Reading Faith and Occupation in Late Antique Graffiti

Last month, Bill Caraher posted a working draft of a paper on the Christian landscapes of the Corinthia  in which he discusses a variety of Christian graffiti–crosses,  fish, Chi-Rhos, and prayers inscribed in stone–scratched in mortar and stone on churches, baths, walls, and villas of the Late Antique Corinthia.  Bill argues that these symbols shed light on the new regional contexts of power that craftsmen faced in the fifth and sixth centuries.  Since Kostis Kourelis wrote an interesting response to Bill’s paper, and Diana Wright followed up with handprints in Argos, I can’t help but add something to the discussion.

I’ve been thinking a bit about low-status individuals of the (late) Roman a lot this semester, in part because I’m working on a paper on peasants, in part because I have been teaching a first-year seminar at Messiah College titled “Faith, Education, and Vocation in the World of Late Antiquity.”  In that class, we’ve been exploring how the Christianization of the Roman world and the theological language of calling influenced the way that people thought about work and occupation.  Under the influence of ascetic currents of the later 4th century AD, many aristocratic Christians abandoned otherwise normal and respectable occupations like oratory and the law courts to join religious communities or make a home in the desert.  St. Augustine’s famous conversion, for example, occurred in conjunction with his renunciation of career as teacher of rhetoric and with the recognition that he could ‘serve the Lord with his pen.’   By exploring the concept of vocation in the past, students reflect on the different forces today that shape their life occupations.

The theme of the class works well for a school like Messiah, where vocational language and the ‘sense of calling’ frames campus-wide discussions.  But the theme also works well historically for framing discussing of a range of Christian texts of the 3rd-5th centuries.  For Christian authors of this period frequently thought and wrote about the calling of the Word to salvation and its specific consequences for work and occupation.

A major problem, however, is that most of our stories are written by and about aristocratic men, and even the few sources written by or about women—e.g., Egeria’s pilgrimage to the holy land, Perpetua’s martyrdom, or the letters of Jerome—tend to describe and refer to elite renunciations of elite lifestyles.  We have very little information about the rest of the population, the 95% who were not elite but spent their lives working in the fields, creating craft, constructing buildings, and laboring in skilled and unskilled occupations.  Did the ascetic revolution of the fourth century have any impact on how the majority of Christians understood the meaning of their occupation?

We only get fleeting and deflected glimpses of the rest of the population through texts of the period.  John Chrysostom, preacher of Antioch, for instance, speaks to the artisans in his congregation and tells them that they too have the responsibility of pursuing a life of virtue for “even Paul was a tent-maker…Let no one, therefore, of those who have trades be ashamed.” (In 1 Cor. hom. 5.11).  Chrysostom says that the  working artisan can be truly happy when he applies  himself entirely to the task at hand, thinks of work as a kind of asceticism, and uses his gifts (the ability to construct) to preserve life (In 2 Cor. hom. 15.4-5).  But in such sermons, we are seeing the potential vocation of the craftsman reflected through the eyes of an educated bishop.

Enter the Corinthian archaeological material, which provides no clear window.   This image shows a fish on the Hexamilion wall across the Isthmus, but what exactly does it mean and why did the builder insert it?


Many such religious signs were not even intended to be seen, but, like the concrete body of this modern church in the village of Sophiko in the southern Corinthia, the religious language (in this case, the Greek abbreviation for “Jesus Christ conquers”) will eventually be covered by a marble or brick façade.DSCN7730

In the context of late antiquity, what would have gone through the mind of a craftsman who scratched such patterns in the work he was creating?  Since such signs appear so frequently in 5th and 6th century contexts, they must be part of a common language of finishing monumental buildings.

Here is what Bill has to say about the meanings of these symbols in a late antique context.  I quote (with his approval) from his paper (pp. 17-18):

“These markers in the mortar of the exterior wall of the basilica would have been visible for only a short period of time as they would have almost certainly been covered with either a layer of finer stucco or the surrounding ground level when the building was completed. The symbol of the fish may have religious significance as it was one of the earliest symbols associated with Christianity. We have no idea whether these symbols were set to mark out these buildings as ‘Christian’ (as if this was necessary for the Lechaion Basilica), to serve some kind of as apotropaic function or to mark the work of a particular crew of laborers. These modest graffiti might well suggest that the same groups of workers or, perhaps, the same organization provided labor for both buildings.

Whatever their function, it is clear, however, that the monumental architecture of the Corinthia not only projected power across the region and onto (and through) the bodies of laborers, but it also provided a new context for the everyday actions Corinthian workers. The subtle traces left by individuals working on the walls provide a glimpse of the physical labor responsible for the construction of imperial authority on the Isthmus. The appearance of the graffiti fish in inconspicuous places on a number of contemporary buildings suggests a division between the explicit message made by the architecture anddecoration and the simpler, hidden graffito.”

While Bill suggests that these actions reflect on new contexts of power and resistance, it is obvious that a craftsman would also have understood his action most immediately as imprinting the language or signs of faith on his work.  Moreover, in  certain contexts, like the construction of the monumental religious building of Late Antiquity—the enormous Lechaion church, for instance—he could only have felt himself directly contributing in his trade to a monumental and communal expression of faith albeit one that reflected the hierarchical social world of his day.  I wonder, too, whether, he may have thought about the metaphors of building in the language of the bible, and in particular, the temples.  Would he have made (or been instructed about) any connection to Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 3:9-10?

“You are God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.”

How exactly he thought about this participation is totally beyond our grasp, but here we have one tiny arena where a potential connection between ordinary work and the faith of the builders is visible.  These connections would have naturally intersected with the social and political dimensions of building.  Participating in the grand project of ecclesiastical church building would have intertwined thoughts about the bishop, the emperor, the nature of building, and the triumph of Christ.

In the last two weeks of class, we’re dedicating some class time to discussing these kinds of problematic glimpses into the worlds of ordinary occupations.  When I asked my first-year seminar today what they thought about the fish and the cross graffiti buried in the plaster, they commented on the significance of its invisibility (not for show), the meaning of the act of construction, and the probability of some association with the faith of the craftsman.  One student commented that the builders sought to leave a piece of themselves in the work.  That observation may be as close as we get in a local context to understanding the connection of faith to the work of the builder.

Sarah James on Hellenistic Pottery at Corinth

Visitors to this site may be aware that we maintain a running list of Corinthian archaeology and history dissertations completed over the last decade.  The American School Excavations in Ancient Corinth website also regularly features young scholars who are either working on dissertations related to the urban center or have recently finished theses.  From these pages, one can get a good sense of the kind of historical and archaeological research that is occurring in town and countryside.

I noticed recently this new piece on Sarah James and her recently completed dissertation, The Hellenistic pottery from the Panayia Field, Corinth: Studies in Chronology and Context (Austin 2010: University of Texas at Austin).  In the piece, James speaks about her dissertation and current plans for publication.  Here is a snippet:

“Six Hellenistic deposits from the recent excavations in the Panayia Field form the core of my dissertation. These deposits include cisterns, a well and a floor deposit, and range in date from ca. 275 BC to the early 1st c. BC.  I thoroughly studied each deposit, quantifying and analyzing its fine ware, and when the results were combined I was able to create a new independent absolute chronology of Corinthian Hellenistic fine wares…”

For the rest of the piece, read on here

I have not yet read James’ dissertation, but I did see her present a paper on the subject a year ago in Austin at the Corinth in Contrast conference.  In that discussion, based on her dissertation, she presented a range of evidence from the Panayia Field excavations and elsewhere in Corinth that indicates the to shift our chronologies for Hellenistic pottery.  In that talk, James also reevaluated the so-called interim period between the destruction of Corinth in 146 BC and its refoundation a century later. 

Since ancient buildings are assigned dates based on the pottery and coins found in their foundation trenches or in association with floors, a shift in chronology can have a major impact on our understanding of urban and rural space.  And so we should expect the publication of the dissertation in various forms to change the way we understand Hellenistic Corinth and the interim period (146-44 BC).  You can get a sense of the nature of the study from the dissertation abstract published in WorldCat.

“The new chronology of Corinthian fine ware presented in this dissertation is based on pottery from the recently discovered Hellenistic deposits (dated from the 3rd to 1st c. B.C.) in the Panayia Field. This new Panayia Field chronology was created by first quantifying the pottery in each deposit and then seriating the deposits in order to plot the initial production and use-life of individual ceramic shapes. The results substantially revise the previous chronology of Corinthian Hellenistic pottery published in Corinth VII.3, which has long been acknowledged as problematic by scholars of the period. One key aspect in which the Panayia Field chronology differs from its predecessor is in the recognition that pottery production resumed in Corinth after the sack of the city in 146 B.C. The evidence for a post-146 B.C. or interim period ceramic industry and its products are discussed in detail. Using the new Panayia Field chronology, the South Stoa and numerous previously excavated deposits at Corinth are re-assessed. Arguably, the most important Hellenistic structure in Corinth, the South Stoa, now appears to have been begun in the 290s rather than the 330s B.C. Attempts are also made to address the cultural and economic history of Hellenistic Corinth for the first time. For instance, the adoption of certain shapes into the local ceramic assemblage illustrates the influence of the Hellenistic koine on Corinthian culture. At the local level, the continued production of ceramic kraters in the late 3rd to early 2nd c. B.C. and their findspots seem to suggest that metal vessels were more commonly used in public spaces. In terms of trade, the data on imported fine ware and amphoras from more than 60 deposits clearly demonstrate the flow of goods through the city and Corinth’s role in the trade networks of the Hellenistic period. This analysis reveals a strong connection to Athens during the Macedonian occupation, increasing contact with Italy and the Aegean beginning in the late 3rd c. B.C. and the continuity of Corinth’s economic contacts into the interim period. This research therefore also contributes significantly to our understanding of this important commercial city’s external contacts during the Hellenistic period.”


Some varied Corinthiaka to start off the week.

The western liturgical calendar flipped this weekend with the first Sunday of Advent.  Yesterday’s epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 appropriate describes the anticipation accentuated in the advent season. 

More on scholars and students of the New Testament setting the scene for understanding Paul’s Corinthian letters.  Mark Roberts at Patheos gives us a couple of interesting posts on unity and conflict in Paul’s church in Corinth:

After my posts about Rife’s work at Koutsongila last month, I found Katy Meyer’s blog, Bones Don’t Lie, and her recent entry (“Early Roman Chamber Tombs at Kenchreai, Greece”) discussing and responding to several articles by the Kenchreai Cemetery and Excavation Project group.  A couple of images there too.

It doesn’t get much better than a “Write a Caption Contest”.  This one asks to provide a caption for the Minerva cruise ship passing through the Corinth canal.  That canal gets so much press on the web.  My contribution wasn’t selected as one of the five finalists: “You think THIS is slow?  Try carting one of these overland by oxen!”

And speaking of the Corinth canal, this is a nice one from Light and Shadows.

A 16th century painting by Hans Holbein the Younger on the most famous courtesan linked to ancient Corinth. 

Feast of St. Clement of Rome (Nov. 23-25)

We know very little about Clement of Rome whose feast day in the western and eastern church calendar falls variously between November 23 and 25.  He was not a Corinthian saint, but Christians of the 2nd-4th centuries remembered him as a companion of the apostles (Philippians 4:3) and bishop of Rome who wrote an important letter to the Corinthian community at the close of the first century AD.  In the late 4th century AD, for example, Jerome could write about him (The Lives of Illustrious Men):

“Clement of whom the apostle Paul writing to the Philippians says “With Clement and others of my fellow-workers whose names are written in the book of life,” the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle. He wrote, on the part of the church of Rome, an especially valuable Letter to the church of the Corinthians, which in some places is publicly read, and which seems to me to agree in style with the epistle to the Hebrews which passes under the name of Paul but it differs from this same epistle, not only in many of its ideas, but also in respect of the order of words, and its likeness in either respect is not very great. There is also a second Epistle under his name which is rejected by earlier writers, and a Disputation between Peter and Appion written out at length, which Eusebius in the third book of his Church history rejects. He died in the third year of Trajan and a church built at Rome preserves the memory of his name unto this day.”

The letter of 1 Clement is an interesting read for anyone interested in the earliest Christian communities and anyone wondering what became of St. Paul’s rebellious Christian community at Corinth.  While 1 Clement did not become part of the canonical New Testament, it was evidently held in high esteem by some communities, including the church of Corinth herself.  If we find in the letter a unique window into the Corinthian community a half century after Paul’s correspondence, it is a distorted image reflecting the perspective of a letter writer removed from the conflict.

As in Paul’s time, the letter deals again (still?) with division in the church.  This time one group of Corinthian Christians has booted their leaders, the presbyters.  These elders go to the church at Rome which sends a letter to encourage the opposing faction to come to terms with the ousted and rightful leaders of the flock.  While the text of the letter contains no references to the name of the author (only: ‘The Church of God at Rome to the Church of God at Corinth’), the letter was by the mid-2nd century associated with a ‘Clement’ who was linked by later tradition to the early bishop of Rome.

The letter is interesting for the light it sheds on early views of the nature of the church.  Clement uses many metaphors—the elect, the brotherhood, the flock, the city-state, fellow athletes / soldiers, and household—to prompt the factional members (the part) to consider and honor the rest of the church (the whole).  The letter comes to a solution that could only have been unsatisfying to these members: the guilty should return leadership to the ousted leaders and leave Corinth.  As Kirsopp Lake translates Chs. 54 and 57:

“Who then among you is noble, who is compassionate, who is filled with love? Let him cry:–“If sedition and strife and divisions have arisen on my account, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever you will, and I will obey the commands of the people; only let the flock of Christ have peace with the presbyters set over it.” He who does this will win for himself great glory in Christ, and every place will receive him, for “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it.”….

“You therefore, who laid the foundation of the sedition, submit to the presbyters, and receive the correction of repentance, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be submissive, putting aside the boastful and the haughty self-confidence of your tongue, for it is better for you to be found small but honourable in the flock of Christ, than to be preeminent in repute but to be cast out from his hope.”

With all its explicit discussion of  conflict and submission, 1 Clement has unsurpisingly been important for what it says about authority.  The letter has been central to discussions between Catholics and Orthodox about the nature of the “primacy” or “priority” of the bishop of Rome in the late first century, and, has more generally fit into modern debates about the means of authority in early Christianity.  1 Clement provides an early example for a model of authority based on connection to the apostles.

But there is much more to the letter than that.  With its emphasis on love, humility, and mutual submission, the letter offers another vision of essential values of the early Christian faith.  In light of American Thanksgiving, it seems fitting to end with an appropriate quotation about gratitude (Ch. 38):

“Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made,–who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Relevant Posts:

Some Perspective on American Excavations in Corinth: Byzantium and the Avant Garde

I couldn’t make it last week to Grand Forks to hear Franklin & Marshall College professor Kostis Kourelis speak on the topic of Byzantium and the Avant Garde.  Thanks to Bill Caraher and the Center for Instructional and Learning Technologies at the University of North Dakota for streaming the lecture live.  The video, audio, and presentation are all available here

Kourelis_Avant Garde

Readers of Hesperia, the journal devoted to publishing the research of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, will recognize Kourelis’ talk as a “live version” of an article published several years ago called “Byzantium and the Avant-Garde: Excavations at Corinth, 1920s-1930s,” Hesperia 76 (2007), pp. 391-442.  Hesperia has, in fact, made that article available for free download on this page.  The abstract of the article also works as a summary of his talk last week:

“In the 1920s and 1930s, members of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens engaged in a dialogue with the avant-garde through the shared discovery of Byzantium. This extraordinary experiment took place in excavations at Corinth, where American archaeologists invented the systematic discipline of medieval archaeology, facilitated an inclusive identity for the American School, and contributed to a bohemian undercurrent that would have a long afterlife. This article situates the birth of Byzantine archaeology in Greece within the general discourse of modernism and explores the mechanisms of interchange across disciplinary and national boundaries, between subjective and objective realms.”

In a nut shell, Kostis argues that the traditional disdain for Late Antique and Byzantine archaeology by classical archaeologists working in Greece was not always a consistent thread of American classical archaeology.  Just as societal processes shaped the veneration of the classical past in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so a range of broader factors—early 20th century aestheticism, architectural trends, the artistic avant-garde, and the mental association of Byzantium with modernism—led briefly, in the 1920s and 1930s, to an interest in the Byzantine period.  Many early excavators, draftsmen, architects, and illustrators working in Greece (Lucy Talcott, Alison Frantz, Piet de Jong) during these decades had links to the Greek avant garde who were also newly interested in the Byzantine tradition.

As Kourelis says at one point, a generation of Americans who went to Greece looking for the Parthenon ended up discovering the Medieval period.  This broader intellectual inclusivism of Byzantine Corinth was short-lived (dying with World War II and the Cold War politics that followed: think Byzantium and Russia) but eventually did reemerge in American researchers circles in the 1980s.  Think in recent decades: Charles Williams II, Timothy Gregory, and Guy Sanders.

Here’s what I think could be especially valuable in his lecture and article for a non-specialist audience:

1. This is a great little overview of the way that culture has historically influenced archaeological practice.  People often think of archaeology as a flat scientific enterprise—as though archaeologists excavating in Greece were all “objective” researchers simply carrying out their work for the sake of generating knowledge.  Here we meet archaeologists influenced by broader trends in attitude and practice toward particular periods.  As Kourelis puts it in his article (p. 393):

“Ultimately, it was the artistic avant-garde that ushered Byzantine Greece into the cultural limelight and rehabilitated its research within American priorities. Corinth’s medieval excavations of 1925-1940 were conceived under the spell of modernist aesthetics and much less under the guidance of academic inquiry.”

2. For anyone unfamiliar with the history of excavation, it is easy to forget that the ruins of Roman Corinth visible today at the site were once covered by an incredible amount of post-antique material and settlement.  This “Byzantine labyrinth of houses” was cleared in the central area to get down to the Roman levels.  The discoveries of the Byzantine city were published in several Corinth volumes, and the article provides a useful summary of that process. 

3. Great images and plans of excavations at Corinth in the 1920s and 30s.  Also pictures of the reconstructed Byzantine house (once a museum) near the Peirene spring now known as “Carpenter’s Folly”.  The lecture and article explain the source of the name “folly”.

4.  There’s some stuff here (beside the above) for New Testament scholars.  St. Paul’s Cathedral in New Corinth itself dates to 1930 and reflects the same trends in Greece.  Kourelis provides a good quote by Henry Miller from the 30s on a lush corrupt sexualized Corinth.  That image of the city is an old one.

For further discussion, see the online lecture or publication.  Kostis blogs at Objects-Buildings-Situations.

Problematizing Peasants in the Corinthian Countryside

As readers of this blog know, David Pettegrew and I are working on a paper on peasants in the Corinthian countryside. We’ll give the paper at the 113th AIA/APA Joint Annual Meeting in early January in Philadelphia (or at least David will!) in a panel organized by Kim Bowes and Cam Grey.  I’ve been mulling ideas for the last few months and posting various bits and pieces here.

Today, I thought I’d post some fragments of an introduction and a case study.  It is important to note that this is a very early draft and that once David makes his contribution it is possible that the entire paper will look quite different. He gets the final say on content, organization, and problematique, since he is actually delivering the paper.


The term peasant presents a uniquely problematic opportunity for archaeologists.  The concept of a peasant derives from an understanding of the premodern economy which assumes that there must be individuals whose primary role in society is to produce agricultural surplus to support those who are not involved in food production. In this system, peasants rarely controlled or owned their own land, produced little capital, and tended to approach agricultural production through a series of highly-localized, risk-adverse, subsistence practices. In this admittedly broad definition, the peasant is a highly local manifestation of an generalized abstract category. They appear throughout the world and are central to Marxian interpretations of pre-modern economic systems.

The existence, then, of peasants as a diachronic, trans-national, ready-made analytical category has exerted an understandable attraction to archaeologists.  The most sophisticated study of the ancient Greek peasant is Thomas Gallant’s book, Risk and Survival in ancient Greece, where he unpacks the  potential for applying the peasant as an analytical category to the material culture of the ancient and medieval Mediterranean.

As with any analytical category, however, applying the concept of the peasant to the ancient world involves some widely recognized risks, some of which are particularly problematic in the history of ancient and modern Greece. For example, the temptation to apply diachronic comparisons between ancient and modern peasants is particularly fraught in Greece because such comparisons have played such an important role in arguments for a persistent Greek national identity. The Greek peasant stood both outside of time as the persistent locus of Greekness, or, in a more condescending view, the persistence of rural peasant in Greece marked it out as a nation unprepared for full integration into the modern global economy. In an effort to resolve the latter view, in particular, recent archaeological work in Greece has identified the peasant –  (ironically) both ancient and modern – as the dynamic creator of a “contingent countryside” and challenged any view of peasants that regarded their economic position as isolated, static, or persistent.

The challenge to understanding the presence of peasants in the Corinthian landscape, then, is as much a question of the value of the peasant as an analytical category (what exactly should a peasant look like?) as a question of understanding the material culture of Greek countryside. In short, we must determine what a peasant is at the same time as we identify the remains of a particular form of economic relationships and agricultural practices in the landscape.

Case Studies:

To make our assumptions clear, we might begin this challenge by looking at a rural settlement called Lakka Skoutara in the southeastern corner of the Corinthia. This settlement consists of over a dozen late 19th to early 20th century Balkan style long-houses scattered about a crossroad set in a mountain hollow some 7 km east of the major village of Sophiko and 5 km west of the small harbor at Korphos. By-passed by the modern roads in the area and filled with swarms of stinging bees and biting flies, this cluster of houses is neither historically significant nor unique in the region. The material signature of the late 19th and early 20th century activities at the site includes roof tiles, some fine wares, various utility and kitchen wares, as well as evidence for the primary production of agriculture such as large built alonia (threshing floors), numerous cisterns, and terrace walls. The terrace walls and alonia, at least one of which appears to predate the remains of the earliest visible house in the area, indicate that the grain production was the central concern for region. A small, single aisled church stands amidst the fields anchoring the place within the sacred topography of the region.  Today, the valley is filled with olive trees and the rapid expansion of pine forests has taken over terraced fields and shows the scars of resin production. Today, some of the houses serve as storage during olive harvest, rural getaways for older villagers, or stopping places for shepherds and their diminishing herds of goats; others slowly collapse.  Plastic containers, metal tools and drums, and fragments of ceramics occupy a complex landscape which straddles a practices that range from modern, subsidized cash farming to various levels of engagement with the local, regional, and even global economy.


Interviews with several individuals who lived and worked in Lakka Skoutara reveal the contingent character of the lakka. During times of difficulty – like World War 2 – the valley saw year around occupation. In other times, residents in the village of Sophiko resided in the valley when they worked the fields but lived most of the year in the village.  The assemblages associated with activities in the village offer little to distinguish between seasonal and full time habitation.  The long houses themselves could appear in a village or alone in the countryside. Even today, the sagging wooden roofs and splaying mud mortar walls are protected by assorted roof tiles of various dates, fabrics, places of production, and shapes. In other words, the evidence for peasants in the countryside conflates a series of past practices and reveals little in terms of the economic structures that define the category.


The problematized peasants of the modern landscape can cast a revealing shadow back on the countryside of the central Isthmus. Using similar methods to the survey of Lakka Skoutara, the survey of the central Isthmus revealed a similar cluster of activity around the so-called site of Cromna.  As we have argued elsewhere, this high density scatter of pottery across the central Isthmus represents a series of overlapping clusters of activity ranging in date from the Archaic to the Late Roman period…


So that’s where we are at the moment. We have around 1000 more words to think about the ancient peasant using the problematized model that we created for Lakka Skoutara. We’ve been reading our Eric Wolf on peasants (for proof) and reveling in our reading of James C. Scott (especially his brilliant Moral Economy of the Peasant and his The Art of Not Being Governed). How did I miss this stuff in graduate school? It has blown my mind.

Crossposted to the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

Gods, games and glass mosaics at the Isthmus (an overview and review of Isthmia)

The Athens News has been running a biweekly column by archaeologist John Leonard about the famous sites of Greece.  This week’s piece, “Gods, Games, and Glass Mosaics at the Isthmus,” provides an overview and review of what is now visible at the archaeological site of Isthmia.  Here is part of the introduction:

“Sometimes, however, certain archaeological sites or museums fall between the cracks, their intriguing remains and distinct impact on the Greek past left sadly overlooked or forgotten. One such site is the Isthmian sanctuary of Poseidon, located at the east end of the Corinth Canal. Today, while visitors to the Greek mainland so often find themselves shuttled off to an all-too-familiar set of major archaeological attractions (the Athens Acropolis, Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae, Epidaurus and Sounion, to name a few), the less prominent sites and museums with fewer regular visitors, typified by the sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia, seem at risk of being under-appreciated, under-attended and even conspicuously neglected by cultural authorities. 

A recent visit to Poseidon’s temple at Isthmia, only ten minutes by car from the main crossing of the Corinth Canal, proved to be an experience that was archaeologically refreshing, but also noteworthy for the near-total lack of fellow visitors….

Read more here

  • Related: Leonard’s previous post details an interview with Stephen Miller, former director of the University of California-Berkeley Excavations at Nemea, about excavations at Nemea as well as the revived Nemean Games.

Going to San Francisco for the Society of Biblical Literature? An Invitation to Contribute

The annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature runs this week from Saturday to Tuesday and will offer more than 50 papers related in some way to the study of Corinth.  In August, I posted a comprehensive list of these Corinthiaka papers that deal with, variously, the history and archaeology of the city, the historical and social contexts of 1 and 2 Corinthians, issues of intertextuality, special sessions on 2 Corinthian 5, the thought of Apostle Paul, post-Pauline Christian Corinth, reception history, or cross-cultural hermeneutics.  I have arranged these according to these broad categories. 

If you are going to the San Franciso meeting and hear any of these papers, I invite you to contribute reports or reviews.  Likewise, if you are delivering a paper, short summaries of the high points are welcome.  If interested, send to Corinthianmatters.