Mapping the Isthmus of Corinth: A Story Map

Last May I had the privilege of working with Albert Sarvis, Professor of Geospatial Technology at Harrisburg University (and a licensed drone pilot), in capturing low-altitude aerial photographs of the Isthmus of Corinth. Albert and I had collaborated for several years previous on the Digital Harrisburg project, an ambitious project that seeks to link all the individuals living in Pennsylvania’s state capital in the years 1880-1940 with encoded historical maps of the city. Our work together in the Corinthia was a new endeavor, designed to both support long-term research related to the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey and learn about the complicated history of the human uses of the Isthmus from antiquity to the present. Although it rained steadily in the region last May, it was still as successful venture in capturing new perspectives on an historical landscape: look at the final image below to compare the ESRI default aerial imagery with the higher resolution drone survey.

It was also a successful collaboration of students and faculty of the humanities and digital technologies. I brought along 9 Messiah College students (mostly History majors and minors), and Albert brought one senior student in Geospatial Technologies, John Nieves-Jennings. My students had the rewarding experience of learning how drone survey works (and some exposure to the software Pix4D) while Albert’s student was able to connect digital applications to historical questions. John Nieves-Jenning not only ran many of the drone flights but captured the process of work through still images, textual description, and videos. For a senior project, John put together this interactive ESRI Story Map with videos and images of the Corinthia and the drone survey. If you turn on the volume, you can hear the whirring buzz of the drone as it hovers up and above the fields and quarries of the Isthmus. You can also see some live footage of our work and me trying to remember what I could about the history of Corinthian quarries.

We have received a permit from the aviation authority to undertake a second season of drone photography the week after next. Albert and I will be returning with one of his colleagues and students for additional fieldwork. Stay tuned for some updates from the field.

Corinthian Matters in Corinth

Corinthian Matters will be on its (mostly) annual tour to the Corinthia three weeks from now (May 26-June 2). I will only be in the Corinthia for a week this year because I have to get back for a digital proficiency workshop in early June, but that still allows seven full days of Corinthiaka goodness. If you will be around and have the time to get together, shoot me an email.

I’ll be working on several projects while in the region with a number of good collaborators and friends:

1. Drone Photography and EKAS: Since 2017, I have been working with Professor Albert Sarvis, a geospatial technologist at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, to capture low-altitude drone photographs of parts of the Isthmus surveyed by the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey in 1998-2002.  Our work is designed to contribute to a longer-term goal of publishing the EKAS data sets, and to understand the large-scale transformations of the Isthmus between antiquity and the present such as canal construction and the trans-Isthmus fortification walls. This will mark our second season of drone photography.

2. Washingtonia: I have teamed up with Kostis Kourelis (Franklin & Marshall College) and others to study the vanished settlement of Washingtonia, somewhere in the vicinity of the village of Examilia. This colony of refugees of the Greek War of Independence was founded in 1829 by American philhellene and philanthropist Samuel Gridley Howe with clearly great prospects in mind. Last year, my students from Messiah College carefully studied Howe’s letters and journal entries to discern the location of the village and nature of settlement.  I’ll be visiting Examilia this summer to learn what I can but also have a history student at Messiah who will be conducting archival research in Boston to try to dig up some new documents.

3. Lakka Skoutara. Toward the end of my time in the Corinthia, I’ll have the privilege of connecting with Bill Caraher before he heads to the Argolid. We’re going to head to an abandoned village of Lakka Skoutara between Korphos and Sophiko and document this abandoned village one final time. We’ve studied formation processes at the settlement for some 20 years now and we’ll be submitting our article to a forthcoming collection with the Digital Press on abandoned villages. We may also capture drone photographs of the village.

4. Kodratos. I’ve been working this year with Jonathan Werthmuller, a graduating senior at Messiah College, to produce an English translation of the 17th century Latin life of St. Kodratos by Jesuit scholar Reinhold Dehnig, based on a Greek original by the 14th century historian Nicephorus Gregoras. We’ve worked from both the Latin and the Greek as part of a semester-long project. It’s been a blast, and I hope to visit again the church of Kodratos in Corinth, which features prominently in the vita.

 

On Phoebe, Honored Courier of St. Paul (Michael Peppard)

We’ve mentioned Phoebe of Kenchreai here at Corinthian Matters as an individual who was not simply a “helper” to St. Paul — one translation of the Greek diakonos) — but also a prostasis, an influential member of some wealth and authority in the earliest Christian community of the region.

Michael Peppard has recently published an article in Commonweal  (Household Names: Junia, Phoebe, & Prisca in Early Christian Rome“) about Phoebe and two other significant women named in the final chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Peppard’s piece discusses the high status of these women and their importance in the mission of Paul. It’s a thoughtful piece of which I include a few snippets below.

But pay closer attention to whom Paul addresses and a surprise emerges: the status of women in the early church in Rome. Specifically, three women: Junia, Phoebe, and Prisca. They are not household names. They are not mentioned from pulpits on Sunday morning. But they were undeniably important to Paul—and to the Christian assemblies in Rome and Corinth, where they were authoritative leaders….

…Back to the first-century Phoebe: a more powerful translation than “benefactor” for prostatis would also be more faithful to the Greek term in its social context. When used in the masculine form prostatês, its semantic range covers “leader,” “ruler,” “presiding officer,” “administrator,” “protector,” “guardian,” or “patron.” Certainly the possession of wealth and the concomitant powers of benefaction could be related to one’s role as a leader, presider, or protector. But generosity alone does not capture the meaning of the term that Paul uses for Phoebe…

…As an honored and trusted courier, Phoebe could have had the sender’s blessing to explain her letter and its author’s intention as well. The social context thus suggests that, in addition to being a diakonos, a prostatis, and the courier of the most important theological text in Christian history, Phoebe may also have been its first authorized interpreter….

Thus when Phoebe arrived in Rome with Paul’s letter, it was into Prisca’s hand she most likely placed the scroll. Prisca had known Paul for years, and she was one of his most trusted partners, just as Phoebe was a trusted courier. So when we envision the very first discussion of the letter to the Romans, both scriptural and historical evidence suggest the same thing: it was women who were doing the talking.