Today I got yet another object lesson in how (1) anything might be grist for the ErosBlog mill, (2) you learn something every day and (3), the Internet is a marvelous thing.

I was passing my commute with Chris Wickham’s new book The Inheritance of Rome, a demonstration of the sort of superman historical erudition that people like me can only dream of having. As my train was pulling in to its dismal destination, I came across the following passage in Wickham’s discussion of the rise and fall of the Umayyad Caliphate:

The Ummayyads had a terrible press after their fall in 750. They were seen…as luxurious degenerates, enjoying themselves in their palaces, and ignoring the needs of government. They certainly built luxurious palaces, some of them survive, in the Jordan valley and on the Syrian/Jordan fringe, as ambitious in their own way as al-Walid’s mosques, and in two cases (the stuccoes of the Khirbat al-Mafjar outside Jericho, the frescoes of the Qusayr ‘Amra bath-house east of ‘Amman) they show profusion of human forms (often naked and female) that do not look very ‘Islamic.’

Google image search time!

I turns out there are many splendid images available of Qusayr ‘Amra, and the frescoes, though not in good shape, really are remarkable. Here is one I found from at L’académie de Lille. First one:

quaysr nude fresco

And another:

quaysr bath scene

Professor Wickham is certain right to put “Islamic” in quotes, for these images certainly seem contrary to a stereotype of Islam as a sex-negative, iconophobic religion.

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