A New History of Hellenistic Corinth

There was buzz around Corinth this summer about Michael Dixon’s forthcoming book on Hellenistic Corinth. I wasn’t expecting the work to arrive so quickly, but friends have passed on good news of its publication. Here’s the bibliographic reference:

Dixon, Michael D. Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Corinth, 338-196 BC. Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies. New York 2014.

The book description at Routledge as well as sections of the introduction made available at that site show that the book comprises a study of Corinth’s relationship with the Macedonian kings and the Achaian koinon between the late classical period and the settlement following the Second Macedonian War. Here’s the abstract from the publisher’s page.

Large Image

Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Corinth, 338-196 B.C. challenges the perception that the Macedonians’ advent and continued presence in Corinth amounted to a loss of significance and autonomy. Immediately after Chaironeia, Philip II and his son Alexander III established close relations with Corinth and certain leading citizens on the basis of goodwill (eunoia). Mutual benefits and respect characterized their discourse throughout the remainder of the early Hellenistic period; this was neither a period of domination or decline, nor one in which the Macedonians deprived Corinthians of their autonomy. Instead, Corinth flourished while the Macedonians possessed the city. It was the site of a vast building program, much of which must be construed as the direct result of Macedonian patronage, evidence suggests strongly that those Corinthians who supported the Macedonians enjoyed great prosperity under them. Corinth’s strategic location made it an integral part of the Macedonians’ strategy to establish and maintain hegemony over the mainland Greek peninsula after Philip II’s victory at Chaironeia. The Macedonian dynasts and kings who later possessed Corinth also valued its strategic position, and they regarded it as an essential component in their efforts to claim legitimacy due to its association with the Argead kings, Philip II and Alexander III the Great, and the League of Corinth they established.

This study explicates the nature of the relationship between Corinthians and Macedonians that developed in the aftermath of Chaironeia, through the defeat at the battle of Kynoskephalai and the declaration of Greek Freedom at Isthmia in 196 B.C. Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Corinth is not simply the history of a single polis; it draws upon the extant literary, epigraphic, prosopographic, topographic, numismatic, architectural, and archaeological evidence to place Corinth within broader Hellenistic world. This volume, the full first treatment of the city in this period, contributes significantly to the growing body of scholarly literature focusing on the Hellenistic world and is a crucial resource for specialists in late Classical and early Hellenistic history.”

And the table of contents:

1. Corinth, The “Gateway of Isthmian Poseidon”

2. Corinth in the Age of Philip II and Alexander III, 338-323 B.C.

3. The “Corinthian Troubles,” Corinth and the Diadochoi, 323-301 B.C.

4. Antigonos Gonatas and Corinth, “The Passion of his Life”

5. Monuments and Cult in Early Hellenistic Corinth

6. The Achaian Interlude, 243-224 B.C. From Liberation to Rebellion

7. The End of Macedonian Corinth

8.Conclusions and Reflections Bibliography

This looks like a book of major importance for understanding the late Classical, Hellenistic, and early Roman interactions in Corinth. I’ve just ordered a copy for my college’s library.

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 corinthianmatters@gmail.com.

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




Late Roman

New Testament



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:

From the Corinthia to Sicyon

This weekend I spent some quality time with Y. Lolos newly published tome, Land of Sikyon. Hesperia Supplement 39 (Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2011). It runs to close to 650 pages and provides a nearly comprehensive view on (as his subtitle states) the archaeology and history of a Greek City-State.  With a book of this size and level of detail, I feel a bit like a cat attacking a sofa. The best I’ll be able to do is attack various parts of it and then race off. That being said, over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my observations on the book as I work my way through it. Scholars interested in the history, archaeology, and topography of the Corinthia and the northwest Peloponnesus have eagerly awaited this book (so eagerly, in fact, that it’s listed in World Cat as having been published in 2006, 2009, and 2011).

This weekend I took particular interest in Lolos detailed description of the history and land routes through the region. My very first article looked at a series of fortifications on the far eastern end of Mt. Oneion. In this article I discuss briefly the idea that an army could cross the eastern end of Mt. Oneion in order to enter the Peloponnesus while avoiding the fortifications around the city of Corinth.

From that article:

In addition, once an army crossed the mountain’s eastern end and moved south, it had bypassed the defenses of Acrocorinth and gained ac cess to a complex network of roads leading toward the population centers of the southwest Corinthia, such as Tenea, Kleonai, and Phlius, as well as the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. Thereafter, an army could link up with routes into the Argolid or move toward the west through the uplands of the northeastern Peloponnese to descend into Sikyonia, Arkadia, and Achaia.

When I wrote this, however, I had only the faintest idea how a force could descend into Sikonia.  Historically, I knew it was possible, as Xenophon tells us (Hell. 7.1.18-19) that the Theban general Epaminondas did just that during his second invasion of the Peloponnesus in 386, despite efforts by the Athenians, Spartans, and Pellenians to hold the eastern side of the mountain.

Lolos’s book provides some crucial clarification on the route of this invasion. It seems likely that the Thebans must have marched to Phlious before moving south to Sikyon along the route of the Asopos river or alternately veering slightly further west and passing the sanctuary of Titane on a decent to the Sikyonian plateau.  Lolos’ book provides significant evidence for these routes through his thorough compilation of evidence for wheel ruts and road cuttings that suggest the presence of cart roads. Of course, the army of Epaminondas probably had very few carts as they had entered the Peloponnesus through a rather tricky march over the eastern part of Mt. Oneion.

While Lolos has worked out the routes west and south in Sikyonia and R. Bynum Jeanie Marchand, and Mike Dixon (all under the watchful eye of Prof. Ron Stroud) have pieced together the road networks of the southern and western Corinthia, as far as I know, no one has worked out the roads running south of Mt. Oneion from the area of Solygeia (and the modern village of Loutro Elenis) to the Xeropotamos River valley. This is a relatively small area, but one where one might expect to find areas of exposed bedrock that would preserve wheel ruts. Moreover, it’s tempting to imaging that the hills further south had watch towers to monitoring traffic obscured by the mass of Oneion.

As a side note, it feels strange to blog on ancient Greece at a time when the modern Greece is in such turmoil. I wonder whether reading, thinking, and writing about ancient Greece provides me with a safe way to keep that place in my head without incurring the emotional cost of reflecting on its current troubles.

Costposted to the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

Ancient Corinth: 2011 Publications

I finally had time this week to gather together the 2011 publications for various aspects of Corinth’s history.  The first installment today includes about 3 dozen publications related to the history and archaeology of Corinth in antiquity, i.e., from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity.  I will follow the rest of the week with sections on Medieval-Modern, Geology and Environment, and New Testament & Early Christian Studies.

As in my 2010 year in review, I created this list from Google alerts and Worldcat.  Since neither of these is comprehensive, I do not claim that this list is exhaustive.  Nonetheless, it is probably a fair representation of the materials published in the last year.  The list focuses on academic publications (books, articles, and dissertations) that relate directly to the archaeology and history of the Corinthia, or refer frequently to Corinth.  It excludes conference papers, master’s theses, historical fiction, and general works that indirectly touch on Corinth (i.e., some of the material that I do usually include in Corinthian Scholarship (monthly)).

If you published on material in 2011 that is relevant to the list, please send my way along with links if available.  The updated list will live permanently here.

Thanks to Messiah College Historymajor Amanda Mylin for help in putting this together.

Bronze Age

Tartaron, Thomas F., Daniel J. Pullen, Richard K. Dunn, Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory, Amy Dill, Joseph I. Boyce, “The Saronic Harbors Archaeological Research Project (SHARP): Investigations at Mycenaean Kalamianos, 2007-2009,” in Hesperia 80.4 (2011), 559-634.

Weiberg, Erika, “The invisible dead : The case of the Argolid and Corinthia during the Early Bronze Age,” in Helen Cavanagh, William Cavanagh and James Roy (eds.),Honouring the Dead in the Peloponnese: Proceedings of the conference held at Sparta 23-25 April 2009, CSPS Online Publication 2 prepared by Sam Farnham, 2011, pp. 781-796.

Geometric to Hellenistic

Athanassaki, L., and E. Bowie (eds.), Archaic and Classical Choral Song: Performance, Politics and Dissemination(de Gruyter 2011)

Barone, G., P. Mazzoleni, E. Aquilia, V. Crupi, F. Longo, D. Majolino, V. Venuti, and G. Spagnolo, “Potentiality of non-destructive XRF analysis for the determination of Corinthian B amphorae provenance,” in X-Ray Spectrometry40.5 (2011), 333-337.

Burnett, Anne Pippin, ”Servants of Peitho: Pindar fr.122 S“, GRBS 51 (2011).

Coldstream, N., Greek Geometric Pottery. Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum. Great Britain, Fascicule 25; The British Museum, Fascicule 11. London:  British Museum, 2010. (BMCR review here).

Dawson, A., “Seeing Dead People: A Study of the Cypselids,” Australian Society for Classical Studies, Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Conference, 2011 (PDF)

Dubbini, Rachele, Dei nello spazio degli uomini : i culti dell’agora e la costruzione di Corinto arcaica, Rome 2011: L’Erma di Bretschneider.

Foley, Brendan P.,Maria C. Hansson, Dimitris P. Kourkoumelis, Theotokis A. Theodoulou, “Aspects of ancient Greek trade re-evaluated with amphora DNA evidence,” in Journal of Archaeological Science 39.2 (2012), 389-398.

Gassner, Verena, “Amphorae Production of the Ionic‐Adriatic Region,” in FACEM (version 06/06/2011).

Greene, Elizabeth S., Justin Leidwanger, and Harun A. Özdaş, “Two Early Archaic Shipwrecks at Kekova Adası and Kepçe Burnu, Turkey,” in IJNA40.1 (2011), 60-68.

Howan, V., “Three Fleets or Two,” in Australian Society for Classical Studies, Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Conference, 2011 (on the Corinthian War)

Krystalli-Vosti, Kalliopi, and Erik Østby, “The Temples of Apollo at Sikyon,” in Bolletino di Archeologia On Line 2011.

Leenen, M., “The Evolution of Roman Diplomatic Interaction with the Achaean League, 200-146 B.C.E.,” in Australian Society for Classical Studies, Selected Papers from the 32nd Annual Conference, 2011 (PDF)

Mannino, M.R., and S. Orecchio, “Chemical characterization of ancient potteries from Himera and Pestavecchia necropolis (Sicily, Italy) by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP-OES),” in Microchemical Journal97.2 (2011), 165-172.

McPhee, Ian D., and Elizabeth G. Pemberton, Corinth VII.6. Late Classical Pottery from Ancient Corinth: Drain 1971-1 in the Forum Southwest, Princeton 2011? (in production): American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Morgan, C., “Isthmia and beyond. How can quantification help the analysis of EIA sanctuary deposits?,” in Samuel Verdan, Thierry Theurillat and Anne Kenzelmann Pfyffer (eds.), Early Iron Age Pottery: A Quantitative Approach. Proceedings of the International Round Table organized by the Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece (Athens, November 28-30, 2008), BAR International Series 2254 (2011), 11-18.

Pettegrew, David K., “The Diolkos of Corinth,” AJA 115.4 (2011), pp. 549-574. Images here.

Rhodes, Robin, “The Woodwork of the Seven Century Temple on Temple Hill in Corinth,” in Alexander von Kienlin (ed.), Holztragwerke der Antike : Internazionale Konferenz 30. März – 1. April 2007 in München, Byzas Vol. 11, Istanbul 2011: German Archaeological Institute.

Robinson, Betsey, Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, Princeton 2011: American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (Reviews at Corinithianmatters and the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

Tsiafakis, Despoina, “The Ancient Settlement at Karabournaki: the Results of the Corinthian and Corinthian Type Pottery Analysis,” in Bolletino di Archeologia On Line 2011.

Roman Corinth

Flament, C., and P. Marchetti, Le monnayage argien d’époque romaine: d’Hadrien à Gallien, Athens 2011: French School of Athens.

Frangoulidis, Stavros, “From impulsiveness to self-restraint: Lucius’ stance in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses,” Trends in Classics3.1 (2011), pp. 113–125

Friesen, Steven J., Daniel N. Schowalter and James C. Walters, Corinth in context: comparative studies on religion and society, Supplements to Novum Testamentum vol. 134, Leiden 2010: E. J. Brill. Reviews at Journal of Roman Archaeology (Dennis E. Smith), Journal of Theological Studies (David Horrell), Religious Studies Review (Richard S. Ascough), and The Expository Times(Jane Heath).

Melfi, Milena, “Uestigiis reuolsorum donorum, tum donis diues erat (Livy XLV, 28): the Early Roman Presence in the Asklepieia of Greece,” in Bolletino di Archaeologia On Line 2011

Palinkas, Jennifer, and James A. Herbst, “A Roman Road Southeast of the Forum at Corinth: Technology and Urban Development,” in Hesperia80 (2011), 287-336.

Papaioannou, Maria, “East Meets West: the Pottery Evidence from Abdera,” in Bolletino di Archaeologia On Line 2011

Pettegrew, David K., “The Diolkos of Corinth,” AJA 115.4 (2011), pp. 549-574. Images here.

Quercia, A., A. Johnston, A. Bevan, J. Conolly and A. Tsaravopoulos, “Roman Pottery from an Intensive Survey of Antikythera, Greece,” in Annual of British School at Athens106 (2011).

Robinson, Betsey, Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, Princeton 2011: American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (Reviews at Corinithianmatters and the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

Spaeth, Barbette Stanley, “Imperial Cult in Roman Corinth: a Response to Karl Galinsky’s ‘The Cult of the Roman Emperor: Uniter or Divider?,’” in J. Brodd and J.L. Reed (eds.), Rome and Religion: A Cross-disciplinary Dialogue on the Imperial Cult, Atlanta 2011, 61-82: Society of Biblical Literature.

Stover, Tim, “Unexampled Exemplarity: Medea in the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus,” Transactions of the American Philological Association141.1 (2011).

Tilg, Stefan, “Religious Feasting in Apuleius’s Metamorphoses: Appetite for Change?,” in
Transactions of the American Philological Association 141.2 (2011), 387-400.

Ubelaker, D.H., and J.L. Rife, “Skeletal analysis and mortuary practice in an Early Roman chamber tomb at Kenchreai, Greece,” in International Journal of Osteoarchaeology21.1 (2011), 1-18.

Late Antiquity

Brown, Amelia R., “Banditry or Catastrophe?: History, Archaeology, and Barbarian Raids on Roman Greece,” in R.W. Mathisen & D. Shanzer, eds., Romans, Barbarians, and the Transformation of the Roman World: Cultural Interaction and the Creation of Identity in Late Antiquity, Farnham 2011: Ashgate, pp. 79-96.

Cherf, William J., “Procopius De aedificiis 4.2.1–22 on the Thermopylae Frontier,” in Byzantinische Zeitschrift 104.1 (2011), 71–113.

Curta, Florin, “Still Waiting for the Barbarians?  The Making of the Slavs in ‘Dark-Age’ Greece,” in F. Curta (ed.), Neglected Barbarians, Turnhout Brepols Publishers: 2010, published online November 2011.

Friesen, Steven J., Daniel N. Schowalter and James C. Walters, Corinth in context: comparative studies on religion and society, Supplements to Novum Testamentum vol. 134, Leiden 2010: E. J. Brill. Reviews at Journal of Roman Archaeology (Dennis E. Smith), Journal of Theological Studies (David Horrell), Religious Studies Review (Richard S. Ascough), and The Expository Times(Jane Heath).

Hadler, Hanna, Andreas Vött, Benjamin Koster, Margret Mathes-Schmidt, Torsten Mattern, Konstantin Ntageretzis, Klaus Reicherter, Dimitris Sakellariou, Timo Willershäuser, “Lechaion, the Ancient Harbour of Corinth (Peloponnese, Greece) destroyed by Tsunamigenic Impact,” pp. 70-73.   [Article reviewed at Corinthian Matters]

Quercia, A., A. Johnston, A. Bevan, J. Conolly and A. Tsaravopoulos, “Roman Pottery from an Intensive Survey of Antikythera, Greece,” in Annual of British School at Athens106 (2011).

Robinson, Betsey, Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, Princeton 2011: American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (Reviews at Corinithianmatters and the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)


Hexamilion 2 (CM)

The trans-Isthmus “Hexamilion” wall, running 7 kilometers across the Isthmus of Corinth, constructed in the 5th century AD, with later episodic refurbishments.  In the day of its construction, it must have fundamentally altered the human landscape, the regional economy, and the local demands for labor.  Photos by D. Pettegrew 2005 and 2007.

Hexamilion 1 (CM)




Hexamilion 3 (CM)


Hexamilion 4 (CM)

Plan of the Isthmus and wall on sign below the intersection of wall with national highway. 

Reading Faith and Occupation in Late Antique Graffiti

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ano Vayia and Lychnari Tower

The Saronic coast of the southern Corinthia provides some of the most beautiful views of Corinthian territory.  It also provided for the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey some of its most spectacular finds.  One week spent in the area of Kalamianos near the harbor village of Korphos, for example, led to the discover of a major Mycenaean settlement—the end result being an entirely new research endeavor called the Saronic Harbors Archaeological Project.  In the area of Vayia and Lychnari Bay, Bill Caraher and his extensive team found an unknown rural tower and ‘farm’ of Classical-Hellenistic date.  He and I published these sites last year (with colleague Sarah James) in an article titled “Towers and Fortifications at Vayia in the Southeast Corinthia,” Hesperia 79.3 (2010), 385-415.  [Vayia (PDF Offprint) *Copyright © The American School of Classical Studies at Athens].  The abstract of that piece:

“Although rural towers have long been central to the discussion of the fortified landscapes of classical and Hellenistic Greece, the Corinthia has rarely figured in the conversation, despite the historical significance of exurban fortifications for the territory. the authors of this article report on the recent investigation by the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological survey of two towers and associated fortifications in the region of Vayia in the southeast Corinthia. by integrating topographic study, intensive survey, and architectural analysis, they suggest that these three sites served to guard an economically productive stretch of the Corinthian countryside and to protect—or block—major maritime and land routes into the region.”

There is plenty of material in Bill’s archived Archaeology of the Mediterranean World blog about our work in the Lychnari Bay area.  I have added to this website a series of pages in the photo gallery section:

This concludes my scanned slides of the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey.  Thanks again to Cindi Tomes of Messiah College’s Faculty Services for making this possible.  At some point soon, I will upload scans of slides from other parts of the territory and the urban center, as well as scanned prints from EKAS.

A few of the highlights from the new galleries.


Lychnari Bay (left), Ano Vayia (right lobe), and Saconic Gulf from the coastal highway to Epidaurus.  Ayioii Theodoroi smoke stacks in distance.


Lychnari Bay from the site of Ano Vayia.  Oneion and the Isthmus in background.


Remains of a building of late Classical-early Hellenistic date, probably used for guarding a strategic corridor to Corinth and protecting local citizen properties.


The team discusses the crumbled remains of the tower above Lychnari Bay.


Timothy Gregory reading pottery from the Ano Vayia buildings.