Greek Gems and Finger Rings: Early Bronze to Late Classical by John Boardman.
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DESCRIPTION: Massive (12x10 inch, 7 pound) Hardcover with dustjacket.
Publisher: Thames & Hudson (2001). Pages: 474. Dimensions: 12¼ x 9¾ x 1¾
inches; 6½ pounds. The miniaturist art of gem engraving is the least familiar
of the major arts of ancient Greece, yet we know it to have been practiced by
the greatest artists. This book presents a comprehensive account of the art in
Greek lands from the early Bronze Age down to the Hellenistic period. The gems
are related to history and to the artistic achievements in other media of their
day, and the subject matter of the scenes engraved upon them is examined and
found to hold much that will be new to students of Greek myth and iconography.
The development of the Bronze Age studios in the Minoan and Mycenaean world is
discussed, and the works of the great period of Classical gem engraving are
resolved into their styles and schools, with a special chapter devoted to Greek
works within the Persian Empire. The attributions and discussion are supported
by full notes and lists. The plates, which show the gems enlarged up to four
times their natural size, present the fullest possible range of devices and
styles from all periods. This revised edition will be an essential work of
reference for students and scholars, as well as a thorough survey of the
subject for all lovers of Greek art. 1395 illustrations, 51 in color.
CONDITION: NEW. New MASSIVE (12x10 inches - 7 pounds in weight) hardcover
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REVIEW: Sir John Boardman is known and respected the world over as an
outstanding authority on classical archaeology and art. Among his prodigious
output of books - over thirty titles - are numerous works on Greek pottery and
sculpture in the World of Art series. He has received numerous honors,
including a knighthood in 1989 and honorary doctorates from the University of
Athens and the Sorbonne.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION.
CHAPTER TWO: MINOANS AND MYCENAEANS. Introduction; Early Greece; Pre-Palatial
Greece; Crete: the Early Palaces; Crete: the Late Palaces; Mycenaean Knossos;
Mycenaean Greece; the End of the Bronze Age; Seal Use and Production; Aegean
Seals and the Outside World.
CHAPTER THREE: THE GEOMETRIC AND EARLY ARCHAEIC PERIODS. The Geometric Seals;
Early Archaic Stone Seals; Ivories; Island Gems; the Sunium Group and Crete.
CHAPTER FOUR: ARCHAIC GEMS AND FINGER RINGS. The Orientilizing Style; the
Robust Style; the Dry Style; Island Scarabs; Late Archaic Groups; Greeks in
Etruria; Greeks and Phoenicians; Finger Rings; Conclusion.
CHAPTER FIVE; GLASSICAL GEMS AND FINGER RINGS. Class Gem Stones; Classical
Finger Rings; Ancient Impressions; Seal and Gem Usage in the Classical Period.
CHAPTER SIX: GREEKS AND PERSIANS. The Court Style; the Greek Style; the Mixed
Style; the Bern Group and a Blobolo Gems; Finger Rings; Summary.
CHAPTER SEVEN: HELLENISTIC GREECE AND ROME.
CHAPER EIGHT: MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES.
SUMMARIES OF GEM AND RING SHAPES.
REVIEW: Fabulous comprehensive study, unequally in the subject matter,
massively illustrated. A must for enthusiasts of ancient art, ancient jewelry,
REVIEW: “Greek Gems and Finger Rings” is not a book about jewelry, merely;
it's about history, archeology, art, and the origins of Western civilization.
John Boardman makes a great case for why anyone interested in the ancient
Greeks, and particularly their fine arts, should take a careful look at their
gems and finger rings. Many if not most of the "gems" and "rings" discussed
and pictured in exquisite detail in the book) are actually seals used by the
ancient Greeks (and Minoans) for various purposes: to seal and mark private
personal correspondence and documents of state, to seal and identify containers
and their goods in commerce. They were also used as heraldry. And yes,
sometimes they were just jewelry.
In Bronze Age Greece, these seals went from crude glyphs to gorgeous works of
art in ivory, gold, precious stones. Some depict religious rituals and gods,
scenes from mythology. Or they can depict hunting scenes with people and
animals. Boardman takes you chronologically from Minoan/Mycenaean to Archaic,
Classical, and Hellenistic. He places the gems in cultural and historical
context. He obviously has extensive knowledge of the prior literature on the
subject, especially the archeological record and matters of provenance. Many of
the gems in this book are artistic masterpieces to rival those of any Greek
art. Boardman makes a case for them as miniature sculpture.
To me they are more interesting than early Greek vase painting, which appears
more frequently in books about ancient Greece than these seals, which are
rarely shown. What particularly fascinated me was the clear differences in
techniques, tastes, and styles from period to period. Comparing, say, the early
Minoan and Mycenaean seals to those of the Classical period yields some
continuities, of course, but also much that is different, even in the way they
portray the human (and also non-human) body. For example, the Minoans depicted
people as wasp-waisted, with arm and leg joints very tapered, a total contrast
to the Classical depictions, which are more realistic even within their
The Minoan bodies look more flexible, and their style captures a vibrant
sense of animation, movement, life. The Classical gems are beautiful, but I
found the Minoan gems more interesting. They are certainly more ecstatically
alive. I might wonder to what extent the classical Greeks really believed in
their gods, but in the case of the Minoan seals I must say they really convey a
sense of pagan worship, showing rituals involving bare-chested women holding
serpents, little gods materializing above altars.
The Minoans and Mycenaeans are farther back in time than the Classical
Greeks, and their art conveys that primordial nature, a spirit and attitude
towards existence that appear strange to us today as compared with the seals
created in subsequent periods. We recognize the classical; its influence is all
around us. But the Minoans seem alien, even in the way they dress. The book
itself is large, sumptuous, and brimming with over a thousand detailed
impressions and photographs. Well worth the price.
REVIEW: Boardman's book is great for looking at Bronze Age, early and
classical Greek Gems. A beautiful book, almost a complete corpus of gems from
the noted period. Very useful.
REVIEW: Very professional and thorough study by the writer in his field of
expertise. A lot of examples and museum records.
ANCIENT JEWELRY: The art of the jeweler. Metalsmiths' shops were the training
schools for many of the great artists of the Renaissance. Brunelleschi,
Botticelli, Verrocchio, Ghi-berti, Pollaiuolo, and Luca della Robbia all were
trained as goldsmiths before they embarked upon the higher arts. The goldsmith
made silver vases for the dinner tables of cardinals; knights sent sword blades
to be mounted in rich hilts; ladies came to have their jewels set; princes
needed medals to commemorate their victories; popes and bishops wished to place
chased reliquaries on the altars of their patron saints; and men of fashion
ordered medallions to wear upon their hats.
Although many materials-including iron-have been used for jewelry, gold is by
far the most satisfactory. One could not expect the same results from any other
metal, for the durability and the extraordinary ductility and pliancy of gold
and its property of being readily drawn out or flattened into wire or leaf of
almost infinite fineness have led to its being used for works in which
minute-ness and delicacy of execution were required. Gold may be soldered, it
may be cast, and any kind of surface, from the rough to the highest possible
polish, given to it. It is the best of all metals upon which to enamel.
Gold was easily retrieved from the gravel of river beds, where it was washed
from the eroded rocks; hence it is one of the oldest metals known. Unlike most
metals, gold does not tarnish on exposure to the air but remains brilliant.
Pure gold is too soft for general use, but it can be hardened and toughened by
alloying with most of the other metals. Color is one of its important
qualities. When the metal is pure, it is nearly the orange-yellow of the solar
spectrum. When it contains a little silver, it is pale yellow, or greenish
yellow; and when alloyed with a little copper, it takes a reddish tinge-all so
effective in varicolored jewelry.
These alloys have an ancient history, electrum, an alloy of gold and silver
which assured beautiful hues, having been used by the Egyptians, Greeks, and
other ancient peoples. The ancients, from the most remote times, were
acquainted with the art of beating gold into thin leaves, and this leaf was
used for other purposes besides personal adornment. Gold leaf was used in
buildings for gilding wood, and Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were adepts in
applying it. It was no great departure to introduce gilded backgrounds to
paintings or figures in mosaic and finally to illuminated manuscripts.
In the use of gold Byzantium went beyond Rome or Athens. When more skill was
attained by painters, backgrounds in perspective took the place of those in
gold. Early examples of leaf work in this exhibition may be seen in the
headdress and jewelry of Queen Shubad's ladies-in-waiting from the excavations
of the royal tombs at Ur in Mesopotamia. They date from a period between 3500
and 2800 B.C.
A second step was the cutting of gold leaf into thin strips to make wire. It
is still a question whether the art of wire-drawing was known to the ancients.
Plaited wire-work, as used in many places and over a wide period of time, is
well represented in ancient history. Fusing and soldering are also ancient
techniques. Granular work, the soldering of minute grains of gold one beside
the other in a line or disposed ornamentally over a surface, was known to the
ancient Egyptian jewelers, as well as to the classical, oriental, and barbarian
gold-smiths. This traditional technique can be traced through the centuries,
splendid granular work of the ancient and modern civilizations being well
represented in archaeological finds.
Filigree, the arranging of wires in patterns, usually soldered to a base, is
often associated with granular work. The oriental nations, especially the
Moors, knew how to execute filigree with rare delicacy and taste, this
technique adapting itself particularly to their designs. Embossing and chasing
are techniques of widespread use. The relief effect of embossing is produced by
various means. A thin pliable sheet of metal may be pressed into molds, between
dies, or over stamps, or it may be molded free hand. An excellent example of an
embossed gold sheet which was pressed or hammered may be seen in the Greek
sword sheath from South Russia. In handwork the sheet of metal is placed
against a ground with a yielding surface and the design is raised from the back
by a series of punches.
The work of the chaser is closely related to that of the sculptor, the
ornament on the face of a casting or an embossed work being finished with
chisels or chasing tools. Jewelry was often enriched by stamping, a simple
process by which a design is made in depression with a punch., and the gold
fixed by heating to redness; and the surface finally burnished. In all
countries the work of the lapidary was combined with that of the goldsmith.
Much jewelry depended for its splendor of effect chiefly upon its inlay of
brilliantly colored stones, jaspers, agates, lapis lazuli. Much of the commoner
kinds of jewelry, such as buckles for the belts of warriors or brooches for the
vestments of ecclesiastics too poor to buy silver or gold, were made of bronze,
enameled and mercury-gilded. Mercury-gilding is a process of great antiquity.
The object was first carefully polished and rubbed with mercury; thin gold was
then laid on and pressed down, the mercury being subsequently volatilized, and
so forth, or upon colored glass inlays.
The Egyptians and Greeks were incomparable artists in intaglio (cutting
concave designs or figures) in gold, and one notes with astonishment the
mastery they possessed over the stubborn hard stones, including the sapphire. A
Greek gold ring with an intaglio engraving of a girl stretching herself is one
of the finest in ancient history. The engraver's art both in cameo and in
intaglio attained a high degree of excellence about 500 B.C., which lasted
until about the third or fourth century A.D. The classical artists used rich
and warm-tinted oriental stones, the increased intercourse with the East after
the death of Alexander the Great having a marked influence on the development
of the art.
In gem-engraving the ancients used essentially the same principle that is in
use today, that is, drilling with a revolving tool. They also used a sapphire
or diamond point set in a handle and applied like a graver. In early medieval
times gem-engraving was little practiced, but antique cameos were held in
peculiar veneration on ac-count of the belief, then universal, in their potency
as medicinal charms. With the Renaissance, the art of gem-engraving was
revived, and engravers from that time onward have produced results equal to the
best ancient work.
Glass in ancient times was so precious that some nations demanded tribute in
this fragile material instead of gold. It is said that a citizen invented a
method for making malleable glass and was invited to visit the Roman Emperor
Tiberius. He brought a vase, which was thrown to the ground but only dented. A
hammer again rounded it into shape. Tiberius then asked whether any other man
knew the secret of manufacture. The artisan answered no, whereupon the emperor
ordered him beheaded.
Glass inlay, widely used from Egyptian times, is often wrongly called enamel.
It is not enamel, which, although a vitreous material, is employed in the
powdered state and always fused into position by heat, whereas the glass inlay
was always cut or molded and cemented into position. This glass inlay is often
referred to as paste, which in the modern sense means glass with a high
refractive index and high luster employed to imitate the diamond. Good examples
of paste may be seen in some eighteenth-century English and French.
For centuries Egypt was the “promised land” of the ancient civilized world,
for the Pharaohs had at their disposal enormous stores of gold. The Egyptians
excelled in metal-work, especially in gold, and many techniques employed by
goldsmiths today can be seen in ancient Egyptian jewelry, particularly for
instance the treasure of el LThuin, which was recovered in its entirety and in
nearly the same perfect condition in which it had been placed in the tomb; or
the jewelry which had once graced the person of the Princess Sit Hathor Yuinet,
daughter of King Se'n-Wosret II, who reigned from 1906 to 1887 B.C. and near
whose pyramid, at el Lahfin, she was buried.
Her girdle, one of the outstanding pieces of ancient jewelry, is of amethyst
beads and hollow gold panther-head ornaments, inside which pellets tinkled
whenever the wearer moved. From the same treasure there is the neck-lace with a
pectoral of King Se'n-Wosret II. On either side of the pectoral the hawk of the
god Horus supports the cartouche of the king and a group of hieroglyphics which
signify, "May King Se'n-Wosret II live many hundreds of thousands of years."
The pectoral is gold inlaid with lapis lazuli, car-nelian, and turquoise, and
the eyes of the shape made of actual flowers, fruits, and leaves, which were
presented to guests to wear at banquets and other festivities.
Brilliant color is one of the most attractive characteristics of Egyptian
jewelry. It had its origin in the beads, both of semi-precious stones and of
faience, which were widely worn during the Old Kingdom (2800-2270 B.C.). Beads
of faience of different colors were also in fashion during the XVIII Dynasty.
The composition of the broad collars of faience of this period was derived from
ornaments of the same engraving, soldering, and metal intaglio.
The Greek jeweler, like the Egyptian, excelled in the arts of embossing and
chasing. Greece had little access to precious stones before Alexander's Eastern
conquests, and so from the sixth to the fourth century B.C. the jeweler
specialized in metalwork. He was a master of both granulated and filigree
decoration, and he did exquisite work in plaiting gold into chains and in
modeling it into little figures, both human and animal. Much of the best of
Greek jewelry is sculpture in little. Ornamental goldwork naturally required
more minute workman ship than sculpture in bronze and marble, and excellent
modeling often makes little objects impressive as well as intricate.
A few famous examples of ancient Greek jewelry, such as an earring in the
form of a siren, is a charming example of Greek jeweler's modeling. Other
examples include a pair of earrings of the fourth century B.C. from Madytos on
the Hellespont, as well as an eagle and a palmette made of hammered gold
sheets; the feathers of the eagle are incised; each leaf is edged with beaded
wire; and the fruit is covered with granulation. Another example might be a
bracelet, of rock crystal, with gold finials, each finely embossed with a ram's
head, which shows skillfully modeled figures, as well as plaited chains, and
filigree and granular work of rare minuteness.
The Ganymede jewelry, made soon after 350 B.C., is one of the most precious
sets that have come out of antiquity. Most techniques are represented on the
earrings, bracelets, brooches, necklace, and emerald ring. On the earrings the
figures of Ganymede are solid castings; Ganymede's drapery, the wings and tail.
The technique of Etruscan goldwork is much the same as that of the Greek. The
metal is thin, it is pressed or beaten out in designs in low relief, and it is
further decorated by the surface application of filigree and small granules of
gold. Several molds of stone have been discovered, and it is probable that the
thin gold was pressed into the mold by means of a metal or agate style, solder
being used to fix the separate pieces of gold together whenever necessary. Some
of the granulated work is so fine that without a magnifying glass it is almost
impossible to believe that the patterns are actually laid on with an infinite
number of minute spherical grains. The burial chamber of an Etruscan lady, near
Vulci, opened over a century ago, yielded a rich parure.
Archaeologists have recovered several headdresses reflecting the custom
Chinese women had of decking their hair with floral ornaments. These are richly
colored, and some of the materials used in them, besides gold, are amber,
coral, seed pearls, and an exclusively Chinese material-bright blue kingfisher
feathers. In Chinese jewelry the art of the metal-worker achieves an exquisite
delicacy. A famous golden phoenix crown shows perhaps most clearly of all the
works in the exhibition the ability of the goldsmith to take infinite pains. It
has more than thirty separate ornaments, made of different con-formations of
gold wire and decorated with pearls and other stones.
Many of the ornaments are set on tiny springs so that they quiver with the
slightest movement. jade, exquisitely carved. With the exception of pearls, the
Chinese did not use precious stones. The prettiness and color of Chinese
jewelry tempt one to describe it at length, but according to a Chinese proverb,
A thousand words do not compare with one look." The Japanese also rank high as
metalworkers, their sword furniture, the jewelry of the Japanese nobleman,
especially showing the subtle skill of the artist in manipulating hard and soft
metals. In enriching the fittings many processes of metal ornamentation-relief
carving, relief inlay or applique, overlay, incised and recessed carving-are
employed. It is the combination of techniques and alloys which makes their work
of outstanding interest to jewelers as well as to the amateur. Today these
fittings are often worn as jewelry in the West. In Japan sword furniture is
frequently signed by masters as well known as famous painters.
A glance at the magnificent weapons from Persia, Turkey, and India will
remove any impression that the love of personal adornment is a purely feminine
attribute. Orientals often wear daggers embellished with silver and
semiprecious stones even over their most ragged clothes, which shows that they
take life with a gesture. In India perhaps more than anywhere else, jewelry has
played a vital role in the life of the people, from the lowest rank to the
highest. Although none of the Indian jewelry is much older than the eighteenth
century, it represents designs and methods of decoration that go back to much
earlier periods, some of them reflecting the influence of Hellenistic
civilization. Some pieces are made of gold or silver alone, others are richly
set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds or decorated with enamel. The Greek
jeweler, like the Egyptian, excelled in the arts of embossing, chasing,
Much of this jewelry was made in Jaipur, which was particularly famous for
its enamelwork. A gold bracelet with dragon-head terminals is an outstanding
example of combined jeweled and enameled work. The backs of jeweled ornaments
were often enameled with fine patterns, so that the reverse of a necklace or
pendant would be as fine in effect as the right side. The jewelry of the
nomadic Iranian tribes is represented by a few choice pieces cast in gold and
chased. These include many Scythian ornaments, winged griffins, stags, and
rosettes, which were used as decoration on clothing; and two clasps of about
the first century A.D., Sarmatian and Parthian in origin.
The Middle Ages are perhaps best represented by an extensive collection of
jewelry from the Morgan collection, of the period of the barbarian migrations
and of the Byzantine period. The gold ornaments in the Albanian Treasure
seventh-ninth century) are thought to be the work of nomad craftsmen in the
train of barbarian tribes migrating through the Balkans from Central Asia. The
splendid collections of Gallo-Roman, Germanic, and Merovingian jewelry,
distinctive features of which are the colored glass inlays and the filigree and
beaded work in gold, need only be mentioned, for they have been described and
illustrated in the catalogues of Seymour de Ricci. They were made from the
fourth to the eighth century A.D., the latest probably not exceeding the reign
of Charlemagne (742- 814).
It was Charlemagne who stopped the custom of burying the dead with their
weapons and jewelry because all the wealth was going into the ground instead of
into the treasury. The result is that much fine jewelry was melted down. The
Eastern influence which had come westwards after the year 330, when Constantine
transferred his court from Rome to Byzantium (Constantinople), is seen in many
pieces of ancient jewelry. The goldsmiths followed the Emperor Constantine to
Byzantium, and from there came many marvels of art and beauty as presents to
the Western churches. The jewelry in the treasure (sixth century) found on the
island of Cyprus is in the Eastern style. It was probably buried during the
Arab invasion of the island.
About the beginning of the eleventh century the Byzantine influence had been
largely spent, and new styles were introduced. Families of monks, animated by
one spirit and educated in the same way, lived in monasteries which were
schools of ecclesiastical goldsmiths. They built and adorned their churches;
they hammered, chased, and enameled gold, silver, and bronze. Altar fronts,
pyxes, lamps, patens, chalices, crosses, candlesticks, and reliquaries were
made, and most of their motives of design, methods of working, and chemical
processes were the common property of the abbeys. Lay craftsmen, too, devoted
more of their energies than previously to building cathedrals and creating
ecclesiastical art, and there is consequently a close connection between the
work of the architect and the mediaeval goldsmith.
This ecclesiastical influence is seen in a late eleventh-century book cover
of silver-gilt, ivory, cabochons, and enamel, from the cathedral of Jaca.
Before the multiplication of books by printing, their covers had more to do
with the goldsmith's art than with that of the binder. Architectural influence
is shown in the French thirteenth-century reliquary of Saint Margaret.
Reliquaries like this were master-pieces of work in precious metals. They were
built up of innumerable plates soldered together, with buttresses, pinnacles,
and traceried windows, like little models of churches or small chapels.
During the Renaissance, everything that could be gold was gold, not only
jewelry but plate; and dresses for men and women and even horse trappings were
made of cloth of gold. It was an age when the setting of a gem or the molding
of a goblet was a matter that would occupy a grave potentate to the exclusion
of affairs of state. In order to satisfy the demands of the time Columbus set
out not to discover another continent but to find a convenient route to India,
the land of gold, pearls, and spices. The Renaissance goldsmiths made the most
of the mediaeval tradition in technique and in due course they developed
perfection in workmanship. The rich and varied pendants are splendid examples
of the renaissance jeweler’s art.
This type of ornament originated in devotional usage, and during the Middle
Ages its decoration was almost always of religious significance. The pendant
was a conspicuous ornament and was usually of fine workmanship. Portrait
medallions, especially those of historical personages, were made by
distinguished masters. A splendid pendant, representing Bona Sforza, Queen of
Poland, is signed by Jacobus Veron (Gian Jacopo Caraglio) and is dated 1554.
The cameo portrait of the queen is sardonyx, her chain and hair ornament gold.
The Visconti-Sforza arms on the reverse are enameled gold. Among the enseignes,
ornaments worn on the turned-back brim of the hat or cap, one superb historical
example is one in gold skillfully embossed.
Cellini, in his “Treatise on Goldsmithing,” explains how such embossing was
done. In principle, a sheet of gold is beaten from the back with punches until
it is bossed up much like the wax model. He completes the explanation by
telling of a visit to his workshop by Michelangelo, who complimented him on a
gold medal embossed in high relief. Michelangelo reputedly said: “If this work
were made in great, whether of marble or of bronze, and fashioned with as
exquisite design as this, it would astonish the world; and even in its present
size it seems to me so beautiful that I do not think ever a goldsmith of the
ancient world fashioned aught to come up to it!” Another technique explained by
Cellini is the “beautiful art of enameling.” A splendid example of this
technique may be seen on a fine cups, of red jasper mounted with enameled gold
and precious stones. It should be compared with the Cellini cup in the Altman
Personal jewelry of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can be
characterized by snuffboxes and carnets de bal (dance programs), precisely
executed, showing the quality of the era’s workmanship. Such boxes, of
varicolored gold, jeweled, and set with miniature portraits of their donors,
were the favorite gifts of kings and princes. They were enormously costly in
their day and they have always been precious collectors’ items. Some of them
be- longed to persons famous in history, some are signed by famous jewelers,
and all illustrate the extravagant vanities of the time. During the seventeenth
century, there developed an increasing fondness for faceted gems set close
together to produce glittering masses. Gradually the setting was subordinated
to the precious stones, and this is the modern style.
ANCIENT GREECE: Greece is a country in southeastern Europe, known in Greek as
Hellas or Ellada, and consisting of a mainland and an archipelago of islands.
Greece is the birthplace of Western philosophy (Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle), literature (Homer and Hesiod), mathematics (Pythagoras and Euclid),
history (Herodotus), drama (Sophocles, Euripedes, and Aristophanes), the
Olympic Games, and democracy. The concept of an atomic universe was first
posited in Greece through the work of Democritus and Leucippus. The process of
today's scientific method was first introduced through the work of Thales of
Miletus and those who followed him.
The Latin alphabet also comes from Greece, having been introduced to the
region by the Phoenicians in the 8th century B.C., and early work in physics
and engineering was pioneered by Archimedes, of the Greek colony of Syracuse,
among others. Mainland Greece is a large peninsula surrounded on three sides by
the Mediterranean Sea (branching into the Ionian Sea in the west and the Aegean
Sea in the east) which also comprises the islands known as the Cyclades and the
Dodecanese (including Rhodes), the Ionian islands (including Corcyra), the isle
of Crete, and the southern peninsula known as the Peloponnese.
The geography of Greece greatly influenced the culture in that, with few
natural resources and surrounded by water, the people eventually took to the
sea for their livelihood. Mountains cover eighty percent of Greece and only
small rivers run through a rocky landscape which, for the most part, provides
little encouragement for agriculture. Consequently, the early Greeks colonized
neighboring islands and founded settlements along the coast of Anatolia (also
known as Asia Minor, modern day Turkey). The Greeks became skilled seafaring
people and traders who, possessing an abundance of raw materials for
construction in stone, and great skill, built some of the most impressive
structures in antiquity. Greece reached the heights in almost every area of
The designation Hellas derives from Hellen, the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha
who feature prominently in Ovid's tale of the Great Flood in his Metamorphoses.
The mythical Deucalion (son of the fire-bringing titan Prometheus) was the
savior of the human race from the Great Flood, in the same way Noah is
presented in the biblical version or Utnapishtim in the Mesopotamian one.
Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulate the land once the flood waters have receded by
casting stones which become people, the first being Hellen. Contrary to popular
opinion, Hellas and Ellada have nothing to do with Helen of Troy from Homer's
Ovid, however, did not coin the designation. Thucydides writes, in Book I of
his Histories: "I am inclined to think that the very name was not as yet given
to the whole country, and in fact did not exist at all before the time of
Hellen, the son of Deucalion; the different tribes, of which the Pelasgian was
the most widely spread, gave their own names to different districts. But when
Hellen and his sons became powerful in Phthiotis, their aid was invoked by
other cities, and those who associated with them gradually began to be called
Hellenes, though a long time elapsed before the name was prevalent over the
whole country. Of this, Homer affords the best evidence; for he, although he
lived long after the Trojan War, nowhere uses this name collectively, but
confines it to the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original
Hellenes; when speaking of the entire host, he calls them Danäans, or Argives,
or Achaeans." Greek history is most easily understood by dividing it into time
periods. The region was already settled, and agriculture initiated, during the
Paleolithic era as evidenced by finds at Petralona and Franchthi caves (two of
the oldest human habitations in the world). The Neolithic Age (circa 6000-2900
B.C.) is characterized by permanent settlements (primarily in northern Greece),
domestication of animals, and the further development of agriculture.
Archaeological finds in northern Greece (Thessaly, Macedonia, and Sesklo, among
others) suggest a migration from Anatolia in that the ceramic cups and bowls
and figures found there share qualities distinctive to Neolithic finds in
Anatolia. These inland settlers were primarily farmers, as northern Greece was
more conducive to agriculture than elsewhere in the region, and lived in
one-room stone houses with a roof of timber and clay daubing.
The Cycladic Civilization (circa 3200-1100 B.C.) flourished in the islands of
the Aegean Sea (including Delos, Naxos and Paros) and provides the earliest
evidence of continual human habitation in that region. During the Cycladic
Period, houses and temples were built of finished stone and the people made
their living through fishing and trade. This period is usually divided into
three phases: Early Cycladic, Middle Cycladic, and Late Cycladic with a steady
development in art and architecture. The latter two phases overlap and finally
merge with the Minoan Civilization, and differences between the periods become
The Minoan Civilization (2700-1500 B.C.) developed on the island of Crete,
and rapidly became the dominant sea power in the region. The term `Minoan' was
coined by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who uncovered the Minoan palace
of Knossos in 1900 CE and named the culture for the ancient Cretan king Minos.
The name by which the people knew themselves is not known. The Minoan
Civilization was thriving, as the Cycladic Civilization seems to have been,
long before the accepted modern dates which mark its existence and probably
earlier than 6000 B.C.
The Minoans developed a writing system known as Linear A (which has not yet
been deciphered) and made advances in ship building, construction, ceramics,
the arts and sciences, and warfare. King Minos was credited by ancient
historians (Thucydides among them) as being the first person to establish a
navy with which he colonized, or conquered, the Cyclades. Archaeological and
geological evidence on Crete suggests this civilization fell due to an overuse
of the land causing deforestation though, traditionally, it is accepted that
they were conquered by the Mycenaeans. The eruption of the volcano on the
nearby island of Thera (modern day Santorini) between 1650 and 1550 B.C., and
the resulting tsunami, is acknowledged as the final cause for the fall of the
Minoans. The isle of Crete was deluged and the cities and villages destroyed.
This event has been frequently cited as Plato's inspiration in creating his
myth of Atlantis in his dialogues of the Critias and Timaeus.
The Mycenaean Civilization (approximately 1900-1100 B.C.) is commonly
acknowledged as the beginning of Greek culture, even though we know almost
nothing about the Mycenaeans save what can be determined through archaeological
finds and through Homer’s account of their war with Troy as recorded in The
Iliad. They are credited with establishing the culture owing primarily to their
architectural advances, their development of a writing system (known as Linear
B, an early form of Greek descended from the Minoan Linear A), and the
establishment, or enhancement of, religious rites. The Mycenaeans appear to
have been greatly influenced by the Minoans of Crete in their worship of earth
goddesses and sky gods, which, in time, become the classical pantheon of
The gods and goddesses provided the Greeks with a solid paradigm of the
creation of the universe, the world, and human beings. An early myth relates
how, in the beginning, there was nothing but chaos in the form of unending
waters. From this chaos came the goddess Eurynome who separated the water from
the air and began her dance of creation with the serpent Ophion. From their
dance, all of creation sprang and Eurynome was, originally, the Great Mother
Goddess and Creator of All Things.
By the time Hesiod and Homer were writing (8th century B.C.), this story had
changed into the more familiar myth concerning the titans, Zeus' war against
them, and the birth of the Olympian Gods with Zeus as their chief. This shift
indicates a movement from a matriarchal religion to a patriarchal paradigm.
Whichever model was followed, however, the gods clearly interacted regularly
with the humans who worshipped them and were a large part of daily life in
ancient Greece. Prior to the coming of the Romans, the only road in mainland
Greece that was not a cow path was the Sacred Way which ran between the city of
Athens and the holy city of Eleusis, birthplace of the Eleusinian Mysteries
celebrating the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone.
By 1100 B.C. the great Mycenaean cities of southwest Greece were abandoned
and, some claim, their civilization destroyed by an invasion of Doric Greeks.
Archaeological evidence is inconclusive as to what led to the fall of the
Mycenaeans. As no written records of this period survive (or have yet to be
unearthed) one may only speculate on causes. The tablets of Linear B script
found thus far contain only lists of goods bartered in trade or kept in stock.
No history of the time has yet emerged. It seems clear, however, that after
what is known as the Greek Dark Ages (approximately 1100-800 B.C., so named
because of the absence of written documentation) the Greeks further colonized
much of Asia Minor, and the islands surrounding mainland Greece and began to
make significant cultural advances. Beginning in circa 585 B.C. the first Greek
philosopher, Thales, was engaged in what, today, would be recognised as
scientific inquiry in the settlement of Miletus on the Asia Minor coast and
this region of Ionian colonies would make significant breakthroughs in the
fields of philosophy and mathematics.
The Archaic Period (800-500 B.C.) is characterized by the introduction of
Republics instead of Monarchies (which, in Athens, moved toward Democratic
rule) organised as a single city-state or polis, the institution of laws
Draco’s reforms in Athens), the great Panathenaeic Festival was established,
distinctive Greek pottery and Greek sculpture were born, and the first coins
minted on the island kingdom of Aegina. This, then, set the stage for the
flourishing of the Classical Period of Greece given as 500-400 B.C. or, more
precisely, as 480-323 B.C., from the Greek victory at Salamis to the death of
Alexander the Great.
This was the Golden Age of Athens, when Pericles initiated the building of
the Acropolis and spoke his famous eulogy for the men who died defending Greece
at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Greece reached the heights in almost
every area of human learning during this time and the great thinkers and
artists of antiquity (Phidias, Plato, Aristophanes, to mention only three)
flourished. Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fell at Thermopylae and, the same
year (480 B.C.), Themistocles won victory over the superior Persian naval fleet
at Salamis leading to the final defeat of the Persians at Plataea in 379 B.C.
Democracy (literally Demos = people and Kratos = power, so power of the
people) was established in Athens allowing all male citizens over the age of
twenty a voice in government. The Pre-Socratic philosophers, following Thales'
lead, initiated what would become the scientific method in exploring natural
phenomena. Men like Anixamander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Democritus,
Xenophanes, and Heraclitus abandoned the theistic model of the universe and
strove to uncover the underlying, first cause of life and the universe.
Their successors, among whom were Euclid and Archimedes, continued
philosophical inquiry and further established mathematics as a serious
discipline. The example of Socrates, and the writings of Plato and Aristotle
after him, have influenced western culture and society for over two thousand
years. This period also saw advances in architecture and art with a movement
away from the ideal to the realistic. Famous works of Greek sculpture such as
the Parthenon Marbles and Discobolos (the discus thrower) date from this time
and epitomize the artist's interest in depicting human emotion, beauty, and
accomplishment realistically, even if those qualities are presented in works
All of these developments in culture were made possible by the ascent of
Athens following her victory over the Persians in 480 B.C. The peace and
prosperity which followed the Persian defeat provided the finances and
stability for culture to flourish. Athens became the superpower of her day and,
with the most powerful navy, was able to demand tribute from other city states
and enforce her wishes. Athens formed the Delian League, a defensive alliance
whose stated purpose was to deter the Persians from further hostilities.
The city-state of Sparta, however, doubted Athenian sincerity and formed
their own association for protection against their enemies, the Peloponnesian
League (so named for the Peloponnesus region where Sparta and the others were
located). The city-states which sided with Sparta increasingly perceived Athens
as a bully and a tyrant, while those cities which sided with Athens viewed
Sparta and her allies with growing distrust. The tension between these two
parties eventually erupted in what has become known as the Peloponnesian Wars.
The first conflict (circa 460-445 B.C.) ended in a truce and continued
prosperity for both parties while the second (431-404 B.C.) left Athens in
ruins and Sparta, the victor, bankrupt after her protracted war with Thebes.
This time is generally referred to as the Late Classical Period (circa
400-330 B.C.). The power vacuum left by the fall of these two cities was filled
by Philip II of Macedon (382-336 B.C.) after his victory over the Athenian
forces and their allies at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C. Philip united
the Greek city states under Macedonian rule and, upon his assassination in 336
B.C., his son Alexander assumed the throne.
Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) carried on his father's plans for a full
scale invasion of Persia in retaliation for their invasion of Greece in 480
B.C. As he had almost the whole of Greece under his command, a standing army of
considerable size and strength, and a full treasury, Alexander did not need to
bother with allies nor with consulting anyone regarding his plan for invasion
and so led his army into Egypt, across Asia Minor, through Persia, and finally
to India. Tutored in his youth by Plato’s great student Aristotle, Alexander
would spread the ideals of Greek civilization through his conquests and, in so
doing, transmitted Greek philosophy, culture, language, and art to every region
he came in contact with.
In 323 B.C. Alexander died and his vast empire was divided between four of
his generals. This initiated what has come to be known to historians as the
Hellenistic Age (323-31 B.C.) during which Greek thought and culture became
dominant in the various regions under these generals' influence. After a series
of struggles between the Diodachi (`the successors' as Alexander's generals
came to be known) General Antigonus established the Antigonid Dynasty in Greece
which he then lost. It was regained by his grandson, Antigonus II Gonatus, by
276 B.C. who ruled the country from his palace at Macedon.
The Roman Republic became increasingly involved in the affairs of Greece
during this time and, in 168 B.C., defeated Macedon at the Battle of Pydna.
After this date, Greece steadily came under the influence of Rome. In 146 B.C.
the region was designated a Protectorate of Rome and Romans began to emulate
Greek fashion, philosophy and, to a certain extent, sensibilities. In 31 B.C.
Octavian Caesar annexed the country as a province of Rome following his victory
over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium. Octavian became
Augustus Caesar and Greece a part of the Roman Empire. [Ancient History
ANCIENT GREECE: The Greek Empire had its roots in the different communities
which developed in the third millennium BC, almost 5,000 years ago, the
Aegeans, Achaeans, and the Pelasgians. Crete became the center of the more
advanced Aegean civilization, known as the Minoans. The Minoan culture
dominated the region from about 2,500 BC through 1,600 BC. The volcanic
eruption of Thera about 1,600 B.C. not only caused the destruction of the
Minoan Empire, it might well have been responsible for a planetary scale of
disruption which nearly cost mankind his existence. Around 1,200 B.C., the
ten-year Trojan war occurred, and was the subject of the epic poem by Homer,
the hero, of course, being Odysseus.
By 1,000 B.C. Greek settlements had transformed themselves into city-states.
The Olympic Games began in 776 B.C. In the next several centuries, artwork
began to focus on human figures and mythology, and the first coins were soon
minted. Greece flourished, and the areas of philosophy, art, and literature
reached their zenith. At the height of Greek classical art in the fifth century
B.C., the Greek city states employed the finest engravers available to create
coins of great artistic merit, as did the Romans who followed. In the ancient
Greek city-states, some dies were even signed by a master engraver. The deities
of the Greek pantheon were depicted as ideally proportioned humans. The subject
of countless movies, the Persian Wars began in 490 B.C, and in 480 B.C. the
Persians sacked and ruined Athens. In 461 B.C. the Peloponnesian Wars began
between the Athenians and the Spartans.
The greatest Greek military figure, Alexander The Great, in the late fourth
century B.C. conquered Egypt and the entire Persian Empire. After Alexander’s
death his generals and successors founded the great Hellenistic empires. These
successors introduced realistic portraits as a regular feature of their
coinage. The true visages of world rulers were recorded for posterity. Many of
these rulers of the ancient world are unknown to history except through their
coin portraits. The decline of the Greek Empire began shortly after Alexander’s
death as the separate Greek kingdoms feuded and fought with one another,
crippling the Greek Empire. In 197 B.C. the military forces of Greece fell to
the Romans, and the Greek Empire was absorbed by the Romans.
The Sumerians and the Egyptians had developed advanced metalworking
techniques long before the Greeks, and so it is natural that the Greeks learned
from them. However, as in other forms of art, Greek metalworking artisans
borrowed some techniques from the Sumerians and Egyptians and quickly adapted
them to their own aesthetic perceptions. Whereas for the Sumerian, Egyptian,
and Oriental cultures semi-precious stones were structural elements of their
jewelry, in Greece emphasis was placed on worked metal. Gold and silver were
the preferred metals (silver actually being much more rare and usually only
found as a naturally occurring alloy with gold known as “electrum”). However
besides gold and silver, other metals such as copper, lead and iron were used
to fashion diadems, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings of unrivalled
artistry. Ancient Greek jewelers created decorative and artistic themes that
far outshone the commonplace repetitive designs of the artifacts of the East.
In antiquity there were ample gold deposits around the Mediterranean, and
active gold mines throughout Greece such as those of Siphnos, Thasos or Mount
Pangaion. And imported gold was also available to jewelers from Egypt, Spain,
the Caucasus and elsewhere. Techniques of gold leaf, wire, hammering, and
filigree produced beautiful products. Jewelry decoration depended on the
characteristic traits of each period, techniques moving gradually from simple
to complex. In Hellenistic times semi-precious stones began to be incorporated
into the produce of Greek jewelers, and with the campaigns of Alexander the
Great, Greek techniques and styles were disseminated throughout the
Mediterranean, including North Africa, the Levant, and into Mesopotamia.
AncientGifts] ANCIENT HELLENIC GREECE: "The Hellenic World" is a term which
refers to that period of ancient Greek history between 507 B.C. (the date of
the first democracy in Athens) and 323 B.C. (the death of Alexander the Great).
This period is also referred to as the age of Classical Greece and should not
be confused with The Hellenistic World which designates the period between the
death of Alexander and Rome's conquest of Greece (323 - 146 - 31 B.C.). The
Hellenic World of ancient Greece consisted of the Greek mainland, Crete, the
islands of the Greek archipelago, and the coast of Asia Minor primarily (though
mention is made of cities within the interior of Asia Minor and, of course, the
colonies in southern Italy). This is the time of the great Golden Age of Greece
and, in the popular imagination, resonates as "ancient Greece".
The great law-giver, Solon, having served wisely as Archon of Athens for 22
years, retired from public life and saw the city, almost immediately, fall
under the dictatorship of Peisistratus. Though a dictator, Peisistratus
understood the wisdom of Solon, carried on his policies and, after his death,
his son Hippias continued in this tradition (though still maintaining a
dictatorship which favored the aristocracy). After the assassination of his
younger brother (inspired, according to Thucydides, by a love affair gone wrong
and not, as later thought, politically motivated), however, Hippias became wary
of the people of Athens, instituted a rule of terror, and was finally
overthrown by the army under Kleomenes I of Sparta and Cleisthenes of Athens.
Cleisthenes reformed the constitution of Athens and established democracy in
the city in 507 B.C. He also followed Solon's lead but instituted new laws
which decreased the power of the artistocracy, increased the prestige of the
common people, and attempted to join the separate tribes of the mountan, the
plain, and the shore into one unified people under a new form of government.
According to the historian Durant, "The Athenians themselves were exhilarated
by this adventure into sovereignty. From that moment they knew the zest of
freedom in action, speech, and thought; and from that moment they began to lead
all Greece in literature and art, even in statesmanship and war". This
foundation of democracy, of a free state comprised of men who "owned the soil
that they tilled and who ruled the state that governed them", stabilized Athens
and provided the groundwork for the Golden Age.
The Golden Age of Greece, according to the poet Shelley, "is
undoubtedly...the most memorable in the history of the world". The list of
thinkers, writers, doctors, artists, scientists, statesmen, and warriors of the
Hellenic World comprises those who made some of the most important
contributions to western civilization: The statesman Solon, the poets Pindar
and Sappho, the playwrights Sophocles, Euripedes, Aeschylus and Aristophanes,
the orator Lysias, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the philosophers
Zeno of Elea, Protagoras of Abdera, Empedocles of Acragas, Heraclitus,
Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the writer and general Xenophon,
the physician Hippocrates, the sculptor Phidias, the statesman Pericles, the
generals Alcibiades and Themistocles, among many other notable names, all lived
during this period.
Interestingly, Herodotus considered his own age as lacking in many ways and
looked back to a more ancient past for a paradigm of a true greatness. The
writer Hesiod, an 8th century B.C. contemporary of Homer, claimed precisely the
same thing about the age Herodotus looked back toward and called his own age
wicked, depraved and dissolute" and hoped the future would produce a better
breed of man for Greece. Herodotus aside, however, it is generally understood
that the Hellenic World was a time of incredible human achievement. Major
city-states (and sacred places of pilgrimage) in the Hellenic World were Argos,
Athens, Eleusis, Corinth, Delphi, Ithaca, Olympia, Sparta, Thebes, Thrace, and,
of course, Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.
The gods played an important part in the lives of the people of the Hellenic
World; so much so that one could face the death penalty for questioning - or
even allegedly questioning - their existence, as in the case of Protagoras,
Socrates, and Alcibiades (the Athenian statesman Critias, sometimes referred to
as `the first atheist', only escaped being condemned because he was so powerful
at the time). Great works of art and beautiful temples were created for the
worship and praise of the various gods and goddesses of the Greeks, such as the
Parthenon of Athens, dedicated to the goddess Athena Parthenos (Athena the
Virgin) and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (both works which Phidias contributed
to and one, the Temple of Zeus, listed as an Ancient Wonder).
The temple of Demeter at Eleusis was the site of the famous Eleusinian
Mysteries, considered the most important rite in ancient Greece. In his works
The Iliad and The Odyssey, immensely popular and influential in the Hellenic
World, Homer depicted the gods and goddesses as being intimately involved in
the lives of the people, and the deities were regularly consulted in domestic
matters as well as affairs of state. The famous Oracle at Delphi was considered
so important at the time that people from all over the known world would come
to Greece to ask advice or favors from the god, and it was considered vital to
consult with the supernatural forces before embarking on any military campaign.
Among the famous battles of the Hellenic World that the gods were consulted
on were the Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.) the Battles of Thermopylae and
Salamis (480 B.C.), Plataea (479 B.C.,) and The Battle of Chaeronea (338 B.C.)
where the forces of the Macedonian King Philip II commanded, in part, by his
son Alexander, defeated the Greek forces and unified the Greek city-states.
After Philip's death, Alexander would go on to conquer the world of his day,
becoming Alexander the Great. Through his campaigns he would bring Greek
culture, language, and civilization to to the world and, after his death, would
leave the legacy which came to be known as the Hellenistic World. [Ancient
SHIPPING & RETURNS/REFUNDS: We always ship books domestically (within the
USA) via USPSINSURED media mail (“book rate”). Most international orders cost
an additional $13.49 to $41.99 for aninsured shipment in a heavily padded
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flat rate mailer. Therefore the shipping costs are somewhat higher than what is
otherwise ordinary. There is also a discount program which can cut postage
costs by 50% to 75% if you’re buying about half-a-dozen books or more (5
kilos+). Our postage charges are as reasonable as USPS rates allow.ADDITIONAL
PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per book (for
each additional book after the first) so as to reward you for the economies of
combined shipping/insurance costs.
Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We
package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and
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will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with.
If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I
offer a no questions asked 30-day return policy. Send it back, I will give you
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ABOUT US: Prior to our retirement we used to travel to Europe and Central
Asia several times a year. Most of the items we offer came from acquisitions we
made in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near
East) during these years from various institutions and dealers. Much of what we
generate on Etsy, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St.
Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe and Asia
connected with Anthropology and Archaeology. Though we have a collection of
ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, our primary interests are
ancient jewelry and gemstones. Prior to our retirement we traveled to Russia
every year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globe’s most
prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk
and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India,
Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg
where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which
the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for.
My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of
Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite,
diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many
other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to
find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken
settings – the gold reused – the gemstones recut and reset. Before these
gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in
their original, antique, hand-finished state – most of them centuries old. We
believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth
protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique
gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving
their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left
for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with
Not everyone agrees – fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come
into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. But if
you agree with us that the past is worth protecting, and that past lives and
the produce of those lives still matters today, consider buying an antique,
hand cut, natural gemstone rather than one of the mass-produced machine cut
often synthetic or “lab produced”) gemstones which dominate the market today.
We can set most any antique gemstone you purchase from us in your choice of
styles and metals ranging from rings to pendants to earrings and bracelets; in
sterling silver, 14kt solid gold, and 14kt gold fill. When you purchase from
us, you can count on quick shipping and careful, secure packaging. We would be
happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item
you purchase from us. There is a $3 fee for mailing under separate cover. I
will always respond to every inquiry whether via email or eBay message, so
please feel free to write.