Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas

Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. In several countries, celebrating Christmas Eve on December 24 has the main focus rather than December 25, with gift-giving and sharing a traditional meal with the family.



The traditional Christmas narrative, the Nativity of Jesus, delineated in the New Testament says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in accordance with messianic prophecies; when Joseph and Mary arrived in the city, the inn had no room and so they were offered a stable where the Christ Child was soon born, with angels proclaiming this news to shepherds who then disseminated the message furthermore.

Nativity of Jesus

Christmas Day is a public holiday in many of the world's nations, is celebrated religiously by the vast majority of Christians, as well as culturally by a number of non-Christian people, and is an integral part of the holiday season, while some Christian groups reject the celebration.


Although the month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, by the early-to-mid 4th century the Western Christian Church had placed Christmas on December 25, a date which was later adopted in the East. Today, most Christians celebrate on December 25 in the Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted almost universally in the civil calendars used in countries throughout the world.


Although it is not known why December 25 became a date of celebration, there are several factors that may have influenced the choice. December 25 was the date the Romans marked as the winter solstice, and Jesus was identified with the Sun based on an Old Testament verse. The date is exactly nine months following Annunciation, when the conception of Jesus is celebrated. Finally, the Romans had a series of pagan festivals near the end of the year, so Christmas may have been scheduled at this time to appropriate, or compete with, one or more of these festivals.

The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas of 800

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on Christmas Day in 800. King Edmund the Martyr was anointed on Christmas in 855 and  King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day 1066.


By the High Middle Ages, the holiday had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates celebrated Christmas. King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten. The Yule boar was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang.


Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival that incorporated ivy, holly, and other evergreens. Christmas gift-giving during the Middle Ages was usually between people with legal relationships, such as tenant and landlord. The annual indulgence in eating, dancing, singing, sporting, and card playing escalated in England, and by the 17th century the Christmas season featured lavish dinners, elaborate masques, and pageants. In 1607, King James I insisted that a play be acted on Christmas night and that the court indulge in games.


In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote the novel 'A Christmas Carol' that helped revive the "spirit" of Christmas and seasonal merriment. Its instant popularity played a major role in portraying Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion. Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, linking "worship and feasting, within a context of social reconciliation." A prominent phrase from the tale, "Merry Christmas", was popularized following the appearance of the story.

Ghost of Christmas Present from the book A Christmas Carol.

In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced in the early 19th century following the personal union with the Kingdom of Hanover by Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, wife of King George III. In 1832, the future Queen Victoria wrote about her delight at having a Christmas tree, hung with lights, ornaments, and presents placed round it. After her marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert, by 1841 the custom became more widespread throughout Britain.

Queen  Victoria celebrating Christmas at Windsor.

Often interchangeable figures, known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Christkind, are associated with bringing gifts to children during the Christmas season and have their own body of traditions and lore. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

Santa Claus

The best known of these figures today is red-dressed Santa Claus, of diverse origins. The name Santa Claus can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a 4th-century Greek bishop of Myra, a city in the Roman province of Lycia, whose ruins are 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from modern Demre in southwest Turkey.

Saint Nicholas of Myra



Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Sasanian Empire of Persia

The Sasanian Empire was the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, ruled by and named after the Sasanian dynasty from 224 CE to 651 CE. The Sasanian Empire, which succeeded the Parthian Empire, was recognized as one of the leading world powers alongside its neighboring arch-rival the Roman-Byzantine Empire, for a period of more than 400 years.

Ghal'eh Dokhtar in present-day Fars, Firuzabad, Iran

The Sasanian Empire was founded by Ardashir I, after the fall of the Parthian Empire and the defeat of the last Arsacid king, Artabanus V. Afterwards, Ardashir called himself "shahanshah" and began conquering the land that he called Iran.

Ardashir I

At its greatest extent, the Sasanian Empire encompassed all of today's Iran, Iraq, Eastern Arabia (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatif, Qatar, UAE), the Levant (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan), Armenia, the Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Dagestan, South Ossetia, Abkhazia), Egypt, large parts of Turkey, much of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), Yemen and Pakistan.



The Sasanian Empire during Late Antiquity is considered to have been one of Iran's most important and influential historical periods, and constituted the last great Iranian empire before the Muslim conquest and the adoption of Islam. In many ways, the Sasanian period witnessed the peak of ancient Iranian civilization.

A Sassanid king posing as an armored cavalryman, Taq-e Bostan, Iran


Persia influenced Roman culture considerably during the Sasanian period. The Sasanians' cultural influence extended far beyond the empire's territorial borders, reaching as far as Western Europe, Africa, China and India. It played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art. Much of what later became known as Islamic culture in art, architecture, music and other subject matter was transferred from the Sasanians throughout the Muslim world.

A Sasanian silver plate

Ardashir I's son Shapur I continued the expansion of the empire, conquering Bactria and the western portion of the Kushan Empire, while leading several campaigns against Rome. Invading Roman Mesopotamia, Shapur I captured Carrhae and Nisibis, but in 243 the Roman general Timesitheus defeated the Persians at Rhesaina and regained the lost territories.

The Humiliation of Valerian by Shapur I, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1521

Shapur soon resumed the war, defeated the Romans at Barbalissos (253), and then probably took and plundered Antioch. Roman counter-attacks under the emperor Valerian ended in disaster when the Roman army was defeated and besieged at Edessa and Valerian was captured by Shapur, remaining his prisoner for the rest of his life. 

Shapur I and Byzantine emperor Valerian

Culturally, the Sassanids implemented a system of social stratification. This system was supported by Zoroastrianism, which was established as the state religion. Other religions appear to have been largely tolerated, although this claim has been debated. Sassanid emperors consciously sought to resuscitate Persian traditions and to obliterate Greek cultural influence.

Sasanian silk twill textile

Persian industry under the Sasanians developed from domestic to urban forms. Guilds were numerous. Good roads and bridges, well patrolled, enabled state post and merchant caravans to link Ctesiphon with all provinces; and harbors were built in the Persian Gulf to quicken trade with India. Sasanian merchants ranged far and wide and gradually ousted Romans from the lucrative Indian ocean trade routes.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Huns of the Steppe

The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia between the 1st century AD and the 7th century AD. They were first mentioned in Roman sources by the historian Tacitus in 91 CE as living in the region around the Caspian Sea and, at that time, are not mentioned as any more of a threat to Rome than any other barbarian tribes. By 370, the Huns had established a vast, if short-lived, dominion in Europe.

14th-century painting of the Huns laying siege to a city.

The Romans became aware of the Huns when the Hunnic invasion of the Pontic steppes forced thousands of Goths to move to the Lower Danube to seek refuge in the Roman Empire in 376. They invaded the land of the Alans, which was located to the east of the Don River. As early as 380, a group of Huns was given Foederati status and allowed to settle in Pannonia. Hunnish mercenaries were also seen on several occasions in the succession struggles of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire during the late 4th century.

Huns in battle with the Alans.

In 395 the Huns began their first large-scale attack on the Eastern Roman Empire. Huns attacked in Thrace, overran Armenia, and pillaged Cappadocia. They entered parts of Syria, threatened Antioch, and swarmed through the province of Euphratesia. The forces of Emperor Theodosius were fully committed in the west so the Huns moved unopposed until the end of 398 when the eunuch Eutropius gathered together a force composed of Romans and Goths and succeeded in restoring peace. 

Emperor Theodosius

In 399 CE, the Huns invaded the Sassanid Empire. This invasion was initially successful, coming close to the capital of the empire at Ctesiphon; however, they were defeated badly during the Persian counterattack and retreated toward the Caucasus Mountains via the Derbend Pass.

Ctesiphon

The Huns do not then appear to have been a single force with a single ruler. Many Huns were employed as mercenaries by both East and West Romans and by the Goths. Uldin, the first Hun known by name, headed a group of Huns and Alans fighting against Radagaisus in defense of Italy. Uldin was also known for defeating Gothic rebels giving trouble to the East Romans around the Danube and beheading the Goth Gainas around 400-401. Gainas' head was given to the East Romans for display in Constantinople in an apparent exchange of gifts.

Goth Gainas

Attila, frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. Attila was a leader of the Hunnic Empire, a tribal confederation consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans among others, on the territory of Central and Eastern Europe.


Attila the Hun

From 434 the brothers Attila and Bleda ruled the Huns together.In 435 they forced the Eastern Roman Empire to sign the Treaty of Margus, giving the Huns trade rights and an annual tribute from the Romans. The Romans also agreed to give up Hunnic refugees (individuals who could have threatened the brothers' grip on power) for execution. With their southern border protected by the terms of this treaty, the Huns could turn their full attention to the further subjugation of tribes to the west.


When the Romans breached the treaty in 440, Attila and Bleda attacked Castra Constantias, a Roman fortress and marketplace on the banks of the Danube. The Eastern Romans stopped delivery of the agreed tribute, and they broke other conditions of the Treaty of Margus and war broke out between the two empire. Although a truce was signed in 441, two years later Constantinople again failed to deliver the tribute and war resumed.


In the following campaign, Hun armies came alarmingly close to Constantinople, sacking Sardica, Arcadiopolis and Philippopolis along the way. Suffering a complete defeat at the Battle of Chersonesus, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II gave in to Hun demands and in autumn 443 signed the Peace of Anatolius with the two Hun kings. The Huns returned to their lands with a vast train full of plunder.

Theodosius II

Bleda died in 445. With his brother gone, Attila was able to establish undisputed control over his subjects. In 447, Attila turned the Huns back toward the Eastern Roman Empire once more. His invasion of the Balkans and Thrace was devastating. The Eastern Roman Empire was already beset by internal problems, such as famine and plague, as well as riots.


Victory over a Roman army left the Huns virtually unchallenged in Eastern Roman lands and they raided as far south as Thermopylae. Only disease forced them to retreat, and the war came to an end in 449 with an agreement in which the Romans agreed to pay Attila an annual tribute of 2100 pounds of gold.


Throughout their raids on the Eastern Roman Empire, the Huns had maintained good relations with the Western Empire, and in particular with Flavius Aetius, a powerful Roman general. However, this all changed in 450 when Honoria, sister of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, sent Attila a ring. Attila claimed her as his bride and half the Western Roman Empire as dowry.


Honoria

In 451, Attila's forces entered Gaul, accumulating contingents from the Franks, Goths and Burgundian tribes en route. Once in Gaul, the Huns first attacked Metz, then his armies continued westwards, passing both Paris and Troyes to lay siege to Orléans. Then, leading his horde across the Alps and into Northern Italy, he sacked and razed the cities of Aquileia, Vicetia, Verona, Brixia, Bergamum and Milan.

Hoping to avoid the sack of Rome, Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys, the high civilian officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, as well as Pope Leo I, who met Attila at Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua, and obtained from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy and negotiate peace with the emperor.

Pope Leo I

In 453, Atila married a girl with the Germanic name Ildico, and died of a haemorrhage on his wedding night. After Attila's death, while his sons Ellac, Dengizich and Ernak fought for the throne, former subjects soon united under Ardaric, leader of the Gepids, attacked the Huns at the Battle of Nedao in 454. This defeat and Ellac's death ended the European supremacy of the Huns, and soon afterwards they disappear from contemporary records. The Pannonian basin then was occupied by the Gepids, while various Gothic groups remained in the Balkans.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Classical Mayan Period

Various advanced cultures flourished simultaneously in the Americas between the 1st century BC and c.400-600 CE - a period that includes part of the great Mesoamerican "Classic" eras. Perhaps the best known of these cultures was that of the Maya people, who with their stunning temples and scientific knowledge created one of the most extra ordinary early American Civilizations.

Calakmul was one of the most important Classic period cities

The early Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.



The Classic period is largely defined as the period during which the lowland Maya raised dated monuments using the Long Count calendar. This period marked the peak of large-scale construction and urbanism, the recording of monumental inscriptions, and demonstrated significant intellectual and artistic development, particularly in the southern lowland regions. The Classic period Maya political landscape has been likened to that of Renaissance Italy or Classical Greece, with multiple city-states engaged in a complex network of alliances and enmities.

Long Count Calender

During the Classic Period, the Maya civilization achieved its greatest florescence.The Maya developed an agriculturally intensive, city-centred civilization consisting of numerous independent city-states – some subservient to others. During the Early Classic, cities throughout the Maya region were influenced by the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico.

A temple in Valley of Mexico

At its height during the Late Classic, the Tikal city polity had expanded to have a population of well over 100,000. Tikal's great rival was Calakmul(see above), another powerful city polity in the Petén Basin. Tikal and Calakmul both developed extensive systems of allies and vassals; lesser cities that entered one of these networks gained prestige from their association with the top-tier city, and maintained peaceful relations with other members of the same network.

Temple complex in Tikal 

Tikal and Calakmul engaged in the manoeuvering of their alliance networks against each other; at various points during the Classic period, one or other of these powers would gain a strategic victory over its great rival, resulting in respective periods of florescence and decline.


In the southeast, Copán was the most important city. Its Classic-period dynasty was founded in 426 by K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'.Copán reached the height of its cultural and artistic development during the rule of Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil, who reigned from 695 to 738. His reign ended catastrophically in April 738, when he was captured by his vassal, king K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat of Quiriguá(see below). The captured lord of Copán was taken back to Quiriguá and, in early May 738, he was decapitated in a public ritual.

Copán 

Capital cities of Maya kingdoms could vary considerably in size, apparently related to how many vassal cities were tied to the capital. Overlords of city-states that held sway over a greater number of subordinate lords could command greater quantities of tribute in the form of goods and labour. The most notable forms of tribute pictured on Maya ceramics are cacao, textiles and feathers.


The social basis of the Classic Maya civilization was an extended political and economic network that reached throughout the Maya area and beyond into the greater Mesoamerican region. The dominant Classic period polities were located in the central lowlands; during this period the southern highlands and northern lowlands can be considered culturally, economically, and politically peripheral to this core area. Those loci that existed between the core and the periphery acted as centres of trade and commerce.


The most notable monuments are the pyramid-temples and palaces they built in the centres of their greatest cities. At this time, the use of hieroglyphic script on monuments became widespread, and left a large body of information including dated dynastic records, alliances, and other interactions between Maya polities. The sculpting of stone stelae spread throughout the Maya area during the Classic period, and pairings of sculpted stelae and low circular altars are considered a hallmark of Classic Maya civilization.

Stela representing king K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat.


The Maya civilization participated in long-distance trade, and important trade routes ran from the Motagua River to the Caribbean Sea, then north up the coast to Yucatán. Another route ran from Verapaz along the Pasión River to the trading port at Cancuen; from there trade routes ran east to Belize, northwards to central and northern Petén, and onwards to the Gulf of Mexico and the west coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Important elite-status trade goods included jade, fine ceramics, and quetzal feathers. More basic trade goods may have included obsidian, salt and cacao.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Han Dynasty of China

The Han Dynasty, founded by Liu Bang in 202 BC, created a powerful centralized state with a highly efficient civil service that would serve as a model for future Chinese emperors over the next two millennia.

Gentlemen in conversation
Qin Shi Huang's son, the second emperor Qin Er Shi, fell under the influence of the eunuch Zhao Gao, who persuaded him to execute Li Si, his father's first minister, by having him cut into two at a market place at Xianyang. The emperor was forced to commit suicide in 207 BC.

Qin Er Shi

Upon this, Ziying, a nephew of Qin Er Shi, ascended the throne, and immediately executed Zhao Gao. Ziying, seeing that increasing unrest was growing among the people and that many local officials had declared themselves kings, attempted to cling to his throne by declaring himself one king among all the others. He was undermined by his ineptitude, however, and popular revolt broke out.

Ziying
Liu Bang rose to prominence as a leader of a rebel band. In 206 BC, he captured  Xianyang, the Qin capital, negotiated the surrender of the last Qin ruler. In 202 BC he assumed the style of sovereign ruler naming himself Gaozu and used Han as the title of the new dynasty.

Emperor Gaozu(Liu Bang)

The coinage issued by the central government mint in 119 BC remained the standard coinage of China until the Tang dynasty(618–907 AD). The period saw a number of limited institutional innovations. To pay for its military campaigns and the settlement of newly conquered frontier territories, the government nationalized the private salt and iron industries in 117 BC.

Han China Coin

Science and technology during the Han period saw significant advances, including papermaking, the nautical steering rudder, the use of negative numbers in mathematics, the raised-relief map, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere for astronomy, and a seismometer employing an inverted pendulum.


Paper from Han Period

Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BC) launched several military campaigns against Xiongnu, a nomadic steppe confederation. The ultimate Han victory in these wars eventually forced the Xiongnu to accept vassal status as Han tributaries. These campaigns expanded Han sovereignty into the Tarim Basin of Central Asia, divided the Xiongnu into two separate confederations, and helped establish the vast trade network known as the Silk Road, which reached as far as the Mediterranean world.

Emperor Wu of Han
Following the death of Emperor Ling(r. 168–189 AD), the palace eunuchs suffered wholesale massacre by military officers, allowing members of the aristocracy and military governors to become warlords and divide the empire. In 208 AD, Cao Cao(Chinese warlord and the penultimate Chancellor of the Eastern Han dynasty),  assumed power over the emperor.


After Cao's defeat at the naval Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 AD, China was divided into three spheres of influence, with Cao Cao dominating the north, Sun Quan (182–252 AD) dominating the south, and Liu Bei (161–223 AD) dominating the west. Cao Cao died in March 220 AD. By December his son Cao Pi (187–226 AD) had Emperor Xian relinquish the throne to him and is known posthumously as Emperor Wen of Wei. This formally ended the Han dynasty and initiated an age of conflict between three states: Cao Wei, Eastern Wu, and Shu Han. It was known as the Three Kingdom Period.

Cao Cao

The early Western Han court simultaneously accepted the philosophical teachings of Legalism, Huang-Lao Daoism, and Confucianism in making state decisions and shaping government policy. However, the Han court under Emperor Wu gave Confucianism exclusive patronage. He abolished all academic chairs not dealing with the Confucian Five Classics in 136 BC and encouraged nominees for office to receive a Confucian-based education at the Imperial University that he established in 124 BC.

Confucius

The most common staple crops consumed during Han were wheat, barley, foxtail millet, proso millet, rice, and beans. Commonly eaten fruits and vegetables included chestnuts, pears, plums, peaches, melons, apricots, strawberries, red bayberries, jujubes, calabash, bamboo shoots, mustard plant and taro. Domesticated animals that were also eaten included chickens, Mandarin ducks, geese, cows, sheep, pigs, camels and dogs.


The types of clothing worn and the materials used during the Han period depended upon social class. Wealthy folk could afford silk robes, skirts, socks, and mittens, coats made of badger or fox fur, duck plumes, and slippers with inlaid leather, pearls, and silk lining. Peasants commonly wore clothes made of hemp, wool, and ferret skins.

Han Dynasty Palace Model

A pottery model of a palace from a Han-dynasty tomb; the entrances to the emperor's palaces were strictly guarded by the Minister of the Guards; if it was found that a commoner, official, or noble entered without explicit permission via a tally system, the intruder was subject to execution.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Celtic Tribes

Fierce warriors and skilled iron workers with a love of feasting, the Celts swept across much of Europe during the 1st millennium BC. Their advance brought them into contact with many of the cultures that shaped history, including the Greeks and Romans. Later, they played a part in the rise of Christianity.

The Gundestrup cauldron detail

Although diverse tribes the ancient Celts spoke the same language and maintained the same artistic tradition which is characterised by the use of idiosyncratic flowing lines and forms. Celtic languages are still spoken today in parts of the British Isles and northern France.


They were a group of peoples loosely tied by similar language, religion, and cultural expression. They were not centrally governed, and quite as happy to fight each other as any non-Celt. They were warriors, living for the glories of battle and plunder. They were also the people who brought iron working to the British Isles.

Celtic Shield

During the later Iron Age the Gauls generally wore long-sleeved shirts or tunics and long trousers. Clothes were made of wool or linen, with some silk being used by the rich. Cloaks were worn in the winter. Brooches and armlets were used, but the most famous item of jewellery was the torc, a neck collar of metal, sometimes gold.

Reconstruction of Celtic clothes

Celtic art is generally used by art historians to refer to art of the La Tène period across Europe, while the Early Medieval art of Britain and Ireland, that is what "Celtic art" evokes for much of the general public, is called Insular art in art history. Much of the surviving material is in precious metal, which no doubt gives a very unrepresentative picture, but apart from Pictish stones and the Insular high crosses, large monumental sculpture, even with decorative carving, is very rare; possibly it was originally common in wood.

Celtic Art at back side of a mirror

Like other European Iron Age tribal societies, the Celts practised a polytheistic religion. Many Celtic gods are known from texts and inscriptions from the Roman period. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having human shapes until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.


The Romans knew the Celts then living in what became present-day France as Gauls. The territory of these peoples probably included the Low Countries, the Alps and present-day northern Italy. Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars described the 1st-century BC descendants of those Gauls.

The dying Gaul

Eastern Gaul became the centre of the western La Tène culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organisation resembled that of the Romans, with large towns. From the 3rd century BC the Gauls adopted coinage. Texts with Greek characters from southern Gaul have survived from the 2nd century BC.


Boudica was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. The crisis caused Roman Emperor Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain, but his general Suetonius' eventual victory over Boudica confirmed Roman control of the province. Boudica then either killed herself to avoid capture, or died of illness.

Boudica 

Archaeological evidence suggests that the pre-Roman Celtic societies were linked to the network of overland trade routes that spanned Eurasia. Archaeologists have discovered large prehistoric trackways crossing bogs in Ireland and Germany. Due to their substantial nature, these are believed to have been created for wheeled transport as part of an extensive roadway system that facilitated trade.


Celtic Wagon

While the regions under Roman rule adopted Christianity along with the rest of the Roman empire, unconquered areas of Ireland and Scotland began to move from Celtic polytheism to Christianity in the 5th century. Ireland was converted by missionaries from Britain, such as Saint Patrick. Later missionaries from Ireland were a major source of missionary work in Scotland, Anglo-Saxon parts of Britain, and central Europe.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Yayoi Period of Japan

The Yayoi period is an Iron Age era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to AD 300. It is named after the neighborhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new Yayoi pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. The Yayoi followed the Jōmon period (13,000–400 BC).

Recreation of Yayoi period settlement

Techniques in metallurgy based on the use of bronze and iron were also introduced to Japan in this period. Yayoi pottery was simply decorated and produced on a potter's wheel,as opposed to Jōmon pottery, which was produced by hand. Yayoi craft specialists made bronze ceremonial bells (dōtaku), mirrors, and weapons. By the 1st century AD, Yayoi farmers began using iron agricultural tools and weapons.


Unfortunately, metal ore supply was quite limited in Japan at the time, and so having metal items was indicative of higher status. Other materials that signified higher status were silk and glass which was produced in Kyushu, the southernmost island in Japan. Men of high status usually had more wives than those of lower rank.


With the introduction of farming, the diet and lifestyle of the Yayoi people drastically changed since they were now permanently settled and most of their food - rice, millet, beans, and gourds - was grown locally, with any hunting and gathering that occurred acting more as a supplement.

A Yayoi period jar

As the Yayoi population increased, the society became more stratified and complex. They wove textiles, lived in permanent farming villages, and constructed buildings with wood and stone. They also accumulated wealth through land ownership and the storage of grain. Such factors promoted the development of distinct social classes.


It was in the Yayoi that a class system based society appeared with around 100 clans forming by 100 CE, which would fight each other for dominance throughout the rest of the period. Though the clans were fighting one another, there would occasionally be alliances which would form small kingdoms for the purpose of military power or mutual economic success. 

Yoshinogari reconstruction

The earliest written records about people in Japan are from Chinese sources from this period. Wa, the Japanese pronunciation of an early Chinese name for Japan, was mentioned in 57 AD; the Na state of Wa received a golden seal from the Emperor Guangwu of the Later Han dynasty. This event was recorded in the Hou Han Shu compiled by Fan Ye in the 5th century. The seal itself was discovered in northern Kyūshū in the 18th century.

Golden seal from Han emperor

Third-century Chinese sources reported that the Wa(Japanese) people lived on raw fish, vegetables, and rice served on bamboo and wooden trays, clapped their hands in worship (something still done in Shinto shrines today), and built earthen-grave mounds. They also maintained vassal-master relations, collected taxes, had provincial granaries and markets, and observed mourning. Society was characterized by violent struggles.

A Yayoi period dōtaku bell, 3rd century AD

The Wei Zhi, which is part of the San Guo Zhi, Queen Himiko in the 3rd century. According to the record, Himiko assumed the throne of Wa, as a spiritual leader, after a major civil war. Her younger brother was in charge of the affairs of state, including diplomatic relations with the Chinese court Kingdom of Wei. When asked about their origins by the Wei embassy, the people of Wa claimed to be descendants of the Grand Count Tàibó of Wu, a historic figure of the Wu Kingdom around the Yangtze Delta of China.

Queen Himiko

The Yayoi would mark the transition of Japanese society from bands of hunter-gatherers with little contact with others to an agrarian, metalworking, political, and militarized society. The Yayoi set the foundations for what would now be known as medieval Japan with the introduction of rice-growing and metalworking, which allowed for a population expansion and weapons and armor production for military purposes.
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