Early concepts on history and heritage

As has been noted above, the modern sense of historicity is one of the basic factors leading to the development of the modern conservation movement. R. G. Collingwood notes that the concept 'philosophy of history' was invented by Voltaire in the eighteenth century, and it was then taken to mean critical or scientific history, in which the historian made up his mind for himself instead of repeating old stories. Collingwood understands the idea of history as a scientific research or inquiry into past actions of human beings for the purpose of human self-knowledge. Such reflection is different from the chronicles that were made in the ancient world, e.g., by Sumerians (Collingwood, 1994:1ff). Nevertheless, the 'science of history' goes back to the ancient Greeks: Herodotus, a disciple of the Milesian Hecataeus (the greatest of the logographoi) and the author of a History of the Persian War, is generally given as its 'inventor' in the fifth century bc. This approach was reconfirmed and consolidated by Thucydides, author of the History of the War between Athens and Sparta (431-404 B.C.); not pretending to be impartial, he reported more faithfully and truthfully than other ancient historians. These traditions were perpetuated through the Hellenistic era and continued by Roman historians, such as Cato, Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius. To understand better some issues related to the questions of heritage and historiography, it will be useful to look into the development of the principal monotheistic religions, i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

When Moses, in the thirteenth or fourteenth century bc, led his people away from Egypt, and founded the religious community known as Israel, he also established a cultural tradition whereby the memory of these events was to be transferred from generation to generation. It seems that the experience of the exile and the subsequent dispersion of the people further strengthened the trend to transmit the Jewish spiritual heritage by non-material means. It was also reinforced by limitations in purchasing land and developing property, and by the fact that the City of Jerusalem and its principal temple had been destroyed. The transmission of familial, religious, ethical and national traditions to future generations is one of the most prominent ideas in the Torah, which forms an important heritage object itself, as well as being a significant example of early historiography, where the truth of message becomes essential. The Torah, in the narrow sense, came to form the first five books of the Bible, and stressed the following forms of transmission of heritage to posterity.4

1. Verbally by the leader to his people, or by father to son: 'And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them . . .' (Deuteronomy 6:7).

2. Inculcation by custom and commandment, e.g., observing the day when the Israelites were brought out of Egypt (Exodus 12:17 and 26-27).

3. Writing in a book, where the author is clearly aware that the very fact of writing is a form of perpetuation of the heritage (Exodus 17:14).

4. Giving a significant name to an individual, and thus conveying a message to the members of his or her generation and the generations to come (Genesis 17:5).

5. Giving a significant name to a place, thus conveying its meaning, message, or story, to future generations (Genesis 26:33).

6. Setting up a monument, a column, or a temple to mark the importance of the place - and perhaps its sanctity - for future generations (Genesis 28:18).

7. Preservation of an object as testimony to an event or idea in order to transmit the memory to coming generations (Exodus 16:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:2-5).

In many instances, the Bible refers to repair and maintenance, especially in relation to the magnificent temple founded by King Solomon (c. 1015-977 bc) in his renewed capital city of Jerusalem. The Hebrew expression 'bedeq habayit ('repair of the house'), is, in fact, unique in the Bible, and refers only to the repair of the Temple. Books II Kings and II Chronicles refer to large-scale campaigns for its repair and maintenance, one at the time of King Jehoash (839-798 bc), the other of King

Josaiah (639-609 bc). There were obviously well-established systems to guarantee the care of the building, but due to some negligence this had not always brought the expected results. The repairs also indicate a general religious awakening, and the eradication of idolatry. Furthermore, the renewal and cultivation of the promised land are stressed as an important heritage of the Israelis, extending to natural and settled landscape, such as cities, houses, vineyards, trees, roads, and springs. This is described by the prophets in moving verses, e.g., 'And they shall build the ancient ruins, raise up the desolations of old, and renew the ruined cities, the desolations of many ages' (Isaiah 61:4).5 The Book of Jeremiah (chapter 32) further exemplifies consciousness of the importance of transmitting tradition, preserving a spiritual heritage, and the use of various means to do so, whether physical, verbal or written. Later, the Christians took the books of the Torah as the foundation of the Bible, and added to them further texts on sacred history, thus forming the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, which, to them, represented the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophesies. The Bible came to represent the concept of 'universal history' since the creation of the world, though only in relation to Jewish and Christian events.

The Hellenistic Age in the Mediterranean area and western Asia, from the death of Alexander the Great to the accession of Emperor Augustus (323-30 BC, and even until AD 300), was characterized by active influences at an international level. This age contributed to the shaping of the principal religions of the region, and received influences from mysticism, such as veneration of Isis or Mithra, from Judaism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Christianity. An important influence came from the Zoroastrians, the major pre-Islamic religion in Iran founded in the sixth century BC. This religion was monotheistic in character, but recognized the conflict between two dualistic forces: good and evil, light and darkness. The worship of Ahuramazda, their god, was based on honesty and truth in good thought, good words, and good deeds, as expressed in the hymns of Zoroaster (Zarathustra), the Gathas.

In philosophical terms, the Hellenistic Age was based on Greek inheritance, especially on the thinking of Plato and Aristotle; the latter was also teacher to Alexander the Great. This basic reference remained important to Christian philosophy throughout the Middle Ages, as well as to Islamic philosophy. There was a new impetus, however, through the philosophical speculations of Plotinus (ad 204-269), founder of Neoplatonism, whose influence was felt particularly through the Platonic School in Athens, closed by Justinian in 529, but extending even through Byzantium and the Renaissance until a revival of interest in the study of Plato's works in the eighteenth-century. Neoplatonism was fundamental in that it defined art as mimesis, 'imitation' or 'representation' of reality, expressed in the works of the poet, the dramatist, the painter, the musician, the sculptor. Renaissance painters, such as Raphael, observed nature in order to discover that certain 'idea' of the Creator - as noted by Bellori and Winckelmann in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Panof-sky, 1968). This 'representational' concept of art remained dominant in the West until the new recognition of the artist's creative role in Romanticism, and it influenced early restoration practice until the eighteenth century, and even later.

The Jewish and Hellenistic inheritance was taken over by the Christians, who based their Bible on the Torah, and were strongly influenced by Neoplatonic philosophers. The most important historian of Christianity was Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 264-340) who was born in Palestine. His Chronicon was the first documented history of the Christian church from its origins, and he has been called the father of Church history. The most radical, philosophical approach in late antiquity, however, was introduced by St Augustine (354-430). Born in North Africa, he lived in Rome for some time, was baptized by Bishop Ambrose, and taught and studied in Milan; later he returned to North Africa, and was ordained priest and then bishop, in Numidia. His criticism of the ancient world and his conceptual approach factually mark the end of antiquity and the beginning of a new consciousness for Christianity.

At that time, Rome was rapidly losing its authority as the capital of an empire; the city was sacked in 410 by the Visigoths under the command of Alaric, a disaster from which the city recovered, but such sackings were to be repeated in the centuries to come. The Church was not yet organized, and it still lacked the consciousness of history as well as of making history. Augustine's principal purpose was to glorify Christianity. In his Confessions, he wrote an autobiography that was the first inner exploration of oneself in antiquity, and he was thus the first to be known in his innermost feelings. In a parallel, critical exploration he analysed his own society, finding it utterly corrupt. Here, his intention was not to write history, but to interpret existing conditions. In order to provide Christianity with a leading role, he assumed the mission to destroy the myth of pagan Rome, a myth that had been consolidated particularly from the times of Emperor Augustus and the writings of Virgil.6

In the 22 books that form his De civitate Dei ('City of God', 413-426), Augustine compared the 'time' of God, with the 'time' of humans. Breaking with the earlier concepts of circular time and eternal return, he introduced the idea of a continuous and irreversible time, a continuum from original sin to the last judgement. The idea of differentiating between the historic time of humans and the time of gods was known to Greek epic and tragedy, and late Platonists distinguished between temporality and eternity. For Augustine, God's time can be understood as an eternal presence, while man is linked with the good and bad weather and time of earthly existence, the 'tempug (Lat.: 'division', 'portion of time', 'opportunity', 'condition'). For the Jews, history was related to the nation's fate, but for the Romans it was exemplified mainly by the history of Rome itself. This seemed to be also the concept of Augustine, who wondered why pagan Rome had prospered while Christian Rome had declined. To him, however, 'history' as such could only tell about errors and corruption; Christians, aiming at God's glory, really did not need any history (G√ľnther, 1995).

As in other traditional cultures, poetry was an important art form in pre-Islamic Arabia; the Jahili poetry thus took 'the place of philosophy and most of the sciences', as an early Islamic historian has written (Khalidi, 1994:2). Starting with the birth of Islam, in 622,7 the Arabs learned a new way of looking at history. This was developed especially under the rubric of Hadith that formed a record of the deeds and words of the Prophet. The chain of authorities for the verification and authentication of the truth was expressed in Isnad, a network of relationships emerging from scholarly debate. From Hadith, a record of the Qur'anic time, there was a gradual transition to the history of ordinary community, starting with the work of Tabari (839-923), who wrote an immense history of the world, and extending to the eminent historians and philosophers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Islamic doctrine led to the historical conception of human life and destiny, and the desire to learn from the past (Hodjat, 1995). An important contribution by the Islamic philosophers was the translation of classical authors into Arabic, thus conserving this heritage, and also making it later available to Europe.

The main source for truth in Islam is the Qur'an. This Holy Book presents two types of historical concepts, one related to the creation and the end of the world, the other to human life on earth. The normal word for 'history' in Arabic is Tarikh. However, this word has not been used in the Qur'an; instead, there are other words: Qasas (to follow up, to be in search of reality), Hadith (a new statement, innovation), Nabaa (news that is free from lies, sequential, and that refers to the divine). Referring to these words, Mehdi Hodjat concludes about the general approach of the Qur'an to the past and heritage:

The Qur'an recalls the remains of the ancients as signs, intimating that if enough attention is paid to them, they will become the means for the guidance of mankind. What is regarded as the past in the Qur'an are not only the events narrated by the Qur'an itself, but repeated invitations to travel the world and witness the great relics of the ancients first-hand, and to study and learn from material remains. . . . From the Qur'an's point of view, the past, indeed, is not dead. It is a living factor that plays a significant role in the well-being of the individual and the betterment of social relations for any society helping to form their future. Through this approach, the past, present and future are united to create a timeless atmosphere, in which our lives are but momentary. (Hodjat, 1995:25ff)

The most significant of the Islamic historians certainly was Ibn Khaldun (1337-1406), who was born in Tunis, but also worked in Spain,

Figure 1.8 The city of Kashan in Iran has preserved its historic fabric until the present day, traditionally maintained through the system of waqf

Morocco, and Egypt. He was particularly interested in recording what really happened in society, what were the mistakes and successes, in order to learn from these and to correct in the future. His important preparatory work for this was the Prolegomena (The Muqaddimah), an in-depth study in the meaning and methodology of historiography, a study that transforms literature into scientific study, a method to distinguish truth from error. Afterwards, this made it possible for him to write the histories of Arabs and Berbers. Ibn Khaldun thus pursued the thinking of the ancient Greek historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, and anticipated European thought by some four centuries. He was critical of earlier Islamic historians for having failed to link political and military history with social and economic evolution. On the surface, he wrote, history seemed to be no more than information about past events, but, he continued: 'The inner meaning of history, on the other hand, involves speculation and an attempt to get at the truth, subtle explanations of the causes and origins of existing things, and deep knowledge of the how and why of events. History, therefore, is firmly rooted in philosophy. It deserves to be accounted a branch of philosophy.'8 He argued that the true nature of history is the understanding of man's past, and he has been credited as the father of modern sociology (Lacoste, 1984; Issawi, 1987; Khalidi, 1994; Ibn Khaldun, 1997).

Apart from the development of historical consciousness, Islamic society also had a traditional system of maintenance and repair of community properties; this was organized within a type of endowment called waqf (vaqf). In several Islamic countries, the system has survived until modern times or has been revived after a period of interruption. The waqf system resulted from the relation of Islamic philosophy to social justice, and was based on voluntary contributions or on transfer of inheritance to a common endowment fund used to manage properties such as mosques, schools, caravanserais, and public and social services. Some properties, such as inns, bazaars, gardens or fields, could generate income that was used for the upkeep of the system. Generally, properties were given in trust to waqf, and could not be mortgaged or used to generate private income. The system not only guaranteed upkeep and repair of historic buildings, but also avoided the division of larger properties between several inheritors, and laid the ground for common social responsibility (Soheil, 1995).

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