Corinthiaka (April 2011)

Probably about time to release the few Corinthiaka news and links that have accumulated through Google updates this month.  I’ll follow with an April publication / scholarship overview later in the week:

  • Matt Malcolm’s  Greek language exercises set in the Corinthian marketplace calls to mind simulation exercises that my colleague, Reta Finger, used to do with her classes on meals in Roman house churches.  Last I heard, Reta was working on a book on Corinthian house churches for today.
  • Hungary’s National Day celebrated at the Corinth Canal in honor of Bela Gerster and Istvan Turr, two Hungarian engineers behind the canal construction in the 1880s.   News items here and here
  • One Corinth talk scheduled for the upcoming International Congress of Byzantine Studies in Sophia, Bulgaria: Maria Leontsini and Angeliki Panopoulou, “Inside or outside the city of Corinth: the definition of confines (5th-15th c.)”
  • As predicted, 1 Corinthians 15 and Easter.  Here’s a selection of sermons and reflections on Easter and 1 Corinthians that range from the Catholic archbishop of Sydney to the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to a selection of pastors of different denominations in Tennessee and Virginia

“For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed”

We can expect a big weekend for sermons on 1 Corinthians.  Eastern and western liturgical calendars realign this year for the celebration of Easter, and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians offers some of the most direct and explicit discussions in the New Testament on the significance of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.   1 Corinthians 5.6-8, in particular, is central to the lectionary cycles of the celebration of Easter, and will be read in Catholic and Orthodox services either tonight or Sunday.  The New American Bible version of the passage runs:

“Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

In the spirit of Good Friday, I include some excerpts from the 15th sermon of John Chrysostom, bishop of Antioch, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians.  I’ve cleaned up the text a bit to make the old Eerdmans translation (available at a little more readable:

Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole lump? For, says the apostle Paul, “though the offense be his, if neglected it can lay waste to the rest of the body of the Church. For when the first transgressor escapes punishment, so also will others commit the same faults.”

In these words, the apostle indicates that their struggle and their danger is for the whole Church, not for any one person. For which purpose he makes use also of metaphor of the leaven…

 “Purge out the old leaven,” that is, this evil one.  Not that he is speaking only about this one; rather, he glances at others with him. For, the old leaven is not fornication only, but also sin of every kind. And he said not, “purge,” but “purge out;” cleanse with accuracy so that there be not so much as a remnant nor a shadow of that sort. In saying, “purge out,” he signifies that there was still iniquity among them. But in saying, “that you may be a new lump, even as you are unleavened,” he affirms and declares that not over very many was the wickedness prevailing. But though he says, “as ye are unleavened,” he means it not as a fact that all were clean, but as to what sort of people you ought to be.

For our Passover also hath been sacrificed for us, even Christ; wherefore let us keep the feast: not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” So also Christ called His doctrine Leaven. And further the apostle himself dwells upon the metaphor, reminding them of an ancient history, and of the Passover and unleavened bread, and of their blessings both then and now, and their punishments and their plagues.

It is festival, therefore, the whole time in which we live. For though he said, “Let us keep the feast,” he did not say it with a view to the presence of the Passover or of Pentecost; but as pointing out that the whole of time is a festival unto Christians, because of the excellency of the good things which have been given. For what has not come to pass that is good?  The Son of God was made man for you; He freed you from death; and called you to a kingdom. You, therefore, who have obtained and are still obtaining such things, how can it be less than your duty to “keep the feast” all your life?  Let no one then be downcast about poverty, and disease, and craft of enemies. For it is a festival, even the whole of our time. Wherefore, says Paul, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice.” Upon the festival days no one puts on filthy garments. Neither then let us do so. For a marriage hath been made, a spiritual marriage. For, “the kingdom of Heaven,” He says, “is likened unto a certain king which would make a marriage feast for his son.” Now where it is a king making a marriage, and a marriage for his son, what can be greater than this feast?  Let no one then enter in clad in rags. Not about garments is our discourse but about unclean actions. For if where all wore bright apparel one alone, being found at the marriage in filthy garments, was cast out with dishonor, consider how great strictness and purity the entrance into that marriage feast requires.

SBL International – London, July 4-7

The Society of Biblical Literature has posted its schedule of papers for the international conference in London, July 4-7, 2011.  There are three sessions that focus entirely on Corinth and many scattered papers that touch on Corinthian matters.  Clicking on the links below will pull up the abstracts from the SBL website.  

First, the Corinth sessions, which have all been assigned to the generic category “Paul and Pauline Literature”

The first Corinth session (4-12), held on July 4, 8:30-11:30 AM, will focus on “Corinthian Correspondence.”  The program:

The second session, “1 Corinthians,” will be held the following day, July 5, 8:30-11:30 AM. The program:

The final Corinth session on Thursday, July 7, 8:30-11:30 AM, is called “Becoming Roman Corinth: New Research.”  The program includes several papers first presented last October at the Corinth in Contrast conference in Austin, TX, as well as one addition (Melfi):

Papers that discuss Corinth and Paul’s Corinthian letters are scattered here and there in the rest of the program.  No doubt the following list does not grab all of them, but it does include all papers whose abstracts note a Corinthian example, emphasis, or connection:

I will be attending some of these and hope to give highlights either during the conference or afterwards.

Corinth – Paul, People, and Politics

Macquarie University has posted a description and schedule for a conference on May 14 called “Corinth – Paul, People and Politics,” sponsored by the Society for the Study of Early Christianity.  The abstract for the conference:

In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians we see an early Christian society dealing with factionalism arising from varied interpretations of the Christian message. At the same time, Christianity was trying to define itself within the context of a cosmopolitan Roman city. Who were the main players in Corinth during Paul’s mission there? What role did politics play in the early Christian church?

The posted SSEC conference brochure (PDF) provides a program for the day that lists presentations on 1 and 2 Corinthians as well as Corinthian economy and culture. Since the lectures are of broad interest to Corinthian scholars, let us hope that someone will blog or report on the conference.

St. Leonidas and the Seven Virgins, Martyrs, April 16

On the eve of the start of Holy Week in both western and eastern churches, it is appropriate to highlight the life of Leonidas and companions, martyred for their faith in Corinth while celebrating Pascha sometime in the mid-third century AD.

The Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church notes April 16 as the day commemorating the martyrdom of Leonidas, Charissa, Nike, Galina, Kalisa, Nunekhia, Vasilissa, and Theodora.  Like most Corinthian saints, we know very little about Leonidas, and even less about his companions.  His fame certainly paralleled Kodratos, martyr and bishop of Corinth, and clearly he numbered among Corinth’s most famous saints and church leaders.  The site of his martyrdom (west of the harbor Lechaion) was historically associated with an enormous basilica-style church of 6th century date–among the largest early Christian basilicas  of the eastern Mediterranean.

Leonidas and the seven virgins

Leonidas and the seven virgins are listed in the Acta Sanctorum, April, II, as part of a larger group of Corinthian martyrs celebrated on April 16.  But as the editors of AS explain, some of these names reflect different documentary traditions of the martyrdom of Leonidas.

Callistus, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Charisius, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Leonides, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Christiana, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Galla, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Theodora, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Lota, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Tertia, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Caristus, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Chariessa, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Nice, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Gallena, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Nunechia, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Basilissa, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)
Calis, Martyr, Corinthi in Achaia (S.)

Acta Sanctorum, April, II, pp. 402-404, also collects the different manuscript traditions for their suffering, and these different ancient and medieval traditions explain the variety in modern accounts of their passion.  It would be valuable at some point to post English translations of these different accounts.  For now, we can provide two brief overviews.

The Orthodox Church of America provides this brief summary:

The Holy Martyr Leonidas and the Holy Martyrs Charissa, Nike, Galina, Kalisa (Kalida), Nunekhia, Basilissa, and Theodora suffered at Corinth in the year 258. They threw them into the sea, but they did not drown. Instead, they walked upon the water as if on dry land, singing spiritual hymns. The torturers overtook them in a ship, tied stones around their necks and drowned them.


John Sanidopoulos of the Mystagogy blog produced a useful overview of Leonidas (“Newly-Revealed Martyrs Leonidas and His Companions“) which summarizes his life, details his modern veneration in New Epidaurus and Troezen, and describes the Lechaion basilica. Sanidopoulos provides a short bibliography and links to additional material, including Bill Caraher’s interesting piece,  “Some Thoughts on St. Leonidas and Baptism in Lechaion in Greece”  that highlighted the relationship between the martyr account of death by sea, the sacrament of baptism, his death on holy Saturday, and the position of the Lechaion basilica on the coast.  Sanidopoulos’  summary:

Leonidas was a teacher of the Church in Troezen of Peloponnesos. He was brought to Corinth for trial for his Christian faith before the governor Venousto during Holy Week along with the seven women who were later martyred with him. Venousto tried to convince Saint Leonidas and the seven women to recant their faith, but they remained steadfast. Saint Leonidas was tortured by being hung up high and scraped with a sharp instrument. When all tortures failed, Venousto condemned them all to be drowned in the Gulf of Corinth.

Before being thrown into the sea, Saint Leonidas looked up to heaven and said: “Behold! And with this second baptism today have I been baptized, which makes the man within us more clean.” They were thrown into the sea but the sea received them not. They walked upon the sea as upon dry land and it is said that Saint Charissa sang to God with the words of the Prophetess Mariam: “On the field of battle, I ran O Lord, and the army pursued me; O Lord I did not deny You; O Lord, save my soul!” Seeing them, the heathens, at first were amazed, but after they overtook them in a ship as the saints continued chanting the hymn. They tied stones around their necks and again threw them into the depths of the sea and they drowned. Their martyrdom occurred on Holy Saturday.

Their martyrology dating from the 13th century offers the following note after the bodies of the martyrs were washed ashore: “Pious men, dragging the bodies of the saints lying on the beach, having attended to them in honor they buried them, having built a church on the spot, where [the bodies], both augustly venerated and extolled everlastingly, to those who approach faithfully they make to gush out healings each time.”[1]

In several of the manuscript traditions, the group was arrested on Saturday evening, while singing hymns as part of the Easter vigil.

Further Reading:

Another summary of the passion can be found on pp. 450-452 of V. Limberis, “Ecclesiastical Ambiguities: Corinth in the Fourth and Fifth Century,” in Schowalter and Friesen (eds.), Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, Cambridge, MA 2005, 443-457.  And Amelia Brown, in her recent dissertation on Late Roman Corinth, also discusses the life briefly and includes citations to the different hagiographic sources.

The Lechaion Basilica and Baptistery were excavated by the Greek archaeologist Demitrios Pallas in the late 1950s, and published in modern Greek in the 1960s.  Useful English summaries and analyses of the site, the architecture, chronology, and the historical significance of the monument can be found in:

William Caraher, Church, Society, and the Sacred in Early Christian Greece (Dissertation, Ohio State 2003)

Richard Rothaus, Corinth:The First City of Greece, Leiden 2000. [see also his article on Lechaion]

G.D.R. Sanders, “Archaeological Evidence for Early Christianity and the End of Hellenic Religion in Corinth,” in Schowalter and S.J. Friesen (eds.), Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, Cambridge, MA, 2005, 419-42.

Korinth: A Tale of Zombies

One problem in running Google searches on “Corinth” is the unwieldy number of hits returned.  The reason for the numerous false positives is that the USA has a good number of cities and churches named “Corinth”.  On the first two pages of a Google search, one encounters sites related to Corinth Mississippi, Corinth Vermont, the Battle of Corinth (American Civil War), Corinth Texas, Corinth New York.  Nothing wrong with these places, of course, but someone looking for ancient Corinth, Greece, may not be interested in the American stops along the way.

Filters help.  In my Google Alert subscription on “Corinth,” the following filter eliminates a lot of the background noise: “-tx -Texas -Mississippi -miss* -ny -ms -york -ave -avenue -download -lovis -boots -maine -vermont -killzone”.  (If you didn’t know, Killzone is a videogame; Lovis Corinth was a German painter; and UGG Australia produces a brand of women’s “Corinth boots”).  But the filter is still not precise enough to keep out irrelevant material.  I have found in my inbox stories about murders and deaths  in the various Corinths of the United States; the Coca-Cola race in Corinth, Mississippi; and interracial dating in Corinth, Kentucky.  This morning’s alerts turn up pages on spinal surgery, astrology, and the Battle of Corinth in 1862.

But the most interesting notice to turn up in my feed last week was a piece on a new work of fiction called “Korinth: A Tale of Zombies in the Old West”.   The description of the work from Amazon:

An unpublished 1890 manuscript by Elihu Baxter was discovered in the retirement community of Sun City Center, Florida in May 2010. In it, Boston blueblood Baxter describes how he and his best friend, Robert Fontaine, were guided by the Spirit of Adventure, a drunken prospector and the lust for gold, to the small California mining town of Korinth in 1872. For nearly two years the residents of Korinth got rich digging the treasure from the Earth. The future looked as bright and shiny as a gold nugget until Edna McCauley, a woman with a singing voice so dreadful it was rumored that President Lincoln had wanted to unleash her on the Confederacy if Robert E. Lee refused to surrender, is murdered at a church social. Her killer was Evangeline O’Meara.

Murder was a hanging offense in the Old West. The trouble was, Evangeline O’Meara had already been hanged the week before for the murder of her husband, George.

Interestingly, there appears to be no actual settlement in California known by the name “Korinth.”  Why, then, did the author choose this name as the fitting scene for a story of horror and the undead?


New Excavation Season at Corinth now underway

The staff at the American School of Classical Studies Excavations at Corinth announce the beginning of their 2011 field season.   The short note from their website:

On April 4, the 2011 excavation season began in Ancient Corinth in the theater.  Regular members, Evelyn Adkins, Emilia Oddo, Reema Habib, Katie Lamberto, Andriy Fomin, and Tristan Barnes are participating in training led for part of the season by Charles K. Williams.  Nancy Bookidis (field assistant), Orestes Zervos (numismatics), David Scahill (architecture), Mark Hammond (field assistant), and Kathleen Slane (Roman pottery) are offering assistance.  Two more regular members, Bice Peuzzi and Amanda Reiterman, are working in the museum with Assistant director, Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst.


Visit the website for pictures of the first few days.  The excavations are taking place northwest of the theater.  Look for reports on this new program of fieldwork at the end of the year.


The Diolkos of Corinth – A New View

Over the last week, I have been working frantically on the revisions of an article called the “Diolkos of Corinth,” about the famous paved portage road across the Corinthian Isthmus. I submitted the paper last August and it was provisionally accepted for publication providing that some minor modifications were made.  When I hear that the revised article is cleared for final publication, I’ll provide more details about it.  For now, I post the abstract of the piece.

Since the mid-19th century the paved portage road known as the diolkos has been central to interpreting the historical fortunes of the city of Corinth and the commercial facility of its Isthmus.  In this article, I reevaluate the view that the diolkos functioned as a “commercial thoroughfare” by reconsidering the archaeological, logistical, and textual evidence for the road and overland portaging.  Each form of evidence problematizes the notion of trans-shipment and suggests the road did not facilitate trade as a constant flow of ships and cargoes through Corinth.  The diolkos road was not principally a commercial thoroughfare for transporting the goods of other states but facilitated the communication, transport, travel, and strategic ends of Corinth.  The commercial properties of the Isthmus subsist in its emporion for exchange, not as a stage for trans-shipment.