Serpentarium Mundi by Alexei Alexeev The Ancient Ophidian Iconography Resource (Mundus Vetus, 3000 BC - 650 AD)
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Figure 001. Alexei Alexeev and the image of Agathodaemon, the "good spirit" of vineyards and grain fields.

Alexei Alexeev is an independent scholar pursuing research on the genesis of ophidian symbolism and iconography in the context of Early Jewish and Early Christian apocalyptic imagination. His research interests include (1) the genesis of Early Christian iconography and its relationship to classical Greco-Roman and Oriental art: reception, interpretation, appropriation, preservation, modification, and transmission; (2) Scythia and Persia in Jewish and Christian eschatology and apocalypticism; and (3) the cultural interactions between Eurasian civilizations during the Hellenistic Period, Late Antiquity, and the Early Middle Ages.

From 1984 to 1989, Alexei Alexeev studied at the Department of History of the Astrakhan State Pedagogical Institute, specializing in the cultural history of the early Iranian nomads (focusing on the worldview, mythology, religious beliefs, and art of the Scythians and Sarmatians). He participated in seven archaeological expeditions in Southern Russia (including three conducted by the Institute of Archaeology of the USSR Academy of Sciences). From 1991 to 1994, he completed postgraduate studies in philosophy at St. Petersburg State University. In 1995, he defended his thesis ("Orthodox Iconology and Sophiology in the Concrete Metaphysics of Pavel Florensky") and received his PhD in the History and Philosophy of Religion.

Since moving to Canada in 1997, Alexei Alexeev has worked in the high-tech industry as a UX/UI specialist. His portfolio includes a variety of digital projects for such major Canadian educational institutions and museums as the Canadian Historical Association, the Museum of Civilization (now the Museum of Canadian History), and the National Gallery of Canada. In February 2016, he gave the first of a series of public lectures on Early Slavic History at the University of Ottawa.

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All that my own application, reflection, and labour to augment my knowledge, all that the advance of understanding in these studies (as eminent scholars vied with each other in acquainting themselves with these matters) have traced out and discovered - all this I have now set down to the best of my ability. I have not through idleness omitted anything that I have learnt, as though animals, void of reason and of speech, were beneath my notice and to be despised, but here as elsewhere I have been fired by that love of knowledge which in me is inherent and innate. I am well aware that among those who keep a sharp look-out for money, or who are keen in the pursuit of honours and influence and all that brings reputation, there are some who will blame me for devoting my leisure to these studies, when I might have given myself airs and appeared in palaces and attained to considerable wealth. I however occupy myself with {...} lizards [σαύρα] {...} and snakes [ὄφις] {...} and the various species of serpents [δράκων], and so on - everything which in this account of mine has been carefully got together and observed. But it is no pleasure to me to be numbered among your rich men and to be compared with them. But if I exert myself and desire somehow to count myself one of that company to which learned poets, and men clever at detecting and probing the secrets of nature, and writers who have attained the greatest experience, claim to belong, it is obvious that my own counsel is better than the judgment of those men. For I would rather attain to expert knowledge in at least one branch than to the belauded riches and possessions of your wealthiest men. {...} I felt that I ought to weave the tissue of this narrative of mine so as to resemble a meadow or a chaplet beautiful with its many colours, the many creatures, as it were, contributing their flowers. {...} it is not fair to censure me for repeating what all, or at any rate most, writers have said already. After all I could not create other animals, though I have given evidence that I have known a great many. Yet I have in fact mentioned certain characteristics which no other writer who has attempted the work on my scale has mentioned. But I prize truth in all spheres, most of all in this, and critics who handle me without malice will realise the quality of my work, the labour it cost, the dignity of its style and composition, and the propriety of the words and phrases employed.

● Claudius Aelianus (175-235 AD), On the Characteristics of Animals: Epilogue | Translated by Alwyn F. Scholfield. Copyright © 1958-1959.

Editorial notes: {...} - Omitted text; [...] - Translation back to the original, clarification, or curator's commentary.

Note(s): The image is from Alexei Alexeev's personal photo archive (The First Italian Expedition, 29 March - 25 April 2015). Fresco wall painting (detail); polychrome paint, plaster, wax cover; Roman Empire, before 79 AD; from the House of the Centenary (IX, 8, 3, lararium), Pompeii, Campania, South Italy; collection of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, Inventory № 112286. All artefacts will be available for viewing in the Compendium's respective volumes after the completion of the fully-integrated iconographic database. Some of the artefacts will be represented by several figures (offering a general view and details).

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