Ambivalent Landscapes of Early Christian Corinth: Final Draft

Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked on a series of papers on the role of Early Christian basilicas in constructing new forms of authority in Greece. They form the rough outline of a book (or at least a dissertation) that I never had the time, focus, or energy to write. A few years ago I have a rather adventurous (and perhaps in places ill-considered) paper at the Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality conference held at the University of Texas. This paper reflected on how Early Christian churches around Corinth could provide evidence for resistance and accommodation in the 6th century Corinthia. 

Here is the full citation: W. R. Caraher, “The Ambivalent Landscape of Christian Corinth: The Archaeology of Place, Theology, and Politics in a Late Antique City,” in Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality. S. James, S. Friesen, and D. Schowalter eds. Brill: Leiden 2014.

Here is a draft of this article and here are some of my thoughts leading up to that draft.

And, here’s the article:

Pilgrimage in Medieval Corinth

It was a pleasure to read Amelia Brown’s contribution to the inaugural volume of Herom, a journal dedicated to Greek and Roman material culture. She presents a useful overview of some evidence for pilgrimage in Corinth, Athens, and elsewhere in southern Greece. While textual evidence provides the overarching framework for her paper, she does take into account some of the archaeological evidence particularly around Corinth. 

Using sources, particularly from the West, she established that pilgrims occasionally stopped at the church of St. Andrew in Patras and, following A. Kaldellis’ lead, argued that the Parthenon rechristened the church of the Virgin attracted pilgrims drawn by its perpetual light. (In light of Kaldellis’ work, Brown’s suggestion that “Medievel Athens rebranded their ancient monuments as churches seems a bit simplistic. In fact, in some ways it might be that Modern Athens rebranded their Medieval heritage as evidence for its Classical past.)

For Corinth, Brown considers the ring of Early Christian churches around the urban center as potential pilgrimage sites marking not only martyr shrines (such as that of Kodratos), but also major routes in and out of the city. In this way, Corinth seems to be similar to arrangement of martyria around Milan or even Rome. The major pilgrimage church in the area, however, seems to have been the Lechaion basilica  at Corinth’s western port. Readers of this blog are probably sick of hearing about this building, but its massive size, double atrium, elaborate baptistery, and association with the martyrdom of Leonidas and his female companions, make this building’s association with pilgrimage almost certain. In fact, Brown makes the intriguing observation that the importance of baptism at Lechaion might echo Leonidas’ death by drowning which at least one life called his “second baptism”. Scholars have largely dismissed or overlooked the practice of second baptism in the Byzantine and Late Antique times, but there is a small, but growing body of evidence suggesting that martyr shrines might have served as the location for some form of ritual ablution. More intriguing, of course, is that the association of Lechaion with baptismal rituals persisted into the Byzantine period suggesting that parts of the monumental baptistery and church still grounded the life of the martyr in the local landscape.  Brown might have added that the  nymphaion located a few hundred meters south of the church and likely contemporary with the church may have served as a roadside stop for weary pilgrims as they made their way south across the Isthmus. Travelers passing south through the fortress at Isthmia would have encountered inscriptions that invoked the protection of God and the Virgin in conspicuously liturgical language reinforcing the sacred nature of the Isthmian landscape. In this context, all travelers became pilgrims as they encountered the sacred in even the most mundane passages.

The most curious thing about this article is that Brown clearly privileges pilgrims from outside of Greece and struggles a bit with the interpretation of more local hagiographic sources. We know, for example, that local pilgrimage practices were common in the Peloponnesus. I have written on the obscure St. Theodore of Kythera whose church became a pilgrimage destination after his death. The battle between Nauplion and Argos for the body of St. Peter of Argos after his death demonstrates the significance of relics to the spiritual life of those communities and implies that the saint’s remains would become a place of pilgrimage. Other lives preserve incidents where travelers stop to visit holy hermits or the remains of abandoned churches. In fact, these lives do more than describe a landscape full of sacred spaces, but they also produced these landscapes and inscribed them with the routes that made  everyday movements small acts of pilgrimage.

In this context, the Corinthian landscape comes alive with the movement of myriad pilgrims. These include the relatively recent monastery of St. Patapios near Loutraki where modern pilgrims go to visit the healing relics of St. Patapios as well as visitors to the church of the Ayia Anagyri in Anaploga who still incubate at the church there during the annual feast to these “penniless doctors” or villagers who decorate the church of Profitis Elias on his feast or celebrate small, local panayri festivals at long neglected chapels. To be sure, the archaeological and textual evidence for this kind of pilgrimage will be faint, but it preserves the everyday and extrordinary movements of pilgrims in the Greek landscape. 

Greeks and Romans in Corinth

Yesterday the two volumes of the Journal of Roman Archaeology 25 showed up in my campus mailbox. It always appears in the fall, and along with college football and Thanksgiving mark the beginning of the indoor-living season. In this year’s volume, Kathleen Slane has two offerings – an article and a book review – that examine and critique the ethnic identity of the city of the ancient Corinth after it was “destroyed” by the Roman general Mummius in 146 BC. As she explains in her review of S. J. Friesen, D. N. Schowalter, and J. C. Walters, eds. Corinth in Context: Comparative Studies on Religion and Society. (Leiden 2010), the history of the city between this sack and the refounding of the city in the 1st century B.C.  Not only is the archaeological evidence complex, but scholars have asked particularly difficult questions of this evidence: namely were the inhabitants of the refounded city Greeks or Romans?  Were they descendants of the original Greek inhabitants of the city who returned after Mummius’s sack or was the population dominated by Roman immigrants from Italy.

Slane considers this tricky issue in a short article titled “Remaining Roman in death at an Eastern Colony” where she looks at evidence from a number of “Roman type” tombs in the immediate neighborhood of the city of Corinth. Work on the National Road and the high speed rail line through the ancient city of Corinth’s chora revealed several new examples of Roman style tombs to go along with some tombs excavated in the first part of the 20th century. The tombs date to second century A.D., some 150 years after the refounding of the city. These tombs featured biclinia or a triclinium that echo Roman dining practices. Vaulted construction and wall painting styles evocative of Italian types particularly those around Ostia (and elsewhere associated with Roman colonies in the Eastern Mediterranean). The tombs featured space for both inhumation and cremations indicating that the two practices probably existed simultaneously. It is notable that the Roman style tombs presented here by Slane are quite different from the recently studied tombs at the site of Koutsongilia near Kenchreai. Slane concludes the article with the observation Corinthian elites continued to have contact with Italy for centuries even into the Medieval and Early Modern period as the Corinthian Gulf remained in the orbit of the Italian Adriatic. 

Later in volume 25, Slane reviews the Friesen, Schowalter, and Walters, eds. Corinth in Context. After nice, brief introduction to history and problems associated with Roman Corinth, she pays particular attention of Ben Millis article on Greek and Roman names. From Slane’s review, it would seem that Millis looked at the names and language that appear in Corinthian inscriptions to consider the ethnic (if we can use that word here) make up of the city of Corinth. Slane was rather critical of Millis’s arguments.

Without going into much detail on these two short contributions, they reflect the ongoing interest among archaeologists in the ethnic, linguistic, and cultural make up of the Roman city of Corinth. There remains very little in the way of theoretical discussion in this scholarship, and this is understandable considering the aversion to theory among Mediterranean archaeologists generally and the complexity of issues surrounding ethnicity in social, historical, and archaeological contexts. At the same time, it will strike a reader more grounded in world archaeology as strange and perhaps a bit quaint to see such careful and fastidious study of ancient material unfettered from larger theoretical questions.

Archaeological “Signatures” of Byzantine Churches

This springs Dumbarton Oaks Spring Symposium is titled Byzantine Survey Archaeology: Reflections and Approaches. The symposium will feature speakers covering a range of topics central to discussions about intensive pedestrian survey archaeology in a Byzantine context. My paper is among the last of the symposium and in a session called “Reading the Data/Reading the Future”.

I need to have abstract for my talk which is tentative titled “Looking across Chronological Boundaries”. The goal of the talk will be to bring together some of my work (largely with Tim Gregory and David Pettegrew) that explores post-Byzantine archaeological sites and consider how what we’ve learned in this work can inform out study of Byzantine sites in a survey context. 

Readers of this blog are familiar with my work at the early modern site of Lakka Skoutara in the Eastern Corinthia. Here’s a link to our most recent paper.

You may be less familiar with some of my work with David Pettegrew and Tim Gregory in 2001 on the island of Kythera where we collected surface data from around a series of still standing Byzantine churches. The results told us little about the landscape around these churches during the Byzantine period, but shed some significant light on formation processes around these occasionally used monuments in the Greek countryside. Like our work around the deteriorating houses in Lakka Skoutara, our work around these churches revealed a countryside that was in constant transformation. 

The evidence for the constant transformation of the landscape pushes us to see even the surface record as the product of a series of complex formation processes rather than a palimpsest awaiting our careful gaze to produce a complete but occluded text. The remains in the countryside preserve a complex record of processes.


Corinthian Fortifications

This past week, I’ve begun to think again about Corinthian fortifications for the introduction to a volume of re-prints on the Corinthian countryside. The fortifications represent over 2000 years of continuous strategical importance to this corridor that links southern and central Greece as well as the Adriatic and Aegean basins on the Mediterranean. Beginning in the Hellenistic period and continuing through to the Italian and German occupations of Greece, fortifying the Isthmus of Corinth was a significant concern for both local residents and occupying powers. The episodes of fortification range from the massive Hexamilion wall and Isthmia fortress to modest earthen barriers or field stone enceintes. The published fortifications have generally appeared in Hesperia or in the volumes of the Isthmia or Corinth excavation series. To date, however, there has been little in the way of integrative study of these fortifications across the entire region for any particular period or from a diachronic perspective that emphasizes persistent understandings of the Corinthian landscape.

The study of fortification in Corinthia centers on five major, deeply interrelated, issues.

1. Permanent or Contingent. The best known fortification in the Corinthia to scholars of the ancient world is on that has left very little material evidence: the famous transisthmian wall described by Herodotus (8.40). This fortification typified the contingent, emergency work of fortifying the Isthmus as a way to protect the Peloponnesus from threats from the north. The frantic repairs reported in the Byzantine period to the Hexamilion wall represent another episode of short term work designed to address the vulnerability of the open Corinthian plain to forces moving south. The rubble fortifications along Mt. Oneion (pdfpdf) and on Geranion represented smaller scale efforts to augment the natural boundaries of the Isthmus corridor for defensive purposes. These fortifications took advantage of material at hand and the ceramic evidence and historical situations that would contextualize, at least, the hastily erected fortifications on Mt. Oneion. 

More permanent fortification include not only the impressive fortifications around Corinth and its acropolis Acrocorinth, but also the massive Hexamilion wall, the long walls linking Corinth to its western port of Lechaion, the substantial Hellenistic wall published by James Wiseman (pdf), and various towers of Hellenistic and Venetian date (pdf). While these fortifications may have emerged in response to particular threat, they nevertheless represent a significant investment in the landscape suggesting that the occasion for their construction was part of a larger , systemic effort to fortify the Peloponnesus or the vulnerable communities in the Corinthia.

2. Internal or External. We know that many of the fortifications built in the Corinthia stood not to protect Corinthian lands or residents, but rather to protect polities in the Peloponnesus. The mighty Hexamilion wall, for example, stood to fortify the Peloponnesus and left exposed stretches of the Isthmia plain. Efforts to fortify Mt. Oneion in the Venetian and the Hellenistic periods (pdf) likewise left the Isthmia plain unprotected and mainly served to prevent movement south into the Peloponnesus. 

Other fortifications, however, clearly served to protect Corinthian territory. The towers at places like Are Bartze in the southeastern Corinthia, the fortifications at Ayia Paraskevi, or the towers at Stanotopi (pdf) and Ano Vayia all likely served to protect Corinthian interests rather than those of an invading power. The substantial Hellenistic wall documented by Wiseman (pdf), for example, appears to bisect some of the most productive and densely built up areas of the Isthmus making it difficult to assign to either the Corinthian state or an external power. In contrast, the reinforced concrete fortifications erected by the Germans and Italians during the Second World War served the obvious interests of an external power.

3. Local or Regional. A key element to understanding the fortifications is determining whether they served to protect a particular region in the Corinthia or were part of a larger systematic network of fortification designed to protect the entire Corinthia (comparable to, say, Ober’s arguments for Fortress Attica). This issue is closely tied to the function of fortifications and whether the fortifications were erected by local authorities or the Corinthian state and fundamental views on how ancient fortifications functioned. It is hard to imagine isolated towers at Are Bartze (for example) or even at Ano Vayia contributing to a completely integrated defensive network (as envisioned by J. Marchand on the Argos-Corinth road (pdf)), but our knowledge of the fortifications in the Corinthian countryside remains fragmentary throughout much of the area. 

4. Function. Much of the previous issues have to do with how we understand the various fortifications functioned in the landscape. Simple walls like those constructed by the Venetians at passes through Mt. Oneion clearly could do little to obstruct the large scale movement of troops through the region. On the other hand, hastily con structured fortifications at Stanotopi (pdf) and further west on Mt. Oneion (pdf) suggest fortified camps designed to protect temporary garrisons rather than to block movement (necessarily). The mighty Hexamilion wall and the more fragmentary Hellenistic walls seem to have combined space for garrisons with long stretched of wall designed to stop movement across the plain. The walls of Ay. Paraskevi, Mt. Tsalikas, the Isthmia Fortress, and the city of Corinth (pdf) itself likely functioned to protect local settlements. Towers, in contrast, may have stood to allow guards to observe important routes through the area (pdf, pdf), but they may also represent fortified farmsteads or keeps erected by local landowners to protect their lands or slaves.

5. Topography. Finally, the local topography plays a key role in understanding how fortifications in the Corinthia were organized. The rugged topography limited the routes that individuals or groups could use to pass through the territory. The natural limits on travel presented clear opportunities for fortification, but it may have also required a kind of modular strategy because defending forces would suffer the same limitations on movement.

While it is unlikely that my effort to pull together the evidence and issues central to the fortification of Corinth through time will produce a kind of Fortress Corinthia, I do hope that it will contribute to a larger conversation about land use through time in this vital communication and population center in southern Greece.

Five Camps of Corinth

One of the things that I’ve been working on over the last few days is trying to find a clear and clever way to explain to people why a Mediterranean archaeologist would be interested in man camps in North Dakota. As I thought through this I came to realize that the place where I learned archaeology was filled with camps – or at least short term, impromptu, seasonal, settlements. In fact, just thinking about the Corinthia for a few minutes reminded me that there were at least five camps of varying antiquity (and this is not counting the good old fashioned recreational camps!).

1. The Fortified Camp on Mt. Oneion. This is my favorite because I published it with Tim Gregory. (You can download the publication here.) The camp isn’t much to see aside for some rubble walls and a scatter of storage and table wares. Otherwise, its footprint on the landscape is pretty modest suggesting that it was intensely occupied for a relatively (for Greece) short period of time and saw only a small investment in 

00 07 068

2. Lakka Skoutara. Lakka Skoutara is the location of a small settlement to the east of the village of Sophiko. While Lakka Skoutara is not formally a camp, it was originally constructed as a seasonal settlement perhaps to accommodate families during the threshing of grain or during the olive harvest. At times, the seasonal settlement became permanent especially when political and economic events disrupted traditional village life, but for most of the settlement’s history it served as a “crew camp” to house the workforce needed for agricultural production. (For an archive of images from Lakka Skoutara click here.)


3. The Gypsy Camp.  On the road from the village of Ancient Corinth across the Isthmia plain stands a gypsy camp. I’ve never visited it, but daily we’d see its ad hoc arrangement of rooms and spaces with their corrugated metal or blue tarp walls.  Every so often someone designs a research program or some other form of outreach that would provide an opportunity for the camp to intersect with the archaeologists who work in the area. 

4. Washingtonia. Washingtonia is the name that the reformer and philhellene Samuel Gridley Howe gave to the refugee settlement that he created near the modern village of Hexamillia in the Corinthia. He describes the first residents of this settlement as refugees from the Greek War of Independence and noted that at least some of them had been living in caverns. Another tradition has it (and I don’t have a reference for this) that refugees lived in the remains of the Corinth amphitheater.

5. The Corinth Canal. When I was active in field work in the Corinthia, we would walk down the road from our base at the ancient site of Isthmia to the beach near the canal. (Nothing was more relaxing that to swimming in the balmy bilge water of Russian flagged bauxite freighters as they chug through the Corinth canal). On our walk, we’d see a group of houses that stood out for being oddly situated on their blocks. At some point, someone (probably Tim Gregory, but maybe Richard Rothaus) told me that these were houses built to accommodate foreign workers on the Corinth canal. The houses are clearly visible on this Google Earth image sitting diagonally across their lots in a neat row. If someone can confirm this, it would be great.

Isthmia Canal Houses

The Corinthian Landscape

This past week, I spent some time going through past volumes of the journal Hesperia in an effort to identify a small and cohesive group of articles focusing on the Corinthian countryside (as opposed to the extensive research done on the urban center) and suitable for binding together and distributed as an edited collection of reprints. The decision by Hesperia to release almost the entire past contents of their journal online, for free, made this process infinitely easier. At the same time, the availability of the articles for free put added pressure on me and my collaborators to prepare a collection of articles that somehow were worth more then their component parts.

As I thought through this process, I began to come up with a series of rules that would shape our collection. First, the articles had to be the primary publication of the site or a particular method for documenting the countryside. In other words, there could not exist a more definitive, final publication of the material or the site. Next, the articles had to focus on a series of key features in the countryside: routes and places of travel (roads, paths, harbors), fortifications, and settlements and rural land use (quarries, cemeteries, aqueducts, et c.).  Finally, we had to be able to present a synthetic introduction both to the entire volume and to the individual sections which contextualized the articles and “adds value” to the assembled re-prints.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to roll out the collection of articles to be included in this reprint volume. Additions, critique, and comments are, of course, welcome!

Man Camp Methods

As readers of this blog know, I will head out to the western part of the state next month to conduct an archaeological evaluation of man camps associated with the Bakken oil patch in North Dakota. This work will occur in collaboration with colleagues from the Department of Social Work, an architectural historian, a photographer, and a two historian/archaeologists familiar with working in North Dakota. Our plan at present is to work several days in the neighborhood of Stanley, North Dakota and then around Watford City.

Over the next few weeks, I need to come up with a method for documenting the diverse array of camps that serve to house the workers in the oil industry in Western North Dakota. With the diversity of our team, we have a whole series of overlapping research questions from those involving issues of housing to archaeological methods, aesthetics, and historical processes at play in boom areas. Creating a unified method for collecting data (and the inevitable preliminary analysis that comes along with primary data collection), will be a challenge.

My gut instinct when confronted with any archaeological data collection from the field is to create a form. This probably comes from my background in survey archaeology and its grounding in the practices of processual archaeology. The forms I imagine provide a frame work for collecting quantitative and qualitative data on a site. How big is the camp? How many units are in the camp? How are the units arranged?  These kinds of questions, of course, are easily addressed on a paper form, well-suited for entry into a spreadsheet or data base, and convenient to summarize in maps, tables or – if we collect a sufficiently robust data set – in statistical form. 

On the other hand, I have witnessed the limitations of forms in documenting complex environments. In one of the first seasons with the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey, we used a form called “the modern sweep” (for a brief description of these methods see pp. 441-442 here (pdf)). This was a densely packed one page form designed to document modern material across the survey unit. The concept was sophisticated for its time, but the rub – as so often happens – was in the execution. The form was long, complex, confusing, and frequently impossible to reconcile with the material on the ground. This was not an issue with how the form was constructed, per se, but that a form was not an ideal way to capture the diverse assemblage of modern material scattered through farmers’ fields in the Korinthia. After one season, the form was dropped.

How do I create a form to document this?TiogaCamp

The most challenging thing about documenting the material culture around the man camps is finding the balance between the need to prompt the collection of systematic and comparable data and the urge to produce an unrealistically detailed form.

My current thinking is to prompt our recording team to document their observations based on archaeological processes like discard practices, on the one hand, and practices associated with creating social distinctions on the other. While these prompts will invariably rely upon some fairly substantial assumptions, they will also maintain a degree of interpretive transparency that a traditional form might obscure behind a veil of more narrowly descriptive fields.

Spiros Marinos

This weekend, I heard the sad news that Spiros Marinos had died. Anyone who has spent time working with Tim Gregory in the Corinthia, or on one the many projects related to the sites of Isthmia, Kenchreai, or the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey, or has come through the village of Ancient Corinth and stayed at Rooms Marinos encountered Spiros. He was the patriarch and founder of Rooms Marinos and was a constant at the hotel and in the village for all of my decade and a half of time spent in the Corinthia. This weekend I thought about Spiros some and remembered some of the ways in which he made my life and time in the Corinthia better. 

First, whenever we as archaeologist began to either feel bad about how many hours we were being asked to work or began to feel too good about our long days, we could look a Spiros as an instant corrective to our self pity or congratulations. It was a rare night that we headed away from the dinner table and Spiros was not still up and working. Each morning (including some inhumane hours kept by a particular archaeological survey), Spiros was up setting the table and bringing out the food. When the hotel was crowded with an archaeological team, a study tour, and various tourists, he appeared in constant motion. He worked long hours and whenever someone quips about the laziness of the Greeks (especially in light of the recent financial crisis), my mind turns to Spiros and the Marinos family.

I always appreciated his genuine hospitality offered mainly through simple gestured. There was nothing more pleasant than to be offered a piece of fruit on a hot afternoon or to be teased as I groggily attempted to navigate my breakfast after a late night. When I’d come down to the hotel from Athens in the winter months, I rarely paid for my room and I was invited to take meals with his family. These gestures did not necessarily happen often or regularly, but when they did occur it was impossible not to feel part of something. 

Finally, and perhaps most academically, Spiros knew an immense amount about the Corinthian countryside. Some of my fondest memories involve him explaining (usually via Tim Gregory) the workings of some obscure piece of agricultural equipment we had stumbled across at a rural site. Or Spiros telling us how to get to some long neglected path through the mountains or to some obscure and half-forgotten archaeological site. It would be interesting to note how many dissertations produced by folks who spend significant time at Rooms Marinos thanked Spiros and his wife in their acknowledgements. 

I haven’t made it back to the Corinthia for the last few summers, and hearing about Spiros passing made me incredibly nostalgic for the long hours in the Corinthian countryside, the mostly drinkable yellow colored Rooms Marinos wine, and the gentle hospitality of the Marinos family. He will be forever part of my memory of that place.

The Chlamydatus of Corinth

In the most recent Hesperia, Amelia Brown has offered an intriguing article on a significant group of Late Roman portrait statues (“Last Men Standing: Chlamydatus Protraits and Public Life in Late Antique Corinth,Hesperia 81 (2012), 141-176). Chlamydatus statues of Corinth depict men wearing the “distinctive long cloak or chlamys” and this dress typically associates these individuals with imperial office. Brown has assembled a group of 7 largely fragmentary, life-sized statues of this kind from around Corinth with 6 of them appearing in the forum area. These status date to the 4th and 5th centuries and represent both a change in Late Roman portrait style as well as the growing political influence of the imperial center at Constantinople of aristocratic representation at Corinth. According to Brown, these statues appear to be associated with imperial rather than local elite. Corinth’s position as the seat of the governor of Achaea probably accounts for the number of imperial elite present, but also made it both an appealing location for the display of honorific statues dedicated to men who had contributed to the safety, urban environments, religious life, and culture of the province.

As per usual, I’ll let Dr. Brown’s work stand on its own merits and recommend it to anyone interested in understand the development and archaeology of Late Roman statuary. Instead, I’ll focus on two interrelated but admittedly peripheral aspects of Brown’s work.

First, Brown does a nice job of arguing that the Lechaion road was the main area for the display of chlamydatus statues. In her reconstruction of this space of display the chlamys clad statues stood along the sides of the main road into forum area of Corinth. A visitor to the forum area would have passed under the impassive gaze of these statues as they walked along the main artery of the Late Antique city. The Lechaion Road provided access to basic civic amenities like latrines and shops as well as places of display like the Peirene fountain which likely served as an important source of water for the city as well as an area for informal recreation, gathering, and meeting. Thus Corinthians and visitors to the city lived their daily life in and among reminders of the city’s imperial patrons.

The Lechaion Road also likely served as the main route of official processions into the city of Corinth.  Important visitors from the west would have enjoyed their official adventus (or ritual of arrival) into the city along the wide, colonnaded, grandiose Lechaion Road. The chlamydatus would have watched the passage of fellow elites and their retinues accompanied by city fathers, fellow imperial aristocrats, and by the 5th century perhaps local representatives of the Christian communities. The position of the statues along the road left the main route into the city open, but also provided a permanent audience for ritual processions. The most important men in the city and perhaps province would always be there, standing to honor their fellow elites.

The statue that I was most intrigued by was the so-called Kraneion chlamydatus. This statue was found cut down and reused as a threshold at the Kraneion basilica which dates to the 6th century and stood immediately outside of the eastern Kraneion Gate to the city. The location of the statue near the eastern gate of the city suggests that this might have been an area for display during the Late Antiquity with chlamys clad statues greeting visitors from the east.

NewImageHesperia 81 (2012), p. 145

The reuse of the Kraneion chlamydatus in the Kraneion basilica interesting is that it was cut down for use as a threshold block.  It would be easy to recognize in this use of spolia practical concerns; torso of the chlamydatus provided a substantial block of marble suitable for the requirements of a threshold.

I do wonder whether there might be some symbolic considerations as well. The cutting down of the statue would have made it difficult for a visitor to the church to recognize the former function of the block. On the other hand, the process of selecting and cutting down the block must have involved a series of ideological decisions. The chlamys clad man had to be recognized as no longer relevant or important and therefore suitable for reuse. The placement of the block as a threshold offers a nice parallel to the original location of the statue near the gate to the city (or the placement of the other chlamydatus along the processional route of the monumentalized Lechaion Road).  In other words, the location of the reused chlamydatus at the threshold to the church finds a nice parallel with their original location in liminal spaces like the gate to the city or a processional way.

One could even go a step further and suggest that the relocation of the chlamydatus statue at the threshold of the church marked out the boundary between the civic world and the works of the church. The shift is more marked when you consider that within the church the congregation stood in the aisles and watched the ranked procession of the clergy. The congregation may have been accompanied by a passive processions of saints standing in the place of the onlooking chlamydatus along the Lechaion Road while the clergy’s liturgical procession echoed the ritualized adventus of Late Roman aristocrats into the city.

The physical subordination of the Kraneion chlamydatus at the threshold of the church echoed the gradual suppression of monumental civic space throughout the empire and their replacement with churches tied to the ecclesiastical rather than civic or imperial elite.

Crossposted to Corinthian Matters.