Dropping into Ancient Corinth (the CyArk and Google Partnership)

Years ago, a visitor to ancient Corinth (and other sites of Greece) had immediate access to most of the archaeological remains within the site. One could stand directly next to one of the standing columns of the Temple of Apollo, or even climb within the Fountain of Peirene, as I know a group of university students did two decades ago. Open access provided physical contact with remains thousands of years old, and the first-hand experience of exploring the complexities of ancient architecture, but this was not necessarily all good. There were dangers in letting visitors climb in and among the site’s entire remains, and the monuments themselves undoubtedly suffered for the wear. Eventually, the ropes, rails, and fences came, which bounded and directed the visitor’s experience, restricting access and keeping the visitor at a distance. At some sites, such as the fenced Lechaion basilica, fences effectively barred visitors from any access except during those rare times when the site opened its gates.

Digital environments are changing all of this again. While we cannot physically touch an archaeological site remotely, the advent of new tools for exploring sites from a distance mark an exciting development in archaeology today. You may recall that at the end of the excavation season in 2015, the ASCSA Corinth Excavations reported on efforts by members of CyArk — a non-profit that preserves cultural heritage sites through 3D modeling — to recreate the Peirene Fountain and Temple of Apollo. Last week CyArk and Google Arts and Culture announced a new partnership to make 3D models of Corinth and other archaeological sites around the globe available through its free digital archive. A gallery called Open Heritage features online exhibits and 3D models of sites and monuments. As the blog for Google Arts and Culture noted,

As part of this new online exhibition you can explore stories from over 25 iconic locations across 18 countries around the world, including the Al Azem Palace in war-torn Damascus, Syria and the ancient Mayan metropolis of Chichen Itza in Mexico. For many of the sites, we also developed intricate 3D models that allow you to inspect from every angle, using the new Google Poly 3D viewer on Google Arts & Culture.

 

Greek Reporter provides this brief overview of the work in Greece, with links to a TED Talk with Ben Cacyra, founder of Cyark.

Remote visitors to the Ancient Corinth Exhibition may with this slideshow “Explore Ancient Corinth Expedition” which explains how CyArk created their 3D models of Peirene Fountain and the Temple of Apollo (through LiDAR and photogrammetry) and showcases videos of late antique frescoes within the fountain of Peirene.

The expedition also links to pages that allows anyone to download the data. Here’s the lead page for the expedition:

In collaboration with the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, CyArk documented the mythical Peirene Fountain and the Temple of Apollo in the city of Ancient Corinth, Greece. Survey of the extant structures was conducted primarily with LiDAR and both terrestrial and aerial photogrammetry. The surviving frescoes within the Peirene Fountain were surveyed with an Artec scanner, which measures the 3D shape of a surface using pulsating light and a camera system. CyArk’s digital documentation of the temple and fountain provided the ASCS with accurate and precise data on the current state of preservation for both architectural complexes. In particular, it was important to record Peirene which is currently closed to the public due to concerns surrounding its preservation. This work was made possible through the generous support of the Macricostas Family Foundation

Then go on to explore the interactive map that allows any viewer to drop the little yellow street view figure onto any of the photogrammetry points. Voila — anyone can actually move within the Fountain of Peirene for the first time in decades. You can also explore 3D models of the Temple of Apollo and Peirene Fountain.

Recall that Google has already made available interactive imagery of Ancient Corinth through its street view feature: you can drop into almost any street in the village anytime you want. Through its “photo sphere”, you can also drop into the archaeological site and have a look around.


The Open Heritage collection along with Google Maps provides another great opportunity for teaching students and the public outside of Greece about ancient Corinth.

A Coin Hoard at Lechaion is not the Real Story

Some more Corinthian clickbait hit us last week in a series of news articles about a coin hoard from Lechaion. We have heard quite a bit in the past about the Lechaion Harbor Project (LHP), a Danish and Greek operation to document the underwater remains at Lechaion since 2013. Their press releases, which come at the end of each calendar year, find their way into media outlets around the world just in time for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We covered the work of the 2014 and 2015 seasons herehere, and here (2015), and press releases of their work in 2016 and 2017 can be found here and here.

The coin hoard, however, was found by the other Lechaion Project. Yes, that’s right, the other project. There are two separate, ongoing archaeological projects at Lechaion these days. While the Danish-Greek project has been investigating the underwater remains since 2013 and has received global coverage, the American-Greek Lechaion Harbor and Settlement Land Project (LHSLP) has been studying all the remains on land since 2014 and only begun excavation more recently. The results of their work are just beginning to circulate in archaeological conferences. It was this project that discovered the coin hoard.

Now, coins and coin hoards are always exciting to discover in an excavation, but they are not particularly mysterious, even (especially?) when discovered beneath the floors of collapsed buildings. LiveScience and Newsweek headlines suggest otherwise:   “1,500-Year-Old Coin Stash Leaves Archaeologists with Mystery”  and “RARE DISCOVERY OF 1,500-YEAR-OLD BRONZE COINS IN GREEK HARBOR PUZZLES SCIENTISTS”.  Archaeology magazine and Neos Kosmos toned down mystery and exception with more descriptive titles  “1,500-year-old bronze coins found at Greek harbour” (Neos Kosmos) and “Coin Hoard Unearthed Near Corinth’s Harbor” (Archaeology). According to these reports, the hoard includes coins from as early as the reign of Constantine century and as late as the reign of Anastasius, so it is interesting to think about the curation of coins and the longevity of circulation over nearly two centuries–and another reason for a little skepticism about dating excavation contexts from coins alone.

But there should be some bigger and more interesting stories to come out of the work of the LHSP, especially if results are coordinated with those of the LHP. As the LiveScience article reported, based on recent talks at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America and interviews with Paul Scotton and Michael Lerardi, the hoards were found in a putative work yard, which includes slag, iron, a basin, and animal bones. The Neos Kosmos  piece reports the discovery of “two large Roman civic basilicas….Believed to have been government buildings, one dates to all the way back to the end of the 1st century, meaning they are likely from the early Roman colony founded by Julius Caesar.” The work of the LHSLP, which includes survey, excavation, remote sensing, and geophysics, could contribute eventually to outstanding debates about Lechaion and, indeed, about Corinth herself, including: the origins of the harbor and the history of the visible works; the growing importance of Lechaion during the century-long interim period following Rome’s devastation of Corinth in 146 BC; the patterns of land division documented by David Romano dating to the third quarter of the first century AD that point to planned neighborhoods; the role of the harbor and its refurbishment during the visit of the emperor Nero and the reign of Vespasian; the relationship between Corinth and Lechaion in the Roman era; the environment of the famous Lechaion basilica church, an early Christian church excavated long ago by Dimitrios Pallas; and the “abandonment” of the harbor in the Byzantine period (there is an ongoing debate, after all, among geomorphologists and geologists about whether Lechaion was destroyed by tsunami or not, but that’s another story). And I will also note that in a region characterized by archaeological fiefdoms–where individuals, institutions, and ambitions lay claim to particular buildings, sites, and classes of material–it would be a great (touching even) human story if these projects found a way to share their data and build a complementary study of the harbor over the period of a millennium.

So, we can celebrate the finds that make clickbait, but hold out for a better story or two. Not any time soon, mind you, as archaeological study takes years, even decades, and the real significance and results of programs of fieldwork are even then not always obvious.

For more information on the work of the Lechaion Harbor and Settlement Land Project:

Early Byzantine Pottery from a Building in Kenchreai

Back in August, I noted that the American Excavations at Kenchreai had developed its own website and digital archive for artifacts recovered from investigations of the last half century. I was pleased to see later in the fall the release of this preliminary report about an assemblage of late Roman /early Byzantine pottery found in a sea-side building excavated by the Greek Archaeological Service in 1976, stored for decades at the site of Isthmia, and now restudied over the last few years:

Here’s the abstract for the paper:

This paper presents the results of preliminary study of Early Byzantine pottery from a large building near the waterfront at Kenchreai in southern Greece. Kenchreai served as the eastern port of Corinth throughout antiquity. The building was first excavated in 1976 by the Greek Archaeological Service, and it has been investigated since 2014 by the American Excavations at Kenchreai with permission from the Ministry of Culture under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The pottery is characterized by the presence of many Late Roman Amphora 2 rims as well as stoppers and funnels. This indicates that the building had a role in the distribution of regional agricultural products during its final phase, which is dated to the very late sixth or early seventh centures A.D. by African Red-Slip and Phocaean Red-Slip tablewares. A wide range of lamps, glass vessels, and other small finds has also been recorded. Results to date are preliminary but ongoing work may allow further precision as to the chronology and use of this building.

The article describes the results of excavations located on the property of Mr. Threpsiades, which exposed a building with “multiple large rooms flanking wide halls and an ornate peristyle, all enclosed in a trapezoidal arrangement.” Although the identification of the function of the building is uncertain (a villa of Middle or Late Roman construction is the best guess at this point), the building’s late phase is clear: an enormous quantity of pottery date the building to later 6th to early 7th centuries AD (the investigators believe the latest phase dates between about 580 and 600). The quantity is large even by ceramicist standards: the authors have so far processed 93 crates and 50,000 sherds, and that is not all of it. There are late forms of African Red Slip and Phocaean Red Slip table wares, some glass, and a substantial corpus of amphora fragments, mostly Late Roman 2 sherds, which are, as I have noted before, the most common kind of LR amphora documented on the Isthmus  The team has also documented many amphora stoppers and even a few ceramic funnels that would have been useful for moving liquids (like olive oil) between containers. The authors interpret the LR2 amphoras (which come in two different sizes) and the presence of stoppers and funnels as evidence for the movement of liquids between contains at Kenchreai and export in the late 6th century. As Heath et al. conclude,

“The Threpsiades complex provides rich evidence for local, if fleeting, prosperity and connectivity to an economic network. In this regard, the building’s situation so close to the waterfront is significant: it would have had direct or near direct access to maritime traffic, even if the structure was in partial ruin during its final years. It also must have been close to the main road heading inland toward Corinth. The Early Byzantine pottery kept inside such an advantageously located building illustrates a nexus of two-way trade, and it may capture a moment or trace a sequence in the decline of that trade. We suspect that many of the LRA2s, particularly the large ones, were destined to be shipped out from Kenchreai, perhaps containing Corinthian commodities.”

It’s interesting to consider that LR2 amphoras, which are in production for over two centuries, may differently reflect patterns of import and export within the same region. Bill Caraher and I have recently argued in this forthcoming volume that the abundance of LR2 amphoras in the fifth and sixth centuries point to patterns of supply associated with major state presence in the region: Theodosius II in the early 5th century and Justinian in the 6th. Of course, it’s also possible that amphoras arriving with one product were refilled and exported with another from Kenchreai.

What’s valuable about this preliminary report is its detailed case study of a thriving sea-side building and its ceramics that date to a time usually associated in peoples’ minds with disruption and invasion (the Slavs). It provides yet one more study that suggests the region did not suddenly end in 585 AD. The quantification of ceramics on this level (tens of thousands of sherds) is also valuable because such studies have been uncommon outside of Corinth (Scott Moore’s dissertation chapter quantifying the Roman pottery from the pottery dump at Isthmia is one exception); it will provide an excellent point of comparison with studies at Corinth. For those who have interest in neither late antiquity or ceramics, the article contains lot of interesting figures. Looking forward to seeing more information about this project as it develops.

On the Churches and Saints of Corinth

Kodratos of CorinthTomorrow marks the feast day of Kodratos, Corinth’s most famous ancient country saint martyred during the reign of the Emperor Decius. As I noted a number of years ago when I paraphrased a Latin version of his life, Kodratos was Corinth’s quintessential rural saint: an orphan raised by his Father God in the fields and mountains after his parents’ early death. When he descended into the city of sin and pleasure as an adult, smelling of the country (in a good way — as his biographer notes), he preached with eloquence and attracted a small group of like-minded associates (the famous Leonidas of Lechaion was a friend of his) until he and a few others were martyred by Jason the provincial governor. When confronted with torture, Kodratos responded: “Bring it on!”

The stories and biographies of Corinth’s martyrs and saints such as Kodratos remain largely inaccessible to an anglophone public today because they have rarely been translated, let alone paraphrased, from their Byzantine Greek and Medieval Latin sources (or the modern Greek summaries). In a similar way, most of the late antique churches around Corinth associated with Corinth’s martyrs were excavated by Greek archaeologists (Dimitrios Pallas, especially) who published their findings in Greek (or French and German), rarely in English.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Church of Kodratos in Ancient Corinth

Strangely, then, an English-speaking public is somewhat disconnected from the abundant early Christian remains in the Corinthia and the description of martyrs noted in Byzantine martyrologies and the Acta Sanctorum. This is unfortunate given both the popular interest in religion in Corinth and a healthy tourist industry oriented specifically around St. Paul and Christian pilgrimage.

 

There is, however, a growing body of scholarship in English discussing the churches around Corinth. These include:

  • William Caraher, “Church, Society, and the Sacred in Early Christian Greece,” PhD Dissertation, Columbus, 2003: Ohio State University. See also his two recent articles on the Lechaion basilica, which he has discussed and posted on his blog.
  • Brown, Amelia R. “Medieval Pilgrimage to Corinth and Southern Greece.” HEROM: Journal on Hellenistic and Roman Material Culture 1 (2012): 197–223.
  • Brown, Amelia R. “The City of Corinth and Urbanism in Late Antique Greece,” PhD Dissertation, Berkeley, 2008: University of California- Berkeley. Available as PDF here.
  • Richard Rothaus, Corinth: The First City of Greece, Leiden, 2000: Brill. See especially his chapter on Christianizing the city. Snippet view of part of the book available via Google Books
  • G.D.R. Sanders, “Archaeological Evidence for Early Christianity and the End of Hellenic Religion in Corinth,” in Schowalter and S.J. Friesen (eds.), Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, Cambridge, MA, 2005, 419-42. Freely available via Academia
  • V. Limberis, “Ecclesiastical Ambiguities: Corinth in the Fourth and Fifth Century,” in Schowalter and Friesen (eds.), Urban Religion in Roman Corinth, Cambridge, MA 2005, 443-457.
  • Sweetman, Rebecca J. “Memory, Tradition, and Christianization of the Peloponnese.” American Journal of Archaeology 119, no. 4 (2015): 501–31. Available for free download here.
  • Sweetman, Rebecca. “The Christianization of the Peloponnese: The Topography and Function of Late Antique Churches.” Journal of Late Antiquity 3, no. 2 (2010): 203–61.

I hope to work with a student or two at Messiah College next year to produce DIY English translations of some of these lives and perhaps descriptions of the churches. That would be a fun project.

This marks the fourth in a (mostly) Wednesday Lenten series on resources for the study of religion and Christianity in Corinth. Earlier posts include

 

 

 

 

 

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.

UntiringBridge_m

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.

The Long Lent

The liturgical season of Lent begins today in the western Christian churches. If you don’t know what this is, Lent is a penitential season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that culminates in the celebration of Easter / Pascha. As far as liturgical seasons go, it’s a pretty old one that had emerged clearly by the council of Nicaea in AD 325, and perhaps earlier in some form. Today it is universally celebrated by different Christian denominations (even the anabaptist and brethren in Christ college where I teach usually serves up an Ash Wednesday service to students). Sometimes eastern and western calendars are closely aligned so that Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians are celebrating the season (nearly) simultaneously. This year, these traditions have conspired against each other to produce about the greatest timespan possible between the celebration of western Easter (March 27) and Orthodox Pascha (May 1). This means that between eastern and western calendars, Christians will be in a lenten penitential season for nearly three months this year. And that’s a whole lot of Lent.

This liturgical season intersects in a number of ways with Corinthian studies.  The New Testament letters of 1 and WinterSkyCentralPA2 Corinthians, with all their discussion of repentance, salvation, the memorial of the last supper, and resurrection, among others, have made good material for for the lenten cycle of scripture readings (even this morning, at an Ash Wednesday mass, I heard 2 Corinthians 5.20-6.2). And the Corinthian saint Leonidas and his companions were martyred and are celebrated during Pascha/Easter (Sneak peak for next year: Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants will be celebrating Easter / Pascha the same day and on April 16, the feast day of Leonidas and companions. I’m working now with some Latin students at Messiah to prepare a little translation of the relevant passages about those saints from the Acta Sanctorum)

So it only seems appropriate that I re-launch my weekly series on resources and books for reading and understanding 1 and 2 Corinthians, early Christian communities, and religion in Roman Corinth. Yes, I planned to do this two years ago but wasn’t on my game. In fact, I’m pretty bad at delivering any series consistently. But I have a little more time this semester, and will aim to deliver a Wednesday series.

The Roman Audience: Classical Literature as Social History (Wiseman)

Wiseman_RomanAudienceThis new book by T.P. Wiseman caught my eye when I saw it via Google Alerts in late August. Published this fall by Oxford University Press, The Roman Audience: Classical Literature as Social History offers a novel interpretation of Roman literature and its reach to broad public audiences. The book is clearly relevant for a city like Roman Corinth, for which most of our textual evidence takes the form of elite literary culture. Excerpts are available here via Google  Books.

Wiseman, T. P., The Roman Audience: Classical Literature As Social History. Oxford University Press, 2015.

 

The publisher page at OUP describes the scope of the book in this way:

Who were Roman authors writing for? Only a minority of the population was fully literate and books were very expensive, individually hand-written on imported papyrus. So does it follow that great poets and prose authors like Virgil and Livy, Ovid and Petronius, were writing only for the cultured and the privileged? It is this modern consensus that is challenged in this volume.

In an ambitious overview of a thousand years of history, from the formation of the city-state of Rome to the establishment of a fully Christian culture, T. P. Wiseman examines the evidence for the oral delivery of ‘literature’ to mass public audiences. The treatment is chronological, utilizing wherever possible contemporary sources and the close reading of texts. Wiseman sees the history of Roman literature as an integral part of the social and political history of the Roman people, and draws some very unexpected inferences from the evidence that survives. In particular, he emphasizes the significance of the annual series of ‘stage games’ (ludi scaenici), and reveals the hitherto unexplored common ground of literature, drama, and dance. Direct, accessible, and clearly written, The Roman Audience provides a fundamental reinterpretation of Roman literature as part of the historical experience of the Roman people, making it essential reading for all Latinists and Roman historians.Readership: Scholars and students interested in Roman literature (particularly the work of Catallus, Horace, Ovid, and Lucian), history (especially the history of performance in ancient Rome), and politics.

Table of Contents
Preface
List of Illustrations
1: Times, Books, and Preconceptions
2: Rome Before Literature: Indirect Evidence
3: Rome Before Literature: Dionysus and Drama
4: An Enclosure with Benches
5: Makers, Singers, Speakers, Writers
6: A Turbulent People
7: Rethinking the Classics: 59-42 BC
8: Rethinking the Classics: 42-28 BC
9: Rethinking the Classics: 28 BC-AD 8
10: Under the Emperors
Notes
Bibliography
Index
  • Provides a fundamental reinterpretation of Roman literature
  • Offers a radical reassessment of the work of several classical authors
  • Presents a careful chronological treatment of the history of Rome up to c. AD 400

The End of Greek Athletics in Late Antiquity (Remijsen)

This new book by Sofie Remijsen, scheduled for publication this month with Cambridge University Press, offers a fresh evaluation of how and why the tradition of athletic competitions came to an end in late antiquity. A work like this is long overdue in light of the long-standing and battered assumption that an imperial edict of Theodosius the Great simply shut the games down in the later fourth century. Judging from the book description, Remijsen will debunk that myth in a sweeping study of the entire circuit of Greek games.

As the book description puts it at the publisher page, “This book presents the first comprehensive study of how and why athletic contests, a characteristic aspect of Greek culture for over a millennium, disappeared in late antiquity. In contrast to previous discussions, which focus on the ancient Olympics, the end of the most famous games is analysed here in the context of the collapse of the entire international agonistic circuit, which encompassed several hundred contests. The first part of the book describes this collapse by means of a detailed analysis of the fourth- and fifth-century history of the athletic games in each region of the Mediterranean: Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Italy, Gaul and northern Africa. The second half continues by explaining these developments, challenging traditional theories (especially the ban by the Christian emperor Theodosius I) and discussing in detail both the late antique socio-economic context and the late antique perceptions of athletics.”

 

The Table of Contents itself suggests that this work will offer a new starting point in its comprehensive discussion:
Introduction
Part I. An Overview of Athletics in Late Antiquity:
1. Greece
2. Asia Minor
3. Syria
4. Egypt
5. Italy
6. Gaul
7. North Africa
Conclusions to Part I
Part II. Agones in a Changing World:
8. A religious ban?
9. An imperial ban?
10. The athletic professionals
11. Athletics as elite activity
12. The practical organization of agones
13. The agon as spectacle
Conclusions to Part II.

 

Since our corporate friends at Google have already scanned sections and random pages of the book, I can see that there are frequent discussions of Corinth and Isthmia throughout, which will no doubt provoke fresh debate among Corinthian scholars, or at least a broader framework for consideration. Indeed, the work clearly advances the view that the ending of the athletic contests were much later than traditionally imagined (390s). Remijsen, for example, concludes (p. 167) that the Isthmian games ended in the period of AD 410-435, a date significantly later than either of the prevailing views which see athletic competition and religious cult ending in either the mid-third century date, or the late fourth. Moreover, pushing the end of athletic contests into the fifth century will also have broader implications for Corinthiaka. One passage I read, for example, reevaluates Antony Spawforth’s influential view (and that of Bruno Keil long before him) that the Emperor Julian’s Epistle 198 (“The Letter on behalf of the Argives”) was written not by Julian but some other author in the later first or early second century AD; Remijsen argues, rather, that the letter fits well within a mid-fourth century context.

 

That all of this comes from a snippet view suggests that the work has broad implications for the archaeology and history of the Roman and late antique Corinthia. Looking forward to reading the work and the critical reviews.

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.

LRLocas

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.

Deserted Villages Session: AIA 2016

Another interesting conference session is in the works—this one for the 2016 meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America on the theme of “Deserted Villages.” I had never seen as much talk on FB about “abandonment” and “formation processes” as the day last summer when friends began to bandy about this session idea.

Proposed Colloquium Session for the 2016 AIA Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, January 6-9, 2016

Organizers: Deb Brown Stewart and Kostis Kourelis on behalf of the Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology Interest Group, Archaeological Institute of America

Deadline for Submission of Abstracts: March 13, 2015

The Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology Interest Group invites proposals for papers on the topic “Deserted Villages” for a colloquium at the next AIA Annual Meeting. Of particular interest are papers that feature post-classical sites (late-antique, medieval, or post-medieval villages) and that address:

– definitions of “village” (archaeological or ethnographic),

– new fieldwork or new interpretations of data,

– research that brings together diverse sources of data, and

– historic preservation concerns.

The selected proposals will shape a fuller abstract for the colloquium.

If you have a suitable paper or idea, please send (1) authors’ names, (2) institutional affiliations, (3) contact information, (4) paper title, (5) approximate length of time for your presentation (no more than 20 minutes), and (6) an abstract (no more than 400 words and conforming to “AIA Style Guidelines for Annual Meeting Abstracts”) by March 13th to Deb Brown Stewart, debbrownstewart@gmail.com

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