Open Meeting of the ASCSA–March 9 Videocast

The open meeting of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens will be streamed online tomorrow, March 9, at 7:00 PM (12:00 EST). 

Director Jack L. Davis will present a lecture on “The Work of the School in 2011.” This should include some Corinthiaka.  Clemente Marconi will follow with a lecture on archaeological investigations of Selinunte, Sicily.

To watch the lectures, visit this page

Touring the Corinth Canal

As my next installment in this canal-themed week, I include below three of my favorite video tours of the Corinth Canal.  Each provides great glimpses of geological stratification, the remnants of low walls that are mostly eroding into the water, the rail and auto bridges,  the rise and fall of elevation, and the vegetation growing out of the rocks.  These are the tip of the iceberg for videos on the Corinthia — hundreds out there.

The first one offers beautiful high-definition shots…

The second video begins on the Saronic Gulf and moves westward in the direction of the Corinthian Gulf.

The final one begins in the Corinthian Gulf and moves eastward toward the Saronic Gulf.  This one condenses to a 4 minute video a journey that takes half an hour.

Glider Flights over the Isthmus

The revolution of YouTube and video sharing has ushered in a whole new world of viewing the Corinthia.  Already hundreds of videos can be found online related to the site of ancient Corinth—too many, in fact, to be useful to a person interested in ancient Corinth.  I plan at some point to do a series of highlight posts that feature the most useful gems among the noise. 

The two videos below, which showed up in my Google Alerts this morning, provide low-altitude video footage of the Isthmus.  The first begins near the canal on the Corinthian Gulf, flies over Loutraki, then Mt. Gerania along the coastal road that leads to Perachora, and ends with a flight over the canal approaching the Saronic Gulf.  You cannot make out Isthmia in the video, but there are fantastic views of the Corinthian Gulf and Kalamaki Bay, a point of arrival for ancient visitors to Isthmia. 

Sweet glider video over the Isthmus

The second video shows a flight over the Corinth canal.  At the end of the video, as the glider approaches the Corinthian Gulf, you can see the path of the diolkos running through a clump of pine trees on the right side of the canal.  This is the inaccessible part of the diolkos through the Greek Military Engineers’ School ground.  You can also see the Peloponnesian section of diolkos on the left side of the canal. 

Direct flight over the Corinth Canal.

Some Perspective on American Excavations in Corinth: Byzantium and the Avant Garde

I couldn’t make it last week to Grand Forks to hear Franklin & Marshall College professor Kostis Kourelis speak on the topic of Byzantium and the Avant Garde.  Thanks to Bill Caraher and the Center for Instructional and Learning Technologies at the University of North Dakota for streaming the lecture live.  The video, audio, and presentation are all available here

Kourelis_Avant Garde

Readers of Hesperia, the journal devoted to publishing the research of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, will recognize Kourelis’ talk as a “live version” of an article published several years ago called “Byzantium and the Avant-Garde: Excavations at Corinth, 1920s-1930s,” Hesperia 76 (2007), pp. 391-442.  Hesperia has, in fact, made that article available for free download on this page.  The abstract of the article also works as a summary of his talk last week:

“In the 1920s and 1930s, members of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens engaged in a dialogue with the avant-garde through the shared discovery of Byzantium. This extraordinary experiment took place in excavations at Corinth, where American archaeologists invented the systematic discipline of medieval archaeology, facilitated an inclusive identity for the American School, and contributed to a bohemian undercurrent that would have a long afterlife. This article situates the birth of Byzantine archaeology in Greece within the general discourse of modernism and explores the mechanisms of interchange across disciplinary and national boundaries, between subjective and objective realms.”

In a nut shell, Kostis argues that the traditional disdain for Late Antique and Byzantine archaeology by classical archaeologists working in Greece was not always a consistent thread of American classical archaeology.  Just as societal processes shaped the veneration of the classical past in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so a range of broader factors—early 20th century aestheticism, architectural trends, the artistic avant-garde, and the mental association of Byzantium with modernism—led briefly, in the 1920s and 1930s, to an interest in the Byzantine period.  Many early excavators, draftsmen, architects, and illustrators working in Greece (Lucy Talcott, Alison Frantz, Piet de Jong) during these decades had links to the Greek avant garde who were also newly interested in the Byzantine tradition.

As Kourelis says at one point, a generation of Americans who went to Greece looking for the Parthenon ended up discovering the Medieval period.  This broader intellectual inclusivism of Byzantine Corinth was short-lived (dying with World War II and the Cold War politics that followed: think Byzantium and Russia) but eventually did reemerge in American researchers circles in the 1980s.  Think in recent decades: Charles Williams II, Timothy Gregory, and Guy Sanders.

Here’s what I think could be especially valuable in his lecture and article for a non-specialist audience:

1. This is a great little overview of the way that culture has historically influenced archaeological practice.  People often think of archaeology as a flat scientific enterprise—as though archaeologists excavating in Greece were all “objective” researchers simply carrying out their work for the sake of generating knowledge.  Here we meet archaeologists influenced by broader trends in attitude and practice toward particular periods.  As Kourelis puts it in his article (p. 393):

“Ultimately, it was the artistic avant-garde that ushered Byzantine Greece into the cultural limelight and rehabilitated its research within American priorities. Corinth’s medieval excavations of 1925-1940 were conceived under the spell of modernist aesthetics and much less under the guidance of academic inquiry.”

2. For anyone unfamiliar with the history of excavation, it is easy to forget that the ruins of Roman Corinth visible today at the site were once covered by an incredible amount of post-antique material and settlement.  This “Byzantine labyrinth of houses” was cleared in the central area to get down to the Roman levels.  The discoveries of the Byzantine city were published in several Corinth volumes, and the article provides a useful summary of that process. 

3. Great images and plans of excavations at Corinth in the 1920s and 30s.  Also pictures of the reconstructed Byzantine house (once a museum) near the Peirene spring now known as “Carpenter’s Folly”.  The lecture and article explain the source of the name “folly”.

4.  There’s some stuff here (beside the above) for New Testament scholars.  St. Paul’s Cathedral in New Corinth itself dates to 1930 and reflects the same trends in Greece.  Kourelis provides a good quote by Henry Miller from the 30s on a lush corrupt sexualized Corinth.  That image of the city is an old one.

For further discussion, see the online lecture or publication.  Kostis blogs at Objects-Buildings-Situations.

SUPing the Corinth Canal

This clip on the “newest sport of SUP” was the most interesting new canal water sport video to appear in my Google Alerts this week.  (I get more than one might expect).  It must have been Strabo who said “The width of the Isthmus at the “Diolkos,” where the people paddle from one sea to the other, is forty stadia, as I have already said.”  Or, wait, maybe that was a reference to the movement of ships overland.  In any case, this looks like hard work, but not, of course, as hard as dragging a ship…

As usual, the history of the canal has been tacked onto the end of the video and the story.  Some late 19th century photos of the canal also come at the end of the video.  The story on the event available here.  And if you don’t know SUPing, here’s the wikipedia article.

More Extreme Sports at the Isthmus

There is something fitting about staging extreme sports at the Isthmus today.  Perhaps it has something to do with ancient attempts to canalize the Isthmus, or drag ships over it, or build big fortification walls across it—all heroic and incredible feats.  Or perhaps it has something to do with the associations with the Pan-Hellenic festival at Isthmia and the landscape’s association with contest.  Or maybe the Corinth Canal is simply a good tourist attraction, gathering point, and natural place for exhibitions and crazy stunts.  Whatever the case, this popular experience of the Corinthia stands alongside all those St. Paul pilgrimage tours, and historical tours of sites of the ancient Corinthia.

In a previous post, I  noted the madness of bungee jumping from the canal bridge.  I had one friend who, when she saw that post appear on Facebook, claimed to have done the jump herself, and soon ended up pregnant with twins (I told you it was dangerous).

The Australian Robbie Maddison’s motorcycle leap through the air tops the bungee.  I discovered these videos about a year ago but they continue to remain popular on the web.  This is an image you don’t see every day (reposted from udumans.blogspot.com).

Two short videos of the jump.  Some nice footage of the canal.  Kids, don’t try this at home.  (And stay away from the Red Bull, which inevitably leads to such behaviors)

Bungee into the Abyss

If it looks unsafe, it probably is.  That’s what I have often thought while watching extreme sport types jump 80 meters head first into the Corinth Canal.  For 60 Euro you can pay Zulu Bungy to jump from the old national road bridge and hang suspended above the canal for a couple of minutes.  It is interesting that bungee jumping at the Isthmus has become a main attraction in its own right and forms one of the main memories of the Corinthia that Greeks and foreigners take away.  Also interesting that Zulu Bungy has made something of the history of the Isthmus in their advertisement:

LIFE HAS CHANGED, SOCIETY HAS CHANGED,  THE WORLD HAS CHANGED. TO FIND ONE`S WAY, ONE HAS TO UNCHAIN HIMSELF, HIS MIND, HIS SPIRIT AND HIS BODY. IF YOU ACCEPT LIFE AS A CHALLENGE: TO DO MORE, TO KNOW MORE, TO SEE MORE, THEN YOU ARE PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE. WE OFFER PARTICIPATION IN A DIFFERENT CHALLENGE: TO BUNGY-JUMP INTO ONE OF THE GREATEST, MOST HISTORICAL AND FAMOUS PLACES IN THE WORLD. -THE ZULUBUNGY INTO THE CORINTH-CANAL – IF YOU TRAVEL TO GREECE, ATHENS OR PELOPONNESE, DON\’T MISS THIS UNFORGETTABLE ULTIMATE OUTDOOR-EXPERIENCE.IT WILL BE THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TRIP .NOTHING CAN DESCRIBE THE SMILE ON YOUR FACE AFTER YOUR JUMP. BUT YOU WILL REALIZE THAT: EVERY CHALLENGE YOU UNDERGO WILL BRING YOU ONE STEP FORWARD IN LIFE. GET READY! CONTACT US AND A FRIENDLY TEAM WILL ASSIST YOU TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR LIFE!

But the site is indeed a popular one.  The Isthmus now numbers among the premier destinations in the world for this kind of extreme sport (see 20 amazing places to bungee jump) and I’m finding YouTube videos of canal jumps increasingly filling my Google alerts.  Check out, for example, this one here and here.   This one proves what an old friend had once told me (and which I did not believe)—that you can ask the operators for enough cord to hit the water.  Sure enough, as Zulu’s website notes, “WATERTOUCH AVAILABLE THAT WILL ALLOW YOUR HEAD TO JUST KISS THE WATER.”  Awesome. 

Here are pictures my wife shot in 2007 of a jump in action:

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My favorite Isthmus bungee video is the one posted on extremesportvideos.net which is set to the cool background track ‘Ciao Bella.’  As one person commented on that video, “i did it , and is one unforgetable experience.”  Another said “supercool! Corinth Canal is THE place for bungyjumping!” 

This memorable experience of the Corinthia, by the way, is not encouraged for pregnant women, individuals with heart conditions or bone problems, and very large people, among others.  If it looks unsafe…

Corinthiaka

A few Corinthiaka that have come through Google updates over the last couple of weeks:

  • The Corinth Canal needs urgent work (from Athens News)
  • The “Diolkos for 1500 Years” video will be featured this week at the 12th International Meeting of Archaeological Films.  See this link for a summary.  The Hellenic Foundation for Culture notes that the film won awards at the 5th International Film Festival in Cyprus (2009) and the International Meeting of Archaeological Film of the Mediterranean Area, Athens (2010).
  • Matthew Malcolm at Cryptotheology has had a couple of interesting posts on 1 Corinthians recently, including drinking the Lord’s cup (1 Cor. 11:13-26) as subversive action, and an interesting interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:6-8 as a reference to James, the brother of John.   The latter evoked quite a lot of feedback.
  • I have added a video and links page to the diolkos part of the site, a section on Corinthian saints with Codratus and Company, and maps of the Corinthia, including a 1 to 50k map.

St. Paul’s Corinth (A Music Video)

I think Matt Malcolm may be the first to put together a music video on Corinth of Paul’s day.  As he notes in this blog,

I’ve just put together a short video, touching on a few highlights of 1 Corinthians, as illuminated by ancient locations and literature. It even includes a slightly saucy section, so be warned!


The video includes some nice shots from Acrocorinth and of the excavated urban center, but also incorporates images of sites and artifacts from Isthmia, Athens, and Nemea to contextualize problems in 1 Corinthians.  Nice work.

My recommendation for a Part 2: some footage of the economic bases of some of those divisions from the broader landscape: images of the canal, diolkos, and isthmus;  the bustling harbors; and the rural fields.

Corinthiaka

The latest Corinthiaka for this cold Monday morning:

  • (via Matt Malcolm’s blog) A conference on May 14 at Macquarie University on the theme of “Corinth – Paul, People and Politics,” sponsored by the Society for the Study of Early Christianity.  A seminar (May 12) in advance of the conference on the theme of “The Economy of Ancient Corinth.”
  • Bill Caraher visits Justinian, Victorinus, and the Isthmus in Verona
  • Anyone know the original context of this National Geographic image by Herbert Herget depicting (mostly naked) “Ancient Greeks haul(ing) a merchant ship over the Greek isthmus to Corinth”?  This is ca. 1944, a decade before Verdelis’ excavation of the road.
  • An article in the Huffington Post on the popular and profound meanings of 1 Corinthians 13 (note the author’s mistranslation of “philos”, note 1 Corinthians 13 and the Wedding Crashers)
  • In September, I posted a link to a relatively new documentary on the diolkos of Corinth in Greek.  Here is a version in English: Part 1 and Part 2.