Friday, June 26, 2020

Narmer Palette- The Ceremonial Engraving

Narmer Palette
The Narmer Palette is an Egyptian Ceremonial engraving. The Chevron shaped stone tablet is over two feet tall. It also is known as the Victory Palette and Great Hierakonopolis Palette. The palette shows the first Dynasty King conquering his foes and uniting upper and lower Egypt. The palette is almost the first of its kind dating back 3200-3000BCE. It also depicts one of the earliest hieroglyphics to date. The tablet is said to be made from a single siltstone and represents the first ceremonial tablet of its kind. The very fact that the tablet is found to be carved on both sides shows that it was used for ceremonial purposes and not of the ordinary kind. The palette intricately depicts the king of the First Dynasty in Egypt defeating his enemies and securing the Approval of the gods for uniting the lower and upper parts of Egypt.

The Narmer Palette Scenes: 

The engraving shows a king defeating is enemies only to unite Egypt under one rule. Traditionally such a King is called Menes- a king of the first dynastic rule of Egypt that united both the lower and upper halves.

Menes was also associated with his predecessor Narmer who also had ambitions of uniting Egypt under one rule using peaceful means. This was according to discoveries made by the BCE historian Manetho. Another ruler who also had aspirations of ruling a unified Egypt was Hor –Aha, Menes’ successor.

Based on earlier records of Manetho the chronology depicts Menes as the first king of Egypt’s dynasty. But since then records have been lost. Piecing back the earlier records however shows that Manetho might have been wrong. Subsequent archeological finds of artifacts and temples shows the view that Menes was the first king to be wrong. When the Narmer palette was eventually found, there was no express sign showing that it belonged to Menes as the King of the first Dynasty in Egypt. As time passed Menes is now come to symbolize the three kings wishing to unite the upper and lower halves of Egypt and not just one king.

Later Egyptologist Flinders Petrie associated Menes with Narmer, claiming that the two were in fact one person. Menes was merely an honorary name meaning “one who endures” and was conferred on Narmer, this was according to Petrie. As for Hor- Aha- the name is again associated with Menes in that the king was also given the honorary title of Menes.

Archeological Finds 

So technically the reference to Narmer was then assumed to be the first king of first dynasty Egypt. The Narmer palette was conferred on him when he united both halves of Egypt under a single rule. The palette shows the king of upper Egypt defeating the then ruler of lower Egypt into uniting Egypt as a whole.

Based on found records and archeological finds Egypt’s unification took place between 3150 BCE to 2680 BCE. Dates for unification of the first dynasty is normally accepted to be 3150BCE but for the second dynasty it is between 2890-2670BCE. This shows that the unification under the second dynasty rule did not last and every king had to put up with civil unrests. Records of the time show that mostly all the unrest was between the lower and upper halves of Egypt and there was no foreign element at play.

Unification under Narmer’s rule was most assuredly done under a military campaign and not through peaceful means. This was as depicted by the palette.

Narmer Palette Depictions: 

On one side of the palette we see Narmer wearing the war crown of Upper Egypt as well as the wicker crown signifying his defeat of Lower Egypt. At the bottom of the same side we see two people capturing the entwined bodies of two serpentine beasts. The two serpentine beasts are commonly interpreted as being the Lower and Upper halves of Egypt. There is however no proof for this interpretation.

Still lower on the section, the king is depicted as a bull ramming the city walls and trampling his enemies with his hooves.

The other side of the Narmer Palette shows a single large image of Narmer with his war club with which he is about to strike down his enemy that he is holding by the hair. Beneath his feet are two men who are either dead or trying to escape his wrath. At the back of the king is a servant who holds his sandals and above is the god Horus that is supposedly pleased with the proceedings.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Ibn Battuta, His Life and Travel Tales

Ibn Battuta
Never was he to travel any road a second time is something that was followed by Medieval history’s most renowned travelers- Ibn Battuta. Ibn Battuta lived by this mantra too.

A famous scholar and traveler, Ibn Battuta made his passion for travelling around the world not only his source of income but also what he is most famous for. Ibn Battuta is one of the greatest Muslim travelers of the medieval centuries. Many would even argue that he is the best.

Where the traveling all Began: 

Ibn Battuta belonged to a Muslim family known to produce judges or qadis as they were commonly called. Typical of being born in a Muslim adjudicators family, Ibn Battuta received the traditional juristic and literary education in Tangier, Morocco.

After that, to fulfil his duty and widen his ever increasing knowledge base, he decided to go to mecca for Hajj. It was over there that he also decided to learn under other famous scholars of the time in Egypt, Syria and Hejaz.

To say that he accomplished what he set out for would be an understatement. Not only are there records showing the various enumerations from the scholars he studied under, but there are also various diplomas to his credit. These diplomas qualified him for various judicial offices as well. But his educational background does not end here either, the claim that he was also a former pupil of the then highly renowned authorities on Islamic sciences, made him a guest star in many courts.

Ibn Battuta- The Passion for Travel: 

It was only after travelling to Egypt that the passion for travels was born. After landing in Egypt through Tunis and Tripoli, Ibn Battuta decided that he loved travelling. That is when he decided that he would never travel any road twice.

While at that time Ibn Battuta’s contemporaries travelled for pilgrimage or trade or education, he traveled because he simply- enjoyed it. It was at Egypt where Ibn Battuta’s love for different countries and it’s people blossomed. He just had to learn more.

But it was not only fun and games either; Ibn Battuta made a living from his journeys as well. Using his scholarly status he enjoyed the benevolence of many a ruler and sultan alike. This thus gave him an income that contributed to all his travels.

The Journey of Ibn Battuta: 

After Cairo, Ibn Battuta visited Syria. It was here that he joined a caravan to Mecca. He thus completed his pilgrimage in the year 1326. After this he then travelled via the Arabian desert to Iraq and then onward to Iran, Azerbaijan and then to Baghdad. It was in Baghdad that he met the last of the Mongol

Khans of Iran- Abu Said. Besides that he also came to know many other lesser rulers of that time. For many years Ibn Battuta spent life as a devotee in Mecca between 1327 to 1330. But this long stay as a devotee was short lived. Ibn Battuta soon realized that life as a devote was not for him and in 1327 he set sail to Yemen.

Arriving at Yemen he then crossed it by land and then set sail again from Aden.

His travels then brought him to the eastern African coast. Ibn Battuta then traveled the length of the coast visiting all their trading routes. The return journey took him through southern Arabia, Oman, Hormuz, southern Persia as well as across the Persian Gulf. All this travels culminated back to Mecca in 1332.

Ibn Battuta’s Visit to India: 

After that Ibn Battuta set his sights on the Sultan of Delhi. Hearing of the Sultan’s favorable treatment of Muslim scholars, Ibn Battuta decided to try his luck in Muhammad Bin Tughlaq’s court in Delhi. His travel again started off in Egypt and then ended in a boat sailing to Asia Minor. This brought him across the upcoming Ottoman Empire and his history of that region during that time.
After stopping in a number of locations and receiving the hospitality of various rulers and sultans of the time, he then embarked on his journey to India. After traversing the Hindu Kush range he then arrived at the frontiers of India.

Ibn Battuta’s stay in India: 

At this point Ibn Battuta was already a man of high regard both in his circles of travelers as well as scholars. At this point in his journey he had a number of followers and attendants as well. Through his journey to India he also brought with him his own harem of wives and concubines.

The Tughlaq dynasty emperor lived to Ibn Battuta’s every expectation. Not only was he highly generous in his welcome and the numerous gifts he showered on Ibn Battuta, he also made him qadi of Delhi, A post that he was to hold by him for several years.

Life at court was not all that glamorous: 

For a few years life at court seemed easy and full of promise. But then shortly danger set its sights on everyone at court. Sultan Muhammed was known for his generosity but Ibn Battuta soon realized for his cruelty as well. The Sultan ruled the greater part of northern India with an Iron fist. This iron fist did not seem to discriminate between Hindu or Muslim. While his bad temperament stayed outdoors for a short duration they soon set their sights indoors as well, namely his courts.

The Sultan grew more and more suspicious of people in his court every day. Ibn Battuta started seeing many of his friends fall a prey to the Sultan’s increasing suspicions. It was not surprising then that he too fell from the Sultan’s good graces. But in a matter of time, he again came into the Sulatn’s good books and became envoy to China in 1342.

His journey to China was waylaid with problems right from being attacked by Hindu Insurgents to being shipwrecked with all the gifts he had for the Chinese emperor. At this point, Ibn Battuta was seriously afraid of the Sultan and decided to go to the Maldive Islands. It is here that he got married into the royal family and even aspired to be Sultan someday himself.