted them in all those areas you mentioned as being at work there and could likewise have the/a root cause of the unrest.
Grundbegriff wrote:In any event, I appreciate your zeal for olden times.

(Edit: fixed incorrect quote tags)
Yes! This has been a lot of fun, thank you so much for this discussion.
Smutly wrote:Just want to say I'm impressed with the breadth of knowledge on this subject. Yowzers.
I'm really happy to have a civil discussion on the topic that doesn't lead to Muslim bashing or a furious debate. It seems that in-person it's difficult to find people knowledgeable on the subject and online it's typically people unwilling to discuss it with civility.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Enough »

Great dialog, thanks guys. And now some 8,000-year-old Morocco carvings have been destroyed.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Enough wrote:Great dialog, thanks guys. And now some 8,000-year-old Morocco carvings have been destroyed.
For anyone reading the article, Salafism is an expression of the Sunni faith. There is a bit more to it than just that, but they generally follow the same hadiths with an extra premium on tradition.

8,000 year old carvings. *sigh* This has to be stopped.

Interestingly enough, the Arab Spring may actually increase these activities (it usually happens when they're in control of the area rather than random attacks). It's an unfortunate consequence of necessary change.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Carpet_pissr »

Dammit. About 10 years ago, I had a taxi driver take me out to that exact area outside of Marrakech to see some of the Berber culture (and walk around the mountains a bit) but he didn't mention anything about 8,000 year old carvings, which I would have loved to seen! :(

The location indicator on the map attached to that article appears to be wrong, unless the location cited is not right.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Carpet_pissr wrote:Dammit. About 10 years ago, I had a taxi driver take me out to that exact area outside of Marrakech to see some of the Berber culture (and walk around the mountains a bit) but he didn't mention anything about 8,000 year old carvings, which I would have loved to seen! :(

The location indicator on the map attached to that article appears to be wrong, unless the location cited is not right.
http://gulfnews.com/news/region/morocco ... -1.1091000" target="_blank
This article also appears to have some conflicting information on location. It appears to have happened in the Toubkal National Park so I'm not sure why they all keep mentioning Rabat in the North.

This is all quite tragic. We are losing very ancient sites and artifacts at an alarming rate.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Enough »

This time it's not religious fundamentalists destroying a 2,600 year-old Buddhist city in Afghanistan, it is instead a Chinese copper mine.
This site is called Mes Aynak and is nothing short of awe-inspiring: a massive walled-in Buddhist city featuring massive temples, monasteries, and thousands of Buddhist statues that managed to survive looters and the Taliban. Holding a key position on the Silk Road, Mes Aynak was also an international hub for traders and pilgrims from all over Asia.

Hundreds of fragile manuscripts detailing daily life at the site are still yet to be excavated. Beneath the Buddhist dwellings is an even older yet-unearthed Bronze age site indicated by several recent archaeological findings.

Mes Aynak is set for destruction at the end of December 2012. All of the temples, monasteries, statues as well as the Bronze age material will all be destroyed by a Chinese government-owned company called China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC). Six villages and the mountain range will also be destroyed to create a massive open-pit style copper mine.
Also, here's a link to a Kickstarter page with more info.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Enough wrote:This time it's not religious fundamentalists destroying a 2,600 year-old Buddhist city in Afghanistan, it is instead a Chinese copper mine.
This site is called Mes Aynak and is nothing short of awe-inspiring: a massive walled-in Buddhist city featuring massive temples, monasteries, and thousands of Buddhist statues that managed to survive looters and the Taliban. Holding a key position on the Silk Road, Mes Aynak was also an international hub for traders and pilgrims from all over Asia.

Hundreds of fragile manuscripts detailing daily life at the site are still yet to be excavated. Beneath the Buddhist dwellings is an even older yet-unearthed Bronze age site indicated by several recent archaeological findings.

Mes Aynak is set for destruction at the end of December 2012. All of the temples, monasteries, statues as well as the Bronze age material will all be destroyed by a Chinese government-owned company called China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC). Six villages and the mountain range will also be destroyed to create a massive open-pit style copper mine.
Also, here's a link to a Kickstarter page with more info.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Carpet_pissr »

Ugh.
"Extremist calls for destruction of Egyptian antiquities"
http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/12/world/wed ... ?hpt=hp_t3" target="_blank
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by msduncan »

Carpet_pissr wrote:Ugh.
"Extremist calls for destruction of Egyptian antiquities"
http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/12/world/wed ... ?hpt=hp_t3" target="_blank
Dude basically said: I was in the Taliban and it was awesome fun to do it to the ancient Buddhist statues... let's do it here!
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Carpet_pissr wrote:Ugh.
"Extremist calls for destruction of Egyptian antiquities"
http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/12/world/wed ... ?hpt=hp_t3" target="_blank
I find it interesting that the media feels the need to say "Extremist" before anything involving religiously incited violence/destruction is mentioned. I disagree with the implication that this individual's beliefs are non-mainstream. There are, of course, two ways to view "extremist". But their intention is to state that not all Muslims are like that, and they certainly aren't (especially in America). But it needs to be understood that this desire to destroy icons is completely mainstream. The media needs to express this so that we understand the sort of threat human history is facing over there. Legitimized destruction. Once these things are gone, that's it.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by GreenGoo »

Gavin wrote:
Carpet_pissr wrote:Ugh.
"Extremist calls for destruction of Egyptian antiquities"
http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/12/world/wed ... ?hpt=hp_t3" target="_blank
I find it interesting that the media feels the need to say "Extremist" before anything involving religiously incited violence/destruction is mentioned. I disagree with the implication that this individual's beliefs are non-mainstream. There are, of course, two ways to view "extremist". But their intention is to state that not all Muslims are like that, and they certainly aren't (especially in America). But it needs to be understood that this desire to destroy icons is completely mainstream. The media needs to express this so that we understand the sort of threat human history is facing over there. Legitimized destruction. Once these things are gone, that's it.
So it's the non-mainstream forces that are keeping them at bay? The pyramids and sphinx are still there.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

GreenGoo wrote:So it's the non-mainstream forces that are keeping them at bay? The pyramids and sphinx are still there.
Actually, in this situation it's a little bit of everyone. Mainstream Muslims and all the other religions. It's quite an interesting setup.

These objects are of particular importance to the well-being of the government and its people. People travel to Egypt to see these wonders and everyone makes a lot of money from it. This may be somewhat pessimistic of me to say, but the dollar usually trumps religion. The current economic downturn as well as tourists afraid to go to Egypt after the revolt has likely increased these sentiments.

I'll remind you that they've already attacked the Sphinx in the past (hence the missing nose). The Sphinx is the most vulnerable here as an object that that depicts a living being (something they're strongly against) and has been known to be worshipped in the past if it is no longer worshipped now. The pyramids are less at risk, if not just because of their size, than also because they aren't representative art.

But tell me, if you or your family owned a hotel, a marketplace shop, a restaurant, or anything else that regularly profited from tourists. Would you encourage destroying the things drawing crowds past their livelihood or would you encourage giving it a pass? Muslims aren't fools.

Either way, the mandate to destroy such objects is quite clear in their faith. Just because they may not act on it doesn't mean it's not a mainstream belief. It also doesn't mean that they don't act on it in smaller ways on icons whose existence does not benefit them financially.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by GreenGoo »

But you said that you disagreed that this person's beliefs were non-mainstream, and in your above post, you start out by describing the prevention of their destruction as mainstream, and then state that even though they don't actually destroy anything, doesn't mean the belief that they should be destroyed isn't mainstream.

Both sides of this equation are mainstream?
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

GreenGoo wrote:But you said that you disagreed that this person's beliefs were non-mainstream, and in your above post, you start out by describing the prevention of their destruction as mainstream, and then state that even though they don't actually destroy anything, doesn't mean the belief that they should be destroyed isn't mainstream.

Both sides of this equation are mainstream?
You appear to be talking about a region, I'm talking about a religion. The region (Egypt) specifically benefits from these icons and so are motivated to preserve them despite their nation being mostly Sunni. The religion teaches that representative art is evil and if it's worshipped that's a double whammy (in either case they are to be destroyed, but even moreso if used as an idol). Sunni's from Iran might be more than willing to have the Sphinx destroyed for what it is. The difference is in region/culture, not religion, since Sunni Muslims in Egypt still avoid icons in any other typical ways.

Again, the belief is absolutely mainstream Islam, regardless of whether or not the majority in a region are willing to act on it in this instance. If anything, these iconoclasts are just being consistent whereas the Egyption Sunnis are not.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by GreenGoo »

Well yeah, I thought your comments were directed at the link Carpet_pissr posted, since that is what you quoted. If you're talking in general, then I'm going to have to disagree even more.

There are plenty of tenets in Christianity that are no longer mainstream, and it's not that all Christians agree with them but just don't enforce them, either. Since I have more experience with Christians than Muslims, and I see this situation in Christianity, I don't see any reason to think it is different for Muslims.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

GreenGoo wrote:Well yeah, I thought your comments were directed at the link Carpet_pissr posted, since that is what you quoted. If you're talking in general, then I'm going to have to disagree even more.
The link was talking about the militant Islamist desiring to destroy Egyptian icons, correct?
GreenGoo wrote:There are plenty of tenets in Christianity that are no longer mainstream, and it's not that all Christians agree with them but just don't enforce them, either. Since I have more experience with Christians than Muslims, and I see this situation in Christianity, I don't see any reason to think it is different for Muslims.
What is "mainstream" changes with the group. Roman Catholicism today does not look like Catholicism 1500 years ago. There are beliefs they hold now that would have led to expulsion by themselves back then.

Mainstream is indeed the beliefs that are most commonly held. Jesus was a man (in addition to being God) is a mainstream Christian belief, that Jesus was a stealth ninja assassin bunny is not.

In Islam we have schools of law that interpret the Qur`an and its Hadiths into well-defined beliefs and even Sharia laws. The Sunni faith (the name comes from Sunnah, or Hadith) adheres to 6 major sources of hadiths and one of four schools of law. The things these schools teach are like basic religious tenets of the Christian faith. They are the mainstream beliefs. Iconoclasm isn't just expressed in all four of their schools, but it's also still present in Islamic nations in their art and architecture. Compare this to the largest branch of Islam, the Shia expression (around 15-20% of Islam). They are not only much more lax where it comes to images, but are actually known to produce images of their Prophet. This is because they adhere to a seperate set of hadiths and have their own school of law.

It's because of these things that we can clearly say what is mainstream and what is not. This iconoclasm isn't just a wishy washy tenet on the way out. It's actually a core identifier of the Sunni expression of the faith. It has been ever since the inception of the faith and is why we continue to see them lash out against icons to this day.

Please note, I'm not saying Muslims are bad, or evil, or any of that stuff. I am merely establishing that this isn't a radical belief, it's a stable and mainstream one. It's particularly stable because their Prophet Muhammad set a precedence for it by destroying all the idols in Mecca (except for the Christian Icons). There are other hadiths in their 6 collections that likewise affirm it. But anything the Prophet did directly is held in the highest esteem.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Malachite »

If destroying things like the Sphinx and the pyramids was mainstream, then all of these ancient monuments that have been discussed in this thread would have been destroyed long before now, and this thread wouldn't exist.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by noxiousdog »

Malachite wrote:If destroying things like the Sphinx and the pyramids was mainstream, then all of these ancient monuments that have been discussed in this thread would have been destroyed long before now, and this thread wouldn't exist.
Vandalism is pretty mainstream. It's only the degree of vandalism where it becomes non-mainstream.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Malachite wrote:If destroying things like the Sphinx and the pyramids was mainstream, then all of these ancient monuments that have been discussed in this thread would have been destroyed long before now, and this thread wouldn't exist.
The pyramids don't really cross any lines. They're not representative art and they aren't particularly worshipped themselves. So there's no beef with them in particular.

The Sphinx, however, crosses both lines and has been attacked by Muslims in the past (hence the missing nose). It's important to note that Egypt has not always been Muslim just as it was not always Coptic Christian before that. Islam has significantly expanded in the past 500 years and was only officially accepted as the state religion in the early 1900's.

Additionally, Egypt was primarily Shiite early on and that only began to shift over to the Sunni expression around 1174 ce (http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/res ... ries/egypt" target="_blank).

Egypt was ruled by the Mamluks from 1250-1517 ce. Note that Mamluks are not typically arabic or from a Muslim background (a militant slave caste that became reverred and elevated in status). Their focus was primarily on war during this time frame and the exact muslim beliefs could have been all over the board. The state had definitely shifted to Sunnism by this time as I said but the energy was generally focused outward rather than inward. The Mamluks continued to have a significant presence under the ottoman empire even after 1517 so this may have contributed to a general degree of acceptance of the Sphinx during this time span. I will note that the Sphinx was attacked in 1378 ce if the only first hand accounts are to be trusted.

Colonialism also provided a respite from these things for the Sphinx in the 18th and 19th century. Islamic activism in particular has seen a resurgence as of late due to Egypts loss in the 6-day war in the 70's. I'd say the complete destruction of the Sphinx by human hands is only be a matter of time unless the Egyptian government is taking greater precautions to protect it.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Malachite »

Gavin wrote:I find it interesting that the media feels the need to say "Extremist" before anything involving religiously incited violence/destruction is mentioned. .... But it needs to be understood that this desire to destroy icons is completely mainstream.
Again, the reason the media feels the need to label people threatening to blow ancient sites up as extremist is because the act of blowing ancient sites up IS extremist. If blowing this stuff up was mainstream, there wouldn't be all these ancient sites around to be blown up, because they would have been blown up long ago.

So it's perfectly reasonable that people who make extremist threats and actions are labelled extremist, because they are not mainstream. The religious beliefs they use to justify their actions may be mainstream, but clearly only the extremists see those beliefs as a reason to actually blow shit up.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Malachite wrote:
Gavin wrote:I find it interesting that the media feels the need to say "Extremist" before anything involving religiously incited violence/destruction is mentioned. .... But it needs to be understood that this desire to destroy icons is completely mainstream.
Again, the reason the media feels the need to label people threatening to blow ancient sites up as extremist is because the act of blowing ancient sites up IS extremist. If blowing this stuff up was mainstream, there wouldn't be all these ancient sites around to be blown up, because they would have been blown up long ago.

So it's perfectly reasonable that people who make extremist threats and actions are labelled extremist, because they are not mainstream. The religious beliefs they use to justify their actions may be mainstream, but clearly only the extremists see those beliefs as a reason to actually blow shit up.
No disagreements that their actions are extremist, correct.

But extreme generally establishes a deviation from the norm. It is "extreme". If the belief that such icons should be destroyed is mainstream, then it isn't extreme. Keep in mind that this practice happens all the time at a smaller scale (small paintings/drawings getting destroyed and the children being whipped for it). The fact that the scale of the action is larger doesn't make it extreme, not necessarily. If the culture practices this thing on a general level it really isn't that extreme for someone to apply the same practice to something more recognizable.

Now then, you see actions like murdering innocent civilians in a suicide attack and this is incredibly extreme. Especially if they kill other Muslism. Because this isn't mainstream in thought or scripture or even on a smaller scale.

So I understand the use some times, but not in this event.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Malachite »

:grund:
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Malachite wrote::grund:
That's a fantastically adult way to have a discussion. Carry on.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Carpet_pissr »

Without taking a poll of the Egyptian population, and REALLY being able to know what is in the heart of the Egyptian people, I think what Malachite is saying, is that even given that these beliefs are based on religion, or that the religion mandates it, that MOST Egyptians are most likely not on board with destroying such important cultural icons (probably especially their own!). We can take a hint that that is the case, anecdotally I guess, based on the fact that the Egyptian interviewer, asks the guy three times, very directly, if he would destroy them. I assume because what he was hearing was so...incredible and ridiculous.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Carpet_pissr wrote:Without taking a poll of the Egyptian population, and REALLY being able to know what is in the heart of the Egyptian people, I think what Malachite is saying, is that even given that these beliefs are based on religion, or that the religion mandates it, that MOST Egyptians are most likely not on board with destroying such important cultural icons (probably especially their own!). We can take a hint that that is the case, anecdotally I guess, based on the fact that the Egyptian interviewer, asks the guy three times, very directly, if he would destroy them. I assume because what he was hearing was so...incredible and ridiculous.
Iconoclasm is a basic Sunni belief. It is definitely the majority view. Applying it to the Sphinx in particular is what varies, because they aren't just Muslim, they're also Egyptian. The Sphinx is a source of great personal pride and history for them. So there's natural conflict on the issue. But as I said, this has come up before and the Sphinx lost.

The number of people returning to more militant Islamic roots have begun to increase significantly after they lost to Israel in that 6-day war.

I find it interesting how much Muslim nations seem to hate Jews (though Israelis typically hate Muslims too). There is specific protective language in the Qur`an for Christians and Jews (and Sabians...) and their first qibla was facing Israel. So there were strong ties initially that have significantly devolved since.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Malachite »

6 centuries ago, the sphinx was attacked, and lost it's nose. And the guy who did it was hanged for it. 6 centuries ago.

Since then some of Napoleon's soldiers may have lobbed a cannonball at it. Or maybe some British dudes. Or maybe not.



But hey, destroying the sphinx and the pyramids is totally mainstream, not extremist at all. Heck, half the population does it, at least twice a week!
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Gavin »

Malachite wrote:But hey, destroying the sphinx and the pyramids is totally mainstream, not extremist at all. Heck, half the population does it, at least twice a week!
Perhaps I need to repeat it again, by itself, so that you understand what is being said:

Iconoclasm is a completely mainstream belief. This is true in their laws, in their religion, in their art and architecture, and in their actions.

Destroying the Sphinx in particular does not appear to be mainstream because they are also Egyptian and it is part of their cultural heritage. These two things, iconoclasm and heritage are in conflict and one will win out. Considering that iconoclasm only has to win out one time, I'd place my bets there. That "event" 600 years ago only tells us that iconoclasm is a 600 year-old belief. But we already knew that, it's much older.

As for the Napoleon/British soldier bit, we KNOW they didn't knock the noses off. That historical writing in the 1400's that ascribes the nose loss to the Sufi Muslim predates the French/British involvement by several centuries. It's a cute myth, but I'm not sure why it's perpetuated. At the very least, we have a 1737 sketch from Frederick Lewis Norden with it missing the nose. This is not to be confused with another 1737 drawing with it having one. Now then, we must assume that either Norden was taking prophetic artistic license with the nose missing or that it significantly predated Napoleon. As for the writer from the 1400's, who would have been 14 when the nose was destroyed, it would also have to be assumed that he likewise practiced prophetic license.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Unagi »

If I may; How many, out of 100, muslims (living today) would you estimate have (or wished they could have) participated in the destuction of some cultural icon?

60?
10?
ballpark...

just trying to get a feeling for how you picture it, and what you mean by 'mainstream'.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Malachite »

Gavin wrote: Perhaps I need to repeat it again, by itself, so that you understand what is being said:
Have you ever considered that you keep repeating yourself because you keep completely missing the points that other people are making? No, of course not, that's just not possible! The fact that you keep having this problem, in multiple threads, with multiple people, does not at all represent a pattern.
Gavin wrote:That "event" 600 years ago only tells us that iconoclasm is a 600 year-old belief. But we already knew that, it's much older.
And the fact that it hasn't been repeated in 600 years tells us absolutely nothing. Gotcha. :roll:
Gavin wrote: As for the writer from the 1400's, who would have been 14 when the nose was destroyed, it would also have to be assumed that he likewise practiced prophetic license.
What a fascinating assumption to make! Because someone who is 14 years old at the time an event happens would (a) not be able to write about it later in his life without "practicing prophetic license". Really? It must have come from God, because there's just no way he could have remembered it a few decades later??

And (b) not have access to contemporary accounts when he sat down to write his history. Nope, of course not! You know those 14th century Arabs. No one ever wrote things down at all!
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by noxiousdog »

Unagi wrote:If I may; How many, out of 100, muslims (living today) would you estimate have (or wished they could have) participated in the destuction of some cultural icon?

60?
10?
ballpark...

just trying to get a feeling for how you picture it, and what you mean by 'mainstream'.
Vandalism is part of every culture I've been around. Even if it's a small percentage of the population, it's ubiquitous.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Malachite »

noxiousdog wrote:Vandalism is part of every culture I've been around. Even if it's a small percentage of the population, it's ubiquitous.
And you see this guy threatening to blow up the great pyramids and the sphinx to be just the same as a bored kid carving his name on a park bench, or a gang banger tagging an overpass?

Do you think Morgan Al-Gohary, a jihadi sheikh with a history of radicalism sees himself as just a punk kid tagging the landscape?


Edit: Punctuation matters...
Last edited by Malachite on Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Ancient site destruction thread

Post by Grifman »

Gavin wrote:The discussion at hand is specifically regarding the change in policy that led to the destruction of icons that had otherwise been safe for the previous 700 years.
One of the factors was the view of Byzantine Christians of how God worked in the world, especially as how that could be linked to the almost unending series of defeats they suffered at Muslim hands. From the reign of Heraclius to Leo, the Byzantines suffered defeat after defeat, losing Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa, and even after things stabilized they suffered from annual Muslim raids into Asia Minor. To them the defeats had to be a sign of God's disfavor - they had to be doing something wrong to be suffering his wrath. Casting about for reasons, they came to icons. The Muslims banned most religious art and were obviously successful against Byzantium. Could infidels though they were, could they be receiving God's favor because of this ban? Could God be using them to point the way for his people, the Christians? You can't underestimate what severe defeat will do as people seek reasons for those defeats.
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