The port of Kenchreai, near Corinth in southern Greece, flourished from the Roman Empire through Late Antiquity (1st-7th centuries) as one of the busiest commercial centers in the region. It was also a crossroads for the exchange of ideas, styles, languages, and beliefs. Like many provincial ports of the eastern Mediterranean under Roman rule, the residents of Kenchreai supported many cults of the traditional Greek and Roman deities. They also engaged in magical practice to assuage interpersonal conflicts and social tensions, and they embraced the spread of Christianity from Saint Paul’s establishment of the local congregation.
Joseph Rife, associate professor and founding director of the Program in Classical and Mediterranean Studies, will present the first Archaeological Institute of America lecture of the academic year on Thursday, September 29, at 6 pm at the Nashville Parthenon. His lecture, entitled “Pagans, Magicians, and Christians at a Port in Roman Greece,” will explore the rich archaeological and textual evidence for the religious life of Kenchreai as it evolved over the long transition from classical antiquity to the Byzantine middle ages.
From 2002 to 2006 Rife directed the Kenchreai Cemetery Project under the auspices of the American School and with the permission of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. It was an interdisciplinary study of a vast cemetery of Roman date near the ancient harbor of Kenchreai. In 2007 he began a second phase of exploration at Kenchreai in collaboration with Elena Korka, then head of the Directorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities for the Ministry. The new Greek-American Excavations at Kenchreai are studying the northeastern periphery and residential quarter of the ancient port-town, immediately north of the ancient harbor. In 2011 he was appointed director of record for the major excavations conducted in the 1960s by the American School around the harbor at Kenchreai. Rife’s work at Kenchreai aims to explore social structure, cultural diversity, ritual behavior, and their landscapes in a small but prosperous provincial port.
This lecture, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America, The Conservancy for the Parthenon and Centennial Park, and the Program for Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbilt. Those who plan to attend the AIA lecture are encouraged to call the Nashville Parthenon at 615.862.8431 to reserve a seat.