Ancient City: Application of Novel Geo-Information Technologies in Ancient Greek Urban Studies

I received an email from Jamie Donati who kindly shared with me more information about the Ancient City project and website, which provides the:

Visit the Ancient City website to learn more. See Politeai for an affiliated project.


Bridge of the Untiring Sea (Gebhard and Gregory, eds.)

I finally have my hands on Bridge of the Untiring Sea: the Corinthian Isthmus from Prehistory to Late Antiquityfresh off the press (December 2015) from the Princeton office of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. I wrote briefly about this forthcoming book in June (here and here).

The Bridge has been a long time in the making. It began really with a half century of excavation and survey on the Isthmus (Broneer’s excavations began at Isthmia in 1952). A conference was held in Athens in 2007 celebrating that milestone, which proceeded quickly to chapters in 2008 before stalling out in a long period of revisions (my own chapter on Corinth’s suburbs went through at least eight drafts from conference paper to final proof). So this is a well-edited and thoroughly corrected collection, which means no reviewer should point out spelling mistakes and grammatical inconsistencies in my essay! As I haven’t seen hardly any of these essays since the original presentation in Athens, I’m excited to finally have a copy to read, especially since I’m wrapping up page proofs of another book on The Isthmus of Corinth.


The Bridge is a substantial book in paperback form, well-illustrated (160 figures) and carefully edited. It’s significantly smaller and about a third the weight of The Corinthia and the Northeast Peloponnese, another Corinthia conference published in 2014, which included 56 chapters and 558 pages on all aspects of the broad modern region of the Korinthia. While the editors’ introduction is short and efficient, the book just feels much more focused and coherent than The Corinthia and the Northeast Peloponnese with its sprawl of archaeological knowledge. The nearly 17 chapters and 400 pages of Bridge focus especially on the vicinity of the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia and, to some lesser extent, the broader region (technically the Isthmus, which has been generously extended in one chapter to the southeast Corinthia). Almost half of the essays (7 of 17) are devoted to the district of Isthmia in the geometric to Hellenstic periods (with chapters on subjects such as the Temple of Poseidon, the Rachi settlement, figurines, pottery, the Chigi Painter, and the West Foundation); another four chapters take on Roman subjects related to Isthmia (sculpture, agonstic festivals, Roman baths, East Field); there are a couple of Late Antique Isthmia essays (on lamps and the Isthmia fortress); and a few chapters consider the entire region (my piece on Roman settlement, Bill Caraher’s essay on the Justinianic Isthmus, and Tartaron’s piece on Bronze Age Kalamianos).

It’s worth noting that this is a collection of solid archaeological and (mostly) empirical essays on different facets of the history of the Isthmus, and especially the district of Isthmia. Some of the essays look like Hesperia articles with extensive catalogues and photos of artifacts. While the work’s scope provides “for the first time the longue durée of Isthmian history” (p. 1), covering the Mycenaean period to the end of antiquity, the editors do not attempt in the introduction (and there is no conclusion) to impose an overarching explanation or central thesis for the long-standing importance of the Isthmus through time. Rather, they offer a short discussion of its different values to ancient writers, an efficient overview of geography and topography of the broad Isthmus, a cursory history of research at Isthmia, and some discussion of recent research programs, publications, and approaches (which is only missing a substantial dicussion of recent efforts at digitization at Isthmia). What the introduction does establish is the long-lasting importance of the Isthmus in ancient thought and the important ties of the landscape to the city of Corinth — points that are discussed explicitly in many of the essays of the volume. But the essays largely stand on their own with little connection between.

In this respect, The Bridge of the Unitiring Sea should be most useful for Corinthian studies in its presentation of a series of state-of-the-field studies of different material classes (pottery, lamps, architecture, terracotta figurines) and sites, some of which are underpublished. Many of the scholars who have contributed essays to the volume have been engaged for years–decades, even–in archaeological research at Isthmia, the Isthmus, and Corinth and their material classes. The collection, for example, offers up-to-date assessments of the architectural development of the Temple of Poseidon, the history of settlement at Rachi, the West Foundation near Isthmia, the Roman bath, the mysterious “East Field” area near the Temple of Poseidon, and late antique lamps–most of which will form the subject of their own specialist publications in the future.

The work is valuable in a final respect in making available numerous up-to-date maps, plans, and illustrations: maps of the eastern Corinthia, the Isthmian district, the Sanctuary of Poseidon, and the Temple proper; maps of Bronze Age and Roman and Late Roman settlement in the Corinthia; state plans and restored views of the temple, sanctuary, and domestic architecture (at Rachi); reconstructed views of men at work; and dozens of photos of materials excavated at Isthmia.

As the Isthmus is central in so many ways to Corinthian history, this edited collection is a most welcome addition to the scholarship of the ancient Corinthia. And since the essays cover every period from prehistory to late antiquity (sadly, no medieval), and often consider the sanctuary’s relationship to Corinth specifically, this is a work relevant to anyone interested in ancient Corinth and Panhellenic sanctuaries.

Pleiades Retooled

Last month I noted that the Pleiades Gazetteer received a major digital humanities implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to make substantive changes to the project’s infrastructure. Tom Elliot has written a little more about how the grant will extend and improve the project’s functionality. Here’s the relevant section from the press release:

Over the next three years, ISAW will use these funds to retool the software that now underpins Pleiades to provide consistently faster performance, to make it easy to use with tablet and mobile devices, and to accelerate  and enable support for the broader ancient and early medieval worlds. Additional enhancements will make it easier for us to expand Pleiades content in a manner consistent with ISAW’s connective and comparative mission: extending cultural and geographic coverage to the Ancient Near East and Central Asia and temporal coverage through the Byzantine and Early Islamic Empires. The software upgrades will build on existing collaborations with the Pelagios network and the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing. Data sharing agreements with The Syriac Gazetteeral-Thurayyā GazetteerThe Early Islamic Empire at Work project, and other partners will reinforce and multiply the content creation work of the volunteer community of scholars, students, and enthusiasts who publish their geographic scholarship through Pleiades.Pleiades Coverage

Mapping the Ottomans: Sovereignty, Territory, and Identity in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Brummett)

This new book on the Ottomans published by Cambridge University Press should inform our readings of the sizable corpus of 16th to early 19th century traveler accounts to the Corinthia. The work considers how European maps, travel itineraries, and accounts of the eastern Mediterranean served to appropriate territory and construct an image of the Ottoman against classical and biblical imagery:

Brummett, Palmira. Mapping the Ottomans: Sovereignty, Territory, and Identity in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

The publisher page describes the book in the following way:

Mapping the Ottomans“Simple paradigms of Muslim-Christian confrontation and the rise of Europe in the seventeenth century do not suffice to explain the ways in which European mapping envisioned the “Turks” in image and narrative. Rather, maps, travel accounts, compendia of knowledge, and other texts created a picture of the Ottoman Empire through a complex layering of history, ethnography, and eyewitness testimony, which juxtaposed current events to classical and biblical history; counted space in terms of peoples, routes, and fortresses; and used the land and seascapes of the map to assert ownership, declare victory, and embody imperial power’s reach. Enriched throughout by examples of Ottoman self-mapping, this book examines how Ottomans and their empire were mapped in the narrative and visual imagination of early modern Europe’s Christian kingdoms. The maps serve as centerpieces for discussions of early modern space, time, borders, stages of travel, information flows, invocations of authority, and cross-cultural relations.”

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction: mapping empire and ‘Turks’ on the map
2. Reading and placing the ‘Turk’
3. Borders: the edge of Europe, the ends of empire, and the redemption of Christendom
4. Sovereign space: the fortress as marker of possession
5. Heads and skins: mapping the fallen Turk
6. From Venice and Vienna to Istanbul: the travel space between Christendom and Islam
7. Authority, travel, and the map
8. Afterword: mapping the fault lines of empire and nation.

While there are only a half dozen references to the Corinthia in the book, this kind of book reinforces previous scholarship on European traveler accounts in the Corinthia. An important dissertation by Leslie Kaplan, especially, has surveyed the “visions” and “tourist gazes” of early European visitors to Corinth and its environs. As the abstract (or at least part of it) puts it, her study

“examines the way in which the ideas and perceptions of foreign visitors shape the identity of a place. It takes as its subject travel accounts written by European visitors to the Corinthia in Greece in the period between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. These travelers looked at places they visited with certain expectations and ways of valuing them based on the worldview of their home culture. Their expectations were closely tied to popular theories of cultural identity, including romantic nationalism, evolutionary understandings of culture and an incipient colonialism. This study explores the evidence for different perspectives, or “gazes”, used to interpret these experiences. Special attention is paid to the impact those gazes have had on the development of a particular village, Ancient Corinth. The evidence for the gazes is found through an exploration of over one hundred fifty travel accounts published by European travelers who visited Greece after the Ottoman conquest (1453), though most of the extant accounts date from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries”

The thrust of Kaplan’s dissertation was recently published as a separate article titled ‘“Writing Down the Country”: Travelers and the Emergence of the Archaeological Gaze.,” in Stroulia and Sutton’s Archaeology in Situ: Sites, Archaeology and Communities in Greece (Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2010). That article, in my view, is a must read for students who converge every summer on ancient Corinth or archaeological work.