The magi had come from the east, following a star to seek  the king of the jews and were directed by herod’s  officialsto go to  bethlehem. Herod told them to report  back  to him ostensibly that he might them pay homage himself  but really  because he feared  usurpation. Historically the magi were astrologers of the persian court, the  priests  of the cult of mithras  which became widespread in the Roman empire in the  early Christian area  in the Wall paintings of the  Roman catacombs and in the  some byzantine mosaics the magi may wear  mithraic robes and the  typical phrygian cap a kind of ponted  had  having  the top folded forward. The  chirstian writer  tertullian was  the  first  to redefine them as a kings. Their  names  may have  otiginated  in a 9 th cent pontifical  at ravenna in earlier  renaissance  painting  they  are  dressedin the  court fashions of the day.  One or other may be drawn  in the likenessof the artists patron as a mark of his deotion  to  Christianity  as a  prelude   to the adoration  proper the magi are occasionally depicted meetingon their Journey or travelling togetherw with their retinues led  by the star. They  are represented thus in  late  medieval frescoes and  sculpture  and in illuminated mss. The  adoration itself showw casper  or  Jasper the oldest kneeling before the  infant chirts  in the virgin’ s  lap  offering his  gift of gold . Behind  him  stands  balthazar a negro and  melchior,  the  youngest. Their  retinues often Show  unmistakable  signs of  their  esatren origin. The  Turban, Camels, Leopard sor perhaps  the annunciayion  to the  shepherds  in same later  examples especially of the 17  cent. The Virgin  in represented  stading, The  receptacles for  their  gifts  in  particularin  the 16 th  cent  are often elaborate  example  of gold smiths work  matthewdoes  not  mention  the nuber  of the  magi  though three is inferred  from  the number  of their  gifts ( in early christian  art there may be  two  or four or accasionally six) according to be 673-735 the  symbolism of  their gifts wasgold homage to christs  kingship, frankincense  homage to his  divinity, used in embalming  a  foreshadowing  of his death  im the later middle ages the magi  came to persnify the three partsof the know world payig homage to christ.

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