Thirty New Roman Sites on the Corinthian Isthmus

I recently finished editing proofs of a chapter for the forthcoming book, “The Bridge of the Untiring Sea”: The Corinthian Isthmus from Prehistory to Late Antiquity”. The piece, which grew out of a paper I delivered in Athens in 2007, offers a new synthesis of settlement patterns on the Isthmus during the Early Roman (44 BC-250 AD) and Late Roman (AD 250-700) periods. The synthesis pays special attention to the findings of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey carried out in the eastern territory of Corinth between 1997 and 2003 and produces a series of maps of new Roman villas, farmsteads, communities, and towns. In the chapter, I challenge the old idea—popularized by Donald Engels’ book on Roman Corinth (1990)—that the Corinthians of the Roman period did not cultivate or inhabit their territory because their town was oriented solely to commerce (an idea that has been undermined by David Romano’s study of centuriation in the region). On the contrary, I argue that a semi-continuous suburbia (what Penelope Goodman has called “urban periphery”) develops in the course of the later first and second centuries AD that extends settlement from the town center to the harbors. The documentation of 30 distinct Roman-era sites in an area of only a few square kilometers shows that the eastern hinterland of Corinth was much more densely inhabited than scholars have previously estimated.

The figure below shows 26 high-density sites of the Late Roman period.


Here’s a taste of the piece from the introduction. When I receive a final PDF copy of the published article, I’ll post a full version to Academia or Research Gate.

Since Thucydides wrote his famous account of the growth of Corinthian naval power (1.13.5), the Isthmus has been central to historical interpretations of the ancient city. In the Roman era, for example, every educated person knew that a narrow neck of land had shaped the rise and fall of the Greek city and the birth of the Roman colony. Writers like Strabo claimed that the city grew wealthy due to its position on a bridge linking the maritime worlds of Asia and Italy. Others linked Corinthian geography to the city’s port-town reputation, sexual immorality and general loose living—so the proverb ran “It is not for every man to go to Corinth.” In pinning Corinthian myth, image, and fortune on the city’s eastern landscape, writers of the Roman era followed earlier Greek writers in finding historical consequences in a connecting Isthmus.

Given the frequent mentions of territory in ancient discussions of Corinth, it seems paradoxical that textual sources provide so little information about actual land use and settlement in the Greek or Roman era. Ancient writers discussed Corinthian territory frequently enough, but their interests lay in a few places like Isthmia, Kenchreai, and Lechaion that were famous by association with historical events and people. For example, when Pausanias described the route from Isthmia and Kenchreai to Corinth in the mid-2nd century a.d. (2.1.6–2.2.3), he noted nothing in-between except for Helen’s Bath and a few noteworthy tombs. No writer of the Roman period gave serious attention to patterns of land use or habitation in Corinthian territory.

Scholars who have read such sources literally have interpreted Corinth as a commercial town, lacking agricultural orientation and rural dwellings. Most scholars, however, have highlighted the biases of ancient sources and developed alternative views based on the study of the territory’s natural resources and archaeological remains. In his survey of the Archaic and Classical city, for example, Salmon argued that literary sources mislead: arable land, rather than commerce, was the fundamental economic resource base for the Hellenic city. Studies of centuriation patterns have shown the Roman colony’s agricultural orientation from its foundation, despite the near absence of written testimony. Other recent scholarship has pointed to the array of natural resources in the territory, such as timber, limestone, clay, honey, and marine resources. None of these resources appear prominently in the ancient textual tradition but each was an important component of the local economy.

The archaeological investigation of regions has contributed to this discussion by producing independent and localized evidence for settlement and land use. Archaeological investigations in the Corinthia in the last half century have filled out the territory with towns, villas, farms, sanctuaries, churches, graves, baths, and fortification walls (Fig. 14.1). The investigations that brought these sites to light have included rescue excavations by the Greek Archaeological Service, official excavations by the Archaeological Service and Ministry of Culture, the American School of Classical Studies’s excavations at Kenchreai and the Isthmian Sanctuary of Poseidon, extensive topographic surveys by Sakellariou and Faraklas and Wiseman, and intensive surveys directed by Gregory, Kardulias, and Pullen. Yet, despite all this work and its implications for interpreting the social, economic, and cultural character of Roman Corinth, there have been few attempts to synthesize the findings.

My purpose in this study is to fill a gap in modern scholarship by offering a summary description and interpretation of Roman settlement patterns on the Isthmus. The substance of this chapter is a discussion of the results of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) as they relate to patterns in (a) the chronology of land use during the Roman period; (b) the concentration and spatial distribution of settlement; and (c) the types of settlement (ephemeral occupations and farmsteads, villas, communities, and towns). In the final section, I argue that the patterns of settlement documented for the Isthmus—the intensive habitation and cultivation, numerous elite buildings, variety of habitation, and continuous built environment—are not “nucleated” or “dispersed” as scholars have often suggested, but rather, “urban periphery.” This study, then, introduces a new body of evidence relevant to age-old assessments of Corinth’s economy and establishes a building block for subsequent historical discussions and interpretations of the Roman city in its territory.

The First Urban Churches: Roman Corinth (In the Works)

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune of participating in a session at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference on the theme of Polis and Ekklesia: Investigations of Urban Christianity. The paper I delivered outlined new perspectives on the diolkos and the implications of this research for understanding the commercial backdrop of the early Christian communities at Corinth.

The good news is that this session will soon be published by SBL as part of a multi-volume series on Polis and Ekklesia edited by James R Harrison and L.L. Welborn. The first three volumes are either in the works or forthcoming:

The First Urban Churches. Volume 1: Methodology: As the editors

have summarized this volume, “This book, comprising all the invited papers of SBL Consultation Polis and Ekklesia (SanFranciso, 2011) and with the addition of other solicited contributions, concentrates on the responsible use of documentary (papyrological, epigraphic), numismatic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the historical, social, cultural, and economic life of cities, their inhabitants and neighbours in antiquity. This volume forms a preface to the study of the significant biblical cities in the first-century AD, charted in the subsequent eight volumes of the series.”

The First Urban Churches. Volume 2: Roman Corinth. According to the editors, “This book, comprising all the papers of SBL Consultation Polis and Ekklesia (Chicago, 2012) and with the addition of other solicited contributions, concentrates on the epigraphic, numismatic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the historical, social, cultural, and economic life of Roman Corinth in the early Christian era.”

The First Urban Churches. Volume 3: Ephesus. According to the editors, “This book, comprising all the papers of SBL Consultation Polis and Ekklesia (Baltimore, 2013) and with the addition of other solicited contributions, concentrates on the epigraphic, numismatic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the historical, social, cultural, and economic life of Ephesus in the early Christian era.”

Here’s an outline for the second volume on Roman Corinth, which is scheduled for delivery to the press later this year: 

1. Laurence L. Welborn, “Polis and Ekklesia: Investigating Roman Corinth in Its Urban Context”

2. Cavan Concannon, “Negotiating Multiple Modes of Religion and Identity at Roman Corinth”

3. Kathy Ehrensperger, “Negotiating Polis and Ekklesia: Challenge and Re-Assurance in 1 Cor 12:1-11”

4. Michael Peppard, “Roman Controversiae about Inheritance Disputes and 1 Corinthians 6”

5. David Pettegrew, “Lost in the Country: Corinthian Territory and the Early Christian Communities of the 1st Century CE”

6. Annette Weisenreider, “Bodies and Space: Sitting or Reclining in 1 Corinthians 14:30”

7. Brad Bitner, “Τὰ γραφέντα PRO ROSTRIS LECTA: Bilingual Inscribing in Roman Corinth”

8. Fredrick J Long, “‘The god of This Age’ (2 Cor 4:4) and Paul’s Empire-Resisting Gospel”

9. Laurence L. Welborn, “Paul, the Politics of ‘Equality’ and the Power Monopoly of the Corinthian Elite”

10. James R Harrison, “The Cursus Honorum in the Roman Colonies of Corinth and Philippi: Consequences for Paul’s Gospel and Rhetoric”

I spent much of January revising my 2012 conference paper and adding substance. My chapter, “Lost in the Country: Corinthian Territory and the Early Christian Communities of the 1st Century CE,” offers case studies in how the countryside / landscape might intersect with the study of the first Christians. In particular, I want to highlight the territory as a fundamental part of the “polis” in Roman times. Here’s the working abstract.

“Corinthian territory has occupied a paradoxical role in the modern scholarship surrounding Paul’s mission to Corinth and the Christian community in conflict. In one respect, the isthmian crossroads has functioned as an essential backdrop to understanding the population’s maritime orientation, commercial proclivities, and general tendencies to immorality and division. The twin harbors of Lechaion and Kenchreai, the pan-Hellenic sanctuary at Isthmia, and the diolkos allegedly made Corinth a city of transients at a great crossroads of the ancient world. In another respect, scholars have regularly disregarded the territory in their discussions of the Corinthian correspondence as though the region beyond the city’s boundaries was of little concern or interest to the earliest Christians. In this paper, I propose a different way of thinking about the intersections of the early Christian community with the countryside. Through a series of case studies on the diolkos, canal, harbors, and agriculture, I highlight the contingent developments of the territory and their effects on the developing ekklesia. The region was not a timeless commercial thoroughfare but developed historically in the course of the first century CE. This paper, then, recommends greater attention to the historical developments of the territory and their influence on the local religious communities.”

I’ll post more as this collection of essays moves toward publication.

Corinthian Scholarship Monthly (December-February). Part 2

Here is the second part to last week’s post about new scholarship in the last three months.

You can find the full collection of articles and books related to Corinthian studies at the Corinthian Studies Zotero Page. If you don’t see URLs for articles and books below (they sometimes don’t transfer in the copy), visit the Zotero group page. The new entries are tagged according to master categories .ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY or .NEW TESTAMENT AND EARLY CHRISTIAN.

As I noted previously, Version 2 of the library in RIS format is scheduled to be released by summer. I am always looking for reviewers of articles or books listed in the CSM posts. If you can write and are qualified, drop me a line.


Adams, Edward. The Earliest Christian Meeting Places: Almost Exclusively Houses? A&C Black, 2014.

Angeli Bernardini, Paola, ed. Corinto: luogo di azione e luogo di racconto : atti del convengo internazionale, Urbino, 23-25 settembre 2009. Pisa [etc.]: F. Serra, 2013.

Balzat, Jean-Sébastien, and Benjamin W. Millis. “M. Antonius Aristocrates: Provincial Involvement with Roman Power in the Late 1st Century B.C.” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 82, no. 4 (December 2013): 651–72. doi:10.2972/hesperia.82.4.0651.

Batchvarov, Kroum N. “Clay Pipes and Smoking Paraphernalia from the Kitten Shipwreck, an Early Nineteenth-Century Black Sea Merchantman.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 18, no. 1 (March 1, 2014): 1–19. doi:10.1007/s10761-013-0244-z.

Bradshaw, Paul F. Rites of Ordination: Their History and Theology. Liturgical Press, 2013.

Çakırlar, C., S. Ikram, and M-H. Gates. “New Evidence for Fish Processing in the Ancient Eastern Mediterranean: Formalised Epinephelus Butchery in Fifth Century Bc Kinet Höyük, Turkey.” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, January 1, 2014, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1002/oa.2388.

Docter, Roald, and Babette Bechtold. “Two Forgotten Amphorae from the Hamburg Excavations at Carthage (Cyprus, and the Iberian Peninsula) and Their Contexts.” Carthage Studies 5 (2011) (2013): 91–128.

Forbes, Hamish A. “Off-Site Scatters and the Manuring Hypothesis in Greek Survey Archaeology: An Ethnographic Approach.” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 82, no. 4 (December 2013): 551–94. doi:10.2972/hesperia.82.4.0551.

Hall, Jonathan M. Artifact and Artifice: Classical Archaeology and the Ancient Historian. University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Heil, Andreas, and Gregor Damschen, eds. Brill’s Companion to Seneca: Philosopher and Dramatist. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Jones, Catherine M. “Theatre of Shame: The Impact of Paul’s Manual Labour on His Apostleship in Corinth.” PhD Thesis, University of St. Michael’s College, 2013.

Laios, K., G. Tsoucalas, M. Karamanou, and G. Androutsos. “The Medical–Religious Practice of Votive Offerings and the Representation of a Unique Pathognomonic One Inside the Asclepieion of Corinth.” Journal of Religion and Health, 2013, 1–6. doi:10.1007/s10943-013-9811-1.

Lambert, Craig. “Norman Naval Operations in the Mediterranean.” Journal for Maritime Research 15, no. 2 (2013): 241–43. doi:10.1080/21533369.2013.852314.

Last, Richard. “Money, Meals and Honour: The Economic and Honorific Organization of the Corinthian Ekklesia.” PhD Thesis, University of Toronto, 2013.

Nichols, Aidan. Figuring out the Church: Her Marks, and Her Masters. Ignatius Press, 2013.

Polinskaya, Irene. A Local History of Greek Polytheism: Gods, People and the Land of Aigina, 800-400 BCE. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Punt, Jeremy. “Framing Human Dignity through Domination and Submission? Negotiating Borders and Loyalties (of Power) in the New Testament.” Scriptura 112 (2013): 1–17. doi:10.7833/112-0-82.

Reed, David Alan. “Paul on Marriage and Singleness:  Reading 1 Corinthians with the Augustan Marriage Laws.” PhD Thesis, University of St. Michael’s College, 2013.

Rowan, Clare. “Coinage as Commodity and Bullion in the Western Mediterranean, Ca. 550–100 BCE.” Mediterranean Historical Review 28, no. 2 (2013): 105–27. doi:10.1080/09518967.2013.837638.

Saliari, Konstantina, and Erich Draganits. “Early Bronze Age Bone Tubes from the Aegean: Archaeological Context, Use and Distribution.” Archeometriai Műhely [Archaeometry Workshop], 2013, 179–92.

Schoenborn, Christoph Cardinal. The Source of Life: Exploring the Mystery of the Eucharist. Ignatius Press, 2013.

Spinks, Bryan D. Do This in Remembrance of Me: The Eucharist from the Early Church to the Present Day. SCM Press, 2013.

Stoneman, Richard. Pindar. I.B.Tauris, 2013.

Thiessen, Matthew. “‘The Rock Was Christ’: The Fluidity of Christ’s Body in 1 Corinthians 10.4.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 36, no. 2 (December 1, 2013): 103–26. doi:10.1177/0142064X13506171.

Toffolo, Michael B., Alexander Fantalkin, Irene S. Lemos, Rainer C. S. Felsch, Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, Guy D. R. Sanders, Israel Finkelstein, and Elisabetta Boaretto. “Towards an Absolute Chronology for the Aegean Iron Age: New Radiocarbon Dates from Lefkandi, Kalapodi and Corinth.” PLoS ONE 8, no. 12 (December 26, 2013): e83117. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083117.

Wallace, Christopher. “Ager Publicus in the Greek East: I. Priene 111 and Other Examples of Resistance to the Publicani.” Historia 63, no. 1 (2014): 38–73.

———. “Ager Publicus in the Greek East: I. Priene 111 and Other Examples of Resistance to the Publicani.” Historia 63, no. 1 (2014): 38–73.

Walsh, Justin St P. Consumerism in the Ancient World: Imports and Identity Construction. Routledge, 2013.

Corinthian Scholarship Monthly (November 2013)

Your latest round of new Corinthian scholarship published or posted online in the last month – just in time for the holiday season. Feel free to reply to this post if you have something to add. If you are interested and qualified to review any of the following, contact me at

For comprehensive bibliography related to the Corinthia, see this page and visit the Corinthia Library at Zotero.




Late Roman

New Testament



Exploring the Everyday of Frankish Corinth

Dr. Evi Margaritis kindly sent me the following poster (“Exploring the Everyday of Frankish Corinth: Households under the Microscope”) presented at the Byzantium in Transition, 2nd International Workshop. The Middle-Late Byzantine Era, 12th-13th Centuries, held on Paros May 24-26, 2013.

The poster presents Dr. Margaritis’ preliminary comments on her study of plant remains (figs, grapes, barley, wheat) from a pit, well, and house floors in Frankish Corinth and its potential for informing our knowledge of grain processing and daily life in the Frankish period.

I have pasted a JPEG of the poster below, and a pdf version here  (better for zooming in). It is exciting that this marks the start of a broad program of archaeobotanical analysis for the historical periods in Corinth. I hope there will be more to share as the studies develop.


Corinthian Scholarship Monthly (October 2012)

The latest round-up of digital scholarship and references over the last month. These references are now available with abstracts and tags at the Corinthian Studies Online (Zotero) Library.


Bronze Age

  • Kvapil, Lynne A. “The Agricultural Terraces of Korphos-Kalamianos: A Case Study of the Dynamic Relationship Between Land Use and Socio-Political Organization in Prehistoric Greece”. PhD Thesis, University of Cincinnati, 2012.



Late Antique / Early Medieval

  • Gelichi, S., and R. Hodges, eds. From One Sea to Another. Trading Places in the European and Mediterranean Early Middle Ages Proceedings of the International Conference, Comacchio 27th-29th March 2009. Vol. 3. Seminari Del Centro Interuniversitario Per La Storia e L’archeologia Dell’alto Medioevo, 2012.

New Testament


Corinthian Scholarship (monthly): March-May

Here is the first installment of Corinth-related scholarship, or scholarship discussing Corinth, which appeared in digital form in March to May. I will post the second installment for June-August on Friday.

[Reposting this at 11:00 as I accidentally deleted the original]




Roman-Late Antique

New Testament and Early Christian

Medieval and Post-Medieval

Isthmia IX now available

I heard the good news this summer that Joseph Rife’s Isthmia IX: The Roman and Byzantine Graves and Human Remains, was finally available in published form.  The ASCSA website describes the work in these terms:

This study describes and interprets the graves and human remains of Roman and Byzantine date recovered by excavation between 1954 and 1976 in several locales around the Isthmian Sanctuary and the succeeding fortifications. This material provides important evidence for both death and life in the Greek countryside during the Late Roman to Early Byzantine periods. Examination of burial within the local settlement, comparative study of mortuary behavior, and analysis of skeletal morphology, ancient demography, oral health and paleopathology all contribute to a picture of the rural Corinthians over this transitional era as interactive, resilient and modestly innovative.

Andrew Reinhard, director of publications, recently interviewed Rife about his work. You can read the interview here and a sample of the work here. Looks like another major publication for the Corinthian countryside that should have significant consequences for how we understand the lives of the territory’s inhabitants. 

Another look at Land of Sikyon

One spring day in 2005, I ran into Yannis Lolos at the Blegen Library in Athens carrying around his recently completed monograph on the history and archaeology of the region of Sikyon, the polis immediately west of Corinth. He told me at the time that the hundreds and hundreds of freshly printed pages in his hands, destined for the publication desk of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, had required a tremendous amount of work. Now that I’ve seen the final product, Land of Sikyon: Archaeology and History of a Greek City-State (Princeton 2011), I can see he wasn’t exaggerating. This is truly a magnum opus representing a massive undertaking that could only have required thousands of hours of work. I spent a couple of days last week working through the volume, but I felt like one only scratching the surface—much like Caraher’s cat attacking a sofa

The most impressive aspect of Land of Sikyon is its comprehensiveness. Lolos has produced the first topographic study of the entire region of Sikyonia (360 km) from prehistory to the Early Modern period. He mines and discusses all relevant ancient and medieval texts and early modern literature, summarizes relevant excavation finds, and presents page after page of original observation and interpretation of the finds from his reconnaissance survey of the territory. While he claims in places that his work is not the final say for the history of the region but only a new beginning, it is most certainly comprehensive in its regional framework, diachronic perspective, and attention to a wide range of evidence. One might compare it to James Wiseman’s The Land of the Ancient Corinthians, but double the word count and twice the number of photos, maps, plans, and tables. At 635 pages, it rivals in size any regional survey volume, but, unlike most survey volumes, Land of Sikyon was authored (almost) entirely by one person.

This outline and structure of the book shows Lolos’ thematic breaks, which, as he notes in the intro, correspond to the stages of his research (For a descriptive summary, see Bill Caraher’s BMCR review):

Introduction (pp. 1-6)

Ch. 1. Physical Environment and Resources (pp. 7-58): topography; boundaries and resources of ancient polis, land use in the premodern era

Ch. 2. Sikyonia from Prehistoric Times to the Ottoman Era (pp. 59-92): a history of the region based mainly on textual evidence

Ch. 3. Land Communications (pp. 93-180): a reconstruction of the road network of the territory based on Lolos’ topographical survey (1996-1998 )

Ch. 4. Defenses (pp. 181-268): discussion of the region’s fortifications based on topographical survey in 1996-1998 (forts, guard houses, patrol houses)

Ch. 5. Settlements: The City and its Countryside (269-376): diachronic reconstruction of settlement system based on extensive survey in 2000-2002

Ch. 6. Sacra Sicyonia (pp. 377-414): sacred landscapes based on survey, excavation, and textual evidence

Ch. 7. Conclusion (pp. 415-418)

There follows seven appendixes. The most detailed and extensive covers the register of sites (pp. 419-548), while there are also chapters by Lolos on aqueducts, public land, and a building inscription, and chapters from his colleagues on the Cave of Lechova, roof tiles, and an inscribed sherd. Six neat maps show political boundaries, topography, rivers and streams, fault lines, geological strata, vegetation patterns, modern settlements and toponyms, archaeological sites, ancient roads of the Sikyonia and the western Korinthia, and the features and sites of the Ancient Sikyon plateau. These are freely available for downloading as PDF files via their DOI names (listed at the end of the book).

The structure of the work reveals Lolos’ principal interests. The introduction and the first two chapters establish the context for understanding Sikyonia’s history, while the subsequent chapters of the monograph (3-6) detail the results of the topographical survey and the extensive pedestrian survey.  For the general reader interested broadly in the history and archaeology of the northeast Peloponnese but with no knowledge of Sikyon per se, chapters 1 and 2 could be the most useful in the volume. The first discusses agriculture and the natural resources of Sikyonia while the second provides a summary of Sikyon’s political and cultural history over four millennia. Both highlight how Sikyon’s and Corinth’s history were entangled in many different ways —by natural resources (e.g., the famous coastal plain between Corinth and Sikyon, the flora and crops of the regions) and parallel political developments (neighboring poleis in the Archaic-Hellenistic periods, complex interactions with external powers in the Hellenistic period). From the Roman period to the early modern era, Sikyon’s history, in fact, was directly overshadowed by the megalopolis Corinth. Indeed, the selection of Carl Rottmann’s oil painting, Sikyon-Corinth (1836-1838), for the cover of the book, draws attention to this theme of Sikyon’s relationship and interaction with neighboring Corinth, its acropolis visible in the distance.


Chapters 3-5 are without question the heart of the monograph, each numbering 80-100+ pages. These do not make for light or easy reading but require attention to Lolos’ topographic arguments (based on the maps at the end of the volume), archaeological arguments (based on references to scattered remains of roads, fortifications, and settlements), and textual arguments about the interpretation of ancient literature and early modern sources. The general reader can gain a quick overview of Lolos’ arguments through the useful summaries at the end of each chapter, but will still benefit from dipping into particular sections of interest and examining the images, figures, and tables (cf., for example, the walking distances and travel times from Corinth in Table 3.1). The scholar of the northeast Peloponnese will want to spend some time wading through Lolos’ arguments. For example, the author reconstructs an extensive road network across the Sikyonia from wheel ruts (most of which, he argues, are deliberately cut), natural corridors, road bed cuttings, historical sources, bridge locations, and graves, and argues that almost all of these roads originated in antiquity, primarily the era of the polis. The connection between these scattered bits is necessarily speculative as most of these features are not especially diagnostic, but the author’s arguments are still compelling. I found convincing his argument (pp. 98-110) for the existence of a Roman road across the coastal plain connecting the regions of Corinth and Sikyon, especially as it corresponds to modern village locations and lines up nicely with David Romano’s observations about an artery that structured the Roman centuriation of the Corinth’s western territory. Lolos’ arguments about the functions of rural towers and fortifications in the territory—mostly for the defense of the polis, mostly guarding interstate roads—are balanced, coherent, and defensible.

I was less convinced by Lolos’ reconstruction of settlement patterns (Ch. 5), based on his extensive survey of the territory.  While the discussion is nuanced and sensible, recognizing (p. 272) the major methodological differences between extensive survey and intensive survey, he nonetheless attempts to reconstruct demographic patterns on the basis of relative changes in the number of sites identified for each period. So, for example, he sees a mostly empty Geometric countryside (9 sites), a surprisingly sparse Archaic period (26 sites), a spike in the Classical era (45 sites), a decline in the Hellenistic (22 sites) to Early-Middle Roman (34 sites), and a spike in the Late Roman period (61 sites), etc..—archaeological patterns that seem out of sync with the picture from textual sources (e.g., the early Hellenistic period is a bright phase in Sikyon’s history under Aratus). Whether or not these could reflect true demographic change or the changing demographic relationship of town and country, as Lolos ponders, I found two main weaknesses in his assessment of the pattern.

First, Lolos’ survey was not intensive, and therefore not likely to detect the smaller farmsteads, tenant residences, and seasonal habitations that must have been common throughout Sikyon’s history. The investigator followed the kapheneion method: his research began at the village cafes and pursued local knowledge of farmers and inhabitants.  This method was a certain path to locating sites but also led him inevitably to examine the most visible sites of the territory. By my count, 94 of the 148 habitation sites listed in the catalogue are associated with structures or architectural fragments like cut stone, rubble, and ashlar blocks; only 1/3 of the sites in the volume were identified from pottery scatters alone. There can only be an enormous corpus of unidentified smaller sites in the Sikyonia that escaped detection from Lolos’ survey. When Lolos completes an intensive survey of a sample of the territory, we will have a much better sense of the range of settlements in the region. But until he does so, his results based on extensive survey cannot be reliably compared with that of intensive survey projects. 

Lolos, of course, recognizes the important methodological difference between extensive and intensive survey (p. 272) in this work as well as in his decision to undertake a high-resolution urban survey of the Sikyon plateau, but maintains that the chronological layers documented in his extensive survey are still meaningful relative to one another.  In recent years, I have come to doubt our ability to reconstruct demographic changes from simple changes in the quantity of “sites” of different periods.  As several of us have argued from the Eastern Korinthia Survey data (here, here, and here), knowledge of ceramic periods is always differential: the Late Roman period, for instance, has much greater visibility than the Hellenistic or Early Roman because of its more identifiable coarse ware body sherds with their characteristic combed and grooved surface treatments. One cannot reliably assess change in rural settlement without also assessing the degree to which successive periods within a region are differently visible during survey. While Lolos acknowledges these issues and also notes some of the artifacts identified at each site, he does not give the reader enough information about the artifacts to determine whether the patterns are really a product of changes in deposition of artifacts over time, or simply a result of the biases of identification. I left this chapter wondering whether the 61 Late Roman sites were really an indication of “the return of the population to the countryside” (p. 367), or just a result of greater visibility in diagnostic tiles and “hundreds of ribbed body sherds” (p. 366). I also wondered whether 22 Hellenistic sites and 34 Early Roman-Middle Roman sites were really much less than 45 Classical sites. In some regions of Greece and the Aegean, after all, changes between these periods have been much more drastic. Could not one put a more positive spin (e.g., settlement continuity) on these patterns? 

These sorts of methodological questions can best be answered in subsequent phases of intensive survey which Lolos plans to undertake eventually in the territory (p.272). They do not detract from this volume’s major accomplishment, which is to move the history and archaeology of Sikyon from political history of the urban center to the broader framework of territory and landscape.


Further Reading:

The Complete Archaeology of Greece

John Bintliff’s new tome (May 2012) looks like a serious comprehensive work.  At 544 pages, The Complete Archaeology of Greece: From Hunter-Gatherers to the 20th Century A.D. promises to tell the story of Greek culture from the Paleolithic to the modern era.  It doesn’t get much more comprehensive than this.

Here’s the description from the Wiley-Blackwell website.

The Complete Archaeology of Greece covers the incredible richness and variety of Greek culture and its central role in our understanding of European civilization, from the Palaeolithic era of 400,000 years ago to the early modern period. In a single volume, the field’s traditional focus on art and architecture has been combined with a rigorous overview of the latest archaeological evidence forming a truly comprehensive work on Greek civilization.

  • A unique single-volume exploration of the extraordinary development of human society in Greece from the earliest human traces up till the early 20th century AD
  • Provides 22 chapters and an introduction chronologically surveying the phases of Greek culture, with over 200 illustrations
  • Features over 200 images of art, architecture, and ancient texts, and integrates new archaeological discoveries for a more detailed picture of the Greece past, its landscape, and its people
  • Explains how scientific advances in archaeology have provided a broader perspective on Greek prehistory and history
  • Offers extensive notes on the text, available online, including additional details and references for the serious researcher and amateur

And here is the table of contents.  Judging from the index, the Corinthia makes a very good showing.  There’s even some discussion of the Eastern Korinthia Survey.