Corinthian Scholarship (August 2011)


Late Antiquity 

New Testament:


  • Betsey Robinson, Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, Princeton 2011: American School of Classical Studies at Athens.
    • A photo of the cover
    • Here’s the description from the American School of Classical Studies
    • I’ll review the book shortly

Geological and Environmental Studies:

Ano Vayia and Lychnari Tower

The Saronic coast of the southern Corinthia provides some of the most beautiful views of Corinthian territory.  It also provided for the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey some of its most spectacular finds.  One week spent in the area of Kalamianos near the harbor village of Korphos, for example, led to the discover of a major Mycenaean settlement—the end result being an entirely new research endeavor called the Saronic Harbors Archaeological Project.  In the area of Vayia and Lychnari Bay, Bill Caraher and his extensive team found an unknown rural tower and ‘farm’ of Classical-Hellenistic date.  He and I published these sites last year (with colleague Sarah James) in an article titled “Towers and Fortifications at Vayia in the Southeast Corinthia,” Hesperia 79.3 (2010), 385-415.  [Vayia (PDF Offprint) *Copyright © The American School of Classical Studies at Athens].  The abstract of that piece:

“Although rural towers have long been central to the discussion of the fortified landscapes of classical and Hellenistic Greece, the Corinthia has rarely figured in the conversation, despite the historical significance of exurban fortifications for the territory. the authors of this article report on the recent investigation by the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological survey of two towers and associated fortifications in the region of Vayia in the southeast Corinthia. by integrating topographic study, intensive survey, and architectural analysis, they suggest that these three sites served to guard an economically productive stretch of the Corinthian countryside and to protect—or block—major maritime and land routes into the region.”

There is plenty of material in Bill’s archived Archaeology of the Mediterranean World blog about our work in the Lychnari Bay area.  I have added to this website a series of pages in the photo gallery section:

This concludes my scanned slides of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey.  Thanks again to Cindi Tomes of Messiah College’s Faculty Services for making this possible.  At some point soon, I will upload scans of slides from other parts of the territory and the urban center, as well as scanned prints from EKAS.

A few of the highlights from the new galleries.


Lychnari Bay (left), Ano Vayia (right lobe), and Saconic Gulf from the coastal highway to Epidaurus.  Ayioii Theodoroi smoke stacks in distance.


Lychnari Bay from the site of Ano Vayia.  Oneion and the Isthmus in background.


Remains of a building of late Classical-early Hellenistic date, probably used for guarding a strategic corridor to Corinth and protecting local citizen properties.


The team discusses the crumbled remains of the tower above Lychnari Bay.


Timothy Gregory reading pottery from the Ano Vayia buildings.

Views from Mt. Oneion

I was twice dragged up to the top of Mt. Oneion, the range that marks the visual southern boundary of the Isthmus.  While Dimitri Nakassis and I were walking survey teams around the plain of the Isthmus in 2000 and 2001, Bill Caraher was driving all over the eastern Corinthia doing “extensive survey” in remote and hard to reach locations.  One spectacular discovery Bill made was a set of fortification walls in one of the saddles of Mt. Oneion dating to both the late Classical and Venetian periods. He published these (with T. Gregory) as Caraher, W. R. and T. E. Gregory. “Fortifications of Mount Oneion, Corinthia,” Hesperia 75 (2006), 327-356.  The abstract to their article:

Recent investigations on the Isthmus of Corinth by the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) have revealed a series of relatively humble fortifications situated along the ridge of Mt.Oneion, which forms the southern boundary of the Isthmus. These Late Classical-Early Hellenistic walls, along with a nearby series of later Venetian fortifications, were designed to block access to the south through several low passes. Controlling the passage of northern armies through the Isthmus to the Peloponnese was clearly a long-term strategic concern for diverse regional powers.

Corinthia_May 28 019

Corinthia_May 28 021

In 2002 and 2003, I journeyed with Bill and Tim up to the easternmost peaks of Mt. Oneion to document those remains.  The hike was well worth it for it afforded spectacular views of Corinthian territory including the Isthmus, Acrocorinth, and the Saronic coastline.  Views of Kenchreai are especially good.  I have added new gallery pages of those trips to the top of Mt. Oneion:

Thanks to Cindi Tomes of Messiah College’s Faculty Services for scanning these.  I include a few of the highlights below.


Bill Caraher at the top of the Corinthia.


Bill takes GPS readings with the Isthmus in the background.


Saronic coastline along plain of Solygeia.


I love this view of Kenchreai harbor and Koutsongila


The Saronic coastline from Kenchreai (bottom-right) to the Bay of Kalamaki (middle-left) to the narrow coastal pass of Gerania (middle-right).


The Oneion backbone which ends in Acrocorinth (center).


I take a break from uploading images of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey to drop some Corinthiaka that have come through my feed in the last month. 

More Eastern Korinthia Survey Photos: Kromna and Rhyto

I continue to upload scanned slides from the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey.  Today’s installments include

Thanks to Cindi Tomes of Messiah College’s Faculty Services for scanning these.


Eroded Roman tomb at Kromna.


Olive press equipment, probably LR in date


Ritual dining room in Kromna quarries.


Late Hellenistic-Early Roman olive press basin.

The site of Kromna bore remains from the Geometric to the Late Roman period and has been the subject of recent discussion and debate.  Was this a settlement, industrial area, sanctuary, cemetery or all of the above??  EKAS teams spent a great deal of time documenting the remains in detail to find out.  For discussion, see:

  • Caraher, W. R., D. Nakassis, and D. K. Pettegrew, “Siteless Survey and Intensive Data Collection in an Artifact-Rich Environment:  Case Studies from the Eastern Corinthia, Greece,” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology19.1 (2006), 7-43.
  • Tartaron, Thomas F., Timothy E. Gregory, Daniel J. Pullen, Jay S. Noller, Richard M. Rothaus, Joseph L. Rife, Lita Diacopoulos, Robert L. Schon, William Caraher, David Pettegrew, Dimitri Nakassis, “The Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey: Integrated Methods for a Dynamic Landscape,” in Hesperia 75.4 (2006), 453-523 [PDF Offprint posted here]

Sites of the Eastern Korinthia Survey

I have uploaded more scans of slides form the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey.  These images show areas and sites documented by EKAS between 1999 and 2003.  Some of these, like the quarries, Kromna, and Perdhikaria, were known archaeological sites, and our work documented a new range of activities in the area.  Others like various Roman-Byzantine villas were completely unknown before survey.

I created pages according to sites and will post additional pages later in the week.  I should also be able to add to these collections at a later date.

Thanks again to Cindi Tomes for scanning these slides!


Gun Emplacement 1

World War II Gun Emplacement on the Ayios Dimitrios Ridge


Ridge of Perdhikaria viewed from Kromna

Plowed Field_6

View north from Perdhikaria.  The plowed fields at the bottom of the image were the site of a substantial ornate building of Late Roman and Byzantine date, along with earlier phases.  This became known around the project as the “Plowed Field” Villa.

Photos of the Eastern Korinthia Survey

It was unfortunate that I took all of my photos of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey using a camera loaded with print or slide film.  The survey was carried between 1998 and 2003, a time span corresponding with the rapid replacement of film cameras with digital cameras.  We used digital cameras every year of the EKAS survey, but since our main goal was to document quickly what we were finding—visibility, photos of features, etc…—we tended to use low resolution settings so as to store the most images.  The digital image collection is useful for study, but fair to poor for projection.  When I have really wanted to show images of EKAS to my classes, I have relied on my old collection of physical slides. 

Until now.  Bill Caraher had some slides digitized for me last year as part of his creation of the outstanding collection of images of the site of Lakka Skoutara, a 19th and 20th century village of the Southern Corinthia. 

And over the summer, Cindi Tomes of Messiah College’s Faculty Services kindly scanned hundreds of old slides relating to my archaeological work in the Corinthia and Kythera, and travels in Greece.  The images are at a sufficient resolution for PowerPoint presentations for presentations and lectures.  Thanks, Cindi!

Since there are few images of the Eastern Korinthia Survey online (Caraher’s omeka collection of Lakka Skoutara photos being the exception), I figured it would be worthwhile to create some galleries.  I have uploaded the first batch to this page of the photo gallery.  This gallery shows field walker and survey images around the Isthmus, and is compiled from the few photos I had previously scanned, along with the slides scanned recently.   I include a few photos below as examples.


EKAS 2001_lined up_3 

Field walkers surveying  a grain stubble field on the Isthmus, 2001. Slide scan courtesy of Caraher’s team at UND.

EKAS 2001_Perdhikaria

Field walkers document the artifacts of a Roman-Byzantine villa below the Perdhikaria Ridge (2001). Slide scan by C. Tomes.


EKAS 1999_Team

One of the first field teams from EKAS, 1999. 

Kouroi arrive in Corinth

When I was in Corinth in early June, a news item going around the village was the imminent arrival of Archaic-period kouroi to the archaeological museum at Corinth.  The statues, depicted in the images below (from Greek Reporter and Athens News), were found in Klenies (see map below), a village of the southern Corinthia near ancient Tenea.  Dug up by antiquities dealers, who were trying to sell them for 10 million Euros apiece, they were confiscated by police last October and arrived last week in Ancient Corinth where they will be on display. The Greek Archaeological Service has since conducted excavations at the Archaic and Classical period cemetery in which they were found.

Brief news stories:

Thanks to Kostis Kourelis for alerting me on the Kathimerini story.


The Search for the Historical Erastus

In case you missed it, the feast day of St. Erastus, friend and associate of the apostle Paul, came and went three weeks ago in the western church calendar (July 26).  And in case you missed him, Erastus is a relatively minor figure mentioned only three times in the New Testament: 1) In Acts 19.22, Paul sent “into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.”  2) In 2 Timothy 4.19-21, the writer says, “Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick.”  And 3) in Romans 16.23, Paul concludes: “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer [oikonomos] of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.”  Later authors like Chrysostom, Epiphanius, and Thedoret, among others, commented only briefly on Erastus, and a later tradition linked him with an Erastus bishop of Paneas (Palestine), now celebrated in the Orthodox church on Jan. 4 and Nov. 10.

For such an unknown figure, Erastus stands at the center of a major contemporary debate among New Testament scholars.  The debate concerns the social status of the earliest Christians and hinges on the interpretation of the Greek word oikonomos of Romans 16.23 (the word translated in the NJKV above as “treasurer”) as well as the tangential connection of the Erastus of the New Testament to an Erastus named as aedile in a Roman pavement found east of the theater in Corinth.  This inscription, uncovered in the late 1920s, reads “Erastus for his aedileship paved (this) at his own expense.”

If Erastus, the aedile named in the inscription, is the same as Erastus the oikonomos of the book of Romans (and presumably Acts and 2 Timothy), we have the exceptional coincidence of a New Testament figure being named in an archaeological context.  More importantly, at least for scholars of 1 and 2 Corinthians, we have a believer of the earliest Christian community coming from the highest ranks of Roman Corinth.  This, in turn, would help to explain the language of social division and stratification of Paul’s Corinthian community found in 1 Corinthians: rich – poor, wise – foolish, powerful – weak, etc..  However, if the two Erasti are unrelated, the argument for local elite numbering among the first Christians loses much of its force.

Since Cadbury’s discussion of the inscription (1931), scholars have been interested but skeptical about the connection.  The Latin word aedile mentioned in the inscription is clearly not equivalent to the Greek word oikonomos named in Romans 16.23—the former was an official magistrate of public works (hence, the dedication for the pavement), the latter was connected with financial management and could refer to either a lowly steward or a high-ranking financial officer.  Yet, a generation ago Theissen proposed that the Erastus of Romans 16.23 could have been a quaestor before he became an aedile, for the Latin word quaestor might just be the equivalent of the Greek oikonomos.  In that case, the Erastus inscription and the verse from Romans would shed light on the course of honors that Erastus followed in his political career.

In recent years, the debate over Erastus has grown more intense as New Testament scholars have argued about the social context of the first urban Christians.  Last year, in fact, was a bumper year in the search for the historical Erastus.  First, John Goodrich published “Erastus, Quaestor of Corinth: The Administrative Rank of ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως (Rom 16.23) in an Achaean Colony,” in which he argued in support of Theissen’s thesis that an oikonomos could be the equivalent of a quaestor.  To make the argument, he collected a large corpus of oikonomos inscriptions from Greece, the Aegean, and Asia Minor dating from the late 4th century BC to the 4th c. AD, and presented a recently discovered inscription from nearby Patras, another Roman colony.  This inscription shows a clear link between the Greek oikonomos  and Latin quaestor.  An oikonomos can be a quaestor.  The abstract to the article:

“Erastus (Rom 16.23) has featured prominently in the ongoing debate over the social and economic make-up of the early Pauline communities, since how one renders his title (ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως) dramatically affects the range of economic stratification represented in the Corinthian church. Relying chiefly on epigraphy, including an important new inscription from the Achaean colony of Patras, this article engages the scholarly dialogue about the Latin equivalent of Erastus’ title, rebutting the arguments in favour of arcarius and aedilis, and contends that he served as quaestor, a high-ranking municipal position exclusively occupied by the economic elite.”

As Goodrich concludes his discussion of the inscription (p. 112), “Since the text was derived from an Achaean colony in close proximity to Corinth with an apparently identical political structure as Corinth, it provides the best known comparative evidence for the rank of municipal οἰκονόμοι in Roman Corinth. In light of this evidence, it is then highly probable that the Erastus from Rom 16.23 was the quaestor of Corinth.”

At about the same time that Goodrich’s article was published, the Corinth in Context volume also appeared in print and in it an article by Steve Friesen called “The Wrong Erastus: Ideology, Archaeology, and Exegesis.”  In this article, Friesen critiqued the misuse of archaeological evidence by New Testament scholars and a generational trend to think of the Erastus of Romans as a character with aspirations of upward social mobility.  The Erastus inscription from Corinth is in a secondary, not primary, context and, in any case, was probably not commissioned before the mid-second century AD, well after the time of the Erastus of Romans 16.  The inscription is not, therefore, evidence for the man named by the apostle Paul but a non-Christian aedile who hailed from the highest status group of Roman society.  By contrast, Erastus the oikonomos was a low-status (non-citizen) manager of finance, possibly a slave, and probably not a Christian.  The first Christian communities at Corinth were overwhelmingly poor, like the population of the Roman world generally.  Friesen concludes that scholars should dispense with the ‘ideology of social mobility’ which has blinded them to the inequalities that characterized early Christian churches.

Finally, Alexander Weiss published a short study in response to Goodrich (and ultimately, Theissen) critiquing Goodrich’s view that Corinth and Patras had identical political structures.  Weiss, in fact, argues that political structures were very different in the two cities—reflecting different foundations as Julian and Augustan colonies—and that the municipal office of quaestor did not even exist at Corinth.

This is surely not the last word, though, as Goodrich has an article (to be published in October) called “Erastus of Corinth (Rom 16.23): Responding to Recent Proposals on His Rank, Status, and Faith,” in New Testament Studies 57.3 (2011), which responds to both Friesen and Weiss. His abstract:

“Studies on Erastus, the Corinthian oikonomos (Rom 16.23), continue to dispute the fundamental make up of his identity, including his administrative rank, socio-economic standing, even his status as a believer. Ultimately seeking to defend the view that Erastus was a Christian who served as a Corinthian municipal quaestor, this article responds separately to two recent essays, replying initially to Weiss’ charge that Corinth did not have the municipal quaestorship, then critiquing Friesen’s proposal that Erastus was an unbelieving public slave.”

Goodrich will deal with Weiss’ direct critique of his comparison between Patras and Corinth by some comparative examples of quaestors in pre-Augustan colonies.  And he also intends to problematize some of the provocative lines of argument in Friesen’s reassessment of the Erasti.  We should also expect him to have things to say about oikonomoi in a forthcoming book called Paul as an Administrator of God in 1 Corinthians. (Thanks to John Goodrich for sharing the above information with me in advance of publication).

These 2010 studies are significant in highlighting the state of the field on the historical Erastus and poles in the debate over the social constituency of the first Christian communities.  They also highlight the methodical problems of linking text with material culture.

Below is an incomplete bibliography relevant to the Erastus debate.  If you need a more exhaustive listing, consult the 2010 articles outlined above.

Cadbury, H.J., “Erastus of Corinth,” JBL 50 (1931), 42-58.

Clarke, A.D. “Another Corinthian Erastus Inscription,”  TynBul 42 (1991), 146-151.

Friesen, S.J., “The Wrong Erastus: Ideology, Archaeology, and Exegesis,” in S.J. Friesen, D.N. Schowalter, and J.C. Walters, Corinth in Context: Comparative Studies on Religion and Society, Leiden 2010, 231-256: Brill.

Gill, D.W.J., “Erastus the Aedile,” TynBul 40 (1989), 293-301.

Goodrich, J., “Erastus, Quaestor of Corinth: The Administrative Rank of ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως (Rom 16.23) in an Achaean Colony,” New Testament Studies 56, 90-115.

Goodrich, J., “Erastus of Corinth (Rom 16.23): Responding to Recent Proposals on His Rank, Status, and Faith,” New Testament Studies 57.3 (2011), forthcoming.

Meeks, W.A., The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul, New Haven 1983, 51-73: Yale University Press.

Meggitt, J.J., “The Social Status of Erastus (Rom. 16.23),” NovT 38 (1996), 218-23.

Theissen, G., The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth, Philadelphia 1982, 69-119: Fortress Press.

Thomas, W.D., “Erastus: The V.I.P. at Corinth,” ExpTim 95 (1984), 369-370.

Weiss, A., “Keine Quästoren in Korinth: Zu Goodrichs (und Theißens) These über das Amt des Erastos (Röm 16.23),” New Testament Studies 2010, 576-581.

[The debate on Erastus continues here.]