Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Museion

Antioch, like its rival Alexandria, also had its Museion, though that of Alexandria seems to have come first. Of course the most famous part of the Alexandria complex was the famed Library. Antioch's also contained a substantial library component.

In reality these complexes had their origins as shrines to the Muses but that transmogrified rather rapidly into the first universities. While Alexandria's had a long and illustrious fame turning out well known artists and intellectuals over the centuries, Antioch's, we must confess, had a more humble and obscure output.

The Museion in Antioch was reportedly on the lower slopes of Mt Silpius near to the "old" city but on the higher side of the colonnaded street. We have a report in Stinespring of the Vatican Codex that may refer to this establishment:

"And they constructed buildings of learning. Among these is a circular structure, in the middle of which is a dome 100 cubits high; and in this is a reproduction of the heavens, including stars, signs of the zodiac and horoscopes, with movements which have been worked out by the savants and completed by the Brahmins, who in the science of the heavens, have reached the highest rank. So nothing moves in the real heavens, without having its likeness reporduced: sun, moon and everything which is in the heavens. "

Is this the first planetarium??

According to Lassus, the Museion was near the agora of Epiphania, was founded under Antiochus Philpator, burnt under Tiberius, reconstructed by Marcus Aurelius and then under Probus, embellished under the Empress Eudoxia in 438 AD. Constantine converted it to use as the prefectory of the comes Orientis (the Count of the East, the principal Byzantine official in the Eastern part of the Empire) but it was burnt down in a riot of the Green faction on the 9th of July 507.

Norris, in Antioch as a Religious Center, notes that Malalas mentions a merchant, Maron of Antioch, who had gone to Athens and made good. In his will, he mandated the construction of a temple to the Muses and a library. This occurred during the reign of either Antiochus IX (114-95 BC) or Antiochus X (95-92 BC). This shrine was destroyed by a fire during the reign of Tiberius.

Norris also notes that Marcus Aurelius constructed a Museum in Antioch with a sigma-shaped Nymphaeum. In the reign of Probus (276-282 AD), the Museum was further adorned and a mosaic of Oceanus was added which resulted in the structure being popularly known as the "the Ocean". Muller suggested that this Nymphaeum was probably an ornamental screen in front of the Museum itself. Somewhat akin maybe to the Septizonium in Rome.

Menawhile, Julian had an extensive library, but he reigned after the Museion had been turned over to new uses. John of Antioch, a rather obscure figure, writes in the Suda:

"Emperor Hadrian had built a beautiful temple for the worship of his father Trajan which, on the orders of Emperor Julian, the eunuch Theophilus had made into a library. Jovian, at the urging of his wife, burned the temple with all the books in it with his concubines laughing and setting the fire. "

This supposedly occurred around 364 AD. James Hannam comments that one might have doubts on this as neither Libanius nor Ammianus comment on this rather significant event.

Johannes Hahn in his work Gewalt und religiöser Konflikt (pp. 178-180)
relates:

"Jovian ordered the destruction of the Traianeum, which Julian had converted to a library, because he wanted to gain the favour of the Antiochians. However, he failed completely: not only the pagans but also the Christians interpreted this as a barbaric act "

John Walden in his book, The Universities of Ancient Greece says "There was a library at Antioch as early as the end of the third century B. C., of which Euphorion of Chalcis was librarian, and much later — in the middle of the first century — a museum and library were established there by Antiochus XIII".

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