As readers of this blog know, I am particularly interested in the topography and fortification of the southeastern Corinthia. My interest in this part of the Corinthia largely stems from my experience with the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey, but it also comes from an awareness that scholars have already done much good topographic work for the southwestern and western part part of the Corinthia (Bynum, Lolos, Pikoulas, Marchand, et al.).
As I have already noted J. Marchand has just published a lengthy and careful article in the most recent volume of Hesperia on the route between Corinth and Argos via the ancient city of Kleonai. The articles is a lovely example of how extensive survey, intensive local knowledge, and careful archival work can shed new and valuable light on one of the most well-known stretches of the Corinthian countryside. Marchand argues the the early modern routes through the region of Kleonai preserve the traces of the Ancient road which linked the Corinthia to the Argolid via the Longopotamos river. This is important because unlike some earlier scholars, this route makes Kleonai a central player in the regional geopolitics. The close ties between Kleonoai and Argos, for example, may have led various enemies of Argos to prefer routes into the Peloponnesus that bypasses the Longopotamos river and used, instead, routes through the Sikyonia via Phlious.
While this is helpful, indeed, the method that Marchand employed is perhaps more interesting still. Marchand continued in the tradition of topographic research fostered, in particular, at the University of California at Berkeley under Prof. Ron Stroud and the late W. K. Pritchett. These scholars, like many before them, encouraged students to walk through the countryside to gain a first hand knowledge of the topography that their research required. Indeed, Stroud's notes on his walks through the western Corinthia remain a source of inspiration for many American School students who work at the site of Ancient Corinth and have inspired numerous weekend walks and led to the discovery of inscriptions and monuments. Marchand supplements this emphasis on autopsy with a particularly thorough study of early travelers who made their way from Argos to Corinth via Kleonai. Through these texts, she has identified fountains, churches, khans, and bridges by which she could reconstruct the routes taken through the countryside in the 18th and 19th centuries. Finally, she was able to check specific information in the acquired through the early travelers against local knowledge. Local informants were able to bridge the gap between the monuments seen by early travelers and, in some cases, modern piles of ancient debris. They were also able to confirm the routes of the rapidly fading network of walking paths (monopati) that linked together various places in the countryside. These paths, according to Marchand's argument, preserve traces of the ancient road networks that cast valuable light on how we understand interstate relations and ancient texts.
The only thing that Marchand's article lacked to be a model approach to reconstructing the ancient landscape is the results of intensive archaeological survey. This is not meant as an indictment of Marchand's research; intensive survey is an expensive undertaking, it is difficult to acquire the required permits, and increasingly challenging to conduct intensive survey over large extents of territory. That being said, intensive survey has consistently shed light on the kind of local settlement structures that interstate relations and routes likely influenced. The next generation of topographers and survey archaeologists will seek a finer balance between the two traditions in reconstructing the history of the Greek landscape.