Symbolic meaning attributed to many objects of natural world was mainly formed in the earliest period of Christian art. However, during the following centuries its meanings often became multivalent and complex, especially in the art of the Justinianic period. Through analysis of style and iconography/iconology of the 6th-century mosaic representations in Ravenna and Porec, this paper will explore different ways in representing objects of natural world and especially their symbolic meaning.
The Byzantines appreciated much animal fables, Aesopian, medieval, eastern, attributed to their didactic character. Animal fables’ illustrations, such as The Fables of Bidpai in New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, cod. 397 and the Aesopian depictions of the monastic complex in Eski Gümüs, Cappadocia, are dated in 11th century. At the same period of time, depictions of medieval fables were sculptured on capitals in churches of Mani, Southern Greece (Nomitzi, Platsa etc). These specific depictions were meant to reveal the allegorical character of those represented. Therefore, the strong connection between those provincial decorations to their Constantinopolitan counterparts should be further examined.
The 15th-century Arabic cosmography, Kharidat al-‘Aja’ib wa Faridat al-Ghara’ib , ascribed to Ibn al-Wardi (d. 1457) was frequently translated into Ottoman Turkish and widely read by the Ottoman literati between the 16th and 19th centuries. As an Ottoman preacher of the 16th century, Mahmud al-Hatib, made the most popular translation of the Kharidat al-‘Aja’ib, that is extant today with more than 30 copies in libraries worldwide. This paper delves into Mahmud al-Hatib’s translation and explores his own eye-witness accounts and contemporary hearsay which tended to confirm the image of the world as a land of wonders, rather than seeking a more realistic picture of the age in which he lived.