By Claudia Sciuto and Jelena Behaim
Thursday’s expedition to the ancient cities of Isthmia and Corinth began with a struggle to get through Athens’ public transport system in the rush hour, in order to reach Larissa Train Station. Our first destination was the ancient city of Isthmia, home of the biennial Isthmian Games. The group got acquainted with the history and importance of the site thanks to Jon Frey, a member of the Institute, associate professor at the Michigan State University and field coordinator at the Ohio State University Excavation in Isthmia.
Jon guided us across the permanent display of the Archaeological Museum focusing on the multifaceted biographies of the remarkable objects preserved there. The group explored centuries of history through the ruins of the impressive places of Ancient Greece’s religious, administrative and athletic past. After a walk through the Temple of Poseidon and the stadium, we passed by the theatre, and ended our visit in the outskirts of the ancient settlement.
The Roman Baths, a place of relaxation, philosophical discussion and delight, later became partly incorporated into the fortified system of the Hexamilion wall, built to protect the Peloponnese from invasions. Once richly decorated with marble brought from all parts of the Roman world, the Baths are situated on the site of the earlier (4th century B. C.) Greek baths and still display traces of the former dazzling appearance through mosaics and the hypocaust. The great hospitality of the museum curators and staff was sealed with a presentation by Angeliki Kandri, who gave us an overview of her interesting project about public engagement and customized experience for visitors in the Archaeological Museum of Isthmia.
After exploring the wonders of Isthmia, the group was taken to discover the site of ancient Corinth. The visit started with a very scenic lunch (so that we could get our daily intake of gyros) on a terrace with a view over the ancient site. Jon introduced us to many iconic monuments, highlighting how various narratives are intertwined over the material traces of the ancient settlement. Particularly fascinating was the story of the Glauke fountain, a spur of limestone bedrock shaped by quarrying activities, and readapted as a fountain. The myth narrates that Glauke, daughter of king Kreon, fell in the fountain in an attempt to save her own life after wearing a poisoned peplos she received from the witch Medea.
The visit continued to the area of the theatre and the agora, where the group discovered the transformation of the urban layout looking at the many patches of masonry, surrounded by beautiful spring flowers.
The various stories and objects laid out below the abrupt cliffs of the Acrocorinth captured our interest. We started reflecting on how we could approach some particular objects or feature from the sites with the lens of our itinerary hubs. Task for the day was to capture information about one specific target, different for each group/hub and start pondering on how we could map the itinerary focusing on style, idea, object and people. The discussion continued on the way back to Athens and will be developed further during the next days.