The archangel Michael, whose cult first emerged in Ethiopia under the patronage of Emperor Zär’a Ya’eqob (ruled 1434–1468), remains the most venerated archangel in Ethiopia. This is largely due to his role as an intercessor on behalf of the faithful.
In this folio dating to the late 1600s, Saint Michael rescues the faithful from the flames of hell. And on the facing page, those Michael has already saved are depicted as living safely in paradise.
Until recently, it was the habit of preachers to enumerate the points they made in their sermon. The phrase ‘fifthly and lastly, dear brethren’, or whatever number it was, was a familiar one to churchgoers. St Mary Magdalen Church in Bermondsey Street, London, once had a Puritan preacher who, some four hundred years ago, preached a sermon from sixty pages of notes concluding with the words ‘one hundred and seventhly and lastly, dear brethren.’
This is the earliest surviving Chinese globe, and dates from the early 1600s. It was not made by the Chinese, but by two European missionaries, Father Nicolo Longobardi and Manuel Dias – they actually signed the globe using Chinese versions of their names, Yang Ma-no and Long Hua-min.
Both men introduced important Western geographical ideas into China, and the globe helped them to do this. The globe is inscribed with a number of complicated geographical and astronomical concepts. These include an explanation of the theories of latitude and longitude, and a description of the way eclipses of the sun and moon prove that the world is round.
The Chinese already had a long and esteemed map-making tradition. One inscription on the globe pays tribute to this by referring to terrestrial magnetism – the magnetic force that pulls a compass needle to the north. Chinese scientists were aware of this force about forty years before it was understood in Europe. Chinese maps traditionally showed China at the center of the world. They called China “the middle kingdom” for a reason. Far-away continents and countries were generally unknown, or downplayed. This globe does not downplay China, but simply puts it in context with other continents and countries.
The seven-day week has no correspondence to astronomy – unlike the presence of the sun giving us days, or phases of the moon giving us months. Historians generally think the seven-day week was “invented” by Mesopotamians and/or Jews. Both thought the number seven had mystic significance. Sumer had a (mostly) seven-day week system since at least the 21st century BCE. The Jewish weeks may have developed independently or been influenced by their Fertile Crescent neighbors.
From the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa the seven-day week spread around the Old World. The Greeks and Persians adopted the Babylonian system, and fro Persia it spread to India and China in various forms. In Japan, for instance, seven-day weeks were mainly used by specialist astrologers until the 1800s. In Europe, it was officially adopted by the Roman Empire in the 300s CE, but it was already in common use throughout the empire.
PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Basil the Great (Bishop of Caesarea)
SAINT Basil (c. 330 – c. 379 CE), also known as Basil the Great and Basil of Caesarea, was a bishop of Caesarea in central Asia Minor who staunchly defended the church against the 4th-century CE heresy of Arianism. Basil’s writings on monasticism and theological issues would be hugely influential during his lifetime and in later centuries as the Christian Church developed in the east. The saint, regarded as one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church, was also noted for his work helping the poor and his sermons which addressed the imbalances in society.
Basil was born c. 330 CE into an aristocratic family who had a large estate at Ibora on the Pontic-Cappadocian border. He received a thorough education at Nicomedia in Bithynia, northwest Asia Minor, possibly under the tutorship of the famed rhetorician from Antioch, Libanius (d. c. 393 CE) who was, curiously enough, a staunch defender of paganism. As was relatively common for a young aristocrat’s education at the time, Basil was also sent to Athens and Constantinople. It was in Athens that Basil reportedly first began to consider a career in the church, but on his return home, he began his working life as a teacher. Then, in the 350s CE, Basil spent some time in monasteries in Syria and Egypt to learn more about the ascetics there.