Corinth and its Revolution

This recent piece at the Greek Reporter — War and a Greek City: Corinth and its Revolution — discusses Greece’s Independence Day on March 25 from the perspective of the battle between Ottomans and Greeks over and around Corinth in 1822, when “Corinth” was Ancient Corinth, not the modern city to its northeast. News pieces on the 19th century Corinthia are exceptional (in English, anyway), so this one is worth a read. What especially caught my eye was the description of the destruction of Corinth’s countryside in the 1820s:

The failure by the Greeks to hold the city — which would have required only a small force of men in the early stages of the war — had angered independence fighters.

Greek commanders, among them the legendary Theodoros Kolokotronis (called ‘Colocotroni’ by Green) approached from Patras in the west and saw small Ottoman detachments raiding now-abandoned villages on the plain of Corinth.

On July 22, a column of 7,000 Ottoman cavalry and 4,000 infantry rode out to find a scorched-earth landscape, where all edible produce had been destroyed by the Greeks, leaving their forces running out of food.

Between August 4-7, having waited for reinforcements, the Greek forces attacked as the Ottoman commander gave the order for his army to return to Corinth “in great disorder”.

In the narrow mountain passes between Mycene and Corinth the retreating Ottomans’ rear guard was attacked, suffering 5,000 casualties in a few hours.

Twelve-hundred were also killed at the head of the advancing army. Green reports how European volunteers fighting with the Greeks there “expressed astonishment at the tranquil manner in which the Turks, both the infantry and cavalry suffered themselves to be cut down without making the smallest resistance as if they had looked upon themselves as consigned to death by some supernatural power”.

You can read the rest here.

I’ve been working over the last year or so with colleague Kostis Kourelis to document the colony of Greek refugees established by American philanthropist Samuel Gridley Howe at a site known as “Washingtonia,” which was located in the modern village of Examilia on the Isthmus. Howe describes the insecurity and desolation of the countryside after the Greek war of independence and references the battle described above. At some point in the spring or summer, as I have time, I may write more about our work to investigate and locate Washingtonia. You can read more at the idea for the project at Kostis’ blog:


A Corinthia Visit

I am halfway through a brief visit to Greece and Cyprus. I spent several in Polis, Cyprus, having conversations with friends and colleagues from the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and the Princeton Polis Project (see Bill Caraher’s posts about those conversation here and here), and had the chance to visit friends in Myloi as the Western Argolid Regional Project gets underway. Here’s a beautiful view of the Argolic Gulf from the peak above Myloi.


On to Corinth today. I will be in the Corinthia through Tuesday morning to visit old friends and think about a little gazetteer project. If you’re in the area and want to meet up, contact me here.

A Review of Corinth in Context

If you just haven’t found time in the last couple of years to look at the book, Corinth in Context: Comparative Studies of Religion and Society (2010) edited by Steven Friesen, Dan Schowalter, and James Walters, Amelia Brown’s recent review at BMCR provides a synopsis of the book. I would venture to guess this will be the last review. Unlike earlier reviews at The Expository Times, The Journal of Theological Studies, and the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, which focused generally on the chapters related directly to New Testament studies (Erastus, house churches, and Christian meals), Brown summarizes the entire book at length. And this may be the only formal review of the book that is free and accessible to anyone, not locked behind a subscription wall.

Kalamaki Hill

I had always wanted to climb the ridge above Kalamaki Bay on the mainland (eastern) side of the Corinth Canal. Ridges often reward archaeologically-minded hikers with unexpected rewards,and this one was already associated with ancient remains.

The Kalamaki Ridge is that prominent height that one passes beneath when entering the Peloponnese via the old national road, new highway, or the high-speed train. In the olden days, say the 16th-early 19th century, travelers misidentified the peak as “Mount Oneion,” following a confusing note of the geographer Strabo about the location of that mountain. The good work of topographers and surveyors in the 19th and 20th century set the record straight: Oneion was the spine on the southern side of the Isthmus, not the little hill at Kalamaki Bay.

The Kalamaki ridge is the top peak in the image below.

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Unlike the Monastery of St. Patopios, the ridge above Kalamaki is much less accessible. Although it’s not a rugged path to get there, there is no signage to direct the visitor along the path to the peak. Kaylee, Tim, and I were forced to resort to trial and error (with some in-built GPS in our smart phones) to navigate our way along the correct roads linking the road to Loutraki with the series of spurs trending north-south above the narrow coastal plain.

Our first go was a miss. The ridge we hiked up to was not the right one. But we did stumble upon an impressive rural Classical-era site — a farmstead perhaps? — with amphora fragments, stone vessel rims, and painted Laconian rooftiles that had been turned up by some (presumably clandestine) excavation. Without access to my notes, I’m not sure whether this site was one of the two sites identified as “Kalamaki A and B” by James Wiseman in his important book on Corinthian territory.

Our second hit was more successful. We found the road that followed the spur to the very tip. As we walked down a long gravel road leading us deeper into a remote location and heard voices in the distances, we each imagined that we were going to stumble upon some illicit activity. We were not disappointed to find only a woman and two men gathering firewood for next winter.

The reward for our efforts was a commanding view of the two capes that defined the Isthmus: Akra Sophia (center) and Akra Sousaki (visible in the second picture below).

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Also splendid shots of the narrow strip of coastal plain.

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The Ayios Dimitrios Ridge (left-center foreground), the real Mt. Oneion range (left-center background), and Acrocorinth (right) in the distance. That’s Kaylee Schofield and Tim Hampton in the abandoned remains. I warned them not to stand along the edge which is sheer cliff. The woman told us that the ruined building on the peak marked the remains of a German guard tower from World War II. Given the numerous German remains on the Isthmus, that is certainly possible.

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What is indisputable is the geodetic marker on top. Another photo to prove I was there.

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Another day, another good hike that has helped to visualize how ancient writers defined the landscape known as the Isthmus.



From the Monastery of St. Patapios

The sisters of the monastery of St. Patapios may have the best perspective on the entire Corinthia. Perched high on the steep slopes of Mt. Geraneia, they peer down at the Isthmus, ancient Corinth, the Corinthian Gulf, and the broader world they’ve left behind.

I had driven beneath that monastery so many times on trips to and from Perachora that I had long convinced myself that I had visited it. I had to remedy my oversight, and convinced two students to drive up yesterday morning to have a look.

I’ll admit that my motives for visiting were flat and mundane. I wanted some good photographs of the northern side of the Isthmus. I’ve been cooking up some new ideas about how ancient writers defined and perceived this landscape and needed some high-resolution photos of the coastline for support. In that respect, I was not disappointed. With the morning light behind us and the winds clearing the air, the views were just breathtaking.  This photo, taken just inside the entrance to the monastery, shows New Corinth on the left with Acrocorinth behind. I love how this perspective seems to cancel out the significant spatial distance between  the two as though Acro sits immediately above New Corinth.

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The photo below shows the Saronic Gulf on the eastern side of the Isthmus with the Oneion backbone on the right side. Like the vantage point from Acrocorinth, Mt. Oneion, or the mountains of the southern Corinthia, the monastery offers glimpses of Corinth the twin-sea’d.

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This one — to prove that I was there — shows the main road in Loutraki (to the left of my right shoulder) and the entrance to the canal (to the right of my left shoulder) and a great image of the Isthmus.

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Despite these uninspiring reasons for a visit, I was impressed by St. Patapios and the religious community formed in his honor here. The church itself had panel scenes of the life of Christ and a sort of icon hall of fame of famous Corinthian saints (or those connected in some way with Corinth), with New Testament notables like Paul, Apollos, Priscila, Aquila, Phoebe, Lydia, Crispus, and Gaius (and the list goes on), and more recent ascetics like Nektarios. The cavernous shrine to the left of the church — with its web of lanterns dangling from the cave ceiling –housed the relics of 3

It was a pleasure to talk to the nuns who were clearly proud of their place and graciously welcomed us to visit the church, treated us to coffee, and discussed the iconography. One told us about her conversion at a young age to the ascetic life, her decision to leave Corinth for the monastery, and her younger brother’s decision to go to Mt. Athos. Having lived in the convent for 58 years, she had a unique perspective of the region.

We ended our visit there with a stop in the bookstore, where I purchased an icon and a life of St. Patapios, the late antique ascetic from Egypt who moved to Constantinople, and whose relics were translated to the  mount some 700 meters above Loutraki around the year 1453. I was delighted to open the life and see that his memory is honored on December 8, the feast of the immaculate conception in the Catholic church — and my birthday.



On the road

It’s been a few years since I last visited Ancient Corinth and I’m glad to see things in the village are still recognizable from when I was here last. The trees in the plateia have grown taller and fuller in the last several years — it’s hard to believe that not so long ago this redesigned plateia was the main route that the big buses would take on their way into and out of the villages.

Wireless interent is now everywhere, or at least can find it at many of the tavernas and coffee shops. I was hopeful that I could do a series of posts but the connection is just spotty enough — at least at my hotel — to make it challenging to upload images of the village. My trip here, in any case, is a quick strategic strike to answer a handful of remaining research questions related to my study of the Isthmus, and I’ll write with more detail and images when I return home next week. For now, a few lovely images I managed to upload while writing this post and answering some emails.

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Zotero: A New Resource for Corinthian Studies

Over the last week I had the chance to spend some quality time developing Corinthian Studies resources in and with Zotero. If you’re out of the loop, Zotero is a tool for collecting, storing, managing, and sharing bibliography. It is not unlike EndNote although there are some key differences between Zotero and EndNote, both positive and negative. Zotero is free, it’s a great tool for collaborative bibliographic projects, and is accessible from mobile devices (via the zotpad app). On the other hand, Zotero feels much more basic and less powerful than EndNote. My total library of 8,000 records is causing minor lag on my laptop (see Phoebe Acheson’s comments about Zotero’s crash at 40,000 records).

I was interested in doing two things with Zotero related to the Corinthia:

1. Developing an extensive bibliography related to the Corinthia.

2. Building a library of ancient citations that refer to Corinth, Isthmia, and places in the broader Corinthia.

The first was relatively easy to do given Zotero’s intuitive abilities to sense content. Over the last couple of years, several students at Messiah College assisted in gathering and converting bibliography into Zotero – thanks for your help!  A former student (Andrew Henry, now at Boston University) collected most of the Hesperia and AJA entries several years ago, and history student Josh Krosskove keyed much of the Corinth XX bibliography into a Corinthia database last spring.  I expanded on their work by running keyword searches in JSTOR and exporting the bibliographic entries in RIS format and also adding bibliography from archaeological projects like the Eastern Korinthia Survey, Saronic Harbors Archaeological Project, and the Kenchreai Cemetery Project, as well as relevant entries from the forthcoming Hesperia Supplement on the Bridge of the Untiring Sea. This library of 1,535 modern sources on the Corinthia from the 19th-21st centuries is now available for browsing and searching (see below).

This is how the library appears in its on-line form.

Creating a library of ancient citations was challenging. It took much experimentation to figure out how to convert a list of ancient citations into a standardized tab-delimited file that could convert into bibliographic entries in EndNote and then into Zotero. But I was eventually triumphant and now have a collection of about 5,800 references to Greek and Latin texts between the 8th century BC and 7th century AD. I’ll take notes on some of the texts this year and write a bit more about how to run the conversions. Here is what a small part of the library looks like:


For now, enjoy the Corinthian Studies Library of modern bibliography at Zotero’s website. This collection contains all bibliography gathered recently at this site plus all the standard archaeological and historical publications concerning the Corinthia (and quite a few New Testament records as well). Before you visit, check out this information page about the library, its organization, functionality, and limits. If you are already a Zotero user, you can download the RIS file of the library and import it directly into the stand-alone version. That will allow you to run more complex searches based on the full content of the records.

Remembering Spyros Marinos

I was saddened to hear the news on Friday about the passing of Spyros Marinos, founder and owner of Rooms Marinos, the quaint hotel on the eastern end of the village of Ancient Corinth. As Bill Caraher commented this morning, Spyros and family hosted, lodged, and fed literally hundreds (or thousands?) of American, Australian, and European professors and students over several decades who had journeyed to Corinth to participate in archaeological work in Corinth, Isthmia, Kenchreai, or the territory. And that is to say nothing about the numerous groups of students, tourists, and cyclists who were simply passing through Corinth on pilgrimages through Greece.

I was one of those students who showed up in the village in 1998 immediately after my senior year of college to participate in my first Greek archaeological project. Spyro, Mama Elizabeth, and family delivered warm hospitality, good laughs (some at me!), and some of the best food I had ever eaten. Like others who returned to the village regularly for archaeological work, I became part of the Marinos extended summer family, and Rooms Marinos became my summer home.

Besides his hospitality and industriousness (so many hours he worked each day), I remember especially Spyros’ dry sense of humor, with jokes delivered in Greek, but somehow understandable through gestures and facial expressions to those without knowledge of the language. Although many students didn’t realize it, he understood English quite well, even as he did archaeology—he was once chief guard of the archaeological museum at Corinth and was retired from the Greek Archaeological Service. But he wanted us to learn Greek and patiently repeated himself until we got it.

I looked in vain for a good photo of Spyro and family with a group of students, but I could only come up with images of the beautiful place he created in the midst of pine trees and in the shadow of Acrocorinth, with a view to the setting sun over the mountains beyond Sicyon.  Anyone who has stayed in Rooms Marinos will greatly miss his presence.

8-11-12 Addition: Colleague Sam Fee has kindly provided some photos (below) of Spyro at the grill in 1997, including the Pascha feast. 

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