Corinthian Matters in Corinth

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Corinth and its Revolution

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”.

You can read the rest here.

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:

 

2015 Publications in Corinthian Studies: Medieval-Modern Periods

This fourth installment in a series of bibliographic reports for 2015 focuses on post-antique bibliography. Download the report as PDF here:

The first three 2015 Bibliographic Reports:

Photo by David Pettegrew, June 3, 2014
Photo by David Pettegrew, June 3, 2014

The (Almost) Abandoned Village of Lakka Skoutara

Last Friday, the Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology in Greece Interest Group co-sponsored a colloquium in two sessions at the Archaeological Institute of America on the theme of “Deserted Villages.” The first session was devoted to the subject of villages before abandonment and included papers on “The ‘Dead Villages’ of Northern Syria” (Anna M. Sitz), “Village Desertion and Settlement Patterns in the Early Medieval Fayum, Egypt” (Brendan Haug), “Abandoned ‘Palaiomaniatika’ from Ottoman Defters, Aerial Survey, and Field Reconnaissance” (Rebecca M. Seifried), “The Deserted Village of Anavatos on the Island of Chios, Greece” (Olga Vassi), and “Routes and Abandoned Villages in the Western Argolid” (Dimitri Nakassis, William Caraher, Sarah James, and Scott Gallimore). The second session was devoted to villages during and after abandonment, and included papers

As Deb Brown’s and Kostis Kourelis’ abstract for the second session describes,

Each paper thoughtfully considers abandonment and post-abandonment histories traced through years of documentation and investigation of structures and settlements that were abandoned or partially abandoned in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each case study includes evidence from historical documents, photographs, and oral histories to offer a more nuanced understanding of the reasons for abandonment, behaviors associated with deserted villages and rural structures, and significance of deserted villages in cultural landscapes. The combined papers contribute new material for understanding protracted abandonment and postabandonment processes and have significant implications for archaeologists’ interpretation of landscapes, settlements, buildings, and assemblages.

I wasn’t able to attend but heard from friends that the colloquium was successful, and that the double session was audio recorded and will be released soon via the internet. I myself co-wrote a paper with friend and colleague Bill Caraher on Lakka Skoutara, an almost deserted (almost) village of the southern Corinthia. Bill and I have visited the little valley of LS about six different summers over the last fifteen years, together with collaborators Tim Gregory and Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory. A few years ago, we presented a paper about LS at the Modern Greek Studies Association biennial conference, and we’ve put together a substantial draft of an article to submit somewhere sometime soon. In Friday’s paper, we tried to show some good pictures of the slow abandonment of this settlement that began, arguably in the 1960s (!), and continues to this day. There are as many signs of life in this abandoned valley as there are signs of death.

Some images from our paper Friday. If you’re interested in seeing more, Bill has posted 620 photos via the archival platform Omeka. Here are some of images from Friday.

Below, Mr. Perras and donkey pose in front of Perras’ long house, still standing last we checked. Mr. Perras commutes frequently to visit the country house from the nearby village of Sophiko. Note the storage of an older set of tiles (provisional discard) in front of the house.

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The valley of Lakka Skoutara is just east of Sophiko and north of Korphos in the southeast Corinthia.

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We have counted 18 houses, house foundations, or storage buildings in the valley, plus a little church. There are numerous little agricultural valleys in the Corinthia and Argolid, which attracted seasonal or permanent habitation in the 19th and 20th century. LS was mostly seasonally inhabited except during the hard times such as World War II when settlement was more permanent.

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The table below shows that most of the houses correspond to the Balkan-style “long house” type.

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Many of the buildings today (or at least in 2012, when we were last there) look like this. They have lost their roofs and are quickly collapsing. When the former owner saw his house like this in 2005, he was moved to tears (he had not visited the house in years). This house also shows the mixed style of the later 20th century, which included traditional fieldstone construction combined with concrete cinderblocks. The feature in front of the house is a large cistern.

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Another image of collapse. Archaeological site in formation.

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The interior of another house which still stands and functions for seasonal work reveals a basin and provisional discard (tiles).

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The next three images show how quickly these abandoned houses can change. The first one shows a house with a full set of tiles in 2004, and the second and third show the house robbed of tiles by 2005. Very few of the houses had significant artifact assemblages associated with them. Most were depleted of material during or after abandonment.

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Another good sequence of collapse. The still standing building was being reused as an animal pen the first time we visited the valley. It then began to collapse.
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Collapse continued and worsened by 2009.
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But today, it’s still in use by an area shephered, who makes use of the well associated with the house.
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If the audio for these sessions should go up in the next month or so, I’ll post a link.

 

 

Corinthiaka

Every month I sort through hundreds of google alerts, scholar alerts, academia notices, book review sites, and other social media in an attempt to find a few valuable bits to pass along via this site. I ignore the vast majority of hits that enter my inbox, store away those that I plan to develop into their own stories, and then release the ephemera (or those I fail to convert to stories) via these Corinthiaka posts. Here are a few from the last month–a small selection of the news, stories, and blogs about the Corinthia.

UnionpediaArchaeology and Classics:

New Testament:

Modern Greece:

 

Target Corinth Canal

This new book by Platon Alexiades is the first of its kind to narrate the important role of the Corinth Canal in Allied and Axis operations during World War II. Target Corinth Canal: 1940-1944 (Pen and Sword, 2015) offers a narrative of the canal’s central place in the logistics of supply and control between 1940 and 1944. I tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy via interlibrary loan, so have had to rely on the publisher page, Google and WorldCat to reconstruct the contents. Here is the book description from the publisher page:

 

Target Corinth Canal 1940–1944During the Second World War the Corinth Canal assumed an importance disproportionate to its size. It was the focus of numerous special Allied operations to prevent oil from the Black Sea reaching Italy, to delay the invasion of Crete and severing the vital German supply lines to Rommel’s Army in North Africa. German airborne forces occupied the Canal to cut off the ANZAC retreat and Hitler needed the Canal kept open to maintain control of the Aegean Sea. Were this lost, he feared Turkey entering the War on the Allied side. Target Corinth Canal unearths a treasure trove of facts on the little known operations by SOE and other special force units. Heroes such as Mike Cumberlege emerge from the pages of this splendid work of military history.”

 

The table of contents suggests a play-by-play political and military narrative:
Chapter 1: Greece and the Corinth Canal
Chapter 2: The navy and the Mediterranean 1940
Chapter 3: Soe in Greece
Chapter 4: The Corinth Canal and the dodecanese islands;
Chapter 5: The British intervention in Greece;
Chapter 6: First attempt;
Chapter 7: The Canal is Seized;
Chapter 8: Retreat and Recriminations;
Chapter 9: The Royal Air Force Attempts;
Chapter 10: Clandestine Work for Mi9;
Chapter 11: The Greek Resistance;
Chapter 12: The Corinth Canal and the Battle of el Alamein;
Chapter 13: new plans: Thurgoland and Locksmith
Chapter 14: operation LOCKSMITH
Chapter 15: Capture;
Chapter 16: double-Cross Attempt;
Chapter 17: Apollo and the don Stott episode;
Chapter 18: last Attempt: The Germans;
Chapter 19: Sachsenhausen;
Chapter 20: Fate and Justice;
Chapter 21: Conclusion; epilogue;
Appendix A: Abbreviations, pseudonyms and Codenames;
Appendix B: personalities;
Appendix C: Traffic in Corinth Canal from 16 May to 22 June 1941;
Appendix d: Traffic in Corinth Canal from June 1942 to 7 August 1942;
Appendix e: Use of the Corinth Canal by U-boats;
Appendix F: The Cairo questionnaire concerning the Corinth Canal
Appendix G: Schemes proposed by Major Tsigantes
Appendix h: limpets and naval Sabotage in the Second World War;
Appendix i: Ships sunk or damaged by Soe and Greek saboteurs;
Appendix J: The Kiel Canal

 

I will be interested to see how well the author has discussed the canal within a regional framework. Diana Wright, for example, published two posts presenting Australian and New Zealand accounts from April 1941 (here and here), which highlighting the Isthmus as a bridge for the Anzac retreat from Athens through the Peloponnese, and, then, later, a German prisoner of war camp. In the Eastern Korinthia Survey, we documented quite a few German gun emplacements and bunkers across the ridges and capes of the Corinthian Isthmus that give a sense of the German investments. The images below were taken at Akra Sophia not far from the canal.



Corinthiaka, July 31, 2015

Here is this Friday’s dose of Corinthiaka–the ephemeral material, news, and blogs to go online over the last two weeks. Or at least the material that my alerts captured.

Archaeology and Classics:

  • One of those sweet 3D video fly-overs from Lechaion to Corinth in the Second century. Lots of inaccuracy combined with imaginative reconstruction here, but also some value. I love the view down the road from Lechaion (Georgios Terzis, “History in 3D” @DailyMotion)

Corinth3D_1

Corinth3D_2

 

 

 

New Testament:

Modern Greece:

 

An old dream realized at last, ship-canal through isthmus

The Library of Congress continues to build its collections of prints and photographs with a few Corinthian ones among them. I love this old stereo card print from 1906 showing the Corinth canal, opened little more than a decade earlier on July 25, 1893.

CanalSlide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metadata from the Library of Congress:

Title: An old dream realized at last, ship-canal through isthmus, E.S.E. Corinth, Greece

Summary: Man standing on bridge above canal in foregrd.

Created / Published: c1906.

Notes:

–  Stereo copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood.

–  No. (36) 9305.-  This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.

–  Caption card tracings: Canals…; Greece Corinth; Photog. I.; Shelf.

 

 

Coming Soon: Rural Lives and Landscapes in Late Byzantium (Gerstel)

Landscape approaches to the Byzantine world are still uncommon these days despite the increasing integration of regional approaches into ancient and medieval studies generally. It is gratifying, then, to see that another work dedicated to the subject of Byzantine landscapes will be out in print this month. Sharon Gerstel’s book looks delightful  in its combination of different sources of evidence and its abundant illustrations: churches of Attica, the Peloponnese, Crete, and Aegean islands; archaeological survey data from the Pylos region; and the local memory through ethnographic work in Greek villages. Here are some of the details:

Rural Lives and Landscapes in Late ByzantiumGerstel, Sharon E. J. Rural Lives and Landscapes in Late Byzantium: Art, Archaeology, and Ethnography. Cambridge University Press, 2015. 

 

 

 

Table of Contents:

1. The landscape of the village
2. Communication and the village church
3. The village woman
4. Village men, village labor
5. In the service of the church
6. The body and the soul.

Description:

“This is the first book to examine the late Byzantine peasantry through written, archaeological, ethnographic, and painted sources. Investigations of the infrastructure and setting of the medieval village guide the reader into the consideration of specific populations. The village becomes a micro-society, with its own social and economic hierarchies. In addition to studying agricultural workers, mothers, and priests, lesser-known individuals, such as the miller and witch, are revealed through written and painted sources. Placed at the center of a new scholarly landscape, the study of the medieval villager engages a broad spectrum of theorists, including economic historians creating predictive models for agrarian economies, ethnoarchaeologists addressing historical continuities and disjunctions, and scholars examining power and female agency.”

Limited excerpts of texts and images are available via Google Books.

Travels among the New Greek Ruins

In the lead-up to the Greek referendum on Sunday, Corinth made a solid showing in news articles, blogs, and commentary. The Guardian called the Corinthia a weather vane of Greek politics and a predictor for the outcome of the referendum, and archaeologist Stephen Miller suggested polling the customers of a local bar in Nemea to gage public opinion on the matter. MSN UK painted the Corinth Canal as a metaphor for the feeling of division in Greece (which, as the vote showed, was less divided on the European Commission agreement than initial polls predicted). Then there was a range of articles that interviewed Corinthians from different villages – to get some perspective outside of the Athens metropolitan area.

This piece (“How Greece Got to No”) yesterday in The Wall Street Journal caught my attention. Christopher Bakken reviews a new book by James Angelos on how the Greek crisis has affected ordinary people and why a “No” vote was so significant. Here’s a taste of the article:

As a Greek-American boy, James Angelos spent summers in his grandmother’s village in Greece. That village was Corinth, which he remembers as a “humble and largely agrarian” backwater that also happened to be situated across the road from the ruins of an ancient city. Push back the soil from any patch of Greek land and you’re likely to reveal something. Mr. Angelos’s timely book, “The Full Catastrophe,” does just that in famous and less well-known sites across the country.

Mr. Angelos, a former Journal correspondent, travels through Greece as a journalist first, and a native son second, to conduct a mostly unpleasant archaeology….

Mr. Angelos’s book allows us to see how these problems play out, sometimes farcically, in the lives of actual people.

Read the rest of the essay here.

Two other interesting pieces caught my eye :