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About Dean Swift

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

A History of Art with Mosaic Tiles

For centuries, people have adorned the walls of churches and castles with intricate and beautiful mosaic tiles. For whatever reason, they had the desire to create an excellent work of art that comes from tiny little pieces of stones, shells, and other materials.

The accounts from history books and historians believed that everything started with shell, stone, and ivory materials in ancient Mesopotamia about 3,500 years ago. These mosaic tiles have been used for thousands of years, and they are still popular even now. Today, it has been continued by various artists all around the world, where larger creations are more prominent. Different portraits are more common, and they are in postage stamps, photos, postcards, and books. Here is some history of mosaic art that you may want to know about.

Roman and Greek Empire

In 200 BC, the Roman empire popularized mosaics that fortunes could be made by creating them. They were manufactured with tiny “tesserae” or pre-made and uniform pieces of ceramic, stone, or glass. The art is made of irregular pieces of ceramic, glass, colored stones, and others and they are held in place with mortar or plaster.

They are very particularly common as wall and floor decorations in the Ancient World of the Romans. Today, this has been used in many hobby crafts, pavements, murals, artwork, and industrial constructions, but they were different in the 4th century BC.

Pebbles that were identified from the Bronze Age had been found in the Tiryns. The art pieces dating back to the 4th century BC were also discovered in the Aegae, a town in Macedonia. The figural styles common in Greeks were believed to have been formed during the 3rd century. Then there are the mythological subjects that show people pursuing wealth or hunting animals. They were very popular with their geometric designs and act as centerpieces in many homes.

There were scenes of leftover food from feasts and doves that drank from bowls. Both themes have been adapted and copied by the Romans. They applied these in Hellenistic villas and Roman dwellings in Europe. Most of the recorded names of the Roman mosaic creators are Greek, and it was believed that these talented craftsmen were slaves.

Christian Art

The start of the building of the basilicas did not start until the late 4th century, and the mosaic was thought to be perfect for Christian use. Some of the earlier creations did not survive, but the mosaics of Santa Pudenziana and Santa Costanza are still in existence. Get more info about Santa Costanza at this link:

There is still the wall mosaic in the mausoleum and ambulatory of Santa Costanza. It depicts a feast and the classical wine tradition that represents Bacchus. This was the symbol of change and transformation, and it was thought to be appropriate for a mausoleum.

In another great basilica, the Church of Nativity applied the Roman geometric motifs on the floors, which were partially preserved, which is in Bethlehem. The crypt in St. Peter’s Basilica called the Tomb of Julii is a 4th century vaulted ceiling that were thought to have Christian symbols. Some of these churches have high-quality art in them, but only the fragments have survived. Most of them show a band of saints praying in front of a complicated architecture that usually exists in the creator’s imagination.

During the following centuries, the capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna, became the center of mosaic art. It served as the capital of the whole of the Western Empire in the 4th century. The most notable is the Basilica of San Lorenzo, specifically in the St. Aquilinus Chapel, which shows many mosaics depicting the St. Elijah and Christ with his apostles. They were known for their unique and beautiful colors with a natural look. They were also in proportion and adhered to the classical canons of the time.

Some of the surviving apse mosaics are located in the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, where it showed Jesus Christ enthroned between Saint Protasius and Saint Gervasius. They were surrounded by a golden background that is believed to date back from the fifth century, although they required many restorations later on. An area in the basilica called the baptistery had gold-leaf tesserae in massive quantities after excavation was made on the site.

Another chapel of the Sant’Ambrogio called the shrine of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro had almost all of its surfaces covered in mosaics in the 5th century. The golden dome depicted the image of Saint Victor, and other saints were shown on a blue background. The low spandrels gave rise to the symbols of Evangelists.

Early Medieval Rome

In Rome, it was known that Christian mosaics were also becoming popular, but it gradually declined when the conditions became worse in the Early Middle Ages. In the 5th century, the mosaics were evident in the arch of Santa Maria Maggiore, where about 27 surviving panels were found. Two other essential creations were lost in the 5th century, but historians knew what they looked like from books and drawings done in the 17th century.

There is also the apse mosaic of Sant’Agata dei Goti, where Christ was depicted as seated on globes and flanked by his twelve apostles. Six are on both sides of him, but this was destroyed in 1589. Streams on four sides flowed from a mountain that support Christ. The theme remained unchanged when Taddeo Zuccari made a similar fresco in 1559 that showed Christ is flanked by saints while seated on a hill. It depicted lambs that are drinking from a single stream located at the bottom.

Byzantine Mosaics

The mosaic culture was more popular in central Byzantine compared to almost half of Western Europe. The churches were generally covered with golden creations of mosaics, and they flourished in the empire from the 6th to 15th centuries. The majority were destroyed during conquests and wars, but a significant number had survived to form an excellent collection.

The buildings, including the Church of Nativity, Hagia Sophia, and the Nea Church, were embellished with mosaics. Learn more about Hagia Sophia in this link. However, none of them survived. The important fragments were recovered at the floors of the Great Palace of Constantinople, and it was believed to be commissioned at the time of Justinian’s reign. It depicted plants, animals, and other figures classically, but they were scattered in plain backgrounds.

There is also the portrait of the mustached man, and it’s one of the more important surviving collections in the Justinian age. This man was thought to be a Gothic chieftain, and some of the fragments are still in the palace vaults. The vine scroll motifs are like Santa Costanza’s, and other floral depictions are known in some churches.

Ravenna was the center of mosaic making in the 6th century, and it boasts many notable examples at this time. Artists from Constantinople made the art at the Church of Santa Maria Formosa, and they have a mix of Ravennate mosaics with a Byzantine style.

One of the authentic works of art in Constantinople is the Hagia Sophia. These south and north tympana were decorated with patriarchs, saints, and prophets. On its principal narthex is an Emperor kneeling before Christ, believed to be made in the 10th century. Just above the door shows an art depicting Theotokos with Justinian and Constantine. The dome has various decorations, including the Ascension. This composition is similar to that of the baptistery in Ravenna, where Christ is in the middle, and the apostles stand between some of the palm trees.

There are others in Western Asian art, Jewish, Orthodox countries, Baroque, and Renaissance. But one thing is for sure, mosaics are still present today, and many crafters can work with art glass, shells, stones, ceramics, beads, and even pearls to create a wonderful image. Today, parks, homes, and bicycles are covered with them, and individual creators can combine the pieces together and create a unique design without any restrictions.

By | 2021-09-10T10:28:57+00:00 September 10th, 2021|History|0 Comments

The History of Business Cards

When Johannes Gutenberg introduced printing to Europe thanks to the invention of the printing press (15th century), nobody could imagine that this new machine would bring so many useful supplies and equipment, such as what we now call business cards. These presentation cards had even more meaning on the 17th century when they were created and so widely used. I bet not even Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith, goldsmith and inventor could imagine that nowadays we could all buy thousands or millions of business cards from home thanks to a new service we now call: Online Printing.

As we said, on the 17th century business cards were widely used, of course not as much as today, but the vast majority of aristocrats in Europe had their own. They were more or less the size of a poker card of the 21st century, and sometimes the cards were engraved with gold and typefaces.

The 17th century visiting cards would be presented by aristocrat footmen to the servants at the home of a host to announce the arrival of a distinguished guest. And as we said, there were decorated with ornaments and sometimes elegant coat of arms.

By the 19th century, many more people started using them and in some houses it was a ‘must have’ thing, as a part of the century´s protocol. Many high class houses had silver card trays on the hall table along with a pencil and a piece of paper. Whenever somebody came they had to leave their cards there and therefore, in the future, it served as a catalog of those who had visited the house before.

According to Convey, during the Industrial era … ” with the rise of the middle class, a decrease in social formality, and more efficient modern printing techniques, visiting cards and trade cards eventually merged into the precursor to our modern business card. The “business card” became a must have item across both Europe and the United States. This shift, however, was not always smooth. Many in the upper class resisted this merger, creating awkward cultural and social divides. “

But what happened next, in the 20th century? Well as you might imagine, business cards became absolutely essential both for important people and all kind of companies. Every customer would ask for your business card and it would be very weird if your company or brand wouldn’t have one by the 1950’s. It became the established norm even for small businesses and corporate executives.

By the 1980’s a whole culture arose around business cards, nobody could leave home without carrying their own personal or brand business cards, there is even a scene in the American Psycho movie that represents the contagious lunacy that every business man suffered towards business cards.

But the point here is that it is now easier than ever to create the most trendy, fashionable and amazing business cards without having to resort to expensive printing professionals. You just have to make your own design with programs like Photoshop or look for an online printing company like HelloPrint to get the most amazing designs ever, and receive as many copies as you want directly at your home or office.

By | 2019-01-20T13:26:46+00:00 January 20th, 2019|History|3 Comments

Spine problems?

Human beings have suffered spine problems throughout the ages. Fossilized evidence of bone straightening exists and the ancient Greeks perfected this art. Therefore, spine surgery is not new, whether used to correct back deformities in children or because some kind of surgical procedure was necessary. This was a far cry from the spine surgery we use today but it shows that we have always understood that bones can be straightened and corrected. (more…)

By | 2018-11-08T12:08:20+00:00 November 8th, 2018|History|0 Comments

Cosmetic Surgery and its Place in Modern Society

People have been concerned about their appearance from the beginning of recorded history. It might sound surprising, but cosmetic surgery has been around for centuries. The tools and methods may differ, but physicians have always searched for ways to make changes to the body of individuals who want a different look. Most of the procedures we see today have been in existence for many years. Their purpose is the same as it used to be, what has changed throughout the years are the tools and the methods used. For example, tattoos and piercings have been popular for centuries; injections and stitching were used to give the body a beautiful and smoother look, and were the beginning of cosmetic surgery. On the other hand, non-invasive surgery came into existence as a medical treatment which made it unnecessary to cut open the body during surgery, for example, non-invasive back surgery is a surgical procedure recommended for patients who suffer chronic neck or back pain. A degenerated painful disc is replaced with a new artificial one. The aim of this procedure is for the patient to regain a normal lifestyle.  In Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR), no bones are cut.

Different types of cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery, are different, however, they are closely related. They both deal with improving a patient’s appearance but their underlying principles are different.

Cosmetic surgery is focused solely on enhancing a person’s physical appearance. This can be performed on all areas of the body including the neck and head. Within the scope of cosmetic surgery are body contouring: liposuction, tummy tuck; facial rejuvenation: brow, neck, eyelids, and facelifts; breast enhancement: lifting, reduction; facial contouring: cheek, or chin enhancement, rhinoplasty; skin rejuvenation: Botox, filler treatments, and laser resurfacing.

Plastic surgery deals with repairing birth defects, reconstruction of normal functions and appearance. Some of these defects are caused by disease, trauma, burns, and birth abnormalities. Basically, the aim of plastic surgery is to correct dysfunctional areas of the human body; therefore, it is reconstructive. Plastic surgeons can perform cosmetic surgery, but they tend to specialize in reconstructive plastic surgery. In 1999, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons adopted the name American Society of Plastic Surgeons to emphasize the fact that plastic and reconstructive surgery is the same. Some examples of the procedures these surgeons perform are: hand surgery, burn repair surgery, breast reconstruction, lower limb reconstruction, breast reconstruction, congenital defect repair: limb defect repair and cleft palate.

The first cosmetic surgery

As time passed, doctors incorporated cosmetic surgery as a part of plastic surgery. Therefore, cosmetic surgery was born out of reconstructive surgery. This all began in central Asia. Asian physicians used most of the methods used in rhinoplasty today to beautify the shape of the noses of royal family members. Sushruta, an ancient Indian healer, was supposedly one of the first cosmetic surgeons in the world. He was the first person to perform skin grafting around the 6th century BC. He used a piece of skin from another body part to graft on the face to enhance and correct a person’s appearance.

By | 2018-06-26T16:21:11+00:00 June 12th, 2018|History|0 Comments

Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick /

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick /

One is not too sure that modern schoolchildren are taught about persons like Henry Stanley, or for that matter Dr. Livingstone, with whom Stanley is inextricably connected. It is supposed that vast changes in syllabus are responsible for this, just as in the Classics, neither Latin or Greek are these days awarded much importance. At my school we were unfailingly taught that Henry Stanley was American; he was a naturalized American citizen for a period, but he was born British – Welsh in fact – son of a farmer from that region. He was also illegitimate, and was first called John Rowlands.

Stanley lived a life so adventurous it seemed to be fiction stemming from the Boys Own Paper. Born in 1841 he existed, somehow, in a poorhouse from 1847 to 1856, got away and managed to get himself on a ship sailing to the United States. Here he was luckily befriended by a merchant in cereals who adopted him. Young Henry also took the merchant’s name – Stanley, and after adoption automatically became an American citizen. (more…)

By | 2019-10-15T08:34:10+00:00 September 23rd, 2015|African History, British History, US History, World History|0 Comments

Further thoughts on the SS



The Schützstaffel was a more or less elite special force created by the National Socialist Party in 1925 for the ‘special protection’ of Adolf Hitler. The name means ‘defence group’, and the significance of its actions is that the force was hated even more within Germany than among her enemies. At first, the SS was a small part of the SA, or Sturm Abteilung, a much bigger Nazi paramilitary organisation, formed to break up dissident political meetings and distribute Nazi propaganda. The SA had played a very big part in the ascent of Hitler to power; its leader was an old-time friend of Hitler’s called Ernst Rohm, but when the SA became, according to the Fuhrer and his associates, too big for its boots, it was dealt with by simply murdering its leaders, including Hitler’s old friend. Most of the summary executions were carried out by the SS. (more…)

By | 2015-09-22T16:51:01+00:00 September 22nd, 2015|German History|0 Comments

Another message from Jeremy Taylor

The author /

The author /

You can read a book (at the risk of your eyesight) off your computer screen, or you can have it read to you by some famous actor; you can beg, borrow or steal a book from a friend – in my case the last verb is the most appropriate – or you may, just possibly prefer to buy the book to keep among all the others in your bookshelf. This kind of printed book is what you take to bed with you, where you read it chapter after chapter with your head nicely rested on your pillows and that reading light you found at Ikea providing the light. Or you can seat yourself in a favourite armchair after choosing a real book from a vast library or a modest collection.

General History is available to just about everywhere on this planet by going to Amazon Books, clicking on Books, and then typing ‘Jeremy Taylor-General-History’ or ‘Dean Swift-General-History’. Click on this and all three volumes (there will soon be a fourth) will appear on your screen. Then choose how you will buy it (at remarkably low cost), and very soon you will have 99% of the articles or posts published on-line, in printed book mode, to keep for ever.

Very best wishes, yours ever, Jeremy Taylor.

By | 2016-06-07T21:34:20+00:00 September 16th, 2015|Today, World History|3 Comments

A bracing brace of Bentincks

3rd Duke of Portland /

3rd Duke of Portland /

Hans Willem, Baron Bentinck was born in the middle of the seventeenth century. An aristocrat by birth, he served as a page to the Stadholder (q.v.) William. Surviving his master’s customary bad humour, he became a confidant, friend and agent to the future King William III of England. We have already described how a Dutchman became king of England in another volume of General History, so suffice it to say that William was married to Mary, who descended from Mary Queen of Scots. Thanks to the treachery of Marlborough and others, the rightful monarch of England, James II, was requested to leave, which he did, and William and Mary became joint rulers of England. The good Baron Bentinck came with them.

In fact it was thanks to Bentinck that the marriage between the Stadholder and Princess Mary ( a daughter of James VII and II of Scotland and England ) came about, as he negotiated the terms. Not only that, but the plans for a minor invasion of England by William of Holland in 1688 were supervised by Bentinck. Minor became major, James II ran off to Catholic France, and surly William the Stadholder mounted the English throne accompanied by his wife, who was not blessed with good looks. Once William was installed he rewarded his faithful confidant by making him the Ist Duke of Portland (1689). The ‘Glorious Revolution’ had been achieved with little bloodshed, and the name Bentinck began to ring through British political history. Hans Willem died in 1709. (more…)

The revolt of Portugal

Sunrise over an older part of Lisbon / the

Sunrise over an older part of Lisbon / the

The first king of this tiny country, washed by the Atlantic, and blessed with fine seamen, navigators and harbours, was Alfonso I, in 1139, but the Portuguese Empire as such began in the fifteenth century. Portuguese ships were making voyages of discovery right round the world. Perhaps her immediate neighbour, Spain, felt that Portugal should belong to her, and by 1580 she did. This situation, most unpopular with the Portuguese, lasted from the above mentioned date until 1668. The French invaded in 1807, and the monarchy was overthrown. Most of the Empire vanished with the loss of Brazil, Goa and Macao.

That union of crowns in 1640 brought nothing but unrest in Portugal, partly because the people quickly noted that Spain was not ready (or able) to defend and protect the vast Portuguese possessions overseas. When troubles started up (again) in Cataluña, powerful Portuguese were encouraged to gather round the standard of the Duke of Braganza. They proclaimed him King Joao IV during an uprising in the capital, Lisbon in December, 1640, which ended with the murder of the Spanish Viceroy Vasconcellos. This was a serious mistake, for Vasconcellos was a personal friend and confidant of the all-powerful Conde-Duque de Olivares, the Spanish minister who managed Spain for the King. No-one, perhaps not even the King, had more power than Olivares at that stage. (more…)

Two Popes with the name Julius

Rex Harrison suitable pious as Julius Ii (right) & Charlton Heston wooden as Michaelangelo (left) in a Hollywood extravaganza /

Rex Harrison suitable pious as Julius II (right) & Charlton Heston wooden as Michaelangelo (left) in a Hollywood extravaganza /

In this case I cannot do my usual playing with papal names and invented adjectives; some of my faithful followers might like to read about ‘Julian Popes’, as in ‘Innocent Popes’, but ‘Julian’ refers to anything connected with the Emperor Julian, who was, if not the anti-Christ, at least anti-Christian, which is why he was called ‘Julian the Apostate’. There is a splendid biography in the typical Gore Vidal style about Emperor Julian, very well worth reading. You can get it easily and cheaply on Amazon.

Julius II came from one of those distinguished Roman families – the Della Rovere; he was born in 1443 and was Pope from 1513 to 1513. He devoted most of these papal years to re-establishing the Pope’s sovereignty within the ancient territory of the Vatican. He also found time to try to remove any foreign domination from Italy herself, though the Vatican is of course a city/state within Italy. Julius II took part in the restoration of the Papal States through what was called ‘The League of Cambrai’. He was less successful in ‘The Holy League’ (Spain, England and Italy), moving in wae-like manner without intelligence, against French King Louis XII.

As a liberal patron of the arts, however, he did very well, exploying the architect and artist Bramante for a re-design of St. Peter’s. Work began in 1506, and by then Julius had commissioned work from Raphael and Michaelangelo no less. He died still full of hope for a super-powerful Vatican, in 1513. (more…)

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