Art History: Early Christian and Byzantine stuff. Six definitions!

Codex: Codex means a manuscript that’s bound in book form, with “hinged” binding and facing pages, as opposed to the scroll form, which is one long piece of paper bound to and rolled around a dowel. CODEX is a super cool word that I like to say, and really should be brought back into common language. A couple of things I associate with the word codex:

The Codex Seraphinianus, one of the weirdest books in the world:

And also Felicia Day’s character Codex in her series The Guild.

Okay, enough fangirling.

Aachen: Is a place I regret not visiting when I was in Germany. My friend lives in Witten, close to Dortmund (and my family name VanDruff originated in Druffel, also nearby). I was right there but didn’t know. Founded by the great Charlemagne (King Karl, if you’re nasty), Aachen boasts the Palatine Chapel, which simply drips gold and silver and brass and marble. Its design is based in Byzantine architecture and mimics the S Vitale in Ravenna. Charlemagne attended services there regularly until his health no longer permitted it, and when he died he was buried at Aachen. Aachen is now (has been for centuries) a spa town, naturally endowed with sulfur hot springs, which people enjoy soaking in and even drink for its healing properties.


Bread and Circuses: (defined by


something, as extravagant entertainment, offered as an expedient means of pacifying discontent or diverting attention from a source of grievance.

Oooh, very relevant to our modern times, wouldn’t you say?

The original idea comes from the Roman tradition of collecting grain taxes and then giving out free bread to the peasant class. Giving bread, and circuses (entertainment of whichever kind) to the oppressed class as a way to distract them from their discontent, was branded “bread and circuses” by the satirical poet Juvenal, c. AD 100.

Nika riots: The Nika Riots were a surprise uprising one January in Constantinople, AD 532. Chariot racing, like modern day futbol, aroused passion in the masses, and the Blue and Green teams somehow became political icons (Justinian himself loved the Blues). There was also a White team and a Red team, who apparently were the third and fourth wheels (ha! chariot wheels) nobody cared about. Race days became arenas for people to shout demands to the emperor between matches, and as there were noble families who believed themselves more worthy of the throne than Justinian, this eventually got out of hand. One day it boiled over, and the people stopped shouting for Blue and Green and unified into “Nika!” which means Win! or Conquer! They surrounded the palace and tried to boot out Justinan and his feisty wife, Theodora. The story goes that Justinian wanted to flee, but Theodora the common born would not. She would prefer to die an empress, in royal purple, than on the road, fleeing. Meanwhile, the city was in flames and the mob was about to crown another man king. Justinian cleverly infiltrated the murderous mob by giving a bag of gold to a popular eunuch named Narses, who marched into the arena where the coronation was happening, reminded the Blues that Justinian had always supported them, pointed out that the new king was a Green, and then distributed the gold. Somehow this turned the tide, the Blues stormed out, and the Greens and their almost-king were left stunned and un-coronated. After the city burned down, Justinian and Theodora rebuilt, even more magnificent than before, to show there were no hard feelings.

This image really has nothing to do with anything but it’s colorful and rioty, so here you go.

Golden Horn: Is a section of river that separates Istanbul (not Constantinople) into two parts. The center on one side and the “suburbs” on the other. The “horn” part of the name is generally thought to be based on its curving shape, but the “golden” part is disputed. Two popular interpretations are that “golden” refers to the riches that came up the river in the form of gold and other goods, or that it refers to the lovely golden light that shines across at sunset, making a picturesque and romantic scene for all to enjoy.


Bewcastle Cross: (I really thought this said Brew-castle when I picked it. I was picturing something to do with beers or fermented foods. Oh well.) It is a 14.5 foot high pillar that used to be a cross, and it lives in the churchyard of St. Cuthbert’s Church at Bewcastle, which is Cumbria county, England. It dates to 7th or 8th century AD, and features figures in relief, some lovely Celtic scroll work, and runic inscriptions.

Fancy a game of vertical checkers?