Corinthian History and Archaeology: 2010 Publications

2010 was a big year for publications on Corinthian history and archaeology.  I created the list below using various search engines (google scholar, worldcat, etc..) none of which are fully comprehensive.  I included academic publications (books, articles, dissertations, and master’s theses) that relate to the archaeology and history of the Corinthia from prehistory to the present.  I will post separately on 2010 publications in New Testament studies, which is simply an enormous field.

If you published something in 2010 that can be added to the following list, please send my way along with links if available.  The updated list will live permanently here.

Thanks to Tara Anderson for help in putting this list together.

General

Morgan, Catherine, “Corinthia,” in Archaeological Reports 56 (2010), pp 21 -26.

Prehistoric

Petroutsa, Eirini I. and Sotiris K. Manolis “Reconstructing Late Bronze Age diet in mainland Greece using stable isotope analysis,” in Journal of Archaeological Science, 2010

Early Iron Age

Flognfeldt, Yngve Thomassen, “Sanctuaries and votive offerings from The Early Iron Age in Greece-A comparative study of votive offerings from the eastern Peloponnese

Archaic-Hellenistic

Bonnier, A., “Harbours and Hinterlands: Landscape, Site Patterns and Coast-Hinterland Interconnections by the Corinthian Gulf, c. 600-300 BC” [Doctoral Thesis] 2010

Bookidis, N., The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore: The Terracotta Sculpture (Corinth XVIII.5) [Book] Athens: American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Bukina, A.G., “ILIOUPERSIS ON A CORINTHIAN BLACK-FIGURED PYXIS IN THE STATE HERMITAGE MUSEUM”in Antike Kunst, 2010

Bukina, A.G., “NEOPTOLEMUS IN TROY. A CORINTHIAN RED FIGURE PYXIS FROM THE STATE HERMITAGE” in Vestnik drevnej istorii, 2010

Caraher, W.R., D.K. Pettegrew, and S. James, “Towers and Fortifications at Vayia in the Southeast Corinthia,” Hesperia 79.3 2010

Donati, J.C. “Marks of State Ownership and the Greek Agora at Corinth”in American Journal of Archaeology, 2010.

Gabrielli, R., Ceramica etrusco-corinzia del Museo archeologico di Tarquinia. Book 1 vol. (XIII-567 p. -26 p. de fig. -XXX p. de pl.)

Išin, Gül, “PATARA TEPECİK AKROPOLÜ “BEY EVİ” KAZILARI (2003-2007): GEÇ ARKAİK-ERKEN KLASİK DÖNEM TERRACOTTALARI. (Turkish)” (Excavations of “The Ruler’s House” on the Tepecik Acropolis at Patara (2003-2007): The Terracottas of the Late Archaic-Early Classical Period. (English)), in Olba Journal, May2010, Vol. 18, p85-106

Ivanov, R.V., “Pindar’s Isthmians 3 and 4: essays and commentary” [Doctoral Thesis]

McPhee, I. “Red-Figure Pottery of Uncertain Origin from Corinth: Stylistic and Chemical Analyses” in Hesperia, 2010

Papadogiannis; A.S., M.C. Tsakoumaki, T.G. Chondros, ““Deus-Ex-Machina” Mechanism Reconstruction in the Theater of Phlius, Corinthia,” in Journal of Mechanical Design, Jan2010, 132 Issue 1.

Schaffrin, B., and K. Snow, “Total Least-Squares regularization of Tykhonov type and an ancient racetrack in Corinth,” in Linear Algebra and its Applications, 2010

Stickler, T., Korinth und seine Kolonien: Die Stadt am Isthmus im Mächtegefüge des klassischen Griechenland [Book]

Twele, R.M., “The so-called Union of Corinth and Argos and the nature of the polis”[Master’s Thesis] Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Roman

Friesen, S.J., D.N Schowalter, and J.C. Walters, Corinth in context : comparative studies on religion and society, [Book]

Gleason, M., “Making Space for Bicultural Identity: Herodes Atticus Commemorates Regilla” in T. Whitmarsh (ed.), Local Knowledge and Microidentities in the Imperial Greek World

Iversen, P.A. “A Prytany Dedication from Athens Found at Corinth”, in Hesperia, 2010

Strocka, V.M., Die Gefangenenfassade an der Agora von Korinth: ihr Ort in der römischen Kunstgeschichte. [Book]

Late Antique & Early Christian

Brown, A.R., “Islands in a Sea of Change? Continuity and Abandonment in Dark Age Corinth and Thessaloniki” International Journal of Historical Archaeology

Brown, A.R., “JUSTINIAN, PROCOPIUS, AND DECEPTION: LITERARY LIES, IMPERIAL POLITICS, AND THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF SIXTH-CENTURY GREECE”, inA.J. TurnerK. O. Chong-GossardJ.H. Kimand F.J. Vervaet (eds.), Private and Public Lies: The Discourse of Despotism

Caraher, W.R., “Abandonment, Authority, and Religious Continuity in Post-Classical Greece” In International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2010

Garvie-Lok, S., “A Possible Witness to the Sixth Century Slavic Invasion of Greece from the Stadium Tunnel at Ancient Nemea”in International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2010

Pettegrew, D.K., “Regional Survey and the Boom-and-bust Countryside: Re-reading the Archaeological Evidence for Episodic Abandonment in the Late Roman Corinthia”, inInternational Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2010

Sweetman, R., “The Christianization of the Peloponnese: The Topography and Function of Late Antique Churches,” in Journal of Late Antiquity, 2010

Byzantine to Modern

Athanassopoulos, E. “Landscape Archaeology and the Medieval Countryside: Settlement and Abandonment in the Nemea Region” in International Journal of Historical Archaeology, 2010

Sutton, S.B., “Disconnected Landscapes: Ancient Sites, Travel Guides, and Local Identity in Modem Greece”, in Anthropology of East Europe Review, 2010

Tzortzopoulou-Gregory, L., “Remembering and Forgetting: The Relationship Between Memory and the Abandonment of Graves in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Greek Cemeteries.” In International Journal of Historical Archaeology 14.2 (2010), 285-301.

The Most Excellent Strategem of Niketas Ooryphas (Part IV)

Today I deliver the final segment of this interpretation of Niketas Ooryphas , the clever and mighty Byzantine admiral who shocked Aegean pirates in the Corinthian Gulf.  As Basil’s thunderbolt, he certainly did not drag his feet in 872 AD, but did he actually drag his fleet?  On Friday, I presented a series of arguments against the historicity of the portage event.

The question of whether he actually portaged the isthmus is, in fact, probably the wrong question to ask.  If we ask, rather, the question of the meaning of the portage within its narrative context, we find a way forward.

The account of ship dragging fleet functions within the narrative of the Life of Basil in two particular ways.  First, carrying ships allows Niketas a direct attack on the enemy that avoids the long navigation around Malea and sets him up to deliver a shocking strike on an enemy totally unaware.  And second, the account, in turn, reinforces the description of Niketas Ooryphas as a shrewd, brilliant, energetic, and decisive admiral.  As someone experienced and knowledgeable in the art of naval war and its devices, he contrives clever and decisive tricks like transporting ships over the isthmus and he shocks and awes the enemy.

The sort of military action that we encounter in the Life of Basil is summed up by the Greek term “strategem.”  A strategem was a skillful and clever military action used by a commander for purposes such as concealing plans, spying, setting ambushes, distracting the enemy, creating panic, retreating, and making surprise attacks.

What is important to highlight is that ancient and Byzantine writers explicitly and implictly recognized the overland movement of ships as a type of strategem.  In some cases, moving ships overland could be used to hasten retreat (e.g., Frontinus 1.5.7), as   Lysander the Spartan did when blockaded in one of the harbors of Piraeus.  Dragging fleets could be used also for surprise attacks on enemies.  Thucydides, Polybius, and Cassius Dio all provide examples of strategic strikes over the Corinthian Isthmus intended to catch the enemy unaware.  And moving ships overland was also heroic extraordinary action, which is why it was associated in antiquity with individuals like Hannibal, Dionysius, the Argonauts, and Alexander the Great.

Niketas Ooryphas dragging his fleet fits the strategem mold quite well: secretive, strategic, heroic.  Byzantine historians themselves understood the event in this way.  In Makarios Melissenos’ later account of the Longer Chronicle, Niketas is depicted as “a man marvellously strong, energetic, and experienced in all forms of warfare of land and sea, who knew devices like no one else.”  In his discussion of the trans-isthmus fortification wall, he refers to Niketas’ portage as a “great strategem and splendid deed worthy of memory” (p. 236).  At another point in his narrative, Melissenos considers the strategem of the Sultan Mehmet II who, in his siege of Constantinople, built a wooden slipway and greased it with animal fat by which he rolled his fleet into the harbor.  This “amazing deed and most excellent strategem of naval fighting” makes Melissenos think that Mehmet was imitating Octavian’s crossing of the Isthmus in his campaign against Mark Antony, or perhaps the patrician Niketas who had repeated the move in his engagement with the Cretan pirates.

Reading the Niketas event as a literary invention, a strategem, fits well the 10th century age of encyclopedic pursuits and the intellectual circle of the emperor Constantine VII, a man remembered for his scholarly and historical interests.  Literary collections of strategems and strategy became popular again in the 10th century when the Taktika of Leo VI and Nikephoros Ouranos, among others, made them available.  The author of the Life of Basil shows clear knowledge of not only the fact that moving ships represented strategem but that the Corinthian Isthmus in particular was a fitting arena to stage such a maneuver.

The Corinthian portage accounts of ancient history were, in fact, well known in the 10th century as evident in direct quotes from them in the anonymous encyclopedia known as the Suda.  And the author of the life of Basil exhibits clear ability to write about portaging ships over the Corinthian Isthmus.  We find all the ingredients common to ancient historical sources: rounding Cape Malea, docking at Kenchreai, the Corinthian Isthmus, a rapid crossing, the deception of enemies, and attempts for direct attack.

The reappearance in 10th century literature of the Isthmus of Corinth —the first contemporary reference in Greek documents to the land bridge in 500 years— reflects the place of Greece and the Isthmus of Corinth in engagements with the west.  The new portage episode reflects the intellectual interests of the court of Constantine VII and an awareness of historical and tactical texts.  As in times past, here we find the Isthmus being used as an arena for situating dramatic naval maneuvers of Niketas Ooryphas, Basil’s thunderbolt, one of the great naval commanders of the 9th century.

Did Niketas Drag His Fleet? The Ooryphas Saga, Part III

Probably not.

Over the last day or two, I’ve been telling the conquests of Niketas Ooryphas, the terrifying Byzantine admiral who delivered the shocking attack on the menacing Cretan pirates in the Corinthian Gulf in the late 9th century AD.



The Cretan pirates: from the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript

The story is based on several translated texts of Byzantine date:

On Wednesday, I presented in a post the basic problem the portage event creates for the interpretation of the diolkos road: if Niketas really dragged his fleet, then it means the old portage road of Corinth was still in use 1500 years after its construction, or had been put back in use since antiquity.

In my paper on the subject at the Archaeological Institute of America, I provided a series of arguments against Niketas dragging his fleet over the Isthmus in AD 972.  Here is a summary of the first part of my argument against the historicity of the portage:

1. First, the account is embedded in the Life of Basil, a text sponsored by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (I love that name: “born in the purple”) to praise the activities of his grandfather, Basil I.  One should perhaps be a little skeptical about an unbelievable deed in a document intended to praise the actions of the emperor’s grandfather, written 75 years after the event described

2. One should also be somewhat skeptical about accounts that describe the overland movement of large ships as a simple matter.  Our ancient sources consistently describe beaching or launching military ships in antiquity as difficult activities requiring tremendous effort.  So much more difficult it was to move ships long distances overland!  The standard Byzantine military vessel, the dromon (see image), was over 30 m long and 4 m wide and high, and weighed many tons.   For some comparative modern perspective, these figures are about twice the length and width of an 18 wheeler tractor trailer truck.  To haul an entire fleet of these ships over the isthmus in a single night would have been an incredible fleet.

3. The Corinthian Isthmus seems narrow and flat from Acrocorinth, but spans 7,000 meters across and climbs steeply from sea level to an elevation of 85+ meters at the spine, creating a grade averaging over 2%, increasing the necessary required traction force for the portage significantly.  The land bridge could only have created very real difficulties for moving large and heavy vessels.

4. Our most reliable ancient accounts of ship portages over this Isthmus describe the feat as a time-consuming and costly endeavor.  Thucydides notes that in 428 BC, the Peloponnesians had to prepare hauling machines to convey ships across and that the Spartans worked busily to build them.  Polybius suggests that Demetrius of Pharos’ transfer of vessels in 220 BC came at some significant cost in money.  And a remarkable inscribed poem from Corinth recording the transfer of Marcus Antonius’ fleet in 102-101 BC characterizes the deed as a heroic feat remarkable in that it was “accomplished within a few days with little confusion, and with great planning and safety.”

These accounts suggest that dragging a fleet was an incredibly involved affair that required minimally a hard road surface, the preparation of wheeled sleds or wagons for moving the vessels, and some time.  The notion that Niketas Ooryphas transferred 100 ships in the darkness of a single night does seem most improbable.

On Monday, I’ll deliver the final installment of the Niketas Ooryphas adventures and try to place him and his portage into a 10th century context.

Basil’s Thunderbolt: Niketas Ooryphas, Part II

Today we continue the story of Niketas Ooryphas, a shadowy Byzantine admiral who appears on three occasions in the 10th century Life of Basil, a document praising the Emperor Basil I as  a restorer of order after the disastrous reign of the immoral and diabolical Michael III.  Niketas’ exploits, as I suggested yesterday, create real problems for interpreting the later use of the diolkos of Corinth, the trans-isthmus portage road.

In the Life of Basil, Basil comes to the throne and encounters anarchic conditions in the western territories of the Roman (Byzantine) empire.  Italy and Sicily are overcome by pirates from Carthage, the Adriatic regions have asserted their own autonomy, and the Aegean is plagued by marauding pirates from Crete.  Basil sends Niketas to deal forcefully with plundering Arab pirates and Christian renegades.  Niketas shows up three times in the Life.

In the first appearance, in about the year 868 AD, pirates were wreaking havoc on the coastal towns of Dalmatia and laying siege to the metropolis, Ragusa.  The inhabitants send a delegation to the Emperor Basil, who responds by equipping a fleet of 100 ships under the command of the patrician Niketas Ooryphas, a man “distinguished above all others by shrewdness and experience.”  Basil sends Niketas like a burning thunderbolt against the enemy.  News of his approach causes the pirates to scurry off to menance other places.

We next meet Niketas a year or two later in Italy coming to relieve the city of Bari which our pirates are now besieging.

Niketas’ third and final appearance in the Vita Basilii tells of successive engagements in 872 with Cretan pirates sent out by the Emir Saet, the son of Abu Hafs, under the leadership of a man named Photius, evidently an ex-Christian rebel.  With a fleet of large decked ships and smaller pirate galleys, Photius has been plundering, kidnapping, and killing in Aegean regions as far as the Hellespont.  In the first engagement near the Thracian Chersonese, Niketas devastates the Cretan squadron with Greek fire, burning 20 Cretan vessels.  Those who escape regroup, and, as the chronicle puts it,

“They again troubled and plundered the parts far from the royal city, namely, the Peloponnese and the islands below it.  Therefore, the same Niketas Ooryphas was sent with the Roman fleet against this man.  Niketas by good fortune benefitted from favorable sailing winds and reached the Peloponnese within a few days.  Coming to anchor in the harbor of Kenchreai, and learning that the barbarian fleet was ruining the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, and Patras, as well as the land near Corinth, he devised a plan both brilliant and skillful.  For he did not wish to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, rounding Cape Malea via the sea and covering a distance of thousands of miles while losing valuable time.  But in the position he held, at night with many hands and much experience, he immediately undertook the deed of carrying his ships over dry land across the Corinthian Isthmus.”

Having crossed the Isthmus, Niketas confounded and terrified his enemies so much that they forgot their courage and could not group themselves for battle.  Niketas overwhelmed the pirates,  burning and sinking the ships, killing those aboard.  He also executed their admiral Photius and scattered his men in flight across the Peloponnese.  Like a hunter, he netted the escapees and caught them alive, devising horrible deaths that were fitting, the narrator notes, for those who had denied their Christian baptism.

The last image then that we have of Niketas Ooryphas, the patrician and admiral of the Roman fleet, is a man contriving clever tortures against Christian apostates and striking terror against the enemies of the Byzantine Empire.   One certainly gets the sense that Basil’s thunderbolt, Niketas Ooryphas, was not someone to mess with.

Tomorrow we’ll consider the question of whether Niketas actually portaged his ships over the Corinthian Isthmus.  For the problem that Niketas Ooryphas creates for interpreting the diolkos of Corinth, see yesterday’s post.

Niketas Ooryphas and the Diolkos of Corinth, Part I

Who was Niketas Ooryphas, and what was he doing on the Isthmus in AD 872?  Over the next few days, I’ll provide a truncated version of the talk I delivered two weeks ago in San Antonio at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.  The talk was titled, “Niketas Ooryphas Drags His Fleet: Portaging the Corinthian Isthmus in 872 AD” and based on an analysis of the translated texts of Life of Basil (Theophanes Continuatus), John Skylitzes & George Kedrenos, John Zonaras, and Pseudo-Sphrantzes’ Chronicon Maius (aka Makarios Melissenos).

My talk set the problem in the following way.

“Of the eight recorded instances of military galleys being carried over the Isthmus of Corinth, the crossing of the Byzantine admiral Niketas Ooryphas in 872 AD is clearly the historical outlier.  The episode is a remarkable one because it represents the first known portage event since Octavian crossed the isthmus in 30 BC after the Battle of Actium and the only instance of a Byzantine admiral transferring fleets.

And yet the incident of 872 has never been properly investigated.  As one indication of the lacuna, scholars since the early 1930s have cited as evidence for the portage the so-called Longer Chronicle of Pseudo-Sphrantzes, a 16th century narrative that makes use of Byzantine histories written 500-700 years earlier.  Our primary evidence for the person of Niketas Ooryphas and his campaigns in the west actually comes from the Vita Basilii, the Life of the Emperor Basil I, founder of the Macedonian dynasty, commissioned, perhaps even written, by Basil’s grandson Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus around the mid-10th century.  The biography is preserved as the second section of a series of of 10th century chronicles collected under the name Theophanes Continuatus, so named because of the author’s claim to be continuing the history of the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes the Confessor.  These sources have always raised difficult questions for modern interpreters of the diolkos road, the trans-isthmus portage rail running eight kilometers from Corinthian to Saronic Gulfs:

Did Niketas Ooryphas actually carry his ships over the isthmus via the diolkos, indicating the road was still in use some 1,600 years after its construction and 900 years after its last recorded use?  Or should the account be read as a literary invention by clever writers aware of their ancient history that indicates nothing about actual overland trans-shipment after the Roman era?

To such questions, diolkos scholars have given three different answers:

  1. Niketas’ portage was a real episode that proves the diolkos road was operable through the 9th century, or, alternatively, was repaired and put back into use in the 9th century.
  2. The portage may have occurred but not via the diolkos road. Nero’s canal construction in 67 AD left a broad gash in the road at the Corinthian Gulf end.  If ships were carried over the isthmus, they went over via a different route.
  3. The portage is a literary allusion and probably an invention of clever Byzantine historians

Since the modern interpretations of the diolkos road have been erected largely on the interpretation of ancient texts, it is fitting to reevaluate the latest text that has caused serious problems to the interpretation of the road.  In this talk, I aim to show how the account lies fully within the ancient tradition of narrating ship transfers over the Corinthian Isthmus—as an extraordinary, brilliant, heroic, and strategic deed demonstrating the skill of the general effecting the portage.  Understanding the dramatic and strategic nature of portaging ships within the genre of historical writing not only helps us to interpret the material road dug up by Nikolaos Verdelis, but also appreciate how 10th century Byzantine writers, including the Emperor Constantine VII, interepreted and understood the carrying of ships.”

Niketas Ooryphas in the Chronicon Maius (16th century)

Here’s the final installment of the translation of later Greek texts about the 9th century Byzantine admiral, Niketas Ooryphas.  Most scholars who have worked on the diolkos have cited Pseudo-Sphrantzes’ Chronicon Maius (“Longer Chronicle”) as the only later evidence for Niketas dragging his fleet.  But as previous posts on the Life of Basil, John Skylitzes & George Kedrenos, and John Zonaras indicate, the stories about Niketas are early ones that go back to the 10th century Life of Basil (in Theophanes Continuatus), and the 11-12th century Skylitzes / Kedrenos versions of those stories.

Pseudo-Sphrantzes’ Chronicon Maius (Longer Chronicle) is based on George Sphrantzes’ 15th century Chronicon Minus (Shorter Chronicle) but has been expanded significantly by a later 16th century author, almost certainly  Makarios Melissenos, the metropolitan bishop of Monemvasia in the late 1500s.  The evidence that scholars typically cite for Niketas crossing the isthmus, then, comes from Makarios Melissenos’ Chronicon Maius. This 16th century account gives us yet another version of the story of Niketas’ dragging his fleet, as well as two additional comments in other parts of the text.  My translation of these texts will live here

Melissenos’ first reference to Niketas occurs on p. 236 of the Bekker 1838 edition.  While discussing the construction of the trans-isthmus Hexamilion wall, Melissenos notes that:

“The patrician Niketas called Ooryphas was also once in this place.  After transporting the ships, that is to say, the triremes of the Romans, across the dry land of the Isthmus from the Helladic Sea to the western Gulf, he put to flight the Cretan Hagaranes.  But how and why this great strategem and deed notable and worthy of memory had happened, I will not omit, but will make known later in the narrative.”

.It’s interesting that Melissenos reads the event  as a “great strategem” and heroic and memorable deed.  This was not, in Melissenos’ mind, an ordinary event.

The full version comes on p. 242, and here I set the Chronicon Maius text in parallel with the Life of Basil.

Vita Basilii, in Theophanes Continuatus,  Chronographia (10th century) 

60.  Thus when the cloud had been scattered, opposing winds again blew from Crete.  For when Saet, son of Abu Hafs, was governing the island and had as his colleague Photius, a warring and zealous man, twenty-seven kombaria(large military vessels) appeared on Crete.  There was added to these an analogous multitude of myoparonesand penteconters, which people are accustomed to call “saktouras” and “galleys”.

Sailing out with these against the Roman empire and plundering all of the Aegean, they often made attacks as far as the Proconnesus in the Hellespont and captured and killed many people.  Niketas the patrician, mentioned before, who was appointed to command the Roman fleet, made an attack on the Cretan navy.  Engaging in a mighty battle with the enemy, he immediately burned 20 Cretan vessels with liquid fire; as for the barbarians onboard, sword, fire, and drowning were differently apportioned.  Those remaining procured safety by flight—as many as escaped the danger from the sea.

61.  But although the Cretans in this manner were beaten and had turned away in their misfortune, they were not content to remain quiet but again lay claim to affairs through the sea.  With that Photius mentioned above as their admiral, they again troubled and plundered the parts far from the royal city, namely, the Peloponnese and the islands below it.  Therefore, the same Niketas Ooryphas was sent with the Roman fleet against this man.

Niketas by good fortune benefitted from favorable sailing winds and reached the Peloponnese within a few days.  Coming to anchor in the harbor of Kenchreai, and learning that the barbarian fleet was ruining the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, and Patras, as well as the land near Corinth, he devised a plan both brilliant and skillful.  For he did not wish to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, rounding Cape Malea via sea and covering a distance of thousands of miles while losing valuable time.  But in the position he held, at night with many hands and much experience, he immediately undertook the deed of carrying his ships over dry land across the Corinthian Isthmus.

And he suddenly appeared to his enemies not yet aware of the fact about this move, and confounding their calculations with terror, and on account of the fear from the earlier battle as well as the unforeseen route of approach, he did not allow them at all to get themselves together and to remember their strength, but burning some of the the enemy ships and sinking others, and destroying some of the barbarians with the sword and making others drown in the deep, and killing their leader, he forced the rest to be scattered over the island.  Whom netting them later and catching them alive, he subjected them to different punishments.  For some he tore away the skin of the flesh, especially those having denied their Christian baptism, saying that this skin that was separated from them was not their own; of others he most painfully dragged strips of skin from their head to their ankles; lifting others by some beams, then lowering them down and thrusting them from a rope into kettles filled with pitch, he was saying that a uniquely painful and gloomy baptism had being given them.  And so, having railed violently in this way, exacting fitting punishments for their deeds, and in campaigning through the Roman empire he struck no small amount of terror.”

Makarios Melissenos, Chronicon Maius (16th century) 

The Hagarenes held authority over such a large island [Crete], in the manner, which we noted, making long ships and ruling the sea, imitating in this way Minos, they were pirating and plundering the Cycladic islands.  And they were wreaking much havoc daily against the Christians.  And when 407 years had passed, when Basil the Macedonian was king, Sael was the ruler of Crete, son of  Abu Hafs, the one who had taken Crete, he made use of long pirate ships (which are now called galleys), numbering about 300 triremes, 22 komparia (larger ships), and other pirate ships. Setting out from Crete, he was pirating the islands in the Aegean Sea. Then he overtook the island of Pelops and grieved the islands below it, Zakynthos and Kephallenia.  This was made known to this king through the post.  And having equipped a sufficient force he sent it against them, appointing as droungarion of the powerful fleet the patrician Niketas, a man marvellously strong and energetic and experienced in all forms of warfare of land and sea, who knew devices like no other.

On account of the most pleasant north wind, he reached the Peloponnese within a few days.  And having arrived in the harbor of Kenchreai, as it is said, learning then that the enemy ships were pirating the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone and Pylos and Glarentzaas and Patras and the other lands thence, he devised a plan brilliant and skillful in thought.  And the plan and reason and deed happened straightaway.  For dizzying at the thought of circumnavigating the Peloponnese around Taenarus and Epidaurus and Cape Malea and Netaros, a difficult voyage, and to sail around covering a distance of thousands of miles and losing valuable time, so he held to this straight course: on this night across the Corinthian Isthmus, close to the moat where the wall of the Isthmus had run, a multitude of hands at work, he transported his ships over dry land.  Loading on board the ships the people and his warring men beyond the sufficient number, as much as he was able, he undertook the deed.

And the enemy Cretans expecting nothing—for at Malea they positioned their quick ships to guard by day and night for any of the Roman fleet coming against them—and in this way he suddenly made an attack on them and confounding them and throwing them into confusion, they turned to escape.  And so some of the enemy ships he burned with liquid fire, others he sunk, others he captured.  And the barbarians he killed by sword and drowning, and executing the admiral and ship master, the rest he compelled to be scattered across the island, and capturing them all alive and netting them, he inflicted different punishments on them.

And in this way the Cretan Hagarenes appearing exceedingly afraid, being amazed at the strategy and devices of the Romans.  And suffering such sudden destruction, being afraid and lacking courage, they were quiet for some time and were compelled to offer tribute to King Basil.  And about 10 years passing the barbarians again did not cease to carry out their customs and pirate the islands, and they ignored and did not send the tribute promised to those ruling.

 

Melissenos mentions Niketas only one other time, in his description of the siege of Constantinople in 1453, when Mehmet II built a road made of wooden planks between the Bosporus Strait and the Golden Horn.  Having greased it with animal fat, he transported his fleet into the harbor.  The event makes Melissenos think of Octavian and Niketas:

“And this was an amazing deed and most excellent strategem of naval fighting.   I believe that in this he imitated Caesar Augustus who, after his battle with Antony and Cleopatra, was unable to sail around the Peloponnese on account of the tossing sea and the opposing winds.  He came rather across the isthmus, dragging his fleet to the eastern shore of the Helladic Sea, and he quickly passed to Asia.  Or perhaps he was imitating the patrician Niketas who, also having crossed his triremes over the Isthmus from the Helladic Sea into the western gulf, put to flight the Cretans at Methone and Pylos.

Well then, the emir brought his triremes in a single night, and they were discovered within the harbor in the morning.”

Some initial observations and questions on these three passages:

1. Makarios Melissenos interpreted the Niketas Ooryphas transfer as a great military strategem that also called to mind the crossing of Octavian.  This was no ordinary portage but brilliant strategic maneuver.

2. Melissenos’ version is the most developed of all the editions since the 10th century Life of Basil.  Toponyms appear that are not in earlier versions of the story: Zakynthos,  Kephallenia, Epidaurus, Netaros.  One feels that Melissenos has added some texture in Peloponnesian geography.

3. Is Melissenos comparing Mehmet II with Hannibal, who also invents this strategem at Tarentum during the 2nd Punic War?  That event certainly comes to mind.

4. Melissenos is the first to place the crossing near the Hexamilion wall, a monument that  appears repeatedly in both the Chronicon Minus and Chronicon Maius.


Niketas Ooryphas (John Zonaras version)

Another translated text of Niketas Ooryphas, the Byzantine admiral, this one by the 12th century Byzantine historian John Zonaras in Epitome historiarum (lib. 13–18), Page 430 line 9.  Zonaras’ version shows influence both by the Vita Basilii and John Skylitzes / George Kedrenos.  I set the Zonaras text in parallel with the Life of Basil.  The original Greek text and my translation will live here.

Theophanes Continuatus,  Chronographia

60.  Thus when the cloud had been scattered, opposing winds again blew from Crete.  For when Saet, son of Abu Hafs, was governing the island and had as his colleague Photius, a warring and zealous man, twenty-seven kombaria (large military vessels) appeared on Crete.  There was added to these an analogous multitude of myoparonesandpenteconters, which people are accustomed to call “saktouras” and “galleys”.

 

Sailing out with these against the Roman empire and plundering all of the Aegean, they often made attacks as far as the Proconnesus in the Hellespont and captured and killed many people.  Niketas the patrician, mentioned before, who was appointed to command the Roman fleet, made an attack on the Cretan navy.  Engaging in a mighty battle with the enemy, he immediately burned 20 Cretan vessels with liquid fire; as for the barbarians onboard, sword, fire, and drowning were differently apportioned.  Those remaining procured safety by flight—as many as escaped the danger from the sea.

61.  But although the Cretans in this manner were beaten and had turned away in their misfortune, they were not content to remain quiet but again lay claim to affairs through the sea.  With that Photius mentioned above as their admiral, they again troubled and plundered the parts far from the royal city, namely, the Peloponnese and the islands below it.  Therefore, the same Niketas Ooryphas was sent with the Roman fleet against this man.

Niketas by good fortune benefitted from favorable sailing winds and reached the Peloponnese within a few days.  Coming to anchor in the harbor of Kenchreai, and learning that the barbarian fleet was ruining the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, and Patras, as well as the land near Corinth, he devised a plan both brilliant and skillful.  For he did not wish to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, rounding Cape Malea via sea and covering a distance of thousands of miles while losing valuable time.  But in the position he held, at night with many hands and much experience, he immediately undertook the deed of carrying his ships over dry land across the Corinthian Isthmus.

And he suddenly appeared to his enemies not yet aware of the fact about this move, and confounding their calculations with terror, and on account of the fear from the earlier battle as well as the unforeseen route of approach, he did not allow them at all to get themselves together and to remember their strength, but burning some of the the enemy ships and sinking others, and destroying some of the barbarians with the sword and making others drown in the deep, and killing their leader, he forced the rest to be scattered over the island.  Whom netting them later and catching them alive, he subjected them to different punishments.  For some he tore away the skin of the flesh, especially those having denied their Christian baptism, saying that this skin that was separated from them was not their own; of others he most painfully dragged strips of skin from their head to their ankles; lifting others by some beams, then lowering them down and thrusting them from a rope into kettles filled with pitch, he was saying that a uniquely painful and gloomy baptism had being given them.  And so, having railed violently in this way, exacting fitting punishments for their deeds, and in campaigning through the Roman empire he struck no small amount of terror.”

John Zonaras, Epitome historiarum (lib. 13–18)


But indeed Saet, son of Abu Hafs ruling Crete, preparing another fleet, put Photius an energetic man in charge of it.

 

 

 

 

 

This man ravaged the coasts of the Aegean and the islands.    The fleet of the Romans went to meet him, of which the admiral was the droungarios of the fleet, the patrician Niketas Ooryphas reduced to ashes many of the enemy ships with liquid fire and those sailing in them, he killed many with the sword and more he drowned.  As many as escaped this varied danger, fleeing shamefully they were saved.  However being saved they were not content.

 

 

 

 

Preparing the pirate ships they were overrunning the Peloponnese and the islands there.  But again the droungarios of the fleet mentioned already was upon them.

 

For docking in the harbor of Kenchreai and having learned that the enemy boats were dwelling around Methone and Pylos and Patras,

 

 

 

he quickly lead the triremes on dry ground across the Isthmus near Corinth.

 

He appeared to the enemies unaware.  And when they were amazed at the unexpected matter, he set fire to some of the pirate ships, and sunk them together with their men, and executing Photius, the one leading the enemies.  And so, in this way the Cretan fleet was destroyed.”

The Corinthia at the AIA 2011

A great weekend in San Antonio at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, which included some good (and bad) Tex-Mex fare, a trip to the Alamo (which triggered some deep nostalgia for Texas history and 7th grade Texas history classes), the annual Isthmia reunion dinner, and numerous strolls with Kate and baby along the Riverwalk which was a pile of mud because it was being drained for its annual cleaning.

I wanted to follow up an an earlier post about the Corinthia related talks at the session.  The organizing committee unfortunately scheduled all the Corinthia related talks at the same time (Friday morning) which meant that I missed most of them while attending my own session on post-antique travelers to Greece.  But from speaking with others who attended and reading the abstract guide on my flight home, here’s a little summary of how the Corinthia appeared at this year’s meeting.

Spatially, the presentations covered the Corinthia.  While most (8) of the 12 talks centered on the urban excavations at Corinth, there were also papers on the sites of Nemea and Isthmia, the Isthmus in general, and the area near Korphos.  The papers covered the period from Late Bronze Age to the modern era: Prehistoric (2 papers), Archaic-Classical (2), Classical-Hellenistic (2), Early Roman (5), Byzantine  (2).

A brief summary of papers:

“Niketas Ooryphas Drags his Fleet: Portaging the Corinthian Isthmus in 872 A.D.” (David K. Pettegrew, Messiah College).  Discussed the case of the Byzantine admiral Niketas Ooryphas who allegedly dragged his ships over the isthmus in the late 9th century.  I’ll be posting this paper in a series of blogs this week along with the remaining translations of these texts.

“Medieval Pilgrimage to Corinth and Southern Greece” (Amelia R. Brown, University of Queensland).  An excellent overview of Christian pilgrimage to Corinth and the Peloponnese from the 4th to 15th century.  Amelia was not able to make the conference but she used Lectopia to record her voice to her presentation and it worked splendidly.  Included discussions of a number of traveler accounts to Corinth by guys like Saewulf (early 12th century), King Sigurd of Norway (12th century).  The paper also included a  discussion of some of the material remains related to post-antique Christian pilgrimage to Corinth, including the medieval church on the speaker’s platform in the forum and the church of Quadratus the martyr.

“Showing Off for the Neighbors: Wealth and Display in Archaic Corinth” (Angela Ziskowski, Bryn Mawr College).  Taking as departure Elizabeth Pemberton’s 1996 article “Wealthy Corinth: The Archaeological Evidence for Cult Investment at Greek Corinth,” Ziskowski’s talk offered a survey of the religious offerings, dedications, and monuments in the urban center, the territory, and the broader Greek world.  The question that framed her talk was whether the Corinthians in the Archaic era actually invested resources in the urban center.

“The Archaic Temple in Roman Corinth: Civic Identity in the Capital of Achaia” (Ann Morgan, University of Texas at Austin).  The paper examined the incorporation of the old Greek  Archaic Temple of Apollo into the civic landscape of the 1st century Roman colony.  Morgan considered the Roman modifications of the temple as well as the new prominent Temple E, patterns she connects to recent scholarship highlighting the “blended” or “dual identity” (Greek and Roman) of the early colonists.

“Pre-Roman Remains at the East End of the Forum of Corinth: Recent Findings” (Paul Scotton, California State University Long Beach).  A report on the pre-Roman remains at the east end of the forum around the Julian basilica and the Southeast Building, including a house or workshop of Archaic-Classical date, and an east-west structure of unknown function that determined the layout of the Southeast building.

“Urbanization and Roman Residential Architecture Southeast of the Forum at Corinth” (James Herbst, ASCSA Corinth Excavations).  Herbst reported on some marble ionic capitals of 1st century AD date recovered in the destruction debris of a 3rd century house excavated at the Panayia Field.  Herbst associates these capitals with a poorly-preserved residential phase in the area dating to the later 1st century.

“Further Notes on the South Stoa at Corinth: The Roman Interior Colonnade and the Monumental Entrance to the South Basilica” (David Scahill, University of Bath) discussed the archaeological evidence and phasing for a monumental entrance to the South Basilica, with particular attention to the roofing of the stoa.

“The Captives Facade at Ancient Corinth” (Aileen Ajootian, University of Mississippi), examines the famous 2nd century AD “Captives Facade” in Corinth, with its colossal statues of captives at the northeast corner of the forum.  On the basis of newly discovered fragments from the status (discovered in the museum itself!), Ajootian argued that the facade can be associated with the Emperor Lucius Verus’ victory over the Parthians in 165 AD.  Verus had visited Corinth in 162.

“Kraters and Drinking Practices in Hellenistic Corinth” (Sarah James, University of Texas at Austin).  James examined the question of whether the communal symposium continued in Corinth in the Hellenistic period based on an examination of drinking vessels (kraters).  James examined not only the continuing popularity of the krater in Hellenistic Corinth but also changing contexts (public vs. private).  The decline of kraters in public contexts may relate to shift to metal vessels in Greece more broadly.

“Old Excavations and New Interpretations: Recent Investigations in the Sanctuary of Poseidon on the Isthmus of Corinth” (Jon Frey, Michigan State University, and Timothy Gregory, Ohio State University).  A first report on the investigations of Frey and Gregory who, in recent years, have been examining old records for 4-decades old excavations at Isthmia and resolving architectural relationships between the Roman Bath, the Hexamilion and the Fortress, and earlier buildings.  In their talk, Frey demonstrated that later phases of the trans-isthmus wall (5th century AD) actually preserved (not destroyed) the architectural plans on earlier Roman buildings at the site, including a very long colonnade that belonged to a “stoa-like building,” and a room that has been tentatively interpreted as a latrine(!).  This new interpretation promises to fill in the gap for the earlier periods at Isthmia.

“New Excavations at Nemea: The 2010 Season” (Kim S. Shelton, University of California, Berkeley), presented a preliminary report on the first season of new investigations at the Sanctuary of Zeus.  The first season was directed to examining the prehistoric and early historic use of the site especially related to the question of how this site developed as a panhellenic sanctuary.

“Untangling Mycenaean Terracing: Landscape Modification and Agricultural Production at Korphos-Kalamianos” (Lynne A. Kvapil, University of Cincinnati), presented on a series of agricultural terraces documented by the Saronic Harbors Archaeological Project in the southeast Corinthia near Korphos.  By examining the relationship of terrace walls and forms of construction, Kvapil linked the terracing to the settlement’s agricultural activities in the Late Bronze Age.

Niketas Ooryphas transfers his fleets (Skylitzes & Kedrenos versions)

In the late 11th and early 12th centuries, respectively, John Scylitzes and George Cedrenus both wrote works titled Synopsis Historiarum. The former’s Synopsis begins with the year 811 AD and continues through 1057 AD, while  Cedrenus’ Synopsis begins with the creation of the world and concludes in the year 1057 AD.

Both provide a version of Niketas Ooryphas and his transport of vessels over the Corinthian Isthmus.  Skylitzes closely follows the Vita Basilii account in Theophanes Continuatus, and Kedrenos repeats Skylitzes word for word (only deleting the bracketed phrase below about ship).  The following translation of Skylitzes and Kedrenos will live here.  I include Theophanes Continuatus’ account on the left so that you can see the amount that John Skylitzes borrows.

Theophanes Continuatus,  Chronographia 

60.  Thus when the cloud had been scattered, opposing winds again blew from Crete.  For when Saet, son of Apochaps, was governing the island and had as his colleague Photius, a warring and zealous man, twenty-seven kombaria (large military vessels) appeared on Crete.  There was added to these an analogous multitude of myoparones andpenteconters, which people are accustomed to call “saktouras” and “galleys”.

Sailing out with these against the Roman empire and plundering all of the Aegean, they often made attacks as far as the Proconnesus in the Hellespont and captured and killed many people.  Niketas the patrician, mentioned before, who was appointed to command the Roman fleet, made an attack on the Cretan navy.  Engaging in a mighty battle with the enemy, he immediately burned 20 Cretan vessels with liquid fire; as for the barbarians onboard, sword, fire, and drowning were differently apportioned.  Those remaining procured safety by flight—as many as escaped the danger from the sea.

61.  But although the Cretans in this manner were beaten and had turned away in their misfortune, they were not content to remain quiet but again lay claim to affairs through the sea.  With that Photius mentioned above as their admiral, they again troubled and plundered the parts far from the royal city, namely, the Peloponnese and the islands below it.  Therefore, the same Niketas Ooryphas was sent with the Roman fleet against this man.

Niketas by good fortune benefitted from favorable sailing winds and reached the Peloponnese within a few days.  Coming to anchor in the harbor of Kenchreai, and learning that the barbarian fleet was ruining the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, and Patras, as well as the land near Corinth, he devised a plan both brilliant and skillful.  For he did not wish to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, rounding Cape Malea via sea and covering a distance of thousands of miles while losing valuable time.  But in the position he held, at night with many hands and much experience, he immediately undertook the deed of carrying his ships over dry land across the Corinthian Isthmus.

And he suddenly appeared to his enemies not yet aware of the fact about this move, and confounding their calculations with terror, and on account of the fear from the earlier battle as well as the unforeseen route of approach, he did not allow them at all to get themselves together and to remember their strength, but burning some of the the enemy ships and sinking others, and destroying some of the barbarians with the sword and making others drown in the deep, and killing their leader, he forced the rest to be scattered over the island.  Whom netting them later and catching them alive, he subjected them to different punishments.  For some he tore away the skin of the flesh, especially those having denied their Christian baptism, saying that this skin that was separated from them was not their own; of others he most painfully dragged strips of skin from their head to their ankles; lifting others by some beams, then lowering them down and thrusting them from a rope into kettles filled with pitch, he was saying that a uniquely painful and gloomy baptism had being given them.  And so, having railed violently in this way, exacting fitting punishments for their deeds, and in campaigning through the Roman empire he struck no small amount of terror.”

Skylitzes, Synopsis Historiarum, and  Kedrenos, Synopsis historiarum 

Another fleet from Crete was again raised in opposition.  For when Sael, son of Apochaps the admiral was governing Crete, a certain man named Photious, skilled in warfare and energetic was sent by him against the Romans with twenty-seven koumparia [and a multitude of myoparonon and pentekontors], which are usually called galleys.

 

 

Photius, setting out from Crete, plundered the islands and the coasts, and struck as far as Proconessus in the Hellespont, kidnapping and destroying the areas along the way.  Meeting him with the Roman fleet was the patrician Niketas Ooryphas, the droungarios appointed in command of the Roman fleet, near Kardia around the mouth of the Aegean.  Engaging in a mighty battle he immediately burned twenty of the Cretan ships with liquid fire; sword, fire, and water were apportioned to the barbarians in them.  As many as escaped the danger from the ship battle undertook safety by flight.

But although the Cretans in this matter were shattered terribly, they were not content to remain quiet but again attacked by sea.  Equipping pirate ships, they menaced the Peloponnese and the islands below, keeping as their admiral the Photius mentioned above.  Niketas Ooryphas the patrician, commanding the Roman fleet, set out to meet them.

 

Benefitting from a favorable and auspicious wind, he reached the Peloponnese within a few days and brought his ships to port in the harbor of Kenchreai.  Learning then that the ships of the enemies were plundering the western part of the Peloponnese, Methone, Pylos, Patras, and the land near Korinth, he devised a plan brilliant and skillful.  Dizzied by the thought of circumnavigating the Peloponese around Tainaros and Cape Malea, covering a distance of thousands of miles in vain and losing valuable time, he held this course: at night across the Corinthian Isthmus, employing many hands, he immediately carried his ships to the other sea over dry land.  Putting on board his men, he undertook the deed.

 

And in this way, he suddenly made an attack on enemies not aware about this, and confounding with fear in violation of their expectations, and throwing their wits into confusion, he did not allow them to get themselves together and to remember their strength, but straightaway they sought flight.  And so, burning some of the the enemy ships and sinking others, destroying some of the barbarians with the sword and making other drown in the deep, and killing the leader of the ships, he forced the rest to be scattered over the Peloponnese.  And netting them later and catching them alive, he subjected them to different punishments.  Some he separated the skin from their flesh, and all the more more those denying their Christian baptism, saying even that this thing separated from them was not their own; others strips of skin were painfully dragged away from their head to ankles; and lifting others with rope he then let them down into kettles filled with boiling pitch; and subjecting others to all sorts of other forms of bad things.  And accomplishing these things, he put terror into them, and brought it about that they not send out more troublesome things against the the Roman empire.”