Oscar Broneer, St. Paul, and Wicked Corinth (and a new blog)

In a recent blog post at Objects-Buildings-Situations, Kostis Kourelis has pointed out that Ohians have the tendency to blog about Greece, and especially post-classical Greece and their experiences with the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.  He refers to Bill Caraher’s Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, Katie Rask’s Antiquated Vagaries, and now Dallas DeForest’s blog, Mediterranean Palimpsest.  The last is the most recent blog about Greek antiquities, and described itself as “the history, archaeology, and culture of Greece.  And other things.”  As he notes here, DeForest is a PhD candidate at Ohio State University, and is writing a dissertation on baths in Late Antique Greece. He has already written some interesting posts about the history of teaching at the ASCSA, bathing and cleanliness in early modern Europe, and Greek music.  Since he has worked at Isthmia and spent summers in Corinth, his blog should present us with some splendid Corinthiaka.

His most recent entry on Oscar Broneer and the image of Corinth provides a fascinating overview of Corinthian archaeologist legend Oscar Broneer, who excavated at Corinth and acted as the first director of the American School Excavations at Isthmia.  New Testament scholars and students will know him from three articles in particular:

  • “Corinth: Center of St. Paul’s Missionary Work in Greece,” in Biblical Archaeologist 14.4 (1951), pp. 77-96.
  • “The Apostle Paul and the Isthmian Games,” in Biblical Archaeologist 25 (1961), 2-31.
  • “Paul and the Pagan Cults at Isthmia,” in Harvard Theological Review 64 (1971), 169- 87.

What many do not know is how much Oscar Broneer crafted an image of Corinth, and made the ancient site a suitable center for modern Christian pilgrimage.

In his post, DeForest visits the archives at the Blegen Library in Athens and looks through the Broneer papers, which include 20 boxes of letters, correspondence, newspaper articles, lectures, notes, among others.  He presents interesting material about mid-20th century images of Corinth as sin capital and as St. Paul’s city.  Here’s a short quote:

“As it turns out, Broneer’s South Stoa excavations created a real stir in the media, and it was because his finds aligned so well with the image of Corinth as a place of loose morals (it was not for every man to go to Corinth…). In fact, his excavation of the Stoa made the front page of the New York Times on September 2, 1950. In many ways, the title (and subtitles) announce the article’s perspective: “Old ‘Grecian Paris’ is Scholar’s Prize; Notorious Corinth’s Night Life Centered on Big Colonnade and 33 Adjoining Clubs; 1,000 Girls Made Music; Drinking Cups, Dice, Flutes, Money brought to Light by 17 Year’s Excavations.” And section two: “They Had Hangover Cure. Drinking cups include one with an inscription dedicating it to the cure of hangovers through the powers of the spirit Pausikrepalos.”

As I read the piece, it made me wonder how much Broneer himself was responsible for forming certain images of Corinth (e.g., the sex capital of the ancient world) that recent scholarship has problematized or disproved.  Visit DeForest’s blog for images of newspaper articles (used by permission of the ASCSA school archivist) and for a discussion of Broneer’s work to increase Christian tourism to the ancient site through connections to the apostle Paul.


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