Religion for Breakfast

If you are interested in issues of ancient religion and early Christianity, check out Andrew Henry’s YouTube channel “Religion for Breakfast.” Religion for Breakfast is (as the about page notes) an educational video log “dedicated to the academic, nonsectarian study of religion. We strive to raise the level of conversation about religion on YouTube by exploring surprising facts about humanity’s beliefs and rituals through an anthropological, sociological, and archaeological lens.” And the home page for the channel describes the purpose of the series in this way:

Religion for Breakfast believes everyone should know a little bit more about religion. It touches every aspect of human civilization—our art, politics, history, and culture. It has inspired some of our most ethereal music. It has motivated some of our greatest leaders. And, yes, it has also sparked some of our biggest wars and social injustices…

Andrew has an academic blog on the subject as well but his really original contribution is this YouTube channel that regularly releases short (2-10 minute), fast-paced, and jumpy video blogs designed to educate the public about the academic study of ancient religion. Influenced by educational videolog channels in the sciences (check out, for example, this PBS Space Time vlog on the speed of light and this CrashCourse vlog on the history of early Christianity), Andrew is a pioneer in applying this genre to ancient religious studies.

His series so far has included short videos on topics such as:

ReligionforBreakfastAnd while most of these concern religion generally–and not Corinth per se–at least a few are directly relevant to the Corinthian situation, including, for example, How to Make an Ancient Curse Tablet (cf. Stroud’s publication of curse tablets in Corinth XVIII.6) and Where did Ancient Christians Meet?, which begins with a survey on Acrocorinth and discusses meeting places in Corinth and other regions of the Roman Mediterranean.

And for some background: Andrew is an advanced PhD student in religious studies at Boston University with interests in the intersection of material culture and early Christianity. He has worked at the ASCSA Excavations in the Athenian Agora, and participated for a summer in the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, a project that Bill Caraher, Scott Moore, and I direct in Cyprus. I also had the privilege of working with Andrew during his brief stint at Messiah College.

These vlogs should be a great resource for use in the classroom and will be of interest for anyone who wants to know about the academic study of ancient religion.

With Passover and Orthodox Easter approaching, this marks our final post in a series about resources for the study of religion, Judaism, and Christianity in Corinth. Earlier posts include:

 

Ancient Corinth via Drone

After last month’s post about helicopter views of Corinthian coasts, I was pleased to discover Dronestagram, a site that allows owners of drones to share their photos and videos. This two minute sequence of the site of Ancient Corinth offers low-altitude coverage of the archaeological site as well as the Greek theater and Odeion. Now that the technology is available, expect many more of these in the future. These kinds of videos provide new perspectives on archaeological sites which will certainly be useful in the classroom.

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The Outreach Program of the Corinth Excavations

Katherine Petrole’s press release last week at the ASCSA webpage discusses an exciting new educational program for the Corinth Excavations. The program is releasing a series of lesson plans designed for students of different age groups. As the Corinth Excavations Outreach page notes,

Since 2007, Corinth Excavations Assistant Director Dr. Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst has been leading outreach efforts on-site in Ancient Corinth, Greece. In fall 2014, Corinth Excavations received a grant from the Steinmetz Family Foundation to develop further outreach opportunities and create educational materials for school audiences in the United States and Greece. The result is a variety of lesson plans on themes and topics related to Greco-Roman classical civilization and the Medieval Mediterranean world.

The purpose of the lesson plans as outreach is to bridge a gap between primary research by archaeologists on the site of Ancient Corinth and teaching of the past in the classroom.  We wish to communicate knowledge gained by excavation and research of ancient remains and material culture to educators and learners of all ages, primarily following middle school social studies (or interdisciplinary) learning standards. The lessons cover topics from water management  to religion, trade, diet and disease, making them marketable and usable for a wide audience of educators, and using artifacts excavated in Corinth, Greece, dating from the Classical to the Byzantine periods (roughly 500 BCE to 1450 CE) as a foundation for learning. Additionally, the lessons incorporate images, digital modeling technology, videos, texts, and excavation reports where applicable. A special learning opportunity we call “Digital Field Trip to Corinth” includes an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the archaeological park of Ancient Corinth to help students extend previous learning experiences on Greco-Roman classical civilizations and the Medieval Mediterranean world during their classroom studies.

Check out the full description here, which includes links to lesson plans  such as

  • Water in Ancient Greece
  • Asklepios and Healing in the Ancient Greek World and Today
  • Peloponnesian War Propaganda: Classical Athens vs. Corinth
  • Cultural Achievements and Conservation of the Roman Empire

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Kudos to the folk at the Corinth Excavations for launching and promoting this initiative. As the lesson plans are very detailed (15 pages or more), this will be an excellent new resource for teaching students about Ancient Corinth.Screenshot (315)

Federalism in Greek Antiquity (Beck and Funke, eds.)

This new edited collection of essays on federalism and interstate interactions in Greek antiquity caught my eye when it was published late in the fall:

  • Beck, Hans, and Peter Funke, eds.. Federalism in Greek Antiquity. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

As the publisher page notes, this is the first comprehensive study of the subject since the publication of Larsen’s Greek Federal States: their institutions and history (1968) and the work casts a much broader net to capture the various ways that Greeks cooperated for common cause through leagues, federal states, and interstate relations. The comprehensive survey includes some 29 chapters by nearly as many authors and makes use of non-literary sources such as coins, inscriptions, and archaeological evidence. Here’s the book description:

Federalism“The world of ancient Greece witnessed some of the most sophisticated and varied experiments with federalism in the pre-modern era. In the volatile interstate environment of Greece, federalism was a creative response to the challenge of establishing regional unity, while at the same time preserving a degree of local autonomy. To reconcile the forces of integration and independence, Greek federal states introduced, for example, the notion of proportional representation, the stratification of legal practice, and a federal grammar of festivals and cults. Federalism in Greek Antiquity provides the first comprehensive reassessment of the topic. It comprises detailed contributions on all federal states in Aegean Greece and its periphery. With every chapter written by a leading expert in the field, the book also incorporates thematic sections that place the topic in a broader historical and social-scientific context.”

Corinth appears frequently in the work (see some of the relevant passages in Google Books ) given both the important role of the League of Corinth and the Achaian League in the Hellenistic era, as well as interactions between Corinth and its colonies and various federations in the archaic and classical periods. The table of contents is available here as PDF. The first ten pages of the editors’ introductory essay, which outlines why scholars have often ignored federations in favor of polis interactions, can be found here. Hans Beck provides an overview of the project at this page.

Performing 1 Corinthians

Creating-a-scene.jpgAmong the thousands of publications on St. Paul’s letters to the Christians in Corinth, Creating a Scene in Corinth: A Simulation (MennoMedia 2013) stands out for its unique approach to biblical study through simulation and performance. Written by Reta Finger and George McClain, the work invites its readers to experience 1 Corinthians by directly entering into conversation and even debate with the apostle and his conflicted Christian communities. Creating a Scene is designed to give students and small groups of 15-25 an immersive experience in studying Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. And while this is a work written for church groups, not academics, the authors have attempted to make accessible to their readers an extensive and complex scholarly literature related to Corinth, Pauline studies, and ancient religion.

Like A Week in the Life of Corinth (discussed last week), Creating a Scene is based on imaginative play around a series of characters—some historical, some fictive—such as the individuals known from the Pauline letters and local elite known from inscriptions (e.g., Babbius Italicus and Junia Theodora). But the main purpose of the work is less a primer for bible study than simulating the conflicts of 1 Corinthians through creative role playing. As the publisher page notes,

Creating a Scene imaginatively draws readers into Chloe’s house church, which has just received a letter from their church planter, the apostle Paul. Using group simulation, the book brings to life scholarly research on how the gospel penetrated the Roman Empire. As participants role-play early believers and debate with each other, they gain new insights and will never read 1 Corinthians the same way again.

First-century Corinthians were just as human as church people today. They did not consider Paul’s letters authoritative Scripture when he wrote them, so lively group discussion and debate are encouraged. This method of Bible study works for many levels, from youth groups to Sunday school classes, or in college and seminary courses.

While Creating a Scene frequently moves between simulation and character development, commentary, and voices from the authors themselves, the work consistently interweaves social and historical background content with role playing. One constantly feels while reading this that the community in Corinth had problems (and the leaders of the church just seem a lot less saintly than they do in A Week in the Life of Corinth). The first part of the work (pp. 11-94) includes an introduction to the idea of simulation as well as important matters for understanding Corinth, such as the conflicts in 1 Corinthians, the archaeology and history of the Roman city, the values of a Roman society in the first century, polytheism and religion, social status and inequality, among others. The second part (The Play Begins! Reenacting Chloe’s House Church, pp. 95-209) takes readers into the heart of the simulation, with each successive chapter working through the major points of commentary and conflict in the letter, as for example:

    • Hidden Persuasions in Paul’s Greeting—1 Corinthians 1:1-9
    • The Wisdom of the World versus the Wisdom of God—1 Corinthians 1:10-3:4
    • Field Hands and Master Builders: Images of Unity—1 Corinthians 3:5-4:21

Each of these chapters include background information, commentary, photographs and plans, rubric for simulation, and concluding sections inviting the four different groups—the factions of Christ, Apollos, Paul, and Peter—to respond to and apply what they have learned through reenactment (e.g., “What impact does this topic of resurrection have on you and your faction?…How does Paul’s view of bodily resurrection challenge common assumptions about the afterlife held among Christians today?”). The final chapter includes a simulation exercise for recreating a Corinthian agape meal including prayers, hymns, readings, dialogue, and even recipes! The two appendixes are devoted to additional reenactment (Corinthian elite gathered at the Isthmian games) and a leader’s guide.

Beyond the book, the publisher page makes available a number of extra digital resources including lengthy slide presentations about Corinth with plans and images, imaginary speeches from members in Chloe’s house church, supplemental material for character development, and recommendations for implementing the simulation in churches and seminary classes (based on Finger’s previous simulations carried out in her bible classes). Creating a Scene is intended for study by small groups in churches or introductory academic classes to 1 Corinthians (who can act their way through the book in 10-15 sessions), but it may be of interest  to  anyone interested in learning about the backgrounds of First Corinthians.

For full contents, see the table of contents at Amazon.

Additional reviews of Creating a Scene in Corinth are available here:

This is the eighth post in a series on resources for the study of ancient religion and Christianity in Corinth. Earlier posts include:

On the Remains of Nero’s Corinth Canal Project

Few remains survive today from the Roman Emperor Nero’s great endeavor to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth. This is surprising and unfortunate since the initiative marked one of the most ambitious undertakings of Nero’s reign and arguably one of the emperor’s principal reasons for touring Greece in 66-68 AD. The work at the Isthmus probably lasted well over a year and involved a work force numbering as many as 10,000 slaves, political prisoners, soldiers, and conscripted laborers. The emperor and a labor force this substantial must have transformed the region in ways that it are hard for us to grasp today.

Venetian map of the Isthmus of 1697 AD used by Richard Chandler in Travels in Greece, or an Account of a Tour Made at the Expense of the Society of Dilettanti. Oxford: 1776, p. 241

Before the late 19th century construction of the Corinth Canal (1881-1893), one could still see vestiges of the ancient remains. European travelers commonly reported ditches, trenches, pits, and mounds on both the eastern and western sides of the neck. A late 17th century map included with Richard Chandler’s overview of the territory (1776), for example, shows a line of ditches and mounds over the western third of the Isthmus. Colonel Martin Leake measured the width of the canal trench near the Corinthian Gulf at about 200 feet wide and 1,200 yards long , extending across the low coastal zone and terminating where the land begins to rise. Other travelers noticed towering mounds of earth and debris that were many meters high.

The only person to conduct a systematic survey was Béla Gerster, the architect from Hungary who was largely responsible for planning and executing the modern Corinth Canal. Gerster carefully investigated the ancient remains as part of his planning for constructing the modern canal and documented trenches on both sides of the Isthmus and pits across the ridge. He published his findings initially in a BCH article, which he later revised and expanded in his 1896 book on the modern Corinth canal.

Gerster's plan of the ancient canal cuts, published in an important article in 1884
Gerster’s plan of the ancient canal cuts (1884).

It is hard to appreciate today how much the 19th century canal project transformed the topography of the Isthmus. Through the use of dynamite and locomotives, the work crews extracted 11 million cubic meters of earth and stone over little more than a decade and spread it across the region. Much of the coastal zone on both gulfs today is elevated above sea level through dumping. There are even little neighborhoods close to Isthmia that are built on artificial ridges created from canal debris; in some cases, modern work crews simply used the ancient debris mounds for dumping their own materials. Transformations continued in the 20th century: the strategic importance of the Isthmus to the German occupation of Greece, especially, generated bunkers, camps, and more movements of earth. All of this explains why very little remains today from the ancient canal. A couple of students and I walked across the Isthmus in 2014 to see if we could locate any of the features in Gerster’s 1884 map and were reminded just how extensively humans had remade the territory in the last 130 years.

Sheep graze near the remains of a World War II bunker

There are a few exceptions, which prove interesting. Near the start of the so-called diolkos of Corinth on the Corinthian Gulf, one can see in the water at the canal’s edge a broad sloping “platform” created by flat slabs. When Harold Fowler discussed this area in his topographic survey of the Corinthia (1932, p. 51), he recorded its dimension as about 40 meters long. Scholars have usually associated the zone with the diolkos (Sector A), but Koutsoumba and Nakas have made a compelling case that this actually should date to Nero’s canal project (among other things, they point out that it follows the same orientation as the modern canal and has no clear architectural relationship to the portage road 20 meters to the south).

Sector A.
Sector A, once identified with the “diolkos” with beach rock

On the Peloponnesian side of the canal, as one walks eastward along the canal from the Corinthian Gulf, some of the visible limestone and standstone walls belong to the original (rather than 19th century) canal works of Nero. As Wiseman originally noted, and I have seen myself, one can actually see marks of ancient chiselling. It was on the Corinthian Gulf side that the Roman canal crews made the greatest progress–excavating a canal hundreds of meters through both alluvial sediments and, in higher elevations, sandstone and limestone overburden.

Ancient Canal Wall
Ancient Canal Wall

The most interesting remains of Nero’s project, however, can be found opposite a stone foundation for an old (railroad?) bridge. The photo below, taken from the Peloponnesian side of the canal, shows one of those foundations on the Greek mainland side of the canal. There is a parallel foundation on the Peloponnesian side.

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Here is some perspective of that area from the old gravel road on the Peloponnesian side. In the picture below, I have circled in red the stone foundation for the bridge.

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Below this bridge foundation is the ancient canal wall and the famous Nero relief [Visitors should take care: the canal wall cliffs in this area are not insignificant], which has eroded even further since James Wiseman’s discussion of it 40 years ago (see figures below). The relief shows a man standing beneath a pediment with left arm resting on a thick object and right arm folded in. The photo can be interpreted (as Wiseman noted in 1978) either as an image of the Emperor Nero, or as a relief of Heracles resting from his labors. The most convincing interpretation in my view (and the argument I advance in The Isthmus of Corinth) is that it represents Nero as Heracles, who is in fact at the end of his labors.

Nero Relief 1978 (Wiseman)
Nero Relief 1978 (Wiseman)
Nero Relief 2014 (Pettegrew)
Nero Relief 2014 (Pettegrew)

While not much remains to this day, the record of remains by Gerster and earlier travelers allows one to reconstruct how Nero’s engineers approached the seemingly impossible task of transforming the maritime properties of the ancient landscape.

The Doll Heads of the Eastern Korinthia Survey

I no longer remember who found the first doll head in the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey but the discovery brought the unique artifact type to the attention of all. Now it may be that the doll heads were simply denser in the territory we were surveying that season–the Isthmus east of Hexamilia, after all, has substantial modern dumps–but I suspect it was also a case of that documented phenomenon that surveyors find what they are trained to notice. In any case, the summer of 2001 was the season that walkers increasingly discovered, collected, and conversed about Corinthian doll heads.

ekas_dollheadEKAS_dollheads2
There were two things that especially bewildered surveyors about the doll heads. First, the bodies were nearly always missing. It is true that we did find entire plastic play figures in the field such as this torso (left) of the batman figure discovered in 2000, which followed one field team around in their treks through the landscape. But baby dolls (almost) never came with their bodies–the converse of that pattern that Roman statues are so consistently missing their heads.

Second, the dollheads seemed to come in every imaginable shape and size. There were big-head dolls with red hair, small dolls with petite faces and long foreheads, small-headed dolls with Medusa-like hair expressing surprise, and flat-faced sun-darkened dolls without hair.

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If we had discovered these dolls in 1999, there might have been some attempt to collect, analyze, and chronotype them. That was the first year of the survey, and the project initially intended to record in a somewhat systematic way all the modern objects of the landscape. That was a novel idea, which proved impractical on the first day of survey when surveyors noted that plastic Loutraki water bottles (and other modern trash) was found in every unit of the survey territory. Modern ceramic material, not all material, became the principal signature of the modern period in EKAS. There is no reason, however, in principle, that the doll heads could not have been incorporated into our database of finds using our standard taxonomy for describing and typing artifacts. I’m imagining something like this

DollheadsCT

And it certainly would have been interesting to see the distribution of these objects in respect to modern settlement patterns.

By the end of the 2002 season, the doll heads had begun to have strange effects on the field teams. The dolls followed the teams around which means that someone must have collected them. Understand that archaeological survey encourages somewhat different interpersonal interactions than does, say, an excavation trench. Excavation allows for sustained conversation over long periods in a small space. In survey, walkers are spaced 20-40 feet apart and stare at the ground the whole time; conversation is shorter, banter is common. I think it was in this context that the doll heads — ghastly in their disembodied states, scarred by plowing, and corroded by the elements — became part of the running dialogue of the season and entered our discussion about archaeological survey.

Were the doll heads of the Eastern Korinthia “background noise” with an unclear relationship to the modern sites of the region? “Off-site” trash that originated from nearby settlements and was spread on fields through deliberate manuring? Toys dropped by children who accompanied their parents to the field during agricultural season? Or ritually deposited apotropaic objects designed to ward off negative spirits?

The doll heads also became part of an end-of-season plot to sabotage another field team’s near perfect record of collecting the fewest number of rocks (the ceramics teams kept tallies of which field teams mistakenly collected the most number of non-artifacts). At the end of season survey pottery, a presentation revealed how the doll heads carried out the attack and destroyed the good reputation of an archaeological team.

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Thanks to my EKAS colleague Tom Tartaron for jarring this repressed memory by requesting the extraction of these priceless photos from deep within the EKAS digital archives.

Two black skyphoi of late 5th century type

Chemical and Microscopic Analysis of Attic and Corinthian pottery (Chaviara and Aloupi)

This article (in press) by Artemi Chaviara and Eleni Aloupi in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, examines the chemical and microscopic properties of black-glaze vessels from the Athenian Acropolis, Boeotia, and the potter’s quarter in Corinth. I tried to access the piece via my institution’s website but ran into problems. For now, I can only copy the metadata and abstract below:

It is hard to know from the abstract what the authors conclude about the Corinthian material specifically but the sophisticated tools employed for study (microscopic analysis, optical microscopy, and Portable X-ray Fluorescence devices) look like they should contribute significantly to the scholarship surrounding the production of Corinthian pottery. Here’s the abstract:

In order to study the provenance of the clays used for the black-glaze (BG) decoration of Athenian pottery, we analysed in situ with the use of a Bruker handheld-PXRF system ~100Geometric, Archaic and Classical decorated sherds from the 19th century excavations at the Acropolis of Athens (Graef and Langlotz, 1933), Boeotian ware from the Kavirion excavations and test pieces from the early excavations at the potter’s quarter in Corinth. The sherds were also examined microscopically and documented by means of optical microscopy/digital photography. The results were compared with laboratory BG specimens produced by following the “iron reduction technique” at the THETIS workshop in Athens. The laboratory BG specimens used clay-colloids from 36 different ferruginous, illitic, low-calcium content, clay-sources in Attica. Trace element comparison between modern and ancient BG samples, with respect to the Zn content, points to the occasional use in antiquity of clay-deposits from Laurium. In addition, two phenomenological features of the ancient BG samples also present in prominent museum exhibits, i.e. the characteristic star-like micro-cracks and distinct brown-black colour shades, appear in the laboratory BG specimens produced from specific clay-deposits in the Panakton plateau and Mount-Parnes region.

The image used for this post is Corinth Image: bw 3544, which comes from the database of the American School Excavations at Corinth.

Imagining the Corinthians: A Week in the Life of Corinth

In the late spring of 2012, there was a buzz in the biblioblog world about a new book by Ben Witherington III called A Week in the Life of Corinth (InterVarsity Press Academic), a fictional work about a character named Nicanor who converts to Christianity after meeting the apostle Paul. Seminarians, pastors, preachers, interested Christians, and not a few professors of New Testament blogged the book—so frequently that by August I had declared AWLC the hit Corinthian book of the summer. One may not find many academic reviews of this work in the principal New Testament journals, but AWLC has perhaps reached a broader audience than the typical academic monograph on Corinthian churches, or even the excellent commentaries on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Compare, for example, the dozens of book reviews (now 55 at Amazon alone) with whatever your favorite book on Corinth happens to be.

ACLC is accessible in its length (ca 150 pages), price ($14), and genre (historical fiction), and unique within a Corinthian context for adopting historical fiction for educational purposes. So the book description highlights fiction (an imaginary week) to highlight the work’s pedagogical ends:

AWLC2

“Intrigue is in the air as Nicanor returns to Corinth and reports to his patron Erastos on recent business dealings in Rome. Nicanor, a former slave, is a man on the make. But surprises keep springing up in his path. A political rival of Erastos is laying a plot, and a new religion from the East keeps pressing in his life. Spend an imaginary week in Paul’sCorinth as the story of Nicanor winds through street and forum, marketplace and baths, taking us into shop, villa and apartment, where we meet friends new and old. From our observing a dinner in the temple of Aesclepius to Christian worship in the home of Erastos, Paul’s dealings with the Corinthians in his letters take focused relevance and social clarity. The result is an unforgettable introduction to life in a major center of the New Testament world. Throughout the text, helpful sidebars, maps and diagrams serve to further illuminate the sociocultural context of the early Christian world.”

And the publisher page makes clear that the scope of the book is intentionally educational:

  • Uses historical fiction to introduce the social and cultural world of Corinth
  • Includes close-up looks at important features of social and cultural life of Corinth
  • Gives a sense of what early Christian life and worship was like
  • Makes the social world of Paul’s Corinth come alive
  • Supplements or replaces customary textbooks on Paul’s social and cultural world
  • Written by an authority on Paul and the New Testament world

The purpose of the work, is, as many bloggers have pointed out, not gripping historical fiction, but, rather, whetting the appetite of someone setting out to study the New Testament letter of 1 Corinthians. It is a kind of primer to the study of the Corinthian correspondence. Some of the reviews on Amazon give a sense of the need that it meets:

“A winsome introduction to ancient Corinth”
“Why aren’t books like this more popular in Christian circles?”
“An Entertaining, Educational Resource on Corinth for All in the Church”
“A novella with great historical background.”
“Saint Paul up close”
“Wow, this book was really fun to read.”
“Corinth comes alive”

“Entertaining way to educate”

AWLC, then, is not written for Corinthian archaeologists, classicists, or bible scholars per se, who will find plenty of things to quibble about. It is, rather, written to encourage undergraduate students, new seminarians, and readers of the bible to think about Paul’s Corinth in context. With its numerous photograps of Greco-Roman contexts, including Corinth, and its sections devoted to taking “A Closer Look,” it acts as introduction.

AWLC4

Since the book is necessarily cursory in its discussions of background context, and controversial in its particular picture of Corinthian churches (the Corinthian assembly, which includes elites like Erastus, seem to me to be too saintly!), I would hope that the use of such work, whether in bible studies or seminary classes, would move quickly on to serious commentaries or some of the good scholarship on archaeology, texts, and ancient religion in Corinth such as Corinth in Context, Urban Religion in Roman Corinthor Corinth in Contrast

The book is available in Google Books for preview.

This is the seventh post in a series on resources for the study of ancient religion and Christianity in Corinth. Earlier posts include:

 

Public Monuments in Roman Greece: A New Database

A colleague sent me this link to Dr. Christopher Dickenson‘s new database and website devoted to the public monuments of Roman Greece. The platform and the content are still under development, but the website already makes available records for a substantial number of monuments known from Pausanias for three cities of Roman Greece. With its aim to presen all monuments known from text and archaeology, the site has the potential to offer a comprehensive and useful data set of statues, tombs, paintings, and dedications from the major cities of Greece between 200 BC and 200 AD. As Dickenson describes the project at his blog,

The basic premise behind my project is that not enough attention has been paid to the extent to which spatial setting contributed to the meaning of ancient public monuments. I’m interested in questions such as how setting up different types monument in the same space – for example statues of benefactors and gods in a city’s agora – might have had an effect on how such monuments were read and experienced, how different spaces were frequented by different groups of people who would have been the audience for these monuments.

The website home page describes the project in this way

Under the Roman Empire the marketplaces, streets, gymnasia and theatres of the cities of Greece were full of monuments such as tombs, inscribed stelai and – most numerous of all – statues. There were statues of bronze and of marble, portraying gods, heroes, emperors, kings and local dignitaries. Some of these monuments had already stood for centuries; others were fairly recent. Arguably no urban culture in history, with the possible exception of Rome itself, has set up such vast numbers of monuments in its public spaces. The nearest modern analogy for the amount of cultural material on display in the Roman period polis would be the museum. Yet the analogy falls short – the settings where these monuments stood were not places designed primarily for the passive viewing of works of art, they were vibrant public spaces, alive with the tumult and commotion of the city. If we are to understand the society and culture of these cities it is vital that we understand the impact of public monuments on the people who moved about them in their daily lives.

The aim of the project “Monuments of Roman Greece”, funded by a Marie Curie Fellowship from the European Commission is to explore the various ways in which the setting of public monuments contributed to giving them meaning, for instance, by looking at how certain types of monuments were positioned in relation to spaces used for certain activities in order to target particular audiences and at how monuments were positioned in relation to each other to create meaningful connections. This investigation will cast new light on questions such as the nature of power within the polis community and how local identity was defined in the face of imperial rule. The results will be published in a series of articles. At the heart of the project is a database of monuments known from archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence to have stood in the cities of Greece in Roman times. The database is a work in progress and is still being expanded but has been made available online here as a tool for other researchers.

RomanGreeceMonumentsThe database page of the website notes that the current database contains all the public monuments from Athens, Corinth, and Messene mentioned by the travel writer Pausanias in the second century AD. The database itself includes 340 records for armour, paintings, figures, statues, and monuments. Each record includes a range of content and metadata such as type; find spot, attestation, found in situ; type of public space; spatial setting; specific location; date erected; last date attested in situ; statue size; dimensions; notes; bibliography; and images. You can search for a monument by clicking on “Find” and “Perform Find.” The current web search interface is clunky but functionality should come over time.

 

For more information, see Dickenson’s blog post about the potential of the research database and the problems of categorization, the major issue confronting anyone who dares to create an archaeological gazetteer of sites known from both textual and archaeological evidence. Dickenson is currently seeking recommendations — should you have any.