From the stony desolation of Jordan's desert, it is but a step through a doorway into the bath house of the Qusayr 'Amra hunting lodge. Inside, multicolored frescoes depict scenes from courtly life and the hunt, along with musicians, dancing girls, and naked bathing women. The traveler is transported to the luxurious and erotic world of a mid-eighth-century Muslim Arab prince. For scholars, though, Qusayr 'Amra, probably painted in the 730s or 740s, has proved a mirage, its concreteness dissolved by doubts about date, patron, and meaning. This is the first book-length contextualization of the mysterious monument through a compelling analysis of its iconography and of the literary sources for the Umayyad period. It illuminates not only the way of life of the early Muslim elite but also the long afterglow of late antique Syria.
List of Maps and Illustrations
1. Musil's Fairy-Tale Castle
2. Luxuries of the Bath
3. The Hunt
4. "O God, Bless the Amir"
5. The Princely Patron
6. Maintaining the Dynasty
7. The Six Kings
8. A Captive Sasanian Princess
9. Qusayr 'Amar Contextualized
10. Umayyad Self-Representation
Appendix: The Value of Arabic Literary Sources
Garth Fowden is Research Professor at the Centre for Greek and Roman Antiquity, National Research Foundation in Athens. He is author of The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind (reprinted 1993) and Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (1993).
"Three features make this book remarkable. First, its scholarship is impeccable, unusually broad, and complete. Second, its author has a clear story to tell. Third, it illuminates the world of Late Antiquity, which is only now beginning to be understood."—Oleg Grabar, author of The Shape of the Holy