John Gruber-Miller

“Imagining Ancient Corinth: An Introduction to Greek Literature and Culture” is one of six components of a larger project in collaboration with Timothy Winters, Imagining Greece: An Introduction to Greek Literature and Culture.  This intermediate textbook introduces students to authentic Greek texts as well as the cultural context of ancient Greece.  The project will build upon the Perseus Digital Library and ORBIS.  As an intermediate Greek Reader focused on ancient Corinth, it will appeal to students not only from Classical Studies, but also (art) history, archaeology and Biblical Studies.

The primary text is the Description of Greece, by the Roman travel writer Pausanias.  Since his Greek is less challenging than that of other authors frequently taught at this level, his text offers students an easier transition to reading authentic Greek literature.  As a travel narrative,  his text, written during the reigns of the emperors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius, provides a wealth of historical and cultural detail about various cities and sanctuaries, their monuments and their past, offering amusing and intriguing stories about the classical Greek world and invaluable information about the physical world during the Roman empire.  In many ways, writing some five hundred years after many of these sites were built, Pausanias offers a perspective not much different from our students, who are also looking at the past through various lenses.

What sets this project apart from traditional intermediate Greek textbooks is its pedagogy and its emphasis on culture.  “Imagining Ancient Corinth” offers intermediate Greek students the tools to help them become more proficient readers of ancient Greek within a cultural context.  Although a number of new textbooks have recently been published for students of intermediate Greek, none have moved beyond the model of the traditional commentary (Trzaskoma).  In addition to providing glosses and brief grammatical and cultural annotations, “Imagining Ancient Corinth” will include short grammar reviews and exercises on the genitive case, compounds of οἰκέω, -μι verbs, and relative clauses to help students solidify their knowledge of ancient Greek.  It will divide vocabulary into frequency lists and culturally related clusters to help students read more fluently.  Pre-reading exercises will help students develop vocabulary, review grammar relevant to the passage, and instruct students in the intricacies of Greek word order and syntax.  The book will also offer post-reading activities that would help students consolidate and extend their knowledge of the text.  Thus, this textbook builds upon the tools and resources of the Perseus Digital Library: vocabulary frequency, morphological analyzer, grammars, encyclopedias, etc.

Language educators have stressed that cultural knowledge is crucial in making ancient texts more comprehensible (Gruber-Miller). “Imagining Ancient Corinth” will foreground Greek topography, history, mythology, and culture.  It will include short essays (1-2 pages) on topics such as the history of Corinth from the Archaic era to the Roman, the pan-hellenic sanctuary of Poseidon,  the waterworks of Corinth, the story of the Corinthian hero Bellerophon and his horse Pegasus, and the myth of Medea and her children.  Each essay will elaborate on topics raised in the text, accompanied by images of the sites and monuments discussed.  Family trees, one showing heroes with Corinthian connections, another showing Medea’s genealogy, and a third displaying the history of Corinthian rulers, will help students perceive connections in stories told by Pausanias and make visible the ruling families and their ethnic background.

To help students comprehend the physical space, Google Earth and digital maps using Keyhole Markup Language offer an exciting way to help students develop spatial literacy. My student researcher and I have developed several maps that will be on display at the first Digital Classics Conference this April in Buffalo.  More than just identifying the geographical locations, each map features pop-up descriptions, images, and links that make the map something to explore, offering students the opportunity to make connections between map, image, and text and understand the geographical and cultural context of the eastern Mediterranean.

“Imagining Ancient Corinth” welcomes the opportunity to build upon the ORBIS geospatial network.  As Pausanias describes the harbors of ancient Corinth, Lechaion and Cenchreae, ORBIS will allow students to discover how long it would take for different types of transport to move from the ancient city to one of its harbors or from one harbor overland on the ancient diolkos.  Students can test sailing voyages, their costs and distances, evaluating Corinth’s crucial position as a trading hub.

Given Corinth’s long history, a timeline that could highlight Corinth’s activity during various eras linked with maps and images would be worth exploring.  Two promising projects, Geodia (University of Texas at Austin) or Neatline (Scholars Lab at the University of Virginia Library), open the possibility of visualizing time and may help students develop a better chronological and geographical sense of the ancient world.  In particular, Geodia’s emphasis on the ancient world offers the possibility of linking Corinth to other sites throughout the many cultures of the ancient Mediterranean.  Since both of these projects are recent developments, materials developed for “Imagining Ancient Corinth” could add to their databases and test their adaptability to a project for intermediate students of Greek.

The CFP has come at just the right time in this project’s development.  The notes and commentary are complete, the cultural essays have been written, the family trees have been created, and a number of the pre- and post-reading activities have been prepared.  In addition, we are now in the process of creating a .kmz file (Google Earth) of places mentioned in Pausanias’ text.  Many images and maps have been identified and soon permissions for museum images and maps of Corinth will be requested.  If those images are already available in Perseus, we could link directly to them.  Finally, the project will explore using WordPress or the Dickinson College Commentaries platform to make this material accessible.  In short, this project hopes to revolutionize how intermediate Greek students engage with ancient texts in the twenty-first century using a range of new digital humanities innovations.