Witness Accounts of Ancient Eastern Art Essay

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¶ … Witness Accounts of Ancient Eastern Art

Since the beginnings of time mankind has been devoted to creating art, with some of the first complex works of art being produced in the land between Tigris and Euphrates, by the Mesopotamian civilization. In their endeavor to create art, Mesopotamians typically concentrated on making connections between their leaders and the divine. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the best examples relating to the degree to which Mesopotamians venerated their kings. Gilgamesh is believed to have been a Sumerian ruler reigning sometime during the 27th century B.C. In the city of Uruk (Thackara).

The Babylonian poem relates to how the ancient ruler himself wrote the epic on a stone, making it possible for it to be transmitted through time. It is difficult to determine the exact time when the poem was written, given that there are a series of prehistoric texts relating to it. There are several versions of the story and historians have not agreed on a standard one, acknowledging all of them as main sources for the poem. One of the best known versions of the legend is the one found in the library of an Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, known to have reigned during the seventh century B.C. (Thackara).

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The epic is remarkable because it stands as oldest form of literature known to man. The majority of Mesopotamians appeal to be attracted the legend, similar to how a contemporary blockbuster motion picture draws the audience in large numbers. Moreover, people all across the Middle East have become fond of it, proving that literature is an essential part of a civilized human society.

Though it is virtually impossible for me to associate the poem with a particular period in time or with a particular writer, it is safe to say that Sumerians and individuals neighboring the land between the two rivers somewhere during the second and third millennia B.C. are all responsible for the final product that came to become one of the most important works of art in all of history (Thackara).

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The story has largely been influence by outside factors, such as invasions performed by Babylonians and Assyrians on the Sumerians. Even though Sumerians were conquered by these invaders, their culture lasted through time and was adapted in order to fit the needs of various influential Babylonians and Assyrians. It is surprising that these people (who would normally be expected to be desperate about worshipping any form of god they come across) are not hesitant about supporting a legend that mainly involves a human story, the most probable reason for this being that they identify with the story's protagonist (Thackara).

Considering the initial version of the story (even if it is not certain which one it is) and the fact that it was adapted through time, the Epic of Gilgamesh can be recognized as being part of history. Its roots go back approximately five millennia ago, having inspired numerous documents produced consequent to its first appearance. The poem is impressive because it puts across elaborate feelings, relating to topics involving friendship, the duality of man, and spirituality (Thackara).

In spite of the fact that there is little information regarding Ancient Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, the architectural projects she is responsible for have made it possible for her to be remembered through the ages as one of the most successful pharaohs. I have arrived in a period when Egypt is thriving in resources, making it almost impossible for a pharaoh to refrain from building daring architectural structures. The Queen's personality is surely something Egypt has never seen before, as she appears to be less interested in military campaigns (even if her military strategies proved to be effective) and more interested in achieving progress by promoting a peace. I personally observed that she is dedicated to support architecture, as it is one of the essential matters when concerning Ancient Egypt's well-being.

Her choice to engage in building the Deir el-Bahari monument came at a time when people still had limited architectural knowledge. Her protege, the royal Steward named Senmut appears to have outstanding and innovative architectural abilities, considering the new additions he made to the queen's initial plan regarding the Djeser-Djeseru mortuary temple complex. Even with the fact that there are only a small number of architects in Egypt in this period (1508 -- 1458 BC), judging from the complex knowledge possessed by those who are actively engaged in the industry, it is obvious that Egyptians consider architecture to be a foremost profession.

The Deir el-Bahari monument is the materialization of Hatshepsut's determined reign and Senmut's abilities. Inspired from an older monument built at the site, the Djeser-Djeseru temple expresses a more mature character in architecture, given that it is constructed in a manner that makes it appear to be more than a mortuary complex. Its terraces give me the feeling that I have a lot of space around me, in contrast to Mentuhotep II temple, which made me feel that a claustrophobic person is unlikely to enjoy its remains.

Looking at the freshly built Djeser-Djeseru and than at Mentuhotep II's building, I observe that Hatshepsut's determination virtually generated something that is unlikely to be equaled in greatness for another millennium (Historians actually agree that Hatshepsut's masterpiece has had no equivalent for another thousand years).

The magnificence in Hatshepsut's building does not reflect opulence, in spite of the fact that most people would think that when looking at the monument. The queen herself does not believe that she should emphasis her greatness over the people in her empire. The actual reason for which she built this structure is likely to concern her devotion to the deities worshipped by contemporary (Ancient) Egyptians.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York holds a great deal of artwork from Djeser-Djeseru, recovered from various places from around the world, as they were removed from the mortuary complex immediately after the demise of Hatshepsut. Her stepson, Thutmose III was reluctant to accept the former pharaoh's greatness, thus the reason for which he took out most of the evidence revealing that the temple was indeed constructed because of Hatshepsut and in her honor.

Estimating from the queen's desperate need to please the gods, one might be inclined to believe that she herself considers herself more than a simple human being. With the inscriptions in her mortuary temple picturing her standing alongside of gods, it becomes obvious that Hatshepsut's power has blinded her to the point where she is no longer able to think of her as of a mere mortal. Surely, someone who builds a temple that lasts through more than three millennia and can still produce mixed feelings in those who see it is likely to believe that there is more to life than just performing tasks that are human in nature.

Another reason for which Hatshepsut wanted the temple to be greater than anything produced in Ancient Egypt was that she did not want to accept the fact that most influential people in her dynasty were men. One can actually say that Hatshepsut was a determined feminist devoted to proving herself in front of a whole country. Moreover, not only was she determined that she was greater than the men in her family, but that she was actually a goddess, the holy daughter of Amun-Re.

This temple at Deir el Bahari seems to be an exception from Ancient Egyptian tradition, given that in spite of its similarity to Mentuhotep II's temple, it contains architectural elements that are unlike anything the world has ever seen until the time. Senmut's brilliant ideas, along with Hatshepsut's strong-minded personality assisted the people of Egypt in building one of the greatest monuments in Ancient Egypt.

The Ummayad Mosque (also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus) is one of the most impressive mosques in the world, largely due to its age and because of its scale. The mosque was reportedly built by the Ummayad caliph, with the desire to reward his people with something that would increase their excellence.

Here I am, standing near the foundation of the Ummayad mosque, waiting for the building to be constructed, consequent to eighteen years of waiting in order for the structure to be built in accordance with a favorable horoscope apparently meant to increase its spirituality and prolonged existence. While this might seem ridiculous for most people who are not superstitious, it insured the building success, considering that it stands in 2010 just as great as it stood in its first days. The people of Damascus have a very good reason to pride themselves with their city, as the mosque gathers numerous visitors every year.

The building was constructed on the place where the Cathedral of Saint John previously stood, which was also built on the site of a former pagan temple dedicated to Jupiter. Because of its architecture, its greatness, and its purpose, the Ummayad Mosque brought a large contribution to the general public's perception in regard to Islam and its people.

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