Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quieta non movere -- Don't move settled things

Latin proverbs are always good for the difficult Q Day of ABC Wednesday.

Quieta non movere means "Don't rock the boat" or "Let sleeping dogs lie."

But in the context of these photos from Susita, the proverb's literal translation is best:

The architectural elements toppled by the great earthquake of 749 are left in situ as a silent testimony to the devastation that put an end to the city of Susita / Hippos.

Some of the columns are of smooth granite imported from Egypt.
Granite was common in the construction of pagan temples
As we have seen in my two previous posts, Susita was at first one of the pagan cities of the Decapolis.

It is probably this city on the hill that Jesus sailed across the Sea of Galilee to.
The news of his driving the demons out of a man spread fast.
The next re-use of the temple columns was for Christian churches, 3 or 4 of which are excavated.
The flat foundation in the photo above has holes for posts of the Byzantine church's chancel screen.

Still half-buried quiet things. . .

Here the archaeologists just couldn't resist just a little reconstructing, it seems!

The pillar with remnants of unusual plaster decoration and the elaborate Corinthian capital begged to be set upright again after all these years.
Initial excavations were done in the early 1950s. But then Susita was right on the border with Syria and it must have been quite dangerous.
Digging was resumed in 1999.
Since then, teams from the universities of Haifa and of Warsaw have come every summer.
UPDATE Sept. 2014:  See http://blog.bibleplaces.com/2014/09/new-evidence-for-ad-363-earthquake-at.html

UPDATE Dec. 4, 2015: Don't miss this great BAR article on Sussita, with aerial photos!


Sara said...

Your historical posts are so enjoyable...I am continually amazed at the things we humans produced...such beautiful columns and buildings...before we had all the modern machines to do the heavy lifting, etc. What skill it must have required to engrave such wonderfully straight lines to make that "fluted" (probably not the correct word) column that is half buried, for example.

But I have to say, it must have been devastating to have lived there when the whole place was tumbling down from an earthquake!

VP said...

Probably the first part of the quote is more famous because it is a quite important legal principle both in UK and in the US: stare decisis et non quieta movere.

moneythoughts said...

Interesting post. Very interesting. Thanks for the journey.

Dina said...

Sara, thanks. Me too. In fact, I like old things more than modern things. :)

VP, thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge. I'm glad to learn that!

Reader Wil said...

Hi Dina! Sometimes ruins are more expressive than whole buildings. They make me always wanting to know their history.
Thanks for your visit. Yes, Qantas is a great company!!

katney said...

I love your archeaological posts...and your faith posts...and your nature posts... and...

I am still contemplating Q. fortunately, I have hours till Wednesday comes here.

Cloudia said...

You are the best, Dina!

Aloha from Hawaii

Comfort Spiral

Ann said...

I hope no nobody steals such valuable things.

Jay said...

What a creative 'Q' post! I love old proverbs, and old architecture, and also historic sites, so it was a treat for me.

On behalf of the team, thanks for joining in with ABC Wednesday this week! Oh, and I fixed your link, which merely led back to the list. :)

Julie said...


I just read over at Mary Ann's that stone cladding is the rule in Jerusalem since British Mandate time. Why?

Anonymous said...

The things you get to see
And the things you want to see
Are the things we will never see
Unless you post them here for us to see.

And, all that gibberish aside, I loved this post. My wife's great nephew was here most of the day yesterday. He is a paleontologist by education but we like each other because we are kin but more than that we both like the Neanderthals and their early life here on this planet. Imagine digging up one of them somewhere? Wow.

I like this post, especially, because it shows how much we don't really know about our neighbors of a few hundred or thousand years ago. Did they go to a dentist or who cut their hair? The questions are endless.

Dina said...

Moneythoughts, Katney, Wil, Cloudia, thanks for your nice comments.

Ann, you have a point. But there is no way by car up to Susita, so I guess it would be hard to steal big heavy things from the open site.

Jay, thanks for fixing. Hmm, strange.

Julie, please see

A quote I used there is this:
"This variety of stone gives Jerusalem its unique character. The setting sun reflected on the cream-colored limestone facade of both ancient and modern structures gives them a golden hue, giving rise to the term 'Jerusalem of Gold.'"

However, just recently I saw a claim that the British, while building their new "garden suburb" neighborhoods in Jerusalem required the cladding with expensive stone from the Arab quarries in order to prevent poor Jews from buying the new houses.

Louis la Vache said...

Very clever "Q" post, Dina!
...and what interesting commentary to go with the photos! Cheers!

Dina said...

Merci Louis la Vache!

Abe, I love it when you let go and write from the heart (as you always DO).
Maybe you'd like an article in today's newspaper that begins

"Long before the partition or unification of Jerusalem became an issue, local residents were concerned about fundamentally different matters, like the strength of available flints, the ferocity of local lions and the chances of killing an elephant for dinner.
A unique archaeological excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem's German Colony neighborhood recently unearthed some clues to how our prehistoric ancestors lived in the Jerusalem area about one million years ago. The dig uncovered hundreds of roughly chiseled flint tools, used by Jerusalemites long before God took up residence there. "

See http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/back-when-elephants-and-lions-divided-jerusalem-1.289804

Anna said...

What a wonderful post with both a history-lesson and some thoughts on how we should treat artifacts.
I thought of a rather comic expression that people in West Virginia taught me! "Don't fix what ain't broke" ! But I almost hesitated in adding this to your beautifully written, scholarly post!
Such a good choice!
The Qs abound in Latin!
Best wishes,


Pasadena Adjacent said...

Isn't it the norm in this day and age to actually make it clear to the viewer what is original and what isn't? such as to how this column has been restored. We did some business with the head of restoration at the Getty (about one of my partners most noted mural). Microscopic chip analysis, all very fascinating. His take was to use a chemical that would bring up some of he original color but never to actually "fix" by paint.

Dina said...

Anna, haha yes, I learned that in Arkansas too: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It is so true.
I lived as a volunteer at Heifer Ranch (www.heifer.org) in 1996-2002. The "grown-ups" were always wanting to renovate things, like our good old volunteer housing.

Dina said...

PA shalom. I meant to say that they just set the piece of the column back up, upright, and nothing more. That white plaster is original.

Kay said...

Wonderful post, Dina. Let things alone to tell their story. Gorgeous photos, as always.

Tumblewords: said...

So interesting - excellent photos.

Petrea said...

You know how I love these archaeological posts of yours, Dina. I would love to poke around this place.

Pietro said...

Oh, I like ruins very much!
Very interesting post, Dina.

JM said...

Great shots of this most interesting site!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I guess my question fell into the restoration category as opposed to excavation. A distinction is being made between what is original (white) and what is added (raw concrete). When a Pompei Mural on loan to our museum, they used the same practice. I believe there was a time when they used to fake it.