The Vampire on the Isthmus: A Halloween Tale

It is hard to know why ancient writers found Corinth and its territory a region suitable for placing ghosts, witches, and vampires, and whether the region was any more haunted than other towns and countrysides of the ancient world.  The destruction of Corinth by the Romans in 146 BC made the city a gloomy ghost town for a century – or at least that is how some Roman writers and modern authors have imagined it: “I felt the ghosts of Corinth watching me” (Steven Saylor).  But the transient character of the Isthmus and the ‘foreign’ elements of the local population also contributed in some ways to stories of spooky beings like the Phoenician vampire bride of Corinth. 

I first discovered Philostratus’ account of the vampire bride while conducting dissertation research related to the Roman Isthmus.  In his 3rd century AD account, Philostratus tells how a Lycian philosopher named Menippus was nearly devoured by his vampire bride on his wedding day, saved at the last moment by the miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana.  The story interestingly brings together many associations of ancient Corinth—Kenchreai , the Isthmus, the center of Hellas, foreign populations (Lycian and Phoenician), associations with philosophy, suburbs of Corinth, the (illusive) pleasures of Aphrodite, and the wealth of the city—that relate illusive beings to transient places.  The following passage from Philostratus VA 4.25 was translated by F.C. Conybeare:

“Now there was in Corinth at that time a man named Demetrius, who studied philosophy and had embraced in his system all the masculine vigor of the Cynics. Of him Favorinus in several of his works subsequently made the most generous mention, and his attitude towards Apollonius was exactly that which they say Antisthenes took up towards the system of Socrates: for he followed him and was anxious to be his disciple, and was devoted to his doctrines, and converted to the side of Apollonius the more esteemed of his own pupils.

Among the latter was Menippus a Lycian of twenty-five years of age, well endowed with good judgment, and of a physique so beautifully proportioned that in mien he resembled a fine and gentlemanly athlete. Now this Menippus was supposed by most people to be loved by a foreign woman, who was good-looking and extremely dainty, and said that she was rich; although she was really, as it turned out, not one of these things, but was only so in semblance.

For as he was walking all alone along the road towards Cenchraeae, he met with an apparition, and it was a woman who clasped his hand and declared that she had been long in love with him, and that she was a Phoenician woman and lived in a suburb of Corinth, and she mentioned the name of the particular suburb, and said: “When you reach the place this evening, you will hear my voice as I sing to you, and you shall have wine such as you never before drank, and there will be no rival to disturb you; and we two beautiful beings will live together.”

The youth consented to this, for although he was in general a strenuous philosopher, he was nevertheless susceptible to the tender passion; and he visited her in the evening, and for the future constantly sought her company as his darling, for he did not yet realize that she was a mere apparition.

Then Apollonius looked over Menippus as a sculptor might do, and he sketched an outline of the youth and examined him, and having observed his foibles, he said: “You are a fine youth and are hunted by fine women, but in this case you are cherishing a serpent, and a serpent cherishes you.”

And when Menippus expressed his surprise, he added: “For this lady is of a kind you cannot marry. Why should you? Do you think that she loves you?”

“Indeed I do,” said the youth, “since she behaves to me as if she loves me.”

“And would you then marry her?” said Apollonius.

“Why, yes, for it would be delightful to marry a woman who loves you.”

Thereupon Apollonius asked when the wedding was to be. “Perhaps tomorrow,” said the other, “for it brooks no delay.” 

Apollonius therefore waited for the occasion of the wedding breakfast, and then, presenting himself before the guests who had just arrived, he said: “Where is the dainty lady at whose instance ye are come?”

“Here she is,” replied Menippus, and at the same moment he rose slightly from his seat, blushing.

“And to which of you belong the silver and gold and all the rest of the decorations of the banqueting hall?”

“To the lady,” replied the youth, “for this is all I have of my own,” pointing to the philosopher’s cloak which he wore.

And Apollonius said: “Have you heard of the gardens of Tantalus, how they exist and yet do not exist?”

“Yes,” they answered, “in the poems of Homer, for we certainly never went down to Hades.”

“As such,” replied Apollonius, “you must regard this adornment, for it is not reality but the semblance of reality. And that you may realize the truth of what I say, this fine bride is one of the vampires, that is to say of those beings whom the many regard as lamias and hobgoblins. These beings fall in love, and they are devoted to the delights of Aphrodite, but especially to the flesh of human beings, and they decoy with such delights those whom they mean to devour in their feasts.”

And the lady said: “Cease your ill-omened talk and be gone”; and she pretended to be disgusted at what she heard, and in fact she was inclined to rail at philosophers and say that they always talked nonsense. When, however, the goblets of gold and the show of silver were proved as light as air and all fluttered away out of their sight, while the wine-bearers and the cooks and all the retinue of servants vanished before the rebukes of Apollonius, the phantom pretended to weep, and prayed him not to torture her nor to compel her to confess what she really was.

But Apollonius insisted and would not let her off, and then she admitted that she was a vampire, and was fattening up Menippus with pleasures before devouring his body, for it was her habit to feed upon young and beautiful bodies, because their blood is pure and strong.

I have related at length, because it was necessary to do so, this the best-known story of Apollonius; for many people are aware of it and know that he incident occurred in the center of Hellas; but they have only heard in a general and vague manner that he once caught and overcame a lamia in Corinth, but they have never learned what she was about, nor that he did it to save Menippus, but I owe my own account to Damis and to the work which he wrote.”

Histories of Peirene

There are no monuments of ancient Corinth more famous and iconic than the Fountain of Peirene.  Any modern visitor who has wandered among the ruins will likely have shot a photo like the one below of the Roman spring facade and court.  And anyone who walks into a tourist shop will have seen plenty of postcard images of the arcade and courtyard.  Indeed, the fountain ranks as one of the greatest discoveries of the American School of Classical Studies Excavations at Corinth.

bartleyvisit 365

In recent years, a rope around the courtyard has kept tourists a stones throw away from the arcade but only 10-15 years ago, the visitor could walk directly on the pavements.  This seeming accessibility to the monument in former days, however, was itself nothing more than a facade, for the court and arches and columns represent but the start of an intricate underground water system stretching hundreds of meters beneath the Roman forum, and the architecture preserved today marks a visual fragment of numerous phases of construction, use, additions, and renovations.   The publication of Betsey Robinson’s Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia (The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Princeton 2011) is a major milestone in Corinthian studies because it makes accessible the complex histories of a monument that was always central to the life of the ancient city.

Arkadia_June 4 017 

Histories of Peirene has much to say about contexts and histories.  The first part of the book (Chs. 1-4) places the fountain into its various landscapes: the physical subterranean landscape of topography, springs, and underground tunnels (Ch. 1), the imaginative conceptions of well-watered Corinth promoted through ancient visual images and literature (Ch. 2), and the history of archaeological investigations of the American School’s Excavations (Ch. 3), including especially the work of the excavator Bert Hodge Hill (Ch. 4) whose life was dedicated to documenting and publishing the fountain.  The second part of the book (Chs. 5-11) offers a “biography of the fountain” from the Geometric era through post-antique periods.  Two chapters explore the Geometric-Hellenistic developments (Ch. 5 and 6), three are dedicated to Early Roman phases (Ch. 7-9), and one each to the 4th and 5th century (still visible today) and post-antique phases.  

An outline:

1. Peirene Today and Yesterday: Anatomy and Physiology

2. The Storied Spring: Peirene in Pictures and Poetry

3. Great and Fearful Days: the Rediscovery of Peirene

4. A Corinthian Hydra: the Labors of Bert Hodge Hill

5. Beginnings: Hellenic and Hellenistic Peirene

6. Corinthian Grotesque: The Cyclopean Fountain

7. The Genius of Place and Master: Romanizing Peirene

8. High Roman Style: the Marble Court

9. A Pendant for Peirene: The Scylla of Corinth

10. Palace for the People: The Triconch Court

11. The Ruin of a Beautiful Thing

In a certain sense, this study is written for scholars and archaeologists, the sorts of people who would feel at home reading through the stratigraphic descriptions of a field report in the journal Hesperia or trudging through a final archaeological report in the Corinth series.  One finds in Histories many interpretive essays, arguments, and hypotheses based on detailed and comparative discussions of art and architecture, block dimensions, walls, faces, phases, and dating.  Robinson arrives at many original conclusions along the way.  To name a few, the enigmatic and grotto-like Cyclopean Fountain is actually a 6th century BC creation and designed to represent a natural grotto, the dark home of the famous nymph Peirene; the memory and monument of Peirene was appropriated early in the life of the new Roman colony because the mythology surrounding the nymph, Pegasos, and Bellerophon was historically meaningful and generally known; and the triconch court, still visible today, is later 4th (not 2nd) Century AD.

But the work is also accessible and relevant to a wider readership including, for example, anyone interested in New Testament studies or Greek and Roman archaeology.  Allow me to explain why.

1. This book is not simply a study of a fountain, but a study of the most famous fountain in Greece and a monument that was central to the city’s ancient image.  Peirene is the only Corinthian fountain to have held widespread and enduring literary fame in antiquity.  As such, it is, like the Isthmus and Acrocorinth and the harbors, a major orienting point in the landscape for understanding Corinthian history and ancient conceptions of the city.  Peirene was so identified with Corinth, in fact, that it became another name for the city. The nymph and her associates-associations such as the hero Bellerophon, Pegasos the horse, the grotto and fountain, and Acrocorinth appear on a wide range of media (protocorinthian pottery, red-figure vases, wall painting, stone reliefs, sarcophagi, coins, glass phiales, and silver cups) across a wide span of space (Patras, Pompeii, Rome, S. Italy, Algiers, Tyre) over a long period of time (7th century BC to 4th century AD).  The Corinthian myth of Peirene and the importance of her fountain would have been common knowledge for any educated child in antiquity.

2. This is a visual work.  While the text of the work is lengthy (nearly 400 pages with notes and references), one finds nearly 200 figures, some in color, some black and white, including photos of architecture, wall paintings, coins, statues, elevations, aerial photos, and architectural plans.  The photos take us into Corinth’s watery underland and back in time to the first excavations at the site in the late 19th century.  Collectively the images are instructive and interesting and demonstrate how art historical evidence can inform our understandings of material contexts.  

3. The book provides an excellent introduction to the water systems of ancient Corinth.  The Roman facade and arcade are only the beginning of the fountain.  The spring facade gives way to chambers, drawbasins, reservoirs, and tunnels through the marl of Corinth’s plateau.  We learn how Corinthian geography naturally channels water, how the fountain flows at a rate of 7-12 cu. meters / hour, how ancient engineers created a vast underland of tunnels, and how the water of Peirene is salty, hard, and easily contaminated.  We also meet some inhabitants of the underland including bats, crabs, freshwater shrimp, and early 20th century archaeologists. 

4. The third and fourth chapters are a riveting case study in the history of classical archaeology in the early to mid-20th century through quotations from field notebooks and correspondence.  We learn of the discovery of the monument at the start of American School excavations at Corinth and how it provided the key to unlocking the entire urban plan.  We discover quite a bit about early methods of excavation: 500 railroad carts of earth were removed per day.  We hear about the difficult, miserable, and heroic process of clearing earth and mud from the entire tunnel system in the first three decades of the 20th century, and the ensuing results: desertion of workers, broken bones, bouts of malaria and typhoid, and even deaths of directors.  We find Bert Hodge Hill, the principal excavator of the site, giving site tours to German soldiers during World War II and unable to complete the work after the war due to his perfectionist personality and ethnical obligations to the villagers to sanitize the water.  

5. The study provides an up-to-date chronological discussion of the complex history of Peirene.  The visitor to Corinth peers on a marble facade of the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, and thinks she is beholding the ancient fountain.  But the fountain is (like most archaeological sites) actually a complex palimpsest of development, aggregation, revision, and transformation that stretches centuries of time from the 8th century BC to the 20th century.  Robinson makes these histories accessible and gives readers the diachronic overview of one of the social focal points of Corinth at many points in its history.  In making accessible the chronological phases of the fountain, Robinson also contextualizes the developments in terms of the broader urban development of Corinth—we, consequently, learn a good deal about the history and archaeology of Corinth.  People who study or dabble in New Testament studies will find in Ch. 7 a valuable overview of current debates about Romanization and Hellenization.  Writers of historical fiction will find plenty of text and visual material for creative retellings. 

6. Finally, Robinson’s overall approach is not a technical archaeological report so much as a contextual study of text and material culture.  There’s a creative flow that makes it interesting reading.  From the book jacket, we appreciate the basic idea of this flow:

“Peirene developed from a nameless spring to a renowned source of inspiration, from a busy landmark in Classical Corinth to a quiet churchyard and cemetery in the Byzantine ear, and finally from free-flowing Ottoman fountains back to the streams of the source within a living ruin.  These histories of Peirene as a spring and as a fountain, and of its water imagery, form a rich cultural narrative whose interrelations and meanings are best appreciated when studied together.”

Such webs of meaning bring otherwise dry archaeological evidence to life through association with ancient poetry, modern stories, and visual media.  In short, this text should be of interest to many different kinds of readers interested in Corinth. 

For further review, see:

  • Andrew Reinhard’s overview at the ASCSA webpage including a preview (PDF) of front matter and Chapter 1 and 3.
  • Bill Caraher’s review at The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

Preaching Corinthians from Historical and Archaeological Background: Some Resources

How important is understanding cultural and social background for preaching and teaching on 1 and 2 Corinthians?  In late July, I stumbled upon Michael Bird’s post at Evangelion on the importance of understanding background for effective preaching.  He comments on video discussion (reposted below) between D.A. Carson and John Piper about whether a pastor whose time is limited ought to sit down with books about the historical background of Corinth before preaching from the letters.  If a teacher has a long day, say 10 hours, to better understand the Corinthian situation, how should the day be spent?  Studying social and cultural background or getting to know the letters better?  In the video, Piper suggests that the time would be better spent on reading and learning the letters themselves while Carson suggests that understanding background is fundamental.

The interesting discussion points to the varied discussion in New Testament studies about different sorts of contexts for understanding the first Christian communities at Corinth: social and economic, archaeological, epistolary and rhetorical, etc…  See, for example, my summary posts of 2011 SBL conferences here and here.  See also Matt Malcolm’s recent post at cryptotheology for a juxtaposition of the social-historical and the textual-rhetorical.

I get both sides of this debate and can understand why a teacher or homilist with only a day to prepare for a sermon series would not want to spend it reading through, say, the American School of Classical Studies volumes of the Corinth series.  But, of course, as an ancient historian and archaeologist, I see tremendous benefit in knowing the worlds in which ideas were formulated.  I couldn’t imagine disconnecting that text from real place and time.  And as a Christian, I think the very notion of the incarnation requires sensitivity to time and place.

But on to main my point.  For the preacher who does see the value of committing some time to studying the cultural and social background of the first Christian communities at Corinth, what resources are available for better understanding Roman Corinth?  In his post, Bird suggests that you sit down and

“read books by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Bruce Winter, and Gerd Theissen, check out some inscriptions if you can find them in print or on-line. Then launch into your study of Corinthians week by week, passage by passage, with a good historically sensitive commentary on hand like Anthony Thiselton, Gordon Fee, David Garlington, or Brian Rosner and Roy Ciampa.”

I like his choices. Reading Gerd Theissen’s now classic The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth opened my eyes to the social stratification of the Christian communities at Corinth.  Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, St. Paul’s Corinth: Text and Archaeology is also “classic.”  In its third edition (2003), it is still an excellent compilation of literary sources related to Roman Corinth and pays attention to the archaeology of the city.  Bruce Winter’s After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (2001) is an excellent attempt to bring relevant Roman textual sources and the material culture of the city to bear on understanding 1 Corinthians.  Each of these books is accessible and affordable.

However, all three of these books were written by New Testament scholars and are based on research 10-30 years old.  So, I’d like to add the following possible resources to the list:

  • A synthesis of the Roman Corinthia like Donald Engel’s Roman Corinth(1990).  The work is out of date, but still useful, brief, and digestible. It’s expensive, however, so borrow from a library if available.  Read reviews of the book as some of Engels’ interpretations were controversial and some proved incorrect.
  • One of the three works by the Daniel Schowalter and Steven Friesen crew.  These guys have brought together New Testament scholars, historians, and archaeologists for three conferences over the last decade.  Two of these conferences have appeared in print, and a third is on its way.  These volumes offer up to date syntheses of scholars working in the field.
    • Daniel Schowalter and Steven Friesen (eds.), Urban Religion in Roman Corinth: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Harvard 2005). The reader can selectively read or browse chapters devoted to urban religion, sacred prostitution, cultures of water, burial practices, and the archaeology of early Christianity, along with chapters on the Pauline letters.
    • Steven Friesen, Daniel Schowalter, and James Walters (eds.), Corinth in Context: Comparative Studies on Religion and Society (Leiden 2010).  Continues the conversation of Urban Religionwith chapters on (among others) colonists, identity, coinage, Asklepios, Corinthian names, house churches, sacred meals, Kenchreai, and the countryside.  Best to get this from your local library, if possible, since the volume is so expensive.
    • Steven Friesen, Sarah James, and Daniel Schowalter, Corinth in Contrast (Leiden 2012).  Explores the idea of contrast and inequality at Corinth.  See a summary post of the conference here, and reports on the conference here, here, here, and here.
  • Williams and Bookidis (ed.) Corinth, the Centenary: 1896-1996(2003).  This is a great volume, with 26 valuable synthetic pieces on everything under the sun: clay, stone, baths, sanctuaries, pottery, bronze, city planning, trade.
  • As for commentaries, I would add Scott Nash’s 1 Corinthians to the list since it is recent (2009) and written with an awareness of archaeological evidence.  Nash knows the Corinthia well and has worked with the OSU Isthmia Excavations.

What would your list look like?

Corinth in Context at Society of Biblical Literature, London 2011

Last week I spent conferencing in London at the international meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.  With the exception of one rainy day, the weather was cool and beautiful.  My own visit was improved by the presence of my wife, Kate, and toddler son James, who ensured that I spent more time at London’s best playgrounds and parks than the typical tourist attractions.

At the conference on the Waterloo campus of King’s College, I made it my goal to attend as many of the Corinth papers as possible.  There were a lot of Corinth papers, and I was only somewhat successful.  I have said it before that New Testament scholars have a great deal to say about Corinthian matters – more perhaps by volume than archaeologists and historians (compare the annual corpus of dissertations and publications).  And they are especially interested in understanding the various contexts that might shed light on the Corinthian community to whom Paul writes in 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In my own reading of the papers and abstracts, there were six sorts of contexts or aspects of Corinthians that the presenters discussed.  These are not neat and exclusive categories, of course, but I think they represent some of the main categories of research of NT scholars:

1. Historical and Social Contexts

A number of papers aimed to understand or explain aspects of 1 and 2 Corinthians by seeking, describing, or applying historical and social contexts.  So, for example, two papers dealing with meat and idols address the likely historical situation behind 1 Cor. 8-10 (I regret that my inability to figure out the London Underground led me to miss both of these):

Similarly, Oh-Young Kwon (A Glimpse of Greco-Roman Practice of Collegia Sodalicia in 1 Cor 8 and of Collegia Tenuiorum in 1 Cor 15) suggested that Christian participation in voluntary collegia would help to explain passages in 1 Corinthians dealing with eating meat sacrificed to idols and the resurrection of the dead, while Sin Pan Daniel Ho’s paper (Unmasking a Scandalous Taboo or Taking a Stand Against the Streams? A Counter-cultural Reading of 1 Cor 5:1 and its Implication for the Theme of 1 Cor 5) examined attitudes to sexuality in the first century to argue that incestuous unions were not all that shocking to the early Corinthian Christians!

Other papers along these lines:

Listening to the papers and the audience feedback suggested suggested several difficulties in doing this kind of work:

a) Establishing the general context, whether it be a ‘social ethos’ or patronage networks, is not at all easy.  For example, did inhabitants of Roman colonies really think incestuous unions were acceptable or even good?  How does one convincingly make that sort of case given our extant textual and material forms of evidence?

b) Knowing whether a probable general context (e.g., collegia) of the Greco-Roman is the actual particular situation implicit in 1 and 2 Corinthians, especially when alternate explanations are possible.

2. Literary, Rhetorical, and Inter-textual Contexts

A few papers dealt with literary issues like the form of the letters, its composition, Paul’s use of rhetoric, intertextuality, and theological formulation:

  • Jeffrey Peterson, for example, suggested in  Inclusio and Integrity in 2 Corinthians 2:17 and 12:19 that the phrase “we are speaking before God in Christ” in chapter two and twelve of 2 Corinthians represents an inclusio that frames the letter and supports an argument against partition theories of 2 Corinthians.
  • Tobias Hagerland considered in Paul’s Elaboration of a Jesus Chreia whether 1 Cor. 11.23-25 might qualify as a ‘chreia’  used in progymnastic rhetoric.
  • Matthew R. Malcolm of cryptotheology fame gave a brilliant paper (Beyond Greco-Roman Rhetorical Criticism) highlighting the limits of classical rhetoric for understanding the form and content of 1 Corinthians.  He argued rather that the experience of a died-and-raised Messiah shaped and structured the overall form of the letter: death – ethical instruction – resurrection.  This paper will be published in the near future and sounds like a balance to the recent emphasis in NT studies on classical rhetoric.
  • See also:

3. Paul’s Mission

Several papers dealt with aspects of Paul’s mission, ministry, and teaching evident in 1 and 2 Corinthians and known by comparison with other documents of the New Testament (Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline epistles).  In this case, the context is created by reference to other NT texts that makes meaningful particular passages of the Corinthian correspondence:

4. Early Christian (and Christian) Contexts

A number of papers used passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians to inform our knowledge of early Christianity, or indeed, Christianity generally:

5. Modern Contexts

Then there were papers applying, addressing, or critiquing modern contexts or theory for interpreting the letters.

6. Archaeological Context

Finally, there were papers dealing with archaeological context.  While I was only able to hear a portion of the Corinth-related papers outlined above, what I heard suggested that material culture played a small role in understanding the Corinthian correspondence.  A session on the last day of the conference called “Becoming Roman Corinth: New Research” was designed to do exactly that.  Rather than reading the text of 1 and 2 Corinthians and seeking historical or material contexts to explain problem areas (as in #1 above), this session aimed to establish the sort of place Corinth was in the late Hellenistic to Early Roman era.  While all of the following papers contribute to our understanding of NT studies, the papers do not aim to solve or address specific problems in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  This session re-presented in modified form papers delivered elsewhere, at the “Corinth in Contrast” conference in Austin, TX, in October 2010, with one addition (Melfi’s paper).  Expect to see most of the following papers published in 2012 in Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality (eds. Friesen, James, and Schowalter).  See my previous comments on that conference here, here, and here.

It was interesting to hear members of the audience try to connect the conclusions of the individual papers with issues of Paul’s Corinthian community.  Ben Millis’ paper, for example, has significant implications for understanding the kind of hierarchical society Paul came to and the question of elite Christians—and the audience was particularly interested in his thoughts on questions of social dissonance (Meeks), stratification, and patronage.  In my own conclusions that the Isthmus was not the commercial thoroughfare we have often imagined it to be, I was asked the interesting question what the take-away would be for someone preaching from 1 Corinthians.  I will have to give that some more thought!

************

Overall, it was great to sit in on another set of conversations about Corinthiaka and better understand NT methods and contexts.  And for an ancient historian, it was interesting to see participants flipping through their Greek New Testaments (or the computerized versions) and grill each other on the particular meaning of a verse challenging the presenter’s interpretation.  But as an archaeologist who works with chronologically coarse materials like ceramics and coins, my favorite line from the conference was a presenter who said she favored the “late dating of Galatians, Autumn 55 AD”!  What, then, is the early dating: winter?

SBL – Day 3-4

More good 1 and 2 corinthians papers today at the SBL International:

Kar-Yong Lim, Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, “Paul’s Use of Temple Imagery in the Corinthian Correspondence and the Formation of Christian Identity: A Contextual Reading from the Perspectives of A Chinese Malaysian”

Jeremy Punt, Universiteit van Stellenbosch – University of Stellenbosch, “Foolish Rhetoric in 1 Cor 1:18-31: Paul’s Discourse of Power as Mimicry”

Mary Phil Korsak, Society of Authors-Translators Association, “Glad News from Mark”

Matthew R. Malcolm, Trinity Theological College (Perth) “Beyond Greco-Roman Rhetorical Criticism”

The final Corinth session will be tomorrow: “Becoming Roman Corinth: New Research.”

Sarah James, American School of Classical Studies in Athens, “The Last Corinthians? Settlement and Society from 146 BCE to the Roman Colony”

Milena Melfi, University of Oxford, “Greek Cults in a Conquered Land: Corinth and the Making of a Colonial Pantheon (146- 44 BCE)”

Benjamin W. Millis, University of Oxford, “The Elite of Early Roman Corinth: Social Origins, Status and Mobility”

Steven J. Friesen, University of Texas at Austin, ” Theodora: An Elite Woman in Early Roman Corinth”

David K. Pettegrew, Messiah College, “The Diolkos, Emporium, and Commercial Corinth”

Daniel N. Schowalter, Carthage College, Response

Discussion

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Two other Corinthians-related papers tomorrow at the same time as the session above:

James Gawley, Miami-Dade College, “Should They Stay or Should They Go? Traveling Prophets and the Split-Authorship of the Didache”

Kari Latvus, Helsingin Yliopisto – Helsingfors Universitet, “Who used the money in the early church?”

Corinthian Scholarship (May-June 2011)

It’s been a couple of months since the last Corinthian Scholarship update, so we have a full list here.  The following list compiles the works I happened to see and the (imperfect) results of various google alerts.  If you have material to add to these monthly compilations, send to corinthianmatters@gmail.com

As usual, 1 and 2 Corinthians scholars win the prize for productivity.

1 and 2 Corinthians:

 

Archaic to Hellenistic Corinth

 

Corinthian Myth and Image:

 

Coastal Archaeology:

 

Miscellany

  • A few from the publication office of the ASCSA:
  • The following books were up for review at the Journal of Roman Archaeology – surely they are taken now.
    • Nancy Bookidis, Corinth volume XVIII.5. The sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. The terracotta sculpture (American School of Classical Studies at Athens; Princeton, NJ 2010). Pp. xxv + 317, pls. 126. ISBN 978-0-87661-185-2. $150.
    • Steven J. Friesen, Daniel N. Schowalter and James C. Walters, Corinth in context: comparative studies on religion and society (Supplements to Novum Testamentum vol. 134; E. J. Brill, Leiden 2010). Pp. xxv + 517, figs. 102, tables 13, maps 3. ISSN 0167-9732; ISBN 978 90 04 18197 7. $230

SBL International – London, July 4-7

The Society of Biblical Literature has posted its schedule of papers for the international conference in London, July 4-7, 2011.  There are three sessions that focus entirely on Corinth and many scattered papers that touch on Corinthian matters.  Clicking on the links below will pull up the abstracts from the SBL website.  

First, the Corinth sessions, which have all been assigned to the generic category “Paul and Pauline Literature”

The first Corinth session (4-12), held on July 4, 8:30-11:30 AM, will focus on “Corinthian Correspondence.”  The program:

The second session, “1 Corinthians,” will be held the following day, July 5, 8:30-11:30 AM. The program:

The final Corinth session on Thursday, July 7, 8:30-11:30 AM, is called “Becoming Roman Corinth: New Research.”  The program includes several papers first presented last October at the Corinth in Contrast conference in Austin, TX, as well as one addition (Melfi):

Papers that discuss Corinth and Paul’s Corinthian letters are scattered here and there in the rest of the program.  No doubt the following list does not grab all of them, but it does include all papers whose abstracts note a Corinthian example, emphasis, or connection:

I will be attending some of these and hope to give highlights either during the conference or afterwards.


Corinthian Scholarship (March 2011)

I stumbled upon a good number of Corinthian papers, presentations, and publications this month that cover topics from Isthmia, Kenchreai, Aphrodite and prostitute, and Paul’s ascent in 2 Cor. 12.

First, Corinthian archaeology and history:

Anne Pippin Burnett has a piece in GRBS 51 (2011) on Pindar and prostitution at Corinth: “Servants of Peitho: Pindar fr.122 S

Mosaics from Kenchreai are featured in the new bookShip Iconography in Mosaics: An aid to understanding ancient ships and their construction (2011).

Local presentations by Corinthian archaeologists include Jayni Reinhard, who lectured last week at Arizona State University on “Benefactions, Baths, and Boys: The Roman Bath at Isthmia,”  and Joseph Rife, who will be speaking soon at Purdue on his recent work at Roman Kenchreai

This is old news but I noted in the 2010 report of the Chicago Excavations at Isthmia that the volume on the isthmus conference held at the American School at Athens in 2007 was submitted last summer to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for review.  Description of the volume from the Chicago website:

“A volume of seventeen essays entitled “’The Bridge of the untiring sea’: The Isthmus of Corinth from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity” edited by E. R. Gebhard and T. E. Gregory has been submitted to the American School of Classical Studies in Athens for publication as a volume in theIsthmia series or as a Hesperia supplement. Included in the collection is the editio princeps of an Isthmian victor list found in Corinth and the publication of five marble statues from the Roman shrine of Palaimon. While addressing a variety of topics, all papers explore the links between the city of Corinth, the Sanctuary of Isthmian Poseidon, and the area of the Isthmus.”

The Chicago Excavations site also notes on the same page that the conference on the archaeology of the Corinthia held two years ago in Loutraki is being published by the German Archaeological Institute in Athens. I heard in the fall this was on its way, but I don’t see news of it on the website of the DAI.  Anyone know?

New Testament studies for the month include:

  • M. David Litwa’s “Paul’s Mosaic Ascent: An Interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12.7-9,” in Journal of New Testament Studies 57.2 (2011).  Abstract: “This essay offers a reading of 2 Cor 12.7–9 in light of a rabbinic story of Moses’ ascent to heaven (b. Šabb. 88b-89a). After an exploration of Moses in 2 Corinthians the author argues that vv. 7–9, like vv. 2–4, constitute an ascent report (vv. 2–4). This ascent report, it is maintained, is structurally parallel to Moses’ heavenly ascent in b. Šabb. 88b-89a. Early traditions of Moses’ ascent to heaven and dominance over angels suggest that Paul knew a form of the Mosaic ascent, and parodied it to highlight his weakness and paradoxical authority in vv. 7–9.”
  • Dustin Ellington, “Imitating Paul’s Relationship to the Gospel: 1 Corinthians 8.1-11.1,” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33.3 (2011).  Abstract: “To overcome past shortcomings in the interpretation of Paul’s exhortation ‘Imitate me, as I imitate Christ’ (1 Cor. 11.1), we must study the roles of Paul’s ‘I’ and Christ in the context of 1 Cor. 8.1—11.1. Christ died for the weak (8.11), and Paul’s renunciation of his apostolic rights follows this pattern. Paul’s self-portrayal reaches its climax when he says that he does all things for the sake of the gospel, in order to be συγκòıνωνòςς αυτòυ (9.23). This article proposes that the expression συγκòıνωνòςς αυτòυ contains more shades of meaning than scholars have previously allowed. It summarizes Paul’s aim to be the gospel’s partner in the salvation of others and to participate in the gospel’s pattern and power. Paul’s call to imitation exhorts the Corinthian believers to share in his relationship to the gospel, working with it for the salvation of others and allowing its pattern and power to shape their life together.”
  • Wayne Coppins, “To Eat or not to Eat Meat?  Conversion, Bodily Practice, and the Relationship between Formal Worship and Everyday Life in the Anthropology of Religion in 1 Corinthians 8:7,” in Biblical Theology Bulletin 41.2 (2011).  Abstract: “This article aims to contribute to the topic of conversion in the New Testament by drawing upon insights from the anthropology of religion. Taking up Rebecca Sachs Norris’s focus on embodied culture, and Simon Coleman’s and Peter Collins’s extension of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, I attempt to bring Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 8:7 into sharper focus by reflecting theoretically on the ingrained associations of bodily practice, and the relationship between ritual worship and everyday life. In doing so, I also aim to add complexity to our overall picture of “the Pauline model of conversion.”
  • Corinth gets extensive treatment in Callewaert The World of Saint Paul (Ignatius: 2011) and Stephen Westerholm (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Paul (Wiley-Blackwell: 2011)


Corinthian Scholarship (Winter 2011)

Google Scholar has a very useful alert feature for staying up on research although one has to filter to remove all the junk for words like Corinth.  Some recent and forthcoming papers and publications related to things Corinthian

More Corinth in Contrast

On Monday I posted a general overview of the conference Corinth in Contrast and today I want to comment on a few of the specific papers that focused on material culture.  Defining which papers fit into the category of material culture is not straightforward.  Most of the papers, including those by New Testament scholars, made some use of archaeology, but not all the archaeologists (e.g., Sanders and myself) focused on archaeological evidence per se.  Moreover, some presenters (Ben Millis, Dan Schowalter, and Ron Stroud) focused on inscriptions that belong to overlapping evidence categories of text and material culture.  And even the explicitly archaeological papers did not focus on the normal stratigraphic grit of archaeological research.  A few highlights:

For the urban center, Sarah James gave an important paper (“The Last Corinthians? Society and Settlement from 146 BCE to the Roman Colony”) synthesizing the evidence for continuing settlement and society in the so-called interim period between the city’s destruction in 146 BC and refoundation as a Roman colony in 44 BC.  James discussed an enormous amount of evidence (adding up to half a metric ton of pottery!) suggesting that activities continued in the urban center in the late 2nd to early 1st centuries BC.  She presented a number of ceramic deposits showing evidence for imports and trade and production of ceramic crafts that indicates continuity with preexisting populations.  This paper, which draws on conclusions reached in her dissertation, will have significant ramifications for understanding the interim period in Corinth.  Start discontinuity, the blank slate, and the squatters are all going to have to go away.

Ben Millis was not physically present at the conference but he did make several appearances via Skype and in this capacity presented a paper on “The Local Magistrates and Elite of Roman Corinth.”  The paper complemented an earlier paper that he gave in 2007, recently published in Corinth in Context, by discussing the role of freedmen in promoting their commercial interests in the newfound colony.  In his talk, Millis discussed the origins and careers of Roman Corinth’s first elites whose names appear in inscriptions in the city.  Three distinct elite groups appear frequently: 1) Greek provincial elite, which formed the smallest elite group; 2) Romans, who were also a numerically small group but formed a more significant core of Corinthian elites; and 3) freedmen, who made up the largest group of the colony’s ruling class.  Millis suggested that the latter group clearly had the most potential for upward mobility, but that personal connections were important in achieving this mobility.  Freedmen who became part of the new local elite formed a very closed system that was nearly impossible to break into.  There were, in other words, social and economic impediments and requirements to office holding in the new colony.

Sarah Lepinski discussed the evidence from wall painting in the Roman city and considered the question of whether painting practices reflected Greek or Roman themes, styles, and tastes.  Her presentation highlighted the practices, tastes, and decorative programs that point strongly to western connections, especially during most of the first century after Christ.  However, her presentation also highlighted the complexities of such connections for in the later 1st century a break with western practices led to more localized decorative programs.

Bill Caraher gave a paper on the final day on the subject of the “The Ambivalent Landscape of Christian Corinth: The Archaeology of Place, Theology, and Politics in a Late Antique City.”  The paper provided a very useful overview of the “building boom” of the fifth and sixth centuries AD in the Corinthia that included monumental church architecture (e.g., Lechaion basilica), villa culture in the territory, and urban and trans-isthmus fortification walls.  Bill suggested that this building activity created a medium for various groups of the population to communicate theological messages and local expression.  His discussion of local “resistance” provided some interesting and lively audience feedback.

Ronald Stroud presented an interesting paper called the “Varieties of Inequality in Corinthian Magic and Ritual,” which examined the evidence for “black magic” at Corinth around 50 AD, especially the inscribed lead curse tablets found at the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore on the lower slopes of Acrocorinth.  Before official cult was reestablished in a Roman manner at the sanctuary, women were practicing nocturnal rites associated with a space connected to Kore, goddess of underworld.  Such practices blend the distinction between religion and magic.  This paper will be very interesting for those interested in the kinds of cults and religious practices that formed a backdrop to St. Paul’s mission in the city.

All of these papers will appear in expanded form (6,000-8,000 words) in a volume that should be published relatively quickly.