Corinth, the First City of Greece: An Urban History of Late Antique Cult and Religion

Corinth, the First City of Greece: An Urban History of Late Antique Cult and Religion

Corinth, the First City of Greece: An Urban History of Late Antique Cult and Religion

Corinth, the First City of Greece: An Urban History of Late Antique Cult and Religion

Synopsis

This book addresses cult and religion in the city of Corinth from the 4th to 7th centuries of our era. The work incorporates and synthesizes all available evidence, literary, archaeological and other. The interaction and conflict between Christian and non-Christian activity is placed into its urban context and seen as simultaneously existing and overlapping cultural activity. Late antique religion is defined as cult-based rather than doctrinally-based, and thus this volume focuses not on what people believed, but rather what they did. An emphasis on cult activity reveals a variety of types of interaction between groups, ranging from confrontational events at dilapidated polytheist cult sites, to full polysemous and shared cult activity at the so-called Fountain of the Lamps". Non-Christian traditions are shown to have been recognized and viable through the sixth century. The tentative conclusion is drawn that a clear definition of "pagan" and "Christian" begins at an urban level with the Christian re-monumentalization of Corinth with basilicas. The disappearance of "pagan" cult is best attributed to the development of a new city socially and physically based in Christianity, rather than any purely "religious" development."

Excerpt

To acknowledge everyone who assisted in the creation of this book is, of course, impossible. I have spent a decade reconsidering and reinterpreting Korinthian history and the issues of religion in late antiquity; but this is hardly enough time to understand the complexity of the issues; obviously I have benefited by standing on the shoulders of others. My gratitude extends to all, but I can mention only a few here. First, I must recognize Timothy E. Gregory, with whom I spent many, many hours walking the Korinthia and visiting sites, and too few pleasant afternoons eating halvah and oranges while we tried to decide what it all meant. Without his continuing interest in the world of late antiquity, and his steadfast agreement that there was great knowledge to be gained from the re-examination of the scrawl in old notebooks and dusty context pottery, this work would never have been seen to completion.

Fieldwork and study was performed under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and with the permission of the 4th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Archaeology. I have, frankly, mixed feelings about the role of the American School in this process. the American School is a private institution that by Greek law, must approve and act as an intermediary with the Greek government for all American archaeological projects, including the study of material previously excavated by Americans. At times this works well, at other times it does not. Most seriously, the American School maintains a policy of restricting access to material “under study.” in practice this means that I was repeatedly denied the right to study because scholars somewhere maintained an interest. This would make sense until the time scale is revealed: some of the material I could not see was excavated when I was in diapers, some twenty years before I was born. the evidence is already fragmentary enough; it helps no one to closet evidence away and take a proprietary stance toward primary historical knowledge. a research institution is not really a research institution if the guiding policy is maintenance of the past status quo at the expense of present inquiry.

Many individuals, however, were most helpful in helping me pursue my investigations. C.K. Williams ii, former director of the American School of Classical Studies Excavations at Corinth, opened the archives and storerooms to me even at a time when I was unsure of what I was looking for. Robert Scranton, former director of the University of Chicago/Indiana University Excavations at Kenchreai, restored my faith at a time when access to . . .

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