I recently returned from a week-long stint in the Corinthia. Every day I spent in the region was amazing. The weather was beautiful and perfect for archaeological fieldwork and the landscape was more stunning than I had remembered.
The research itself was rich, varied, and fruitful. I flew drones. I had coffee and lunch with friends, collaborators, and associates, which generated good conversations, leads, and new pathways. I visited the archives. I worked alongside a wildlife biologist who pointed out the rich landscape of Corinthian insect life that I had not paid too much attention to before. I walked again through the Greek countryside. I discovered things.
I won’t go into all the details here but will, if things go well, write in detail more about the projects this summer. In the meantime, here are some photographic snapshots of the week.
I missed this event last but it certainly deserves a place among my growing collection of extreme sports on the Isthmus of Corinth. Modern dancer Katerina Soldatou aerial dances over the Corinth Canal. The Greek Reporter noted that “dancer and yoga instructor Katerina Soldatou…carried out a breathtaking performance of extreme aerial dance suspended above the Corinth Canal, as part of the “Greece Has Soul” programme. The event was held in order to raise awareness of the environment and the need to respect the history of each place.” As Katerina says in her video, “Experiencing a place of great history throughout is a most fulfilling way of understanding its true value…Sometimes the time is now.”
This recent piece at the Greek Reporter — War and a Greek City: Corinth and its Revolution — discusses Greece’s Independence Day on March 25 from the perspective of the battle between Ottomans and Greeks over and around Corinth in 1822, when “Corinth” was Ancient Corinth, not the modern city to its northeast. News pieces on the 19th century Corinthia are exceptional (in English, anyway), so this one is worth a read. What especially caught my eye was the description of the destruction of Corinth’s countryside in the 1820s:
The failure by the Greeks to hold the city — which would have required only a small force of men in the early stages of the war — had angered independence fighters.
Greek commanders, among them the legendary Theodoros Kolokotronis (called ‘Colocotroni’ by Green) approached from Patras in the west and saw small Ottoman detachments raiding now-abandoned villages on the plain of Corinth.
On July 22, a column of 7,000 Ottoman cavalry and 4,000 infantry rode out to find a scorched-earth landscape, where all edible produce had been destroyed by the Greeks, leaving their forces running out of food.
Between August 4-7, having waited for reinforcements, the Greek forces attacked as the Ottoman commander gave the order for his army to return to Corinth “in great disorder”.
In the narrow mountain passes between Mycene and Corinth the retreating Ottomans’ rear guard was attacked, suffering 5,000 casualties in a few hours.
Twelve-hundred were also killed at the head of the advancing army. Green reports how European volunteers fighting with the Greeks there “expressed astonishment at the tranquil manner in which the Turks, both the infantry and cavalry suffered themselves to be cut down without making the smallest resistance as if they had looked upon themselves as consigned to death by some supernatural power”.
I’ve been working over the last year or so with colleague Kostis Kourelis to document the colony of Greek refugees established by American philanthropist Samuel Gridley Howe at a site known as “Washingtonia,” which was located in the modern village of Examilia on the Isthmus. Howe describes the insecurity and desolation of the countryside after the Greek war of independence and references the battle described above. At some point in the spring or summer, as I have time, I may write more about our work to investigate and locate Washingtonia. You can read more at the idea for the project at Kostis’ blog:
May you never find yourself along the Corinth Canal during a rainstorm.
Torrential rains last Monday led to massive collapse of stones and debris about the midpoint of the canal, just beyond an old pedestrian bridge and near the old German bunkers. The canal is scheduled to be out of service for fifteen days while crews clear the blockage of enormous limestone blocks and heaps of sediments and mud. Collapse occurred to the east of the location shown on the map below.
Thanks to drone footage by Up Drones, you can appreciate the bird’s eye view of the damage and the effort already underway to clean it up.
This is certainly not the first time we have seen collapse over the last 120 years. The German destruction of the canal’s bridges at the end of WWII led to massive blockage within. And if you ever sailed through or walked along the Canal, you can see the irregular walls that were at one time straighter than they are now.
Seventy-two years ago today, the city of Corinth was liberated from German occupation. Freelance journalist (and Corinthia resident) Damian Mac Con Uladh has done a little investigative work and posted to his blog an original news story (from the Sydney Morning Herald), footage of the liberation, and commentary. That story from the Sydney Morning Herald details the celebrations over the German withdrawal and a trip from Corinth to Patras to spread the word about the liberation. Damian’s post calls attention to the important role of 96-year old Mois Yussourum in resistance work in the Corinthia and liberation. Read the full story here.