Home > Korinthian Matters > The Corinthian Countryside: The Passes of the Eastern Corinthia

The Corinthian Countryside: The Passes of the Eastern Corinthia

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that I have been serializing research that David Pettegrew and I completed this summer in Eastern Corinthia in the vicinity of Lychnari Bay.  There are links to the previous blogs in this series at the end of the post so you can catch up with the story!  Last week I described a tower overlooking Lychnari Bay that we have cleverly called Lychnari Tower.  Standing amidst the ruins of the tower we were able to clearly make out the site of Ano Vayia that I described a few weeks earlier.  Ano Vayia consists of a circular tower and a north-south oriented building of relatively imposing construction. 

The site lines linking Ano Vayia and Lychnari Tower made us begin to wonder how these two sites interacted with each other in antiquity.  The material present at the sites appears to be almost identical and the construction techniques — namely the rough polygonal style — suggest that the two sites were at least roughly contemporary.  Our curiosity regarding the function of these two sites led us to explore more carefully the local topography.  We knew, for example, that both sites overlooked a rolling valley bottom that continues today to be used for agriculture.  This valley runs east to west passing by the village of Katakali and immediately inland from the coastal ridge that defines the abrupt Saronic coastline of the Corinthia.  So it is possible to walk, for example, from Lychnari Bay to the town of Kenchreai on the Isthmus passing over the eastern part of the Oneion ridge near Stanotopi.  The tower at Lychnari is well-situated to observe movement through this valley and to see along the coastline of the Corinthia to the east.  So this tower could observe any one coming from the east along the coast and trying to land in the shelter of Lychnari Bay and then walking west through the inland valley.

Lychnari to Katakali
Lychnari is to the right and Katakali to the left

View from Ano Vayia West through Valley

View from Lychnari East along Coast

The site of Ano Vayia was not as well situated to observe the coastline or the east-west valley.  Instead the site of Ano Vayia overlooks the Vayia River — a seasonal torrent that descends steeply from the rugged interior of the Corinthia.  This river opens into the Saronic Gulf at a pebbly beach that is not as sheltered as Lychnari Bay, but gradual enough to allow ancient ships to come ashore.  Here’s where things get interesting: from the Vayia river valley it is possible to proceed east.  Climbing the eastern side of the river bank, one can ascend into a valley that runs to the north of the coastal ridge.  This valley allows one to walk to east toward another Corinthian bay called Frangolimano.  This route in an important pass because it means that it is possible to walk from Kenchreai on the Isthmus, to the area around Lychnari Bay, to Frangolimano and then onto the main routes south into the Epidauria further south.  And this isn’t just topographic speculatin’ either!  David Pettegrew and I walked this pass and noted the remains of a built path in numerous places.  So, some time in the pre-automotive (pre-modern) past, this route from Lychnari Bay/Vayia to Frangolimano actually functioned as a transportation route.  Moreover, a little library work (particularly I. Peppas 1990) turned up at least two fortifications situated along this pass: one is rubble fort which is difficult to date.  The other is a “Frankish” (or Byzantine?) fortification situated to guard the route from Frangolimano to points southeast near the village of Sophiko.

Lychnari to Frangolimano
Lychnari on the left to Frangolimano on the far right

View from Pass east of Ano Vayia to West.  The hill in the background is Ano Vayia.

So our topographic study of this region revealed that this was not just an isolated corner of the Corinthia turned over to fish-farming and ramshackle vacation homes like it is today, but in antiquity, it may have represented a significant transportation corridor served by two harbors (at Lychnari Bay and Frangolimano) and a well-define route linking them to the bustling Isthmus or the southeastern Corinthia and Epidauria beyond.  Is it possible that our sites were situated to take advantage of travel along this route?

For more on our work in the Corinthian countryside see:

New Research on the Corinthian Countryside: Vayia Microregion
The Corinthian Countryside: The Site of Ano Vayia
The Corinthian Countryside: Distributional Data from the Site of Ano Vayia
The Corinthian Countryside: The Lychnari Tower

Categories: Korinthian Matters
  1. August 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    This is really interesting. Do you know of any good references on this topic (in English)?

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