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The Spring Carpet:535

From the earliest times to the present day, Persia has enjoyed a high reputation for its carpets. None has ever been so famous as the vast floor covering of silk which the emperor Khosrau I commissions in about535 for his great hall of audience at Ctesiphon.

Variously known as the Spring or Winter carpet, it is a square (of about 84 feet along each side) representing a formal garden with paths, streams, flower beds and fruit trees, visited and enjoyed by colourful birds and butterflies. Jewels are sewn in to assist the natural sparkle of the silk. It is a vision of paradise, and no doubt the emperor's visitors and suppliants are as impressed as he intends.

The carpet falls prey, like the rest of Ctesiphon, to the invading Arabs in637. Any damage to the magnificent object is not because they fail to appreciate it. They appreciate it too much.

One large section is cut out for the caliph Omar. Another is reserved for ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. The rest is distributed - with great fairness and in extremely small pieces - to the soldiers of the victorious army. But the carpet lives in its lasting fame. Its garden design will be often repeated, though never again so lavishly.

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