The Haunted House of Kraneion: A Corinthian Ghost Story

Spooky Thursday again. A couple of years ago, I noted the corpus of ancient ghost stories having something to do with the Corinthia and wondered aloud whether this had something to do with Corinth’s reputation as an exotic place, its particular history as a destroyed city, or whether the pattern was common to most ancient cities. Whatever the case, there’s not much scarier than a Phoenician vampire who preys on philosophy students.

Except for a good haunted house. This year’s ghost tale comes from the second century orator, Lucian of Samasota, who, in The Lover of Lies, Ch. 28-32, gives an example of a haunted house in the Kraneion district of Corinth. In the story, Arignotus the Pythagorean tries to convince the skeptical Tychiades that ghosts are real and recounts how he cast out a spirit from an abandoned house owned by Eubatides. Those familiar with Athanasius’ later Life of St. Anthony will observe superficial parallels to the account of Antony spending the night in the Egyptian cave and encountering shape-changing demons along the way.

The full account from Lover of Lies is also available online here.

“Is it right, Tychiades, to doubt these apparitions any longer, when they are distinctly seen and a matter of daily occurrence ?” “No, by Heaven,” I said : “those who doubt and are so disrespectful toward truth deserve to be spanked like children, with a gilt sandal ! ”

At this juncture Arignotus the Pythagorean came in, the man with the long hair and the majestic face — you know the one who is renowned for wisdom, whom they call holy. As I caught sight of him, I drew a breath of relief, thinking : ” There now, a broadaxe has come to hand to use against their lies. The wise man will stop their mouths when they tell such prodigious yarns.” I thought that Fortune had trundled him in to me like a deus ex machina, as the phrase is. But when Cleodemus had made room for him and he was seated, he first asked about the illness, and when Eucrates told him that it was already less troublesome, said : ” What were you debating among yourselves? As I came in, I overheard you, and it seemed to me that you were on the point of giving a fine turn to the conversation!

“We are only trying to persuade this man of adamant,” said Eucrates, pointing at me, “to believe that spirits and phantoms exist, and that souls of dead men go about above ground and appear to whomsoever they will.” I flushed and lowered my yes out of reverence for Arignotus. “Perhaps, Eucrates,” he said, “Tychiades means that only the ghosts of those who died by violence walk, for example, if a man hanged himself, or had his head cut off, or was crucified, or departed life in some similar way; and that those of men who died a natural death do not. If that is what he means, we cannot altogether reject what he says.” “No, by Heaven,” replied Deinomachus,” he thinks that such things do not exist at all and are not seen in bodily form.”

“What is that you say?” said Arignotus, with a sour look at me.” Do you think that none of these things happen, although everybody, I may say, sees them.” “Plead in my defence,” said I, “if I do not believe in them, that I am the only one of all who does not see them if I saw them, I should believe in them, of course, just as you do.” ” Come,” said he, ” if ever you go to Corinth, ask where the house of Eubatides is, and when it is pointed out to
you beside Cornel Grove, enter it and say to the doorman Tibius that you should like to see where the Pythagorean Arignotus exhumed the spirit and drove it away, making the house habitable from that time on.”

” What was that, Arignotus ? ” asked Eucrates.

“It was uninhabitable,” he replied, “for a long time because of terrors ; whenever anyone took up his abode in it, he fled in panic at once, chased out by a fearful, terrifying phantom. So it was falling in and the roof was tumbling down, and there was nobody at all who had the courage to enter it.

“When I heard all this, I took my books — I have a great number of Egyptian works about such matters — and went into the house at bed-time, although my host tried to dissuade me and all but held me when he learned where I was going — into misfortune with my eyes open, he thought. But taking a lamp I went in alone; in the largest room I put down the light and was reading peacefully, seated on the ground, when the spirit appeared, thinking that he was setting upon a man of the common sort and expecting to affright me as he had the others ; he was squalid and long-haired and blacker than the dark. Standing over me, he made attempts upon me, attacking me from all sides to see if he could get the best of me anywhere, and turning now into a dog, now into a bull or a lion. But I brought into play my most frightful imprecation, speaking the Egyptian language, pent him up in a certain corner of a dark room, and laid him. Then, having observed where he went down, I slept for the rest of the night.

“In the morning, when everybody had given up hope and expected to find me dead like the others, I came forth to the surprise of all and went to Eubatides with the good tidings that he could now inhabit his house, which was purged and free from terrors. So, taking him along and many of the others too — they went with us because the thing was so amazing — I led them to the place where I had seen that the spirit had gone down and told them to take picks and shovels and dig. When they did so, there was found buried about six feet deep a mouldering body of which only the bones lay together in order. We exhumed and buried it; and the house from that time ceased to be troubled by the phantoms.”

When Arignotus, a man of superhuman wisdom, revered by all, told this story, there was no longer any one of those present who did not hold me convicted of gross folly if I doubted such things, especially as the narrator was Arignotus. Nevertheless I did not blench either at his long hair or at the reputation which encompassed him, but said : “What is this, Arignotus ? Were you, Truth’s only hope, just like the rest — full of moonshine and vain imaginings? Indeed the saying has come true: our pot of gold has turned out to be nothing but coals.”

See also:

Creating a Digital Index of Ancient Greek Texts, Part II: Compiling TLG References

On Friday, I wrote about how to convert a list of ancient Latin references generated from the Packhard Humanities Institute’s Library of Classical Latin Texts into a digital library of citations in EndNote or Zotero. Today, we turn to the parallel process of converting citation lists from the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database into EndNote or Zotero. I’ve copied over much of my instructions from the first post into this second one—so there’s some redundancy here.

One major difference: TLG expressly forbids the copying of Greek texts via their license agreement and copyright page. As the license agreement explains,

“Licensee make use of the Licensed Materials as is consistent with the Fair Use Provision of United States and International copyright laws. Licensee may not under any circumstances download or print large portions of a text or entire texts.”

So, it is important to note that the following steps have nothing to do with the Greek texts compiled in TLG but with the index of citations to particular words. Indeed, one should modify even the citation lists to keep within Fair Use Provision.

The steps to convert a library of citations are largely the same as those we outlined for the PHI Latin texts but require a good deal more text manipulation in MS Excel or Python (if you know it) because there is more metadata, and citations are not listed in entirely standard ways. Note that this will take some time, especially with larger libraries of several thousand entries. But the time it requires to manipulate, say 3,000 citation records, is not nearly as long as keying even 200-300 entries manually.

So, the steps mirror those we delineated for the PHI Latin texts.

Step 1: Select and Copy Greek Citations via the Simple Text Search of TLG

Run a simple text search on a key word in TLG. Set “Lines of Context” to ‘0’ so as to not capture any Greek texts (as noted above). Set “Results per page” to 1000 (cit). Order by date. Run the search and generate the results as follows. For my example, I have used the root ισθμ, so as to capture all Greek examples of isthmos, isthmiaka, isthmia, etc…


At the end of the results, click on the Printable Form button and copy the citations.


Paste into MS Excel (Paste to “Match Destination Formatting” to eliminate the hyperlinks and color).


If there are additional Greek keywords for your library (e.g., Kenchreai, Lechaion, Korinth-), repeat this step and dump into separate worksheets in Excel. You’ll want to keep them separate for now so that you can add English keywords before combining.

Remove the numbers generated during the TLG search. To do this, select Column A and take out the numbers listed before the author by using the REPLACE function. After you eliminate the numbers, you will be able to sort author names alphabetically.

You can select then column A and sort to get rid of the extra spaces between lines.



Step 2: Prepare Text for Comma Delimitation

Since you’ve pasted every record into a single cell, you’ll need to separate values via commas so that you can delimit into different cells.

The following record, for example, will create a division at the comma so that author is separated from work, TLG text #, date, citation.

Homerus Epic., Odyssea. {0012.002} (8 B.C.) Book 18 line 300

You’ll want to add commas after each of these to prepare the record for delimitation. Mostly this is a straightforward process. Select Column A. Use Find – Replace All to add commas before the ‘{‘, after the ‘}’, and after the ‘)’.


The example given above would be changed to

Homerus Epic., Odyssea. ,{0012.002}, (8 B.C.), Book 18 line 300

Note that some records will create problems for delimiting by comma:

  • Eumelus Epic., Corinthiaca (fragmenta). {0298.004} (8/7 B.C.) Volume-Jacoby#-F 3b,451,F fragment 4 line 5. 
  • Michael Psellus Phil., Theol., Polyhist., Epist. et Hagiogr., Opuscula psychologica, theologica, daemonologica. {2702.011} (A.D. 11) Page 80 line 26. 

Using the find-replace to add a comma after the ‘)’ of the date in the first example will also add one after the ‘)’ of fragmenta. Delimiting via the comma (Step 3) will create breaks in the citation after the 3b and the 451. The solution is to CONCATENATE these problem records (Step 4).

Step 3: Delimit Records into Separate Columns

Select Column A. Select the Data tab and then “Text to Columns” option. Where it says “Choose the File Type,” select the Delimited Button.

Select “Next” and check the box next to Comma as your Delimiter:

Hit “Next” and then “Finish”. After adjusting for column width, you should have something like this:


Step 4: Concatenate and Clean Up Text

Everything should be in 5 columns; if it is not (as in the case of Hecataeus above), there were additional commas that created breaks.

You can clean this up by deleting cells (as in the extra periods above) and using a formula with the CONCATENATE function to combine cells. Combine in a new column (K in the example below) and then copy and paste the value into column E. Fixing these glitches may take an hour or two to fix depending on the number of records (it took me two hours to edit 4,500 records).


You may also want to CONCATENATE columns B and E so that the citation shows up in the title field in EndNote and Zotero. To do this, use a formula with CONCATENATE so that you create a new column F which combines title (Column B) and citation (Column E).


Then, copy and paste value of new column F into Column B, replacing the old values of Column B. Delete columns E and F so that you have 4 columns.


Step 5: Combine Text, Edit, and Polish Text

At this point, you’ll want to clean up the text and prepare it for export into EndNote. If you have multiple worksheets consisting of different Greek keywords, add a fifth column in each of those worksheets, and insert the searchable keyword in English. Then combine all the worksheets into a single master worksheet.

After you’ve combined, you may want to clean up your data in a number of different ways:

  • Convert B.C. / A.D. values to positive and negative numbers. Use Find/Replace to change all dates into numbers. For example, 8 B.C. should be replaced with ‘-750’. Change 8/7 B.C. to –700. It does not really matter whether a text dates from 750, 725, or 700 BC (or was subsequently edited throughout the Classical period). You will just want to be able to sort in EndNote and Zotero and separate citations from, say, the 8th century BC from the second century AD. Of course, if you want to give precise chronological values to works and titles, now is the time to do it. Easier to do it in batches here than manually in Zotero.


  • You may want to replace author names (Homerus –> Homer) and titles (Ilias –> Iliad).


Again, it’s easier to make batch changes with different Excel functions here than change them later in Zotero or EndNote.

Insert a new row 1 at top of spreadsheet with the key heading words shown in the image below. EndNote will use these headers to interpret where the values go during the import. The spelling of these headers must be exact or there will be problems in importing.

Insert a new column 1 and title it “Reference Type.” Beneath this, for all the records, paste the value “Ancient Text” like the following (“Book” will also work as a recognized value).

When you are finished editing, save as a Text (Tab Delimited File).

Step 6: Clean Up in Word

I am not sure this step is necessary, but this YouTube tutorial video suggests you need to clean up the text by eliminating or replacing all quotations, apostrophes, wildcards, and the word “and”. I was able to import texts successfully without this steps—so if you have problems in Step 7, return to Step 6 and see if it makes a difference.

For Images for Steps 7-9, see Part 1 here.

Step 7: Import to EndNote

To import into EndNote, select “File” tab –> “Import” –> “File.” Select your tab-delimited text file. For Import Option, select “Tab Delimited.” Duplicates: “Import All”. Text Translation: “No Translation.”

Step 8: Export to Zotero

For this step, Zotero has provided documentation here.

To export to Zotero, click on Edit –> Output Styles –> Open Style Manager. Make sure RefMan (RIS) Export is selected. Close the Style Manager. Another acceptable export Style is BibTeX.

Select File –> Export. Select file. Save as type: Select “Text”  (give file a new name). Output Style: RefMan (RIS) Export. Uncheck the box “Export Selected Records,” and EndNote will assume you want to export all records. Click “Save.”

Step 9: Import to Zotero

Last step is open up Zotero for Firefox, or Zotero Stand-Alone.

Click on File –> Import –> select file and click “Open”.


As I noted in the previous post, I would be interested in hearing whether others have done this a different way, or how these steps might be improved to generate a more powerful database.

Barrington Atlas Coming to iPads

I just heard the good news that Princeton University Press will release an iPad app version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World next month. Release date is scheduled for November 21. The cost: only $19.95. For some comparison, the print publication runs $250-$400 via Amazon and lists at $400 at Princeton University’s website.

Here’s the press release:

Princeton University Press announces the launch of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World App in the iTunes store on November 21, 2013. The app, priced at $19.95 and available for iPad2+, presents the complete content of the classic reference work Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (Princeton University Press, 2000, $395.00) and incorporates an interactive and searchable gazetteer.

In 102 interactive color maps, this app re-creates the entire world of the Greeks and Romans from the British Isles to the Indian subcontinent and deep into North Africa. Unrivaled for range, clarity, and detail, these custom-designed maps return the modern landscape to its ancient appearance, marking ancient names and features in accordance with modern scholarship and archaeological discoveries. Geographically, the maps span the territory of more than seventy-five modern countries. Chronologically, they extend from archaic Greece to the Late Roman Empire.

Upon its print publication in 2000, the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was hailed by the New York Times as “the best geography of the ancient world ever achieved” and deemed by classicist Bernard Knox to be “an indispensable tool for historians concerned with ancient times” as well as “a source of great pleasure for the amateur.” The app makes this unsurpassed reference work more portable and affordable than ever before possible.

A must-have for scholars, this app will also appeal to anyone eager to retrace Alexander’s eastward marches, cross the Alps with Hannibal, traverse the Eastern Mediterranean with Saint Paul, or ponder the roads, aqueducts, and defense works of the Roman Empire.

When I get hold of a copy, I’ll run a review, as I’m sure many other bloggers will as well.

Creating a Library of Ancient Citations and Texts in Zotero and EndNote

In 1998, when I was completing an M.A. thesis on Classical farmsteads, I compiled hundreds of relevant Greek and Latin texts on handwritten 4 x 6” notecards. Running searches on Greek keywords for farms and rural life via the CD-ROM produced by the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a comprehensive library of all Greek literary texts produced before 1453, I meticulously copied out notes or transcribed translations of relevant evidence from Thucydides, Demosthenes, Xenophon, etc…

While very little has changed in my method of research (consulting ancient texts to make arguments), it’s amazing how much the basic process of conducting research has shifted in the last two decades. By the time I started work on my doctoral dissertation on the Late Roman Corinthia, I had switched to a laptop and was dumping translations and notes about ancient literary texts directly into Microsoft Word documents. Mining the comprehensive digital library of Greek texts via the TLG and the somewhat less comprehensive collection of Latin texts in the PHI Latin Library, I created a complete list of ancient literary citations related to the island of Kythera and the sites of the Corinthia. As Greek and Latin references to the Corinthia number over 5,000, I was able to type out or copy English translations and notes on a tiny portion of these. I have used these documents for much of the work on Corinth I’ve completed since 2006, but they are pretty messy documents running dozens, if not hundreds, of pages long. One can search these texts via Windows Explorer or Control-F, but they are not easy to browse or search in complex ways.

Last year, I became interested in how to use freeware like Zotero (or commercial software like EndNote) to organize, tag, and annotate large bodies of ancient literary sources. My ambitious plan was to look up and analyze all the Greek and Latin references to isthmuses in antiquity, and I needed a better system for organizing my findings and translations than word processing software. I was particularly interested in creating a large body of English translations that would facilitate complex word searches. I was also interested in creating a library of Corinthia-related texts that would serve the public.

I decided to go with Zotero because it was free and because I was already using it for the Corinthian Studies Library. As an experiment, I timed how long it would take to manually add the ancient citations from my earlier word documents into Zotero. I experimented for two hours (mind you, I was at the start of a sabbatical). By the second hour, I was able to do about 50 records per hour. Assuming some time for distraction, breaks for coffee, facebook, changing diapers (of my 3-month old), I figured that I might maintain a rate of 30 records per hour, which would require about 100 hours of work to create records for all the ancient citations for the key word “isthmus” relevant to the Roman period. Add another 100 hours for references to Archaic to Hellenistic and Late Antiquity. Thus, just to create the records would require hundreds of hours of work.

If my research project had depended on a few dozen citations, it would have been easier to enter these all manually into Zotero, or simply take notes in Word, consulting English translations at Perseus, LacusCurtius, and the Internet Archive, or translating passages most important to my work. But the project I had in mind was to study the history of the Isthmus of Corinth (and isthmus generally) through a large-scale compilation of texts, to look at patterns in use over time, and to return frequently to the translations. And I was interested in making some of these English translations public in the end.

I was surprised that there was so little information online about creating massive citation libraries with either Zotero or EndNote. With a little snooping, I discovered the problems with importing bibliography / texts created in Word documents into either Zotero or EndNote (see discussion here and here) and knew I’d need to clean up the records in Excel (I don’t know programming).

After a day or two of experimentation and failure, I figured out how to convert a standard list of citations generated via the TLG database or the PHI Latin database into EndNote and Zotero. Once I figured out the steps, it took me about only a day to import 5,800 records and edit and standardize the citations—but that long mainly because I ran into additional problems. Still, even a day was faster than entering them all manually. Now that I’ve done it, and learned the functions in Excel, I can bring additional records into Zotero in an hour or two (longer if the base lists are messy).

Since others may have major research projects in mind (like dissertations or theses) that require mining large quantities of ancient texts, I figured there might be some interest in creating one of these citation libraries. Others may have different methods for doing so, especially if they can program, so this is just the way that I did it.

I’ll write today about how I imported PHI records into Zotero, and in future posts, will cover TLG and English translations.

To replicate this process, you will need MS Word, Excel 2010 (or something comparable), a copy of EndNote (30-day trial versions available for download), and Zotero if you plan to use Zotero in addition to or instead of EndNote. I couldn’t figure out how to import data to Zotero without the aid of EndNote, so that was a necessary middle step. I’ll also assume you have some knowledge of PHI, and know how to write basic functions in MS Excel version 10 or an equivalent spreadsheet program. If you know how to program (I don’t), a program like Python may simplify the following steps.

*Warning and Disclaimer:  Given different operating systems, program versions, etc…., I cannot guarantee the following steps will work successfully. I’ll be curious to see if anyone can replicate the steps—please comment if you do. Remember to save your documents as you go along.

Step 1: Select and Copy Latin Citations via Concordance Feature in PHI 

The texts of PHI Latin are freely available and searchable online and can be queried and copied provided that you “use this web site only for personal study and not to make copies except for my personal use under “Fair Use” principles of Copyright law.” If you have the Latin CD-ROM and a program like Silver Mountain Software, the steps are comparable to the online version of PHI. I’ll use the online version as the example.

In PHI, the concordance search returns Author-Work-Citation-Latin text format. Run a keyword search using the Concordance.


Copy the Texts by selecting and scrolling down while holding the shift key, right click – Copy.

Paste into MS Excel (Paste to “Match Destination Formatting” to eliminate the hyperlinks and color). You should end up with something like this:


If there are additional Latin keywords you’d like to include (e.g., Cenchreae, Lechaeum, Isthm-), just repeat this step and dump into Excel.

Step 2: Concatenate Fragmented Latin Text

Excel divides the copied text into three columns, incorrectly deducing a break at the bold word “Corinth”. You’ll need to convert the texts in two ways now: separate author and work-citation from one another via commas, and combine the two columns into a single text using the Concatenate function of Excel (I’m assuming you will want to keep the Latin text).

Start with the latter: Concatenate cells B1 and C1, then copy and paste the same formula to all cells in the fourth columnPHI_4

This results in:


Copy this new column 4. Paste “Values” into a new, fifth column (you do this because Column 4 is a Formula that produces values dependent on the other two columns. Once you delete those columns, the formula will not work). Delete Columns 2-4. Result is that we’ve reconnected the Latin, which Excel originally separated:


Step 3: Separate Author from Work via Comma

Now, the other conversion is to separate the author from the work + citation. Since the PHI database has output this in a standard way, with the first “.” in column A as separating the author from the work, we just need to change this period to a comma, so that, for example, “Liv.Perioch.1b.9” becomes “Liv,Perioch.1b.9”. That comma will become the basis for delimiting the two in the next step.

Insert a new column to the right of column A. Then, use the SUBSTITUTE Function to replace the first period of A1 with a comma. Here’s the formula you would enter: =SUBSTITUTE(A1,”.”,”,”,1). Looks like this:


Then copy that function to all the other cells, and you will have commas after each author name. Copy new Column B and Paste Value into new Column C (again, for reasons noted above, so that you can delete the old columns).


Then, delete Columns A and B, and insert a new blank Column to the right of Column A. Once you delimit the “work” from the “author,” the Work will occupy this new column.


Step 4: Delimit Author from Work in Separate Columns

Select Column A. Select the Data tab and then “Text to Columns” option. Where it says “Choose the File Type,” select the Delimited Button.


Select “Next” and check the box next to Comma as your Delimiter:


Hit “Next” and then “Finish”. Result is:


Step 5: Edit Authors and Titles

This is your chance to edit the text before you import it into EndNote and Zotero. It’s much easier to edit all the records now than edit records individually in Zotero or EndNote. For example, you may want to use Replace All to change name abbreviations “Cic” to “Cicero”, or work titles like “Sat.” to “Satyricon”. Or you may want to sort by author or work, and add a Year column for the work (I’ve simply inserted “1” as the year for the sake of explaining this in the image below). Or a Keywords Column with value like PHI: Corinth.

Insert a new row 1 at top of spreadsheet with the key heading words shown in the image below. EndNote will use these headers to interpret where the values go during the import. The spelling of these headers must be exact or there will be problems in importing.


Finally, insert a new column 1 and title it “Reference Type.” Beneath this, for all the records, paste the value “Ancient Text” like the following (“Book” will also work as a recognized value):


When you are finished editing, save as a Text (Tab Delimited File).

Step 6: Clean Up in Word

I am not sure this step is necessary, but this YouTube tutorial video suggests you need to clean up the text by eliminating or replacing all quotations, apostrophes, wildcards, and the word “and”. I was able to import texts successfully without this steps—so if you have problems in Step 7, return to Step 6 and see if it makes a difference. Note that replacing the word “and” with \\ as the video recommends will affect some words: e.g., “Periandrus” would become Peri\\drus”.

Step 7: Import to EndNote

To import into EndNote, select “File” tab –> “Import” –> “File.” Select your tab-delimited text file. For Import Option, select “Tab Delimited.” Duplicates: “Import All”. Text Translation: “No Translation.”

You should end up with something like the following. You can tinker with the options at top to display abstract and title.


Step 8: Export to Zotero

For this step, Zotero has provided documentation here.

To export to Zotero, click on Edit –> Output Styles –> Open Style Manager. Make sure RefMan (RIS) Export is selected. Close the Style Manager. Another acceptable export Style is BibTeX.

Select File –> Export. Select file. Save as type: Select “Text”  (give file a new name). Output Style: RefMan (RIS) Export. Uncheck the box “Export Selected Records,” and EndNote will assume you want to export all records. Click “Save.”


EndNote exports it as a text file in a new format.

Step 9: Import to Zotero

Last step is open up Zotero for Firefox, or Zotero Stand-Alone.

Click on File –> Import –> select file and click “Open”.


Import should begin immediately.

This is how the records appear afterwards in the Zotero for Firefox version:


And in the Stand-Alone version:


Problems in Importing

Note that there are some bugs with moving RIS files between EndNote and Zotero. The new version of Zotero Stand-Alone sometimes stalls out for users so that the import never completes. See recent discussion at Zotero here, here, and here.

If this happens to you, as it did to me yesterday as I tried to replicate my steps from last fall, you can either try importing the RIS file into Zotero on another computer, or download Firefox and Zotero for Firefox and repeat the import. I did the latter and successfully imported the file right away. I can sync my Zotero Stand-Alone and Zotero for Firefox.

Good luck! Please comment here if you try this with or without success.

Investigating the West Hall of the Theater at Corinth

When Hesperia arrives with a new Corinth article, it is sort of like Christmas (or maybe Columbus Day) in my household. In this most recent issue (82.3), the former director of Corinth Excavations, Charles Williams, documented his recent excavations in the northern area of the theater. The article sought to integrate the results of recent excavations in the larger discussion of the architecture and archaeology of the theater. The theater was among the first buildings excavated at Corinth and the area had a long history from the 4th c. B.C. to the Byzantine period (at least). Williams’s excavations in the northwestern corner of the site primarily focused on Roman to Late Roman activity there.


In tone and form, the article was a throwback to the regular reports on Corinth excavations that appeared almost annually in Hesperia. The amount of detail is fantastic. The references to historical events (Actium, the founding of the colony, et c.) punctuate the archaeological findings throughout the text. The author assumes the significance of the site of Corinth and its monuments. Comparanda are minimal.

The article begins with a remarkable description of the various major Roman phases of the theater. The unlabeled illustrations make connecting the various features in the phase descriptions to the corresponding plan an exercise in architectural identification. Williams updates parts of Scranton’s half-century old study of the major Roman phases of the theater published as Corinth II. For folks interested in the architecture of theaters and the change in their function and arrangement from the Greek to Roman periods, Williams’s short survey of the Roman phases of the Corinth theater is a great case-study. The use of the Corinth theater as both an amphitheater and then as a space suitable for some kind of water battles has always fascinated me. Of particular note are the appearance of myriad buttresses and reconstructions marking out the impact of various earthquakes on the structure of the theater.

The second part of the article examines the work done during the 2011 excavation season. It begins with a discussion of the west analemma of the west parodos of the theater. (That phrase evoked some rainy afternoon standing with the members of the American School’s regular program and looking intently at the theater in some Greek city.) The discovery of this section of analemma helps to establish the shape of the Classical Greek theater that the Hellenistic theater supplanted. Williams then  describes in substantial detail the stratigraphy of the excavations of the west parodos detailing the relationship between drains and various buttresses necessary to support the earthquake wracked structure of the various associated buildings.

Excavations further north revealed more of the West Hall and uncovered more about the complex and curious history of the theater precinct. The West Hall represents a Roman addition to the theater probably dating to the 4th Phase, and its clear relationship to the “backstage” (my term, not Williams’s) are of the theater suggests that it served the actors and chorus. The walls of the hall appear to include blocks recycled from the earlier phase of the Roman theater. Like many of the buildings associated with the theater, it received buttresses at some point in its history perhaps in response to earthquake damage in the late-2nd to early-3rd century A.D. The building has a long history of use starting as a well-appointed structure with marble veneers and ending us as a space for industrial activities by the 3rd century.

One of the strangest and coolest discoveries the rooms abandonment in the 5th century it apparently became a dumping ground for cow bones slaughtered nearby and dumped over the west wall perhaps near the northwest corner. This massive, unstratified, deposit produced over a ton of bones that appeared to be the product of specialized, large scale butchery rather than urban debris.

Excavations in 2011 also revealed more of the “Lesser Plaza” and “North Peristyle Court”. Like the West Hall these spaces were Roman in date; the North Peristyle Court followed both the orientation of the theater and the “Theater Avenue” which followed the line of Roman centuriation. The north wall, I believe, of the North Peristyle eventually formed part of the Late Roman fortification of the city. While the Late Roman fortification of the city remains hard to date, but it might have been in the first half of the 5th century. This would make the bone deposit in the West Hall after the construction of the fortification and provide a bit of urban history for the periphery of the Late Roman city of Corinth. Of course, the wall could also be Justinianic in date, and I tend to prefer a later date for the wall owing to my recent publications suggesting that the emperor may have taken a personal, strategic interest in the loyalty of his Corinthian subjects.

This article was pretty intense. The amount of detail was staggering and involved constantly moving back and forth between more detailed descriptions and the phase descriptions and plans at the front of the article. I kept thinking how this is a model article for advanced undergraduates to use to decipher a building’s history. The article provided more than enough detail for a student to reconstruct a history of the building, but also enough little challenges to separate students who understand architecture and stratigraphic excavation from those who don’t. The final section of the article offered some suggestions for future work setting the stage for students to consider the potential of various courses of action. A short paper assignment arguing in favor of one of Williams’ recommendation for future work would wrap up the assignment nicely.

Crossposted with the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World


Corinthian Studies, Zotero, and THATCamp Harrisburg

About a year ago, we announced the launch of the Corinthian Studies Library in Zotero. The first version of the library, which can be downloaded as an RIS file at this page, can be imported into a number of bibliographic programs like EndNote or Zotero. Or, you can view the collection online at Zotero’s server. The collection contains about 1,600 items related to the historical study of the Corinthia.

This fall, I am working with Megan Piette, a history student at Messiah College, to develop version 2. The second version will be more comprehensive, contain more abstracts, and better keywords. We’re working especially on improving the New Testament section of the library by keying entries from recent commentaries and edited collections by New Testament scholars. We hope to have that out later this fall or during the winter.

There are two other Zotero collections that will also go live this year and form additional components of the Corinthian Studies Library. One is a collection of historical texts related to the study of and travel to the Corinthia from the 12th to early 20th century. It contains a number of the usual suspects of early travelers, like Spon and Wheler, Chandler, Leake, Clarke etc…

The other is a massive collection of ancient citations to the Corinthia. I noted the collection here and promised to do some posts about how I created the library. Later this week I plan to run some posts about this collection and release a small portion of the library: English translations of Greek and Latin texts related to Roman Corinth and the Corinthian Isthmus. In later fall and winter, we’ll release more of these texts.

My prompt for putting this all together is a Humanities and Technology Camp at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology this Friday and Saturday. THATCamp Harrisburg will bring together digital humanities folk from a number of neighboring colleges and universities. I will team up with Beth Transue, Associate Librarian/Collection Development Coordinator at Messiah College, on a workshop titled “Creating a Comprehensive Public Research Library in Zotero.”

If you’re in driving distance, join us at THATCamp Harrisburg.

Corinth in Contrast

I was pleased to see via FB that Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality went live this morning at Brill’s website—a month in advance of the annual meeting of the SBL in Baltimore and well in advance of the AIA meeting in Chicago. (So look for the book if you will attend one of these conferences.)

The work is edited by Steve Friesen, Sarah James, and Dan Schowalter, and includes contributions by a gang of scholars working on Corinthian archaeology, history, and/or New Testament studies. It marks the fruition of a conference held three years ago in Austin, Texas. Bill Caraher covered the conference at The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World blog, as we did here at Corinthian Matters:

As the abstract to the book notes: “In Corinth in Contrast, archaeologists, historians, art historians, classicists, and New Testament scholars examine the stratified nature of socio-economic, political, and religious interactions in the city from the Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity. The volume challenges standard social histories of Corinth by focusing on the unequal distribution of material, cultural, and spiritual resources. Specialists investigate specific aspects of cultural and material stratification such as commerce, slavery, religion, marriage and family, gender, and art, analyzing both the ruling elite of Corinth and the non-elite Corinthians who made up the majority of the population. This approach provides insight into the complex networks that characterized every ancient urban center and sets an agenda for future studies of Corinth and other cities rule by Rome.”

The Table of Contents looks like this:

1. Inequality in Corinth (Steven J. Friesen, Sarah A. James, and Daniel N. Schowalter)


2. The Last of the Corinthians? Society and Settlement from 146 to 44 (Sarah A. James)

3. The Local Magistrates and Elite of Roman Corinth (Benjamin W. Millis

4. “You Were Bought with a Price”: Freedpersons and Things in 1 Corinthians (Laura Salah Nasrallah)

5. Painting Practices in Roman Corinth: Greek or Roman? (Sarah Lepinksi)


6. Landlords and Tenants: Sharecroppers and Subsistence Farming in Corinthian Historical Context (Guy D.R. Sanders)

7. The Diolkos and the Emporion: How a Land Bridge Framed the Commercial Economy of Roman Corinth (David K. Pettegrew)

8. The Ambivalent Landscape of Christian Corinth: The Archaeology of Place, Theology, and Politics in a Late Antique City (William Caraher)

9. Regilla Standing By: Reconstructed Statuary and Re-inscribed Bases in Fourth-Century Corinth (Daniel N. Schowalter)


10. Religion and Magic in Roman Corinth (Ronald S. Stroud)

11. Junia Theodora of Corinth: Gendered Inequalities in the Early Empire (Steven J. Friesen)

12. ‘Mixed Marriage’ in Early Christianity: Trajectories from Corinth (Caroline Johnson Hodge)


This book adds to a growing number of studies that seek to bring together archaeologists, historians, classicists, and New Testament scholars to shed light on Roman Corinth.

West of Theater in Corinth

Hesperia 82.3 just posted at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens website. The new issue includes an article by C.K. Williams II titled “Corinth, 2011: Investigation of the West Hall of the Theater.”

The article comprises an overview of the work carried out by the ASCSA Corinth Excavations west of the theater in 2011.




We reported briefly on this work in 2011:

And on MacKinnon’s analysis of the cattle bone for an AIA paper last year:

Haven’t yet had a chance to get a copy, but the abstract suggests there is much relevant here for our understanding of Greek, Roman, and Late Antique Corinth. Here’s the abstract:

The 2011 excavations at ancient Corinth focused on the Roman use of the area west of the theater’s stage building. Indications of the interior decoration of the West Hall were among the most interesting finds; also found was evidence for the continued vitality of the area after a.d. 400, which was indicated by a large number of amphoras and by a dump of 8 to 10 tons of cattle and sheep/goat bones over the, by that time, defunct West Hall. The 6th-century Roman fortification wall was also investigated. Also significant was the discovery of the westernmost foundation block of the west parodos of the Greek theater, which was exposed under the earliest Roman floor.

The Corinth Canal Project of 67-68 AD

One of the most interesting bits of research I conducted during my leave last year was Nero’s doomed Corinth Canal project of 67-68 AD. The enterprise, its failure, and subsequent condemnation form a key chapter in the book I’m finishing on the Isthmus of Corinth. Historically, scholars have argued that everyone and their brother wanted to canalize the Isthmus in antiquity, that Nero was simply the last in a long line of would be canal-cutters. In the chapter, I try to outline Nero’s attempt within the immediate historical context of the AD 60s rather than some age old desire to canalize the Isthmus.

I’ll be posting periodically on some of this research into the canal ancient and modern. I paste below an abstract of the paper (“The Corinth Canal Project of 67-68 AD”) I will present at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in January. It’s a substantial revision of a more preliminary paper I gave at the meeting of the Association of Ancient Historians last May.

In 1881, on the eve of the enterprise to canalize the six-kilometer wide Corinthian Isthmus, the Hungarian engineer, Béla Gerster, completed a careful study of the extant remains of the Emperor Nero’s failed canal project nearly two millennia earlier. Published in a brief article in BCH and revised for his book on the modern Corinth Canal, Gerster’s description and map of the ancient trenches, pits, and mounds mark the only detailed record of the remnants before they were destroyed by the construction of the modern canal (1882-1893). While Gerster’s study of the trenches and pits documented an enormous undertaking (the excavation of half a million cubic meters of earth and stone) that indicates the seriousness of the ancient project, this information has played surprisingly little role in modern assessments of Nero’s tour of Greece and his Corinthian canal enterprise. In this paper, I discuss the remnants of the canal cuts within the context of a broader study of the Isthmus, and show how the remains shed light on the engineers’ plans for canalization, specific techniques of construction, chronology of the enterprise, amount of work remaining, and subsequent transformation of the landscape. The dimensions of the cuts, pits, and shafts highlight the Herculean nature of the task confronting the canal cutters, but also demonstrate the sensible approaches adopted by the engineers to meet the challenges of severing an 80 m high ridge of limestone, sandstone, and marl. Gerster’s record of trenches and shafts offers clues to the plans for the ancient Corinth Canal near the moment of abandonment in A.D. 68 and before Greek and Roman writers condemned the project as impossible.

Workshop: Ancient Corinth and Roman City Planning

It’s not often that ancient workshops about Ancient Corinth come to south-central Pennsylvania. If you’re in driving range of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, come out on November 16. I hope to be there myself.

Below are details from the Classical Studies Department at Dickinson.


The Dickinson College Department of Classical Studies will sponsor a full day Saturday Workshop of interest to teachers and students of the classical world and of archaeology.

Ancient Corinth and Roman City Planning


Saturday, November 16, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tome Hall Room 115.


clip_image003Dr. David Gilman Romano, Karabots Professor of Greek Archaeology at the School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, and Director of the Corinth Computer Project and the Archaeological Mapping Lab


Dr. Nicholas Stapp, Director of Geospatial Research at the Archaeological Mapping Lab at the University of Arizona and Manager in Global Knowledge and Insights at the Hershey Company

There will be four hour-long sessions, with time for questions and discussion. Lunch will be provided. The workshop is free of charge, but to order materials and food we need to have an accurate count of attendees. To register please contact Terri Blumenthal at  blumentt at by November 10, 2013.


When the former Greek city of Corinth was settled as a Roman colony by Julius Caesar in 44 BC Roman land surveyors were called upon to lay out the urban as well as the rural aspects of the new colony. In the 70s AD when a second Roman colony was founded there, again the agrimensores were involved in new organization of the city and landscape. The agrimensores were Roman land surveyors responsible for the planning and measurement of cities and landscapes all over the Roman world. They were a professional group, usually a part of the Roman army, and we know a good deal about their work from a compilation of ancient texts known as the Corpus Agrimensorum Romanorum. The Corpus was originally compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD, but includes texts as early as the first century AD. These texts give us substantial information about the training of the agrimensores and their day-to-day activities as well as some of the practical issues that they faced in the field.

Since 1988 a research team from the Mediterranean Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania has been involved in making a computerized architectural and topographical survey of the Roman colony of Corinth. The leader of this team, Prof. David Gilman Romano (Karabots Professor of Greek Archaeology at the School of Anthropology, University of Arizona), will present a workshop on the results of the Corinth Computer Project, as they relate to the ancient written evidence for Roman city planning. He will be joined by Dr. Nicholas Stapp who has worked with Dr. Romano on the Corinth Computer Project since 1995. He is an archaeologist and an expert in the use of new emerging technologies in higher education and research.

In the workshop participants will learn some of the Latin terms that refer to Roman surveying and city and land planning and, in addition, they will learn about high tech methods utilized in the research: electronic total station survey, digital cartography and remote sensing, utilizing air photos, balloon photos and satellite images, all in the study of an ancient city. The planning of the urban and rural aspects of two Roman Colonies at Corinth are outlined in detail, including some of the social, economic and political implications of these foundations.

Anyone with an interest in Roman culture and archaeology; digital cartography, GIS, and spatial analysis; ancient and modern surveying techniques; or city-planning and urban design will find this a rewarding workshop.

Funding for this workshop is provided by the Roberts Fund for Classical Studies at Dickinson College.