August 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
Access to water remains a basic human need. The arid climate of the Mediterranean basin made access to water an even more pressing issue and cities throughout antiquity deployed impressive feats of engineering to provide their citizens with water. As water invovled massive investments in infrastructure, they also became opportunities for display and soon became important opportunities for partonage and highly visible elements of the Classical cities urban fabric.
Recent scholarship has come to appreciate the significance of water to life in the ancient city. Works like Brenda Longfellow’s Roman Imperialism and Civic Patronage: form, meaning, and ideology in monumental fountain complexes (Cambridge 2011) and Betsy Robinson’s History of Peirene (ASCSA 2011) have framed fountains as key manifestation of local, civic, and imperial ethos. The most recent volume of the Journal of Late Antiquity features a long article by Ine Jacobs and Julian Richard titled “‘We Surpass the Beautiful Waters of Other Cities by the Abundance of Ours: Reconciling Function and Decoration in Late Antique Fountains” (JLA 5.1 (2012), 3-71) which draws on Ine Jacobs’ very recent book and a forthcoming volume by Julian Richard looks at nymphaea in the Greek East.
In short, the article argues that changes in the social organization of ancient cities and attitudes toward water maintenance led to changes in the aesthetics of the water supply in Late Antique community. In particular, they show a decline the construction of large civic foundations of the kind studies by Longfellow and the growth in both smaller and improvised fountains and the modification (and maintenance) of older monumental fountains. The authors highlight fountains and water supplies from the Greek east in particular and discuss modifications to older fountains that allowed for water to be sent elsewhere from the existing basins as well as new fountains set up in the colonnades of ancient streets or tucked into inconspicuous corners of the ancient city. The modified older fountains and their smaller neighborhood counterparts offered less space and less, perhaps, less occasion for elaborate decorations. Massive displays of larger-than-life statuary gave way to the use of smaller statuettes, the re-use of earlier decorative elements, and the more practical arrangement of features designed to ensure the well-managed flow of clean water. The authors conclude that the transformation visible in these Late Antique fountains have little do with the deteriorating fabric of urban life, and more to do with practical adaptations to perrenial problems of water supply and management. In fact, the proliferation of smaller fountains and the effort to siphon water away from older monumental fountains in urban area might have been a response to an overabundance of water coming into the city rather than concerns over the absence of water.
This articles (along with Richard’s forthcoming book) will a useful starting point for a larger study of water in the Late Antique East. There were several issues that piqued my interest:
1. The Church and Water. One of the chapters in my dissertation that I axed fairly late in the process was the role of water – particularly fountains – in church architecture. Numerous monumental Christian churches had fountains in Greece. These often stood in the atrium of the church and were fed by complex water supplies or cisterns. It seems probable that the position of the fountains in the atria of these buildings ensured that they were accessible to local residents outside of the ritual life of the church. Moreover, by providing access to water, the institutional church positioned itself in a tradition of civic munificence which complemented its role a patron of the poor and protectors of the community.
It is interesting to note that the stadium fountain at Ephesus featured Ionic impost capitals like the lesser known nymphaeum at Lechaion. The common appearance of Ionic impost capitals in church architecture suggests that these architectural elements might serve to tie together civic monuments like fountains and religious monuments in a more cohesive landscape.
2. Mosaics. It was curious to me that in the description of decoration of the fountains, the authors do not mention the use of mosaics. I suspect that mosaics formed an important part of the decorative program in the small apsidal well-house at Polis. Mosaics were affordable and often graced baths – and responded well to water – as well as various apsidal spaces in Late Antiquity so it makes it difficult to imagine that they would not appear regularly in conjunction with smaller fountains.
3. Settlement and Neighborhoods. One of the interesting things about the transformation of fountains in Late Antique cities is the growth of small fountains in neighborhoods. These fountains – like the little well-house in Polis – presumably served local communities that no long gravitated to the larger urban centers with their spaces set aside for displays of civic pride and elite munificence. Instead, local fountains may have stood to serve smaller groups whose identities revolved less around the civic values and more around local landmarks and neighborhood.
March 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This month, Ann Marie Yasin published an important reconsideration of the martyria of Salona in the Journal of Early Christian Studies (20 (2012), 59-112; pdf here?). Martyria are buildings thought to be dedicated to particular Early Christian martyrs and the veneration of their remains. Scholars have long associated the centrally planned martyrium with some of the earliest forms of Early Christian monumental architecture. In fact, they have in some cases seen martyria as the key intermediate step between the veneration of Early Christian ancestors and saints in the catacombs and the explosive spread of basilica style churches in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. As with so much in the study of Early Christian architecture, the material remains for the “evolution”, as Yasin puts it, from burial to monumental martyrium have not been subjected to particularly rigorous scrutiny, and the archaeology of the type site of Salona which featured three “early” martyr shrines that are central to how we have understood the development of this kind of building is particularly problematic.
Yasin’s article, then, subjects the archaeology of Salona to rigorous critique and suggests that the first step to unpacking the complex history of Early Christian architecture is to determine the viability of longstanding arguments for its development at key type sites like Salona. Yasin casts well-justified doubts over the traditional narrative of Christian architectural development and calls for scholars to focus on three particularly problematic areas:
1. The Regional and the Universal. I am working on a paper on monumental Early Christian architecture of Greece. Following the same lines as my dissertation, I am taking Early Christian architecture in Greece as a more or less unified corpus. To my mind, the most remarkable aspect of Early Christian building is the basic uniformity of Christian architecture. This uniformity reflected the institutional structure of church, reinforced the rising status of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and promoted the universal character of the Christian liturgy.
As Yasin points out in her article, this tendency to generalize has caused issues in the past. Scholars have overlooked the particulars of regional development or, more problematic still, the developments of particular sites or buildings. Yasin’s work at Salona, of course, also shows some problems with this approach as the archaeological records for many Early Christian buildings – not to mention the attention to detail in the excavation itself – are not conducive to the detailed study of phases. Moreover, in many cases the excavations followed the architecture and was more concerned with demonstrating the validity of longstanding arguments than carefully detailing the remains.
Yasin’s restudy of the archaeological reports and publications from Solona suggest considerable ambiguity in the traditional phasing of the buildings casting doubt on the neat narrative that assumed the pre-existence of important tombs which received progressive architectural elaboration.
2. The Trouble with Texts. Yasin points out that part of the difficulty in reading the Early Christian architecture is the tendency to see these buildings in terms of the various martyriological and hagiographical traditions. Yasin has suggested that, first, these textual sources are not only problematic in terms of chronology (and this is compounded by chronological ambiguities in the excavated buildings), but they often owe as much to literary conventions and tropes as local conditions. As a result, these texts do not serve as a reliable guide to the history of the buildings and may, in fact, reflect an imagined past that explains the nature of a standing structure. In short, past communities had as much invested in explaining the nature of the architecture as modern archaeologists, and both have created stories designed to make a useful sacred past.
3. Ambivalence and Ambiguity. A key point seen throughout Yasin’s article is that Christian buildings may not have conformed to the clear evolutionary or ritual outlines supposed by modern scholars. In fact, the ambiguity that characterized the archaeological remains of the martyria in Salona might well reflect the ambiguity and tensions present in the buildings as they stood for their ancient audiences. Buildings could and likely did sustain multiple meanings to their audiences. As a result, inscriptions, floor mosaics, and even hagiographic texts provide little to locate these churches within explicit narratives of development. One is tempted to expand this ambiguity to the architecture itself and note that Early Christian (and later) builders were not above mimicking earlier styles, combining features to create visually discordant and confusing montages, or even fabricating historical inscriptions. The willingness of ancient builders to play with architecture and to engage the viewer in a way that multiple potential narratives become possible and the architecture of the building would actively work to confuse simply interpretations.
The tension between the easy readability of Early Christian architecture in general and the complex features, architectural relationships, and narratives associated with specific sites communicated the tension between the general (perhaps universal) and the local in Christian history. The historical nature of the Incarnation, so central to Christian theology, and the universal power of the Christian God found clear parallels with the general power of the institutional church and the local traditions of the sacred.
March 20, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This past week, I’ve been working away on a paper about monumentality in Early Christian architecture in Greece. Most of the work has involved re-familiarizing myself with my dissertation (which is almost 10 years old now… yikes!), but I have spent some of the week pondering the way in which monumental architecture communicated social, political, and economic ideas to a Late Antique Greek audience.
In my dissertation, I suggested that the organization of the Christian liturgy combined with the arrangement of space within the Early Christian basilica served to promote the privileged position of the clergy to the growing Christian community. The clergy had access to the most sacred areas of the church, performed key roles in the liturgy, and wore distinctive clothing in a hierarchically arrange procession. Moreover, the architecture of Early Christian churches presented a series of barriers starting with western narthex which separated the nave and aisles of the church from the atrium or exterior space, to the barriers that separated the congregation in the aisles from the central nave, to the chancel barrier that separated the eastern end of the church from the processional space of the main nave. These barriers typically served to emphasize a sense of privilege dependent upon access and, in combination with the Christian liturgy promoted hierarchical separation between members of the clergy and the laity.
Nothing in this line of argument is particularly novel. In fact, scholars have observed that Late Antique society had a growing interest in hierarchical display ranging from great urban processions and growing emphasis on the social distinction offered by Late Roman paideia to the carefully articulated ritual spaces of the new capital at Constantinople. While some of these practices had roots reaching back to the early Roman Empire, it seems probable that the changing nature of authority in Late Antiquity required more explicit gestures to enforce distinction between groups within society vying for social and political authority. It makes an easy, tidy argument to suggest, then, that the church invested in buildings and rituals that reinforced social distinction by manipulating access and performing hierarchy.
The only issue is, of course, that the church was not the only institution that invested in these buildings. A wide range of social actors invested in the construction and decoration of churches in Early Christian Greece. To be sure, some buildings appear to be the products of the institutional church. For example the Church Alpha at Nikopolis appears to have been founded by the Bishop Dometios who celebrated his donation with elaborate mosaics and flowery inscriptions (which quoted Homer!) A later bishop of the same name added some decorative flourishes.
Elsewhere, however, we have buildings that appear to be the product of imperial patronage or constructed by members of the local aristocracy. In some instances, it would appear that the numerous members of the local community chipped in to decorate a building. In one case, a donor provided only a half a solidus to the decoration of the church. This would be a modest donation for anyone above the poorest class of urban or rural laborers.
So, if the institutional church used architecture to promote the growing authority of the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Greece, they did not do this without the support of members of the elite and the communities in which these churches stood. Are we to understand that the church exerted a kind of hegemony over certain segments of the Greek population which allowed it to leverage the wealth of these communities to promote its interests? Or was this a more complex form of collusion where independent social actors from across Greek society found common cause in promoting the church as a way to gain access to the political, social, and spiritual power vested in that institution?
I’m increasingly seeing church architecture as both high permeable to a range of actors and, at the same time, the same time space central to the (re)production of the church’s role in Greek and Late Antique society more generally. Looking carefully at these buildings – after some time away – has reminded me how messy the process of social and political change can be and that institutions rarely command unambiguous authority.
March 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In May, I am going to a conference on the topic of monumentality in archaeology. When invited, I fired off a rather superficial abstract that talked about how Early Christian church architecture in Greece both used existing, earlier forms of urban and domestic architecture to communicate the new status of the Christian religious elite, but also subverted these forms by establishing new relationship between donor, visitors, and the social structures that informed traditional elite architecture.
This week, I’ve slowly turned my attention to this paper after completing a revised draft of the historical conclusion to the PKAP Survey Volume.
To begin, I re-read Kafka’s short story “The Great Wall of China”. The fictional narrator of the (obviously fictional) story considers the construction of the Great Wall of China and tells of how it was built piecemeal across China to preserve the moral of the workers. According to the narrator, the very enormity of the task ran the risk alienating the labor of the individual worker by reducing it to something inconsequential by comparison. To combat this, the workers built a single section of the wall – often in a remote location – and returned home for a time of recovery before heading out again like departing heroes to build another section. Thus the wall came to represent the entire community of China – and the narrator himself who hailed from the south, not the north where the wall stood – could take tremendous pride in its construction even though the purpose and extent remained as obscure and paradoxical as the body of the Emperor himself who called for the Wall’s construction. In Kafka’s story (hardly the only one in his oeuvre that featured architecture), the Wall represented the enormity of the Empire, the incomprehensibility of the Emperor, and the tension between the fragile individual and abyss of time, space, and power that surrounds human existence. (And I have to assume that the story means many other more significant, literary, and existential things!). Monumentality formed the delicate link between the individual and things much larger, more abstract, and more remote.
This story contributed to my larger meditation of monumentality in the discourse of Late Antiquity (or the Early Christian period). Shifting attitudes toward monumental architecture has represented a key indicator in social, religious, political, economic, and cultural change in the ancient world. Indeed, scholars often argue that the end of the ancient world came with the neglect and sometimes destruction of the pagan temple and the construction of Early Christian basilica style churches in their place. The widespread abandonment of basilica style churches, in turn, marks the end of the transitional period between ancient and “Medieval” or “Byzantine” forms of architecture, and scholars have neatly synced the transformation of architectural styles with political, economic, and social changes.
The link between architecture and social change often comes through the study of patronage practices. If we understand the social practices that led to the construction of Early Christian architecture to be largely identical to those that produced earlier forms of monumental architecture, then we can argue that these shift in building types is largely stylistic or a matter of taste or practice. In other words, we can see monumental architecture as evidence for continuity between the ancient world and Late Antiquity. If we see different social mechanisms producing the Early Christian monumental building boom, then it becomes easier to claim that the shift in large scale building practices represents a shift in the organization of society on a more profound level. Along these lines, scholars have seen Early Christian architecture as evidence for discontinuity between antiquity and the Middle Ages. The issue is, of course, that we still do not understand the mechanisms that produced the boom in Early Christian architecture and how these intersect with, say, changing attitudes toward the poor among the same group of people (and the study of Late Antique attitudes toward poverty is a particularly fertile ground for recent study).
The flip side of this concern with patronage, of course, is how these buildings were understood by their audiences across the Late Antique world. Not only are did these building represent a point of contact between massive and abstract institutions like the church and the bodies of individuals living throughout the Early Christian world, but they also represent a place of critique around which community responses to new forms of religious or social organization could cohere.
As Kafka articulated in a fictional context, monumental architecture had the potential for alienating the individuals responsible for their construction as the tension between their massively concrete appearance comes all too close to the abstract entities, institutions, and ideologies which they represent. This alienation provides fertile ground of critique inscribed on the monuments themselves, on the bodies of the laborers who produced them, and in the attitudes toward the buildings in broader social discourse.
January 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It was a real pleasure to see Dallas DeForest‘s article in the most recent volume of the Journal of Late Antiquity: “Between Mysteries and Factions: Initiation Rituals, Student Groups, and Violence in the Schools of Late Antique Athens.” Dallas is not only a stalwart participant in the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, but also a fellow University of Richmond alumnus and (so to be) Ohio State Ph.D. So we have significant ties from our own student days, which I am happy to report were somewhat less fraught than those he describes in Late Antique Athens (but only somewhat as anyone who has been on High Street after an Ohio State football victory knows). It is also worth pointing out that Greg Fisher, a PKAP alumnus from the very early days of our project, also has an article in this volume. One of the best things about being involved in an archaeological project is the chance for professional and social networks to intersect.
Dallas’s article identified three major elements to student life in 4th and 5th century Athens. First, he looks at the fragmentary evidence for initiation rituals which appear to include kidnapping, psychological and physical hazing, a ritual bath, and a feast before the prospective student becomes a member of the student group surrounding a particular philosopher or teacher of rhetoric in the most famous ancient university town. It is remarkable to imagine these brilliant late sophists (Prohaeresius, for example!) sanctioning the kidnapping of prospective students the moment they step off the ship at Piraeus, but this practice was apparently so widespread that students must have expected it.
Once the student was among the initiated, he entered a cohesive, hierarchical world centered on the teacher. Students held different ranks and certain charismatic individuals appear to have had leadership positions among their fellow students. From these positions they likely organized the violence that was increasingly part of student life. In most cases, the violence seems to have remained at the level of pranks designed to embarrass rival teachers and their students. It could, however, become more serious. Dallas describes the clash between students of Prohaeresius and Apsines which landed many of the students and their teachers in the court of the governor of Achaea in Corinth. Apparently, such violence was a sufficiently recognized part of student life, that certain confident participants in Athenian student life regretted never being allowed to demonstrate their eloquence in the governor’s court.
Dallas provides a few tantalizing and speculative glimpses of the wider implications of his view of Athenian student life. Of course, the role that the baths play in initiation rites is hardly surprising, but nevertheless has clear parallels with Christian baptism (or the initiating rites associated with any number of Late Antique pagan mysteries). While Dallas does not go this far, he does recognize that the violence in Athens parallels the violent world of Late Antique cities and noted that student violence or violence between well organized groups might help explain how conflicts between pagans and Christians (or Circus factions) could escalate so rapidly. By linking together initiation, group cohesion and violence, Dallas begins to unpack the complex social world of Late Antique urban life and make clear how these social relations allowed sectarian violence to escalate into such destructive rampages as the Nika Revolt in Constantinople or the burning of the Sarapeion in Alexandria.
The interest in Late Antique urbanism almost certainly reflects the influence of Tim Gregory, Dallas’s (and my) advisor. Gregory’s first book, Vox Populi: Violence and Popular Involvement in the Religious Controversies of the Fifth Century A.D., looked at urban, religious violence in Constantinople in the 6th century. Both focused on the social conditions that might create such violence in Late Antique cities and how the emergence of new groups in Late Antiquity - heresies, student groups, Circus factions, et c. – fortified by new practices designed to ensure loyalty and cohesion could create conditions for more serious confrontations.
So, as another semester gets underway, it was strangely comforting to read about the hazing and rituals surrounding academic life in Late Antiquity. I am grateful not to have to organize my most loyal students to kidnap prospective undergraduate majors or graduate students. I am also pleased enough that violence between student groups largely remains confined the gridiron and hockey rink. How’s that for a saccharine reflection to start your semester?
Yeah, our life is better because we don’t have kidnap students to get majors.
January 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Over the past few years I’ve played around with the idea of an indigenous archaeology in the Greek speaking Mediterranean. In doing so, I have identified certain practices as drawing on traditions found in hagiographic literature (saints’ lives). The most obvious example is the practice of inventio when a pious individual excavates a sacred object, usually an icon. I have written extensively on this blog about inventio and dreams (go here and scroll to the bottom of the post for a little gaggle of links; here’s an example of this from Cyprus).
There are also practices preserved in hagiography through which local communities mark out ruined buildings as special sites or sacred space. Saints’ lives frequently preserves stories that feature commemorative practices associated with long abandoned or ruined buildings. Often these practices are as simple as pilgrimages to ruined churches for prayers. In other cases, saints or pious communities rebuild ruined churches.
In Cyprus, we have seen how acts of piety have influenced the archaeology of Christian buildings (for example here and here). Recently I was re-reading part of P. Flourentzos, Excavations in the Kouris Valley II: The Basilica of Alassa. (Nicosia 1996), and re-discovered this passage (p. 3):
During my first visit to the area of Ay;a Mavri to conduct the rescue excavation, I noticedthat two stones in the form of an angle was visible it the north-western side of the area. Moreovera great concentration of loose stones had accumulated on the surface round a modern quadrangular structure with two holes at the front and a little iron door (PI. II: 2).
Inside the structure was an icon of Ayia Mavri (Saint Mavri), where the villagers often placed lighted candles as offerings. On the surface a small part of the apse of the Holy-of-Holies was also visible.
All those features attracted my interest and I decided to open the first trench at that particularpart of the area. This first trench, which I call Trench I, measured 2 X II m. and contained alarge part of the structure of the Holy-of-Holies and its eastern end yielded a small tomb.
So I was then sure that this was an area of a church probably of basilica type with a related cemetery.
This short passage presents a kind of indigenous archaeology of the sacred and shows how it intersects with modern archaeological practices.
December 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
One reason I love Corinthian Matters is that David Pettegrew’s loyal bots constantly crawl the web looking for new academic articles on Corinth. As anyone who attempts to keep abreast of new scholarship on any topic knows, it is almost impossible to do so without some loyal human and software allies.Recently, he brought to my attention Amelia Brown’s recent contribution to the publication of the 6th biennial Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity Conference from 2005 at the University of Illinois. Her article titled “Banditry or Catastrophe?: History, Archaeology, and Barbarian Raids on Roman Greece” takes on the perennial issue of the impact of raiding, rampaging, barbarians on the end of public, civic life in Late Roman Greece. She looks at the Costobocs, Heruls, and Goths in particular and makes the argument that there is very little archaeological evidence for these raiders. Moreover, the textual evidence that does exist is highly problematic and fits poorly with the long-standing empirical expectations held by more archaeologists. In other words, the destructive rampage of Alaric or the violent reconquest of Stilicho left almost no evidence in the archaeological record. Earlier thoughts to the contrary were almost always the product of overly optimistic interpretations of problematic contexts or have been overturned with revised ceramic chronologies introduced through the more controlled stratigraphic excavations.
This is fine. The ancients liked to punctuate their history with barbarian raids, natural disasters, and other catastrophic events as much as modern scholars. The catastrophic events fit ancient communities and narratives into a wider conversation by making heroism, treachery, or divine displeasure recognizable to an audience. Similarly, archaeologists have looked for episodes of catastrophe in their excavations to align archaeological contexts with known historical events (and if possible dates!). Just as real or imagined tragedies created relevance for individuals living in the past, Mediterranean archaeologists have treasured evidence tying their labors to historical experiences conjured so dramatically in texts. Just as Mediterranean archaeologists have become more confident in the autonomy of their own discipline, so have they gradually shrugged off the ties of the world that they excavate to textual traditions championed by generations of Classicists.
The result of this work is not just to call into question the past distilled from a carefully empirical reading of texts, but also to call into question the periodization schemes, narratives, and research agendas dictated by these texts. This has led to a sometimes violent rupture between traditions of humanistic scholarship that have contextualized research and teaching for centuries and the results of archaeological investigation. As you can imagine, research like Brown’s that asks us to re-interpret such basic narratives as those surrounding the end of the ancient world do more than challenge the narrative of ancient Greece, but bring into question the line between barbarian and civilized that has been so central to the differentiation between the glorious, civilized Classical past and the brutish, uncivilized, Medieval time.
By absolving the barbarians of some of the blame for the end of Classical public life, Brown has offered a modest challenge to the master narrative and begun the arduous process of using the very tools produced by a system that championed the Classical age to undermine its esteemed place in our society today.
November 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
One of the reasons that I started this blog is to share cool little things from my research for which I don’t really have another outlet (other than telling my wife and friends). So here are a few more little observations about the landscape around our site at Pyla-Koutsopetria.
I’ve spent the last few weeks, going back through some important articles on the antiquities of the Pyla region in Cyprus. Certainly the most important is O. Masson’s 1966 article, “Kypriaka” in the Bulletin de correspondence hellénique. A good part of this article was dedicated to locating and describing an assemblage of Cypro-Archaic to Cypro-Classical statues discovered at a sanctuary at a site called Pyla-Stavros. This is a site at the southern edge of the Pyla village and about 1.5 km from the coast.
It so happened that Sir Robert Hamilton Lang had acquired a farm in this general area and describes his efforts at running a small commercial farm in his short book, Cyprus: its history, its present resources, and future prospects (1878). Lang is famous not only for being an art collector (and looter) as well as being financier of some renown. Lang’s farm was “about 6 miles from Larnaca. It consists of about 1,000 acres of arable land, of which only sixty were what are called livadia lands, that is lands capable of producing summer crops without artificial irrigation.”
Masson plausibly suggests that Lang’s work on the farm led to his discovery of some antiquities there which he describes in a contribution to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.
Shortly after my first excavations at the temple at Dali I stumbled upon the remains of another temple, at Pyla, six miles from Larnaca. Most of its stones had been carried away for building purposes; but it yielded me a few most interesting statues, some choice heads, and a Cypriote inscription. One colossal statue of an archaic type was in beautiful preservation. I removed it to my house in Larnaca; but, as it was of great weight, and about eight feet high, I was in despair when I thought of the impossibility of my getting it out of the country. The Turkish Museum would have been enriched by it except for a fortunate incident. In June of 1871 the Austrian frigate Habsburg, carrying the flag of Admiral Millosich, anchored for a few days in the roadstead of Larnaca. The Admiral was an enthusiastic antiquarian, and we soon became close friends. He was greatly interested in my collection, and I expressed to him my regret that I had no hope of being able to get the colossal statue from the temple at Pyla out of the country. “Sell it to me,” he said, “and I shall try to take it away.” I was delighted, and would have given it to him willingly. As he insisted, however, upon purchasing it, we easily came to terms. After sundown he brought his pinnace to the quay opposite my house, with a lot of stalwart sailors, and a strong wooden couch with handle-bars. The couch was brought into my courtyard, which was only a few yards from the pier. The statue was placed upon the couch and covered over with a cloth. Noiselessly the sailors carried off their load, laid it in the boat, and pulled off. A custom-house watchman was standingat the head of the pier, but he did not move— thinking, probably, that underneath the oloth was a drunken sailor. Next morning the frigate left, carrying off my statue. I have not heard of it since; but I hope it is still an interesting object in the Admiral’s collection, somewhere near Trieste.
The temple at Pyla gave me also some fine heads of the best Greek epoch in sculpture. Some of them are now in the Cyprian room of the British Museum. Two beautiful female heads passed through a strange experience. About the beginning of 1870 I sent them to a German dealer in antiquities who resided in Paris. The FrancoGerman war broke out, and all Germans had to leave Paris, which was afterwards besieged. I heard nothing of Mr Hoffman nor of my heads. But when the war was over, I learned that Mr Hoffman had escaped to London, and, like a true lover of art, had taken myheads with him. Eventually they were sold in London by auction. The British Museum bought one of them for, if my memory servesme right, about £50; the other, and finer, was bid up to more than double that price, and fell to a Frenchman who, I was told at the time, bought it as a sculptor’s model.
The “colossal” statue from Pyla is now in the museum in Vienna. Masson goes on to track down the location of these objects in the British Museum, the Louvre and even through Lang’s friend L. Palma de Cesnola in the United States, and offer some observations on the character of the sanctuary. Several inscriptions suggest that it was dedicated to Apollo and prospered during the Archaic period as the colossal statue’s Archaic continence would indicate. A few later statue fragments suggest that the sanctuary remained active into the Hellenistic period.
It seems impossible that this sanctuary near Pyla village is the same as the sanctuary that we have suspect existed near the coast at Pyla-Vigla or Pyla-Koutsopetria. The two sanctuaries in relatively close proximity give us an interesting view of the religious landscape of the region of Pyla in the Iron Age. It seems almost certain that there were settlements at the site of Ormidhia, Pyla village, and along the coast near Pyla-Koutsopetria by the 7th century if not earlier.
Over the course of our fieldwork on Cyprus, my colleagues and I have often remarked on the “busy countryside” associated with the Late Antique period on the island. It might now be appropriate to discuss the busy countryside of the Cypriot Iron Age at least in our little corner of Cyprus.
November 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Sometime in the past couple of months a Special Edition of the Bolletino di Archeologia On Line appeared with a lightly edited copy of a paper we prepared for the International Congress of Classical Archaeology in 2008. The paper is titled “Trade and Exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Model from Cyprus” and considers the relationship between trade and settlement on the island during Late Antiquity. In particular, we take aim on the lingering dichotomy between urban centers and a dependent countryside by showing how a non-urban and non-rural site like Pyla-Koutsopetria occupied a rather extensive stretch of the Late Roman coastline and possessed a distinctive assemblage of Late Roman material. The distinctive assemblage of ceramics is particularly important because it suggests that the site had a unique relationship with patterns of Mediterranean exchange.
The unique pattern of engaging larger networks of trade and exchange undermines the now dubious model of urban centers representing hubs of trade in the Roman world while outlying communities availed themselves to goods that moved through larger, regional centers. This model has justified scholarly attention to urban area which represented the centers not only of a region’s economic life, but also a region’s cultural life.
By showing that non-urban places like Pyla-Koutsopetria had distinct economic relationships with the wider Mediterranean world, we are justifying more recent attention in the countryside. In effect, we are noting that non-urban sites had as large a role in forging economic relationships and cultural production as urban ones.
November 17, 2011 § 3 Comments
A number of people have sent along information regarding Georgios Deligiannakis’ talk at Princeton tomorrow. It’s titled: Process of Christianization: Pagans, Christians, and Jews in an Island Landscape (pdf). Deligianakis’ work on the islands (particularly the Dodecanese) is fairly well-known and interesting, so it’s a shame that I won’t be able to hear his talk.
I am particularly interested in his discussion (Byzantion 78 (2008), 142-157) of a individual named Anastasios who dedicated a statue base to Heracles and a statue depicting (apparently) the sleeping Maron (Od. 9.196-197) some time perhaps in the 5th century on the island of Rhodes. The former text received a graffiti of KE (an abbreviation for a short prayer: “Lord, help”) and a crude cross. In contrast, the latter text featured a well-wrought cross at its start. Both texts are classicizing not only in their theme but in the language and meter.
While such classicizing inscriptions are not particularly rare in the Late Antique Greek world, these two texts make up a conspicuous pair. They obviously served to celebrate the dedication of statues with pagan themes. Moreover, the first text featured a sufficiently ambivalent Christianity to warrant a later intervention. The latter is Christianized more formally with the inclusion of the small cross, but nevertheless, escapes easy Christian interpretation. These two inscriptions, then, evidence the persistent importance of Classical themes in elite self-representation and complement texts like Nonnos Dionysiaca which tells the story of Dionysos journey to the East in Homeric meter and mosaic floors from across the Eastern Mediterranean that include scenes with conspicuously pagan pedigrees.
These two inscriptions form a strange complement to an inscription from Ikaria which preserve the text of a late prophesy of Apollo apparently derived from a text known as the Tübingen Theosophy (discussed here). The inscription preserves the response to a question to an oracle about the conversion of a temple dedicated to Rhea. In the inscription, Apollo responds to the question by saying to do “whatever is conductive to virtue and order, a single triune Good ruling on high whose imperishable Logos will be conceived in a innocent… Hers will be this house. Her name is Maria.” The text appears to be associated with a church of the Virgin built on the site of an earlier temple.
To my mind (and I perhaps differ from Deligiannakis on these points), both the Ikarian text and the texts from Rhodes demonstrate the blurry lines between pagan practices as a manifestation of culture life and those associated with religious life. While the separation between religion and culture (itself an ambiguous and problematic term) is perhaps best seen in our modern age, it is clear that the intersection of Christianity and traditional pagan learning (paideia) in Late Antiquity demanded non-religious understandings of certain aspects of pagan thought. This practice, of course, was evident in Greek philosophy (particular Neoplatonism) somewhat earlier, but in that context, it would never have been as problematic as it was in a Christian context especially when the dying embers of paganism continued to glow dimly in the Late Roman world.
Part of the strategy designed to complete the transition of pagan knowledge from religion to “culture” (for lack of a better word) involved the cultivation of an ambivalent hybrid space between traditional expectations of paganism and paganism as part of a historical language designed to distinguish learned (pagan and Christian) elites from their less well-educated peers. Among Christian elites – like Anastasios – references to pagan culture provided them with a idiom that existed outside of the religious power of the church; in other words, paganism provided a “secular” outlet for self-expression that escaped the growing authority of Christianity and provided space to present power independent of the church’s expanding grasp. In the case of the oracular inscription, we can see what may well be a response from the Christian church which likewise sought to appropriate the language of the pagan past to validate their own position within Late Antique society. By regarding paganism as complicit in its own demise, the church sought to occupy the territory of the receding pagan religiosity. In other words, the Late Antique discourse on paganism is less about actual pagan practices and more about establishing control over neglected discursive positions without the contested space of the Late Antique elite discourse.
Like the abandoned spaces of the Classical city, the church and non-ecclesiastical elites sought to carve out space from the neglected remains of the pagan past. Christianization, in this context, was less about the suppression of threatening pagan practices and more about the limits of Christianity within a traditional elite society. The crude inscribing of a prayer on Anastasios’ dedication to Herakles, then, stands as a subversive effort to project Christian power.