The most recent Hesperia has an interesting article on the ancient towers of the Paximadi Peninsula on Euboia. This is one of the best know groups of towers in Greece despite their poor state of preservation. Becky Seifried and Bill Parkinson begin their work with the catalogue of 25 towers prepared by Donald Keller in the 1980s and then expanded by Southern Euboia Exploration Project some ten years later.
The article presents a revised and expanded version of Keller’s catalogue and offer some significant insights into the function of these towers. Without going to too much detail, Seifried and Parkinson more or less agree with many of the observations that David Pettegrew, Sarah James, and I made about the fortifications at the site of Ano Vayia (.pdf). We argued that, at least for the Late Classical and Early Hellenistic period, many rural fortifications reflect local concerns rather than concerns of the polis or some kind of central authority.
(As an aside, I was really excited to see all the round towers of Classical date on the Paximadi peninsula. I tended to associate round structures with more sophisticated building practices and a more skilled workforce perhaps associated with regional level powers. This, then, confused me when we encountered a round tower at the relatively isolated site of Ano Vayia. The frequency of round towers on the Paximadi peninsula provided me with a nice body of comparanda for our fortification at Ano Vayia (below).)
Fortifications on Ano Vayia in the Corinthia
Our arguments, however, were limited by our focus on a single site with a unique location, Seifreid and Parkinson take our argument a step further by looking at a group. One of the more intriguing aspects of their argument is the possibility that the towers built during the Classical period served to protect the limited agricultural resources present on the peninsula. In fact, the towers may have been built by individual landowners to protect their farms and land. The high degree of inter visibility between the towers of Classical date suggests that landowners worked together to create a mutual defense network.
Lines of site between Classical period towers on the Paximadi Peninsula, Euboia
The relationship between the towers, then, is not the product of a central government, but rather the relationship between individual landowners who invested in a kind of social insurance based on the locating of towers in intervisible locations in the landscape. One might even see the locating of towers as part of a community of practice that recognized mutual defense in a threatening world was as much a priority for farmers as terraces, threshing floors, and access to water.