Sunday 27 January 2013

Antiochene Nymphaion

I knew that I wanted to build a nymphaion, a public fountain house, for my Antiochene suburb but I didn't know exactly how I was going to represent it. Then I found a great little article by Rick Bonnie and Julian Richard (2012) discussing two first century BC/AD nymphaiai from Magdala on the Sea of Galilee (Israel), birth place of Mary Magdalene, and Sagalassos in Pisidia (Turkey). The pictures below have been lifted from their article without permission; I hold no copyright over them.

Remains of the  nymphaion at Magdala
Plan of the nympaion at Magdala
Reconstructed remains of the nymphaion at Sagalassos
Plan of the nymphaion at Sagalassos

Both nymphaiai were built to resemble a pi-shaped stoa, the standard civic space/shopping mall of the ancient Greek world. Seeing the style of them, the date, the geographic spread (the the south and to the northwest of Antioch respectively), I figured that they might just be the template I was looking for. Conveniently, they both also fit within a 10x10 metre footprint which converts perfectly into my programme of 10x10cm buildings.

Sitting down with a pen, ruler, hobby knife, a bucket of glue and assorted balsa wood pieces this weekend, I managed to make my own miniature hommage of a fountain house - slightly closer to the Magdala example than Sagalassos and slightly larger than both. Still, not a bad effort for my first public building. The nymph statue is a Xyston Seleukid priestess from the Seleukos I personality pack.

The nymphaion within its urban setting (... on the shelf)

Sunday 20 January 2013

Project Antioch grows

A small update for my Antiocheia Mikros (Little Antioch) project.

First off, this great isometric reconstruction of Roman Dura-Europos to give a little inspiration. This is a great image as it shows the sorts of domestic buildings that will bulk out most of my city. The staggered roof tops are just the sort of thing to stage stealthy missions and pursuits across.

Keeping with a Dura theme, the first of my new buildings was inspired by the early third century synagogue at the city. Unfortunately I haven't been able to source a high resolution plan, but this one (to the left) will have to suffice.

Room 1 is an open courtyard with a colonnade along two sides, room 2 is the hall of assembly. The synagogue itself was originally a house, modified to look like the plan shown probably in the late second or early third century, and then altered again in AD 244 into a larger, grander building.

The building was excavated in 1932 and revealed some of the most spectacular frescoes I've ever seen. They have been on show in a specially built room in the Damascus National Museum - I don't know anything about their status or condition since the start of the uprising last year.

The Dura Synagogue frescoes in the Damascus Museum
Moses found in the rushes

And here is my (still quite amateurish) attempt to reproduce something similar - a Jewish house in Antiocheia Mikros. This is the first of four buildings that I am making to fit inside a 10x20cm footprint. It is 10cm across the front and 17cm in length. Depending on the set up of the town, that allows a 3cm wide alleyway running out the back.

I made some fairly significant changes, such as relocating the entrance of the building and removing some corridors, but I'm still happy enough that it contains the spirit of the original. Not sure how clear it is in the top photo, but there is even a Menorah at the door of the main hall.

The second new building is another 10x10cm building (that now makes three of six complete). It is very loosely inspired by part of our accommodation compound in Syria.

When all four buildings are placed together - along with an equestrian statue mounted on an appropriated building block (cheers Young Hotspur) - you can start to see the streetscape taking shape.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Rebuilding suburban Antioch

As part of my new project, I need to put together an ancient streetscape. Not being one to shrink from an interesting challenge, I spent much of today starting the construction work; the aim, to build a suburb of Late Hellenistic Antioch. I seldom have days when I can indulge so much but I'm still off work until next week, today Hotspur the Younger started at his new preschool and I happened to have a birthday which meant that Mrs Hotspur was happy enough to let me skulk around the house and play with sharp knives.

I have spent several happy weeks in and around Antakya (modern Antioch) as part of mid-season breaks while digging in Syria so I have a real enthusiasm for this project. However modern Antioch, for all of its charms, is more than 10 metres above the ancient city due to successive earthquakes, floods and a couple of thousand years of continuous occupation. That means that while I have some great source photos to base my   streetscape on, none of it is reflective of the city that I want on the table top.

Indeed, while several Roman period structures have been excavated - and have produced some great mosaics - there is very little known about the physical Hellenistic city. About the only visible presence is the Charonian, a monumental head carved into Mount Silpios which was at one time identified as Charon, ferryman of the dead, was probably meant to represent Atargatis, the Syrian Mother Goddess, and is now erroneously refereed to as Miriam (Mary the Virgin) by the locals.

The Charonian

Roman mosaic

So where does that leave me and my project I hear you ask? The answer of course, is at great liberty to construct Hellenistic Antioch as it may have been, or as someone who once passed through there as a boy remembered it in his old age. There will be a mix of generic Middle Eastern style flat roofed buildings, with any public structures (a stoa, a shrine, a nymphaion perhaps) and larger houses having more of a Greek influence with pitched roofs and tiles. I am going to avoid famous structures which might get me into difficulties and concentrate of reconstructing a suburb.

The table will be 2"x2" or there abouts with a paved street running down the centre and free standing structures which can be moved around to create different steet/alley/lane layouts. I sat down the other evening and did some sums and I believe that the key will be creating all of my structures to have a standard footprint which they may not fill, but mustn't exceed. To start with I'll plan on making:

Two structures to fill 20x20cm foot prints - these will certainly be a stoa with a royal equestrian statue and a small temple - probably to Apollo.

Four structures to fill 20x10cm footprints - perhaps a nymphaion, larger houses, multi story insulae.

Six structures to fill a 10x10cm footprint - smaller houses, workshops, taverns etc.

I don't think I'll manage to do a continuous work-in-progress as I imagine that this project will take me well through the Summer (at least) to make and paint. Here are just a few shots of the first two structures being made. I started with a couple of simple 10x10s, a house and a small tavern... I wasn't so good at keeping to my 10x10cm rule. The house measures 10.3x10cm, and the tavern is 10.3x7cm. Still, pretty good for a first go.

The small balsa pile - I'm using 3mm thick panels to create the walls and roofs of my structures

Pinning (literally) and gluing the house's annex - 15mm civilians for scale

The annex completed with the main building undergoing the same treatment; thin strips of balsa were applied to create door frames

The two rooms are glued and pegged and a courtyard wall added

The house next to the small tavern which received a wider, open door and some framed windows

The buildings with 15mm miniatures for scale
I'm really pleased with how these came together. I'm not sure how quickly the rest will be constructed, I imagine each structure from now on will be built over several days. When all are done they will be painted up and hopefully made characterful and 'lived in'. Where is Weta Workshop when you need them?

Tuesday 1 January 2013

A Happy New Year to you all...

...and may all your resolutions be good ones! On top of my other gaming interests and life in general, I am embarking on a new project for 2013 which I envisage will take me all of 2013.

I'm not going to say too much just now, but it involves recent purchases from Xyston, Donnington and Baueda. I have just sieved through Young Hotspur's piggybank for as many coppers as I could lay my hands on (what he loses in coins, he'll make for in fun when he's older) and tomorrow evening I plan on purchasing about my weight in balsa wood. The following images have been quickly swiped of the interweb to act as inspiration...