Traversing the Perachora Peninsula (Guest Post)

Another disappointment in not attending this year’s meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America was missing an interesting paper by Angela Ziskowski and Daniel Lamp about access and movement to the Perachora peninsula. Disappointed especially because I’m currently wrapping up a book chapter on the connectivity of the Isthmus, and the Perachora peninsula has a dramatically different topographic structure than the Corinthian lowland to the south. But disappointed also because many years ago, when I was less familiar with local bus lines, the bus dropped me off in the modern village of Perachora in the center of the peninsula, from which I walked several hours overland to reach the sanctuary of Hera.

In the fall, I had some good exchanges with Angela and Dan about aspects of their research. Dan is a professional architect at OPN Architects in Iowa and helped me figure out how to translate Corinthian topography from DEMs to ArcGIS to CAD. Angela, a history professor at Coe College, recently completed her PhD dissertation on Corinthian identity in the early Iron Age and Archaic era, and told me a bit about their work last summer. They kindly offered to share their research here at Corinthian Matters.

The AIA paper is titled “The Perachora Peninsula and the Sanctuary of the Heraion: You Can’t Get There from Here.” Looking forward to the publication already. Their overview starts here.


Sometime during the eighth century B.C. a sanctuary to the goddess Hera was constructed at the tip of the rugged and remote Perachora peninsula. The location of this sanctuary, known as the Heraion, is both dramatic and strategic. Standing at the tip of the land mass, on a clear day one can see across the Gulf of Corinth south to Acrocorinth, north to the coast of Boeotia, and a good percentage of the Geraneia mountain range to the east. As luck would have it, one of the only natural harbors in the area is found at the foot of this site. In many ways this is an obvious choice for a religious sanctuary or military outpost, and was held by Corinth throughout the city’s history.

 Ziskowski_Figure 1

Figure 1: View indicative of the topography along the south coast of the Perachora Peninsula.

This site’s one drawback is formidable; this location is so dramatic and strategic in part because it is so unreasonably difficult to access. In fact, the land mass as a whole is difficult to reach, even today. The Perachora peninsula is a rocky mastiff defined by the steep ridges of the Geraneia range meeting the Gulf of Corinth at slopes that are nearly impassable. The south coast in particular is marked by an alternation of steep ridges, some approaching 50 degree slopes that drop precipitously into the Gulf, and deep, dry gullies in the valleys between that can be equally steep. (Refer to Figure 1.) The eastern edge is guarded by the Geraneia Mountains and the high ridge over modern-day Loutraki meets the plain very abruptly. Compounding the problem of access to the peninsula and sanctuary is the fact that the aforementioned natural harbor, so fortunately situated near the tip, is quite small and not suited for commerce. Thus, this site was not ideal for seafaring and a daunting overland trip from the political center at Corinth.

Despite the difficulty of travelling to Perachora, archaeological and textual evidence suggest that many groups of users did so, for a variety of purposes, and frequently. These users include long-distance sailors from the Near East, local pilgrims worshipping Hera at the sanctuary, and military campaigns such as those of the fourth century B.C. general, Agesilaus. In fact, it was the objective of that attack on the peninsula to deprive Corinth economically of cattle and timber, which itself suggests a population of permanent residents exporting resources to the capitol on a regular basis. It is incorrect to suggest that because this area is remote it was also unimportant; this area saw a fair amount of travel in antiquity despite the difficulty involved, which is an interesting paradox.

Furthermore, the specific routes employed by these users are worthy of study in and of themselves because neither land nor sea approaches to the peninsula offer easy access to the area. For instance, worshippers of Hera from Corinth probably reached the sanctuary on foot along a route that ideally would have hugged the coast as closely as possible to limit the overall length. Previous scholarship on the topography of the landscape has largely relied on the account of Xenophon, who traveled with Agesilaus’ main force during his invasion. He claimed that a route along the coast existed in antiquity and that his troops moved from the area around Loutraki to the sanctuary (and back) in a single day. Our topographic research and analysis of the peninsula demonstrate that such a route was unlikely, if not impossible. Thus, any pilgrims, traders, or invaders travelling on foot between Corinth and the Heraion likely did not follow a route “by the sea” as Xenophon writes, but likely a more complicated inland route suggested in Figure 2. On the other hand, the Near Eastern offerings at the sanctuary likely were dedicated by sailors who were moving in and out of the Gulf on ships. Again, sea access to the sanctuary and peninsula was limited by the lack of a sizable natural harbor. Smaller ships, and only three or four at most, could put into the harbor at the sanctuary, but it is likely that the site was accessed routinely from the sea. In short, we have evidence for many users and no good means of access for them.


Figure 2: Topographic representation of the Isthmus of Corinth and Perachora Peninsula, indicating an unlikely coastal route and a more likely inland route away from the seafront. Note the vertical contours are exaggerated by a factor of 2 in order to show the topographic changes more vividly.

Perachora and the sanctuary on it were far more difficult to access than previously understood. More consideration should be paid to the remote nature of the sanctuary and to the investment of time and energy needed to reach it. It is particularly meaningful that a diverse group of users expended substantial effort to access this area. We will address the topographic difficulties of the peninsula, the user groups in question, and the implications of the remote nature of the sanctuary in a paper at the AIA this January and in an article in progress now.

Archaeological Research at Corinth – Summer 2012

The ASCSA website carries a recent report by Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst summarizing archaeological work in Corinth and the region last summer. The essay offers a snapshot of a wide range of research and programs currently being carried out by archaeologists, art historians, and historians:  the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, the Gymnasium, Fountain of the Lamps, Theater, Captives Façade, Frankish pottery, Hellenistic and Roman ceramics, Late Bronze Age stirrup jars, Roman portrait sculpture, early 20th century architectural drawings, Perachora topography, Isthmia, digital archaeology, and educational programs.

Here’s the opening:

“This past summer was hot in Corinth, the hottest I remember since I arrived in 2001. Summers are busy and fascinating, full of discoveries. After the excavations finish at the end of June, the hostel is emptied out and we say our goodbyes to the Regular Member excavators. Their stories of digging are added to the long, long history of generations of excavators. The rooms are filled once again, with a different crew this time. Starting July 1, a wise and stimulating group of people gather in Corinth: professors and researchers who dug different parts of the site come back to make sense of their discoveries.

Our days are spent working in the museum. The short working hours of the museum this year put pressure on resident scholars to work straight through lunch, ‘doing the Mary’ and having a late lunch, which they considered a sacrifice that would please Demeter. Plenty of study and discussion took place in the afternoons in Hill House library and into ouzo time on the terrace overlooking the Corinthian Gulf.”

Read the rest here.

Corinthiaka at the AIA

The AIA has posted a preliminary program of the 70+ paper sessions, workshops, and colloquia for the AIA in Seattle in January 2013.  As in previous years (2012, 2011), the Corinthia makes a good showing. If you’re going to the AIA and want to blog or tweet or report on the conference (or parts of it), let me know.

By order of session…

Session 1E: Gold Medal Colloquium in Honor of Jeremy B. Rutter: Minding the Gap: A Problem in Eastern Mediterranean Chronology, Then and Now

  • “Bridging the Gaps Among the Small Worlds of the EBA Aegean” (Daniel J. Pullen, The Florida State University)

Session: 1G: Recent Fieldwork in Greece and Turkey

  • “Excavations at Nemea: the 2012 season” (Kim Shelton, University of California, Berkeley)

Session: 1H: New Analytical Perspectives on Ceramics in Korinthia, Attica, and the Argolid

  • “Ceramic Fabric Analysis and Urban Survey: the Case of Sikyon” (Conor Trainor, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and Evangelia Kiriatzi, British School at Athens)
  • “Crafting Choices: Early Helladic Ceramic Production and Consumption in Corinthia and the Argolid, Greece” (Clare Burke Davies, University of Sheffield, Peter M. Day, University of Sheffield, Daniel Pullen, Florida State University, James Wiseman, Boston University, Anthi Theodorou-Mavrommatidi, University of Athens, Angeliki Kossyva, 4th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Greece, and Alcestis Papadimitriou, 4th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities,Greece)
  • “Petrographic Study of Late Helladic Cooking Pots from the Corinthia” (Debra A. Trusty, Florida State University)
  • “The Production and Distribution of Corinthian Cooking and Southern Argolid Fabrics in the Late Roman Northeast Peloponnese” (Heather Graybehl, University of Sheffield, Samantha Ximeri, University of Sheffield, Mark D. Hammond, University of Missouri-Columbia, Christian Cloke, University of Cincinnati, and Peter M. Day, University of Sheffield)

Session: 1I: Cult and Context

  • “The Perachora Peninsula and the Sanctuary of the Heraion: You Can’t Get There from Here” (Angela Ziskowski, Coe College, and Daniel Lamp, Architect)
  • “Containers and Cult: Recent Research on Amphora Assemblages at Ephesos and Corinth” (Mark L. Lawall, University of Manitoba)

Session: 2A: Roman Greece

  • “Small Change: A Re-examination of the End of Local Bronze Coinage in the Corinthia in the Second Century B.C.E.” (Andrew Connor, University of Cincinnati)
  • “The Rejection of Roman Imperial Portrait Models in the Greek Provinces in the Middle of the Third Century” (Lee Ann Riccardi, The College of New Jersey)
  • “Cattle and Catering at Corinth: Analysis of over One Ton of Animal Bones from the Theatre Excavations” (Michael R MacKinnon, University of Winnipeg)

Session 2B: Greek Sculpture

  • “Sculptures from an Athletic Complex at Corinth” (Mary C Sturgeon, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill)

Session: 3A: The Afterlives of Monuments: Re-use and Transformation in the Ancient World

  • “The Archaic Colonnade at Ancient Corinth: A Case of Julio-Claudian Spolia” (Jon Frey, Michigan State University)

Session: 4F: New Research on Mainland Greece

  • “Terraces and the Organization of Agricultural Production at Late Bronze Age Korphos-Kalamianos” (Lynne A. Kvapil, Xavier University)

Session: 5D: Greeks Overseas

  • “Syracuse-Corfu-Corinth: A Western Wind in Early Doric Architecture” (Philip Sapirstein, Albright Institute of Archaeological Research)

Session: 7G: Managing Archaeological Data in the Digital Age: Best Practices and Realities

  • “The Archaeological Resource Cataloging System (ARCS): A New Practical Approach for Archives, Scholarly Access, and Learning” (Timothy E. Gregory, The Ohio State University, and Jon M. Frey, Michigan State University)

“Ancient Ruins on the Shore”

Friday’s issue of Kathimerini includes a short travel piece one of the most beautiful sites in the Corinthia, the Heraion at Perachora. Here’s a snippet:

“The last thing you expect after driving through the popular coastal resort of Loutraki, just northwest of the Corinth Canal, is an area where you can achieve spiritual elation among ancient ruins and an unspoilt natural landscape that seems to be lifted directly from a fading 1950s postcard….

There are probably a few archaeology buffs who are frowning right now, displeased with the fact that the closely held secret of the Sanctuary of Hera in Perachora may come out and draw crowds to a little-known shrine of great beauty.”

Read the article here.