Isthmia in the Roman Period – Footnotes

The Isthmian Games and the sanctuary of Poseidon in the early empire


1 The final publications include: O. Broneer, Isthmia 1, The Temple of Poseidon (Princeton 1971); id., Isthmia ll, Topography and architecture (Princeton 1973); id., Isthmia lll, Terracotta lamps (Princeton 1977); M. Sturgeon, Isthmia IV, The sculpture, 1952-1967 (Princeton 1988); E. R. Gebhard, The theater at Isthmia (Chicago 1973). Broneer’s work was done under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for the University of Chicago. In 1967 Paul Clement began a new series of investigations on behalf of the University of California at Los Angeles by exploring the Late Roman fortress and fortification wall and the Roman Bath. In 1987 Timothy Gregory succeeded Paul Clement as director of this area, and he continues Clement’s project for Ohio State University. Since 1976 I have carried on Broneer’s work for the University of Chicago. All of us who work on the Roman Corinthia owe a debt to Professor Gregory for organizing this conference as a forum for our ongoing studies.Also frequently cited below are: B. D. Meritt, Greek inscriptions 1896-1927 vol. Vlll, part I of Corinth, results of excavations conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Cambridge 1931). A. B. West, Latin inscriptions 1896-1926 vol.Vlll part 11 of the same (1931); J. H. Kent, The inscriptions 1926-1950 vol. Vlll part 111 of the same (1966); K. M. Edwards, Coins 1896-1929 vol. Vl of the same (1933); M. Amandry, Le monnayage des duovirs corinthiens (BCH suppl.XV, Paris 1988).

2 The excavations were conducted by the University of Chicago with permission of the Greek Ministry of Culture and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The field work and subsequent study seasons were supported by a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and matching funds from private donors. A report of the remains to c.470 B.C. appears in E. R. Gebhard and F. P. Hemans, “University of Chicago excavations at Isthmia, 1989: I,” Hesperia 61 (1992) 1-77. Part II of the report will include the new Roman material that is discussed here in a preliminary form. Cf. also J. W. Hayes in this volume.

3 Discussions with Orestes Zervos concerning the Corinthian coins and Fritz Hemans on the architecture clarified a number of points. I am very grateful to them and to C. K. Williams and J. W. Hayes for reading the final manuscript. For the excellent field records that made it possible to arrive at a more precise chronology for the Roman periods of the Palaimonion and the SE area of the temenos, I am indebted to Grace Ziesing, Keith Dickey, Alison Adams, and Bruce King who served as trench masters in 1989.

4 Broneer describes the destruction of the altar in Isthmia I, 99-101; the Hellenistic roads crossing the altar in Isthmia II, 20-22; summary, ibid. 67-68.

5 Isthmia I 101, n.48; 11, 10 n.2; J. R. Wiseman, The land of the ancient Corinthians (Goteborg 1978) 496. Literary evidence for activity at the sanctuary after 146 B.C. is collected by Wiseman in “Corinth and Rome 1: 228 B.C. – A.D. 267,” ANRW 11.7.1 (1979) 495-96. Something must have been left in the temple for pirates to sack it in the 60s B.C. (Plut., Pomp 23.6). It is difficult to imagine votive offerings without sacrifices at an altar.

6 Kent 70-72, nos. 152,153, with references. The inscription is discussed below.

7 Isthmia I,101.

8 S. G. Miller et al. (edd.), Nemea. A guide to the site and museum (Berkeley 1990), 22-24, 57, 61-62.

9 R. Baladie, Strabo, Geographie vol. V (Book 8) pp.l6-17.

10 The date of composition for Strabo’s Geography was long debated on the basis of whether or not he revised books 8-10 at the end of his life under Tiberius. G. W. Bowersock settled the question in 1961 (“Eurycles of Sparta,” JHS 51 [1961] 112-18), by showing that there is no evidence of later revisions in book 8 and affirming 2 B.C. as a terminus ante quem for its composition. Cf. F. Lasserre, “Strabo” in Kleine Pauly IV, 382-83. Kent (p.70) summarizes the argument for the games’ return after 2 B.C., followed by Broneer, Isthmia 11, 67 n.2; Wiseman, ANRW 11.7.1 (1979) 496 n.217; Amandry, 11, n.85. The gap of 40 years between the founding of the colony and the return of the games is often cited as evidence for the colony’s slow development and growth (Baladie p.l6 n.2).


12 Other devices used on early issues that may refer to the Isthmian sanctuary are a nude Poseidon holding a long trident and sitting on a rock (Amandry type 11, 43 or 42 B.C., pp.l23-24, pls. 11-111), and a dolphin with trident (Amandry type 111, 44 or 41 B.C., p.l27, pl. IV.R1-2).

13 The pine wreath that was adopted at the founding of the panhellenic Isthmian Games in 582 or 580 was apparently changed to one of selinon by the time of Pindar: O. Broneer, “The Isthmian victory crown,” AJA 66 (1962) 259-61; M. Blech, Studien zum Kranz bei den Griechen (Berlin 1982) 131-34; E. Gebhard, “The early stadium at Isthmia and the founding of the Isthmian games,” in H. Kyrieleis and W. D. E. Coulson (edd.), Symposium on the Olympic Games (Athens 1992) 73-79. During Roman times both wreaths seem to have been in use. Plutarch devoted one of the quaestiones conviviales to the topic, “Why pine was sacred to Poseidon and Dionysos; and why they first crowned those winning the Isthmian games with pine, then with selinos, and now again with pine” (Moralia 5.3). The Isthmian wreath needs further study in the light of new monuments and a better understanding of the chronology. It is not impossible that different wreaths were used for the Roman Caesarea and Imperial Games celebrated at the same time as the Isthmia; cf. D. Geagan, “Notes on the agonistic institutions of Roman Corinth,” GRBS 9 (1968) 69-80. Since selinon is variously translated as wild celery and parsley, I have retained the Greek word.

14 Amandry type IV, pp.39-40, pl.V, R1-5.

15 The use of a hydria as a sign of athletics can be seen on an Isthmian victory inscription of the 2nd c. where it is carved in relief in the center of the pediment: I~ 69-2; Michaud, “Chronique des fouilles …” BCH 94 (1970) 94649. The vase that often appears in an athletic context on coins, inscriptions and reliefs L. Robert (Hellenica VII [1949] 107-8, and CRAI 1968, p.574 n.2, following H. Gaebler, “Die Losurne in der Agonistik,” ZfN39 [1929] 271312) identified as the urn from which lots were drawn to pair opponents in boxing and the pankration.

16 Amandry type V, pl.VI, R1-R8. The wreath would commemorate the Isthmian Games of 38 or 36 B.C. as they were held biennially in even-numbered years before Christ and in odd years after.

17 For the date of his visit to Corinth, see Baladie, Geographie pp.16-17; for the date of composition and revision, see n.10.

18 Meritt no.14.

19 For a possible sanctuary of Nemean Zeus for the celebration of the Nemean Games in the city of Argos, see N. Norman, “Movable feasts and sanctuaries: the case of Nemean Zeus, ” AJA 1989 p.269 (abstract).

20 Isthmia II, 68. As noted above, he placed the first Roman games in the Augustan period on the basis of Strabo and Kent’s reconstruction of Regulus’ career.

21 Trs. 89-19, 25 (south), 44, 45, 49 (south), 14,17, 66 and 2A. A full description of this material and other Roman deposits excavated in 1989 is included in Part 11 of the excavation report (forthcoming, see n.2).

22 J. W. Hayes reports that the same proportions are found in deposits excavated by Broneer.

23 Lots 89-40 and 449 in trenches 89-2A and 66 respectively; figs. 1-2.

24 Isthmia II, 52-55, 65. Evidence from the 1989 excavations supports a date in the early 3rd c. B.C. for the removal of the Early Stadium.

25 From bottom to top within the pit the sequence is Lots 89-280, 279, 278.

26 The lamps associated with Pit A and its precinct are of Broneer type XVI (Isthmia III, p.89). We are indebted to David Reese for analyzing the bones; he will publish the final report on faunal remains from the sanctuary.

27 Gebhard, The theater at Isthmia 84-87.

28 Broneer calls it the “Lower Terrace Wall” and makes it contemporary with Palaimonion phases I and II (Isthmia II, 68-69). The masonry would not be out of place in the Hellenistic period, but there is no archaeological context to provide a more secure date.

29 Isthmia II, p.73. We have followed his restoration in the plan, fig.3.

30 We can probably assume that the roads lay outside the boundary of the temenos. It is this feature that restricts the northern portion of the sacred area in Hellenistic and early Roman times. In the final phase with the construction of the colonnaded court, provision was made for the road to pass through the temenos.

31 Amandry type XXI, pl. 37, RIIa1-RIIb11, cf. pp.22-24, nn.179-80. One example was found in the orchestra of the Isthmian theatre (Gebhard, The theater at Isthmia fig.44,1).

32 Since the festival is featured on this issue, Polyaenus and Optatus probably held office in A.D. 58/59 with the reverse referring to the Isthmian games of 59. The design recalls the reverse of C. Mussius Priscus and C. Heius Pollio (A.D. 4/5) where the names of the officials are enclosed within a similar selinon wreath; Amandry type Xlll, pl.14, Ral-Rg2. Theirs was the first issue to show a wreath of selinon rather than pine, perhaps to commemorate the reintroduction of selinon for the victor’s crown at the festival of A.D. 5.

33 M. Schede, “Aus dem Heraion von Samos,” AthMitt 44 (1919) 33, dated to the early Empire on the basis of the letter forms.

34 Robert (RPhil 1929, p.130) takes the participial phrase () as referring only to the Caesarea. It may not have occurred to him that the Isthmian games as well as the Caesarea were celebrated in Corinth.

35 “Caesarea in Corinth”: 1. from Thespiae for Neikophanes (IG VII 1856; cf. West p.64. Probably Augustan); 2. from Perge for a runner (SEG XVII. 628; L. Robert, RPhil 1929,128-31. Robert suggested a date in the first part of the 1st c. A.D.); 3. from Corinth for the boy singer L. Vibius Florus (Kent no.272, 3rd c. A.D.; Robert, REG 79 [1966] 752 placed it in the 1st or early 2nd c. A.D.); 4. from Isthmia for Pythian flutist L. Kornelios Korinthos (J.-P. Michaud, BCH 94 [1970] 946-49; P. Clement, “L. Kornelios Korinthos of Corinth” in D. Bradeen and M. McGregor (edd.), Phoros. Tribute to Benjamin Dean Meritt [Locust Valley, N.Y. 1974] 36-39; 2nd or 3rd c. A.D.). A. J. S. Spawforth, “Agonistic festivals in Roman Greece,” in S. Walker and Averil Cameron (edd.), The Greek renaissance in the Roman empire (London 1989)195 n.22, takes to mean the city and territory.

36 L. Robert, Documents de l’Asie Mineure meridionale (Paris 1966) 101-5.

37 Ephesos II.72 lines 10 and 15; L. Robert, RPhil 1929, 130. Such a phrase may have served to separate the traditional Isthmian games from later Isthmia established in other cities, e.g. , IG Vl1.1856 line 6.

38 E.g. for Neikophanes from Thespiae, and Kornelios from Corinth (supra n.35).

39 Geagan (supra n.l3) 71; cf. West 64-65. Inscriptions honouring the agonothetes T. Manlius Juvencus say that he was the first to hold the Caesarea before the Isthmia during the reign of Tiberius; West no.81, with commentary; Kent no.154 (virtually identical to the first). West p.66 argues for an agonothesia in A.D. 35 after his duovirate in 32/33. Kent in his catalogue of agonothetai lists Juvencus for A.D. 15(?), but he does not discuss evidence for the date.

40 This is evident from the victor lists for both festivals, including the complete sequence for the Caesarea of A.D. 127 that is only the second complete catalogue to be published (W. R. Biers and D. J. Geagan, “A new list of victors in the Caesarea at Isthmia,” Hesperia 39 [1970] 79-90). Earlier, West had suggested that the Caesarea were confined to thymelic contests (pp.64-65).

41 Robert (AE 1969, 54-56) and Biers and Geagan (supra n.40, p.84 n.10) place the two sets of games at the same festival.

42 Kent no.153.

43 Cf. Kent p.72; for the dating, Amandry pp.56, 73.

44 Kent p.72. He places the event in 6 or 2 B.C. In the light of the evidence from the sanctuary presented above, the games seem to have returned about 50 years later. If TlB[erea] CLAVD[iea] is restored for the Caesarea Sebastea (West nos.82, 83), the presidency would fall within the career of the later Regulus, the time when the first archaeological remains of the Roman period appear at the site. We need not imagine that the return of the games happened in a single year. Although the festival of A.D. 59 seems to have been an important event (see above n.32), an earlier agonothete such as Regulus could have begun restorations at the site and held games there.

45 Sources for the circumstances and date are reviewed by Amandry (pp.15-26) and B. E. Levy, “Nero’s liberation of Achaea: some numismatic evidence from Patrae,” Nickle numismatic papers (Waterloo, Ont. 1984) 167-85; eadem, “Nero’s ‘Apollonia’ series: the Achaean context,” NumC 1989, 65-68); also Gebhard, The theater at Isthmia pp.85-87, n.51. I am grateful to Orestes Zervos for drawing my attention to Levy’s work.

46 Livy 33.32, following Polybius 18.44-48. Suetonius records (Nero 24.2) that Nero spoke e medio stadio. On the other hand, Plutarch comments (Flam. 12) that he spoke in Corinth from the bema in the agora.

47 IG Vl1.2713; Ditt, SIG3 814.

48 Amandry type XXII, pp.215-21. His arrival is celebrated in the same issue by a ship’s prow and the inscription ADVE[ntus] AVG[usti].

49 Amandry pl.XXXlX, RIII1-RIV21.

50 Philost., Apoll. 4.24; Dio 62.9; Suet., Nero 23; Plut., Flam 12.

51 Ps-Lucian, Nero 3; cf. Gebhard, The theater at Isthmia p.87 n.54.

52 The agonothesia was held by the well known Corinthian Tiberius Claudius Dinippus, who had already presided over the Neronea Caesarea et Isthmia et Caesarea: Kent nos. 158-63, 208-9; West nos. 54, 86-90.

53 Although inscriptions from Corinth preserve the names and careers of several agonothetai (Kent p.31), they do not record any contributions on their part to the architecture of the site until after the middle of the 2nd c.

54 Broneer, Isthmia lll, 35-52.

55 Isthmia 11, 73-74.

56 The ramp walls abut the Palaimonion enclosure wall and bond with the new precinct wall. The ramp was thus built after the main temenos wall and at the same time as the eastern extension. The floor of the ramp contains pottery contemporary with that in the floors related to Pit B (= Palaimonion phase ll).

57 Isthmia 11, 109-12.

58 Broneer, Isthmia 11, 110-12, with refs. in n.14. A well-preserved example from the reign of Caracalla is illustrated in fig.42b.

59 The most recent discussion is found in D. Geagan, “The Isthmian dossier of Lucius Priscus Iuventianus,” Hesperia 58 (1989) 359-60.

60 Pit C: Lots 89-286 and 89-285 in the bottom of the pit. The sequence of construction shows that the temple and its enclosure wall were the last monuments to be added to the area (Palaimonion phase V); Isthmia ll, 106-9.

61 I am grateful to C. K. Williams and O. Zervos for fig.5 and permission to publish it; the coin is listed without illustration in J. D. Maclsaac, “Corinth: coins 1925-1926,” Hesperia 56 (1987) no.53 (T26-212a). For other examples cf. Edwards no.111; G. M. Macdonald, Catalogue of Greek coins in the Hunterian Collection (Glasgow 1899-1905) ll p.104, no.l36. The columns on the Hadrianic coins are 5 as opposed to 6 on the later issues; the cult statue faces left instead of right. These differences may reflect actual discrepancies between the two buildings, or they may be due simply to variations in the coin representations.

62 Cf. Paus. 1.44.7-8; 2.1.3-2.2.2; Philost., Imag. 2.16. For refs. see J. G. Frazer, Pausanias’ description of Greece (1898, repr.1965) 2.549.

63 Cf. F. Imhoof-Blumer and P. Gardner, A numismatic commentary on Pausanias (London 1887) pl. B, XI, XII, XIII.

64 1989 trenches 89-2B, 14, 17; Lots 89-33, 39, 97, 305, 307, 308.

65 The details of construction within the S Palaimonion are too complex to discuss here: cf. Isthmia 11, 101-16. Not more than 30 years would have elapsed between the opening of Pit C and the construction of the temple (phases III-V). If the first deposits in Pit C do not represent the initial sacrifices made there, the pit could be earlier.

66 Broneer suggested a place of oaths and a manteion: Isthmia II, 111-12.