BMCR 2002.10.31

Response: Scotton on Rothaus on Scotton on Rothaus

Response to 2002.09.18

Response by

In his response to my review of his work Corinth: The First City of Greece, An Urban History of Late Antique Cult & Religion, Dr. Rothaus (R) asserts that key evidence which I found lacking in his work is in fact present. The differences between us cited in R’s response lie in his presentation of the physical evidence of late fourth century CE seismic activity in Corinth and in the identification of a late antique/early Christian cemetery in and near the Asclepeion in Corinth.

First, whether or not evidence is missing from his presentation of earthquake damage in Corinth. My statement that “The only cited evidence of earthquake damage is an indirect quote…” is incorrect. It should read: “According to R, in the category of ‘the clearest evidence of earthquake damage’ the only cited evidence is an indirect quote…” This correction does not, however, abate my concerns over the presentation of the physical evidence of earthquakes. Pages 16-18 are devoted to introductory remarks on seismic activity and ancient testimonia, not physical evidence. None of the testimonia cited mentions Corinth specifically. In fact, R recognizes the limitations and unreliability of the testimonia and concludes: “In the end, the literary evidence really does not matter much.” (p. 18) R then rightly asserts “…the archaeological record…must be the deciding factor in determining the effect of earthquakes in Corinth.” (p. 18)

When R does begin his discussion of physical evidence at the top of p.19, he starts with the lacuna and in media res (cited in my review)and immediately follows with Swift’s disproven assertion of specific earthquake damage in the Julian Basilica (also cited). Next comes R’s summation of Jane Biers’ work in the Great Bath. This summation is accurate and pertinent. It is, unfortunately, the only one which depicts a convincing portrayal of physical damage attributed to earthquakes.

In addition to his discussion of the Bath, R cites the West Shops, and the Sanctuary of Isis and Kenchreai, p 20. The evidence offered for the West Shops is two capitals that fell and broke “[a]t some point, presumably but not certainly the late fourth century.” No evidence is offered concerning the Sanctuary of Isis, only the statement that “it clearly was destroyed by seismic activity…[and] collapsed and was submerged, preventing any attempts at repair.” Next comes a brief discourse on the probability of at least two earthquakes having struck Corinth in the late fourth century, pp. 20-21. R then lists in one paragraph with a bibliographical footnote fourteen structures or complexes in Corinth as: “Other examples of destruction from earthquakes in the late fourth century[that] can be tentatively identified.” As R’s text now stands, then, he has securely identified and described earthquake damage in one structure, i.e. The Great Bath.

I cannot address here all fourteen structures/complexes listed as tentative, but one is of special concern. To include the area East of Theater in this group of tentative identification is misrepresentative. Williams, Hesperia (1987) p. 31, states: “It seems likely that the earthquake of either 365 or 375 brought the stage building to the ground…Probably the whole stone fabric of the Theater suffered in the earthquake that shook the stage.” It is safe to assume that the only reason the cavea did not collapse as well is because it was a refurbished Greek theater, i.e. built into the hillside and not freestanding like the Theater of Marcellus. Even if one should dismiss my concern as one based upon semantics, the missing and errant references in the bibliography offered for East of Theater cannot be. The 1987 reference cited above is absent, as is that to Williams Hesperia (1985) pp. 78-79, regarding post quake fills and their dating. Of the two references R does cite, the second is in error. Williams Hesperia (1984) p. 101 pertains to the northwest area of the court of Glauke in general and specifically to the stratigraphic evidence below a latrine and reservoir near the east/west road to the north of Glauke. All in all, pages 19-21 do not offer a compelling presentation of physical evidence of seismic activity in the late fourth century.

R identifies the graves to the north and west of the Temple of Asklepius as Christian and uses this identification as the basis for his thesis that the graves were a deliberate attempt to discredit and subvert Asclepius and his cult. In my review I challenge the claims that evidence offered in R’s work can support the identification of this area as Christian cemetery. R in his response states: “On page 51 the grave goods, and, more importantly for the identification, the Christian tombstones are noted.” After stating in his monograph on page 51 that “Grave goods in both the graves around the temple and in the courtyard were infrequent”, R cites the following objects from seventeen rock-cut graves to the north and northwest of the Temple of Asklepius: three 6 C jugs from near the temple, three lamps from one grave, and “numerous complete lamps”. In footnote 64, we learn that “similar jugs and lamps were found in some of the graves in the courtyard” and that a coin of Honorius was found in the grave of three jugs. The three jugs are depicted in Figure 12 along with three others, but from where the other three come, as well as which is which, is not noted. Figure 13 offers the three lamps from the single grave but at a size and resolution that depicts their general shapes and inventory numbers but little else. Their individual dates are provided in footnote 64. Other than providing a 6 C date for the three jugs and for the numerous lamps an earliest date of early 5 C and a latest of mid 6 C, no analysis of these grave goods is offered. Are we to understand that such jugs and lamps are unique to Christian burials? If so, R does not say so. Can these few jugs and lamps secure the seventeen graves and the cemetery as Christian?

The Christian tombstones are important evidence but as offered are not persuasive. R relates that more than 300 burials were found in this area. He then states: “The graves in this area all seem to be Christian; their orientation is consistently east-west and the heads were usually placed at the west end of the grave. Likewise, numerous Christian tombstones have been recovered from this burial ground.” The orientation of the graves is of interest but certainly not conclusive. Numerous Christian tombstones, however, can secure some of these graves as Christian, but how many are included in “numerous”? Some hard numbers here would be more illustrative and certainly are required to identify all these graves as Christian. If we accept R’s analysis of the Fountain of the Lamps (adjacent to the Asklepieion) as an example of a single space shared by pagans, Christians, and their variant rituals, can we assume that all the Asklepieion graves are Christian? Why not a common graveyard for both pagans and Christians? Without a detailed analysis of the graves, grave goods, and tombstones, including specific numbers and statistics, R’s thesis is unsubstantiated. R may well prove to be right, but we cannot make that determination for a cemetery of over 300 burials or even for just the seventeen rock-cut graves based upon referencing three(six?) jugs, six lamps, and one coin while leaving the rest of the evidence to general descriptives.

Finally another issue, spelling and its consequences. The issue is not, as R implies, whether a scholar chooses Latinate forms, transliterated Greek, or the juxtaposition of a combination of both. Rather, it is the use of variant spellings of the same word, on the same page, and with no difference in intent or meaning. R’s dismissal of such a concern as “inconsequential” would seem to explain the state of the text and the need for a thorough editing. Such careless errors are abundant and are not limited to spelling. Faulty cross-references are frequent. For example, in the index under Demeter seven citations are listed. Demeter is mentioned on p. 14, the first citation. In the remaining six, we find the following: the Demeter Sanctuary is not mentioned on p.20 but rather on p. 21 and in fn. 52; rather than appearing on pp. 33-37,the Demeter Sanctuary is mentioned once on p. 35 fn. 12 and again on p. 39and in fn. 30; the Demeter Sanctuary is not cited on p. 53 but rather on p. 55 fn. 71; sculptural evidence from the Demeter Sanctuary is not referenced on p. 120 but rather on p.123 fn. 59; page 156, the first page of R’s bibliography, has no specific reference to Demeter but on p. 157 the citation of Bookides and Fisher Hesperia (1972) does appear; finally, the seventh reference is to pp. 163-165, three more pages of bibliography. Neither 163 nor 164 has any reference to Demeter. On p. 165 is Pemberton 1989 Corinth XVIII; on p. 167 is Slane 1990 Corinth XVIII.ii, and on p. 168 is found Stroud Hesperia (1965), the preliminary report on the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. Such errors as these, as well as inconsistent spellings, lacunae, and typos, are unnecessary encumbrances that weaken R’s presentation.

In sum, my views about R’s monograph remain unchanged: “Although much new material is brought to light, I am not sure that the current presentation of the evidence and arguments can support the conclusions.”