Roman Tombs in Corinth: Caraher on Walbank on Slane

If you’re a Corinthiaphile who doesn’t read Bill Caraher’s The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World blog, you should check in on it on occasion. Bill has one of the most successful and consistent blogs on ancient Mediterranean world on the interwebs. He has released insightful, smart, and humorous posts almost every day—minus weekends and holidays—since 2007. Bill is also an occasional contributor to Corinthian Matters through cross-posts from his own blog. Now, you’ll get a lot more than Mediterranean archaeology at his blog (he discusses everything from North Dakota Man-Camps to academic life to punk archaeology), but there’s also plenty of new material on Greece, Cyprus, and Corinthiaka specifically.

Some of his recent posts on the Corinthia, for example, include:

Monday’s post had one of the best opening paragraphs I’ve read:

One of the great things about working in and around Corinth is the intensity of the archaeological rivalries. Scholars in the Corinthia and endlessly “getting up in each other’s business.” Over the years this has produced some tremendously exciting, public disputes including the famous “Scotton on Rothaus on Scotton on Rothaus” debate of 2002. So, when an article has a title “A debate with K. W. Slane” and turns Slane’s 2012 article into a question, it is impossible as not to get excited (M.E.H. Walbank, “Remaining Roman in Death at Corinth: A Debate with Kathleen Slane,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 27 (2014), 403-417; K.W. Slane, “Remaining Roman in Death at an Eastern Colony,” JRA 25 (2012), 442-455) . This is like a classic Philadelphia Big 5 basketball game from the 1980s. The stakes are low, but the intensity is high.

I was attracted to the article no only because of the opportunity to get front row seats to a Corinthian showdown, but also because I’ve been thinking about how communities on Cyprus construct identities….

Caraher’s review of Walbank on Slane foregrounds a broad debate (in this case, regarding the interpretation of graves) about how early Roman elite of Corinth constructed identity in light of the complex history of the site: Roman destruction of the Greek city in 146 BC and its refoundation as a Roman colony in 44 BC. A generation or two ago, scholars debated whether the Roman colony reincarnated the previous Greek city, or represented a wholly Roman venture. Further studies have highlighted the complexities of continuity and discontinuity between the former Greek city and Roman colony, and also changes in the way elite constructed identity over time (the second century AD is significantly different than the early colony). This is complex matter. As Caraher sums up the debate,

Slane argues in her 2012 article that Corinthian elites showed a clear affinity for Roman forms suggesting that Early Roman Corinthians continued to look to Italy as they constructed their new Corinthian identities. Walbank suggests, in contrast, that Slane has misread or misunderstood the evidence and, instead, has found much more interleaving of Italian and broadly Greek features in these tombs. In many cases, the debate comes down to different interpretations of features like benches, motifs in wall painting, and funerary practices. The evidence is often ambiguous and fragmentary.

Read the rest of the review here.

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Categories: American School Excavations, Blogosphere, Demography, Mortuary, Periods, Roman, Sites, Urban Center

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