Musicologie Médiévale

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For Neil Moran: The Comet of 536 and the Ravenna Mosaics

© Dr. Ruth Dwyer 2013 The second video by Ruth Dwyer in the Ancient Symmetria series. She discusses how the Ravenna Mosaics depict life in Justinian's Empire...

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Comment by Oliver Gerlach on May 22, 2014 at 6:49

The expression "Justinian plagues" is correct, since the "fire" was the Nike revolt during which the whole quarter was burnt down and made place for a building like the Hagia Sophia, and understood as the last of a series of plagues—not human violence, but a divine punishment like the earthquake and the famine.

These are Romanos' words in the earthquake kontakion (Romanos, H. 54.14):

The Creator delivered a first blow, and a second, but he did not find
that men were becoming better—rather, progressively worse.

So, he placed despair on the very altar of grace and allowed to burn the hallowed precincts of the churches,
just as he once handed the sacred Ark over to the foreigners.

The wails of the mob poured out
in the city's streets and churches,
for fire would have destroyed everything,
if God had not come
and given to us all eternal life.

And the imperial couple appeared like David against Goliath despite the fact, that the crowd was not armed soldiers like those who killed them (Romanos H. 54.18):

The city was buried beneath these horrors and cried in great sorrow.
Those who feared God stretched their hands out to him,
begging for compassion and an end to the terror.

Reasonably, the emperor—and his empress—were in these ranks,
their eyes lifted in hope toward the Creator:

"Grant me victory," he said, "just as you made David
victorious over Goliath. You are my hope.

Rescue, in your mercy, your loyal people
and grant them eternal life."

You can read Romanos' text in Johannes Koder's essay (p. 281) which I inserted for you in the discussion with Neil Moran.

Procopios wrote that Justinian thought to flee, when the situation became like a civil war, while Theodora said that she prefers rather to die than to feel the shame of being an unjustified ruler. The ritual punishment for those, who usurped the position of the emperor, was to be blinded. This was likely a fiction by Procopios, but he described the situation well.

Comment by Geert Maessen on May 21, 2014 at 17:17

another fascinating video on the Ravenna mosaics:

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