.widget.ContactForm { display: none; }



Ηλεκτρονικό ταχυδρομείο *

Μήνυμα *

Παρασκευή, 12 Ιανουαρίου 2018

Topographical notes from Southwest Arkadia

Southwest Arkadia has gone largely unexplored in recent times. Sir James Frazer’s account of his trip through the area in 1890 is still the most complete of topographical descriptions (Pausanias’s Description of Greece, IV, 389 ff). Much of the territory is mountainous and rugged making access to some parts all but impossible except by foot. However, over the past several years a road has been cut from Andritsaina to the ancient sites of Bassai, Phigalia, Lepreon and thence to the sea.Since 1969 I have been conducting general reconnaissances of SW Arkadia in conjunction with my architectural study of the temple of Apollo at Bassai. This is a brief account on the discovery of several heretofore unreported and uncharted archaeological remains: ship- sheds and moorings on the Neda River, a round tower on a hill above the Neda River and a Doric temple within a sanctuary complex near the modern village of Perivolia (fig.1).

Ships - Sheds

In the course of his account on Phigalia Pausanias remarks, «Near the sea the Neda is navigable for small ships», (8.41.4). Pausanias makes no specific mention of harbors; but I decided to investigate when several local shepherds had reported seeing bronze rings which were the size of two arms clasped in a circle and which they claimed were attached to a scarp. Steve Miller joined me and when I was shown the spot, the rings were gone, evidently robbed several years ago or, from what I can surmise, at the time that a concrete aqueduct was built (ca. 1960, visible in fig.3). Despite this evident loss of ancient bronze rings, enough survives to indicate that ship-sheds may have existed here1.
The site is ideally located just west or immediately outside the mouth of the gorge below the rapids of the Neda River, and at a point inland where the river in antiquity would have been navigable to the sea. A land mass juts northward 120 meters into the course of the river from the southerly shoreline (fig.2). The outer face is solid rock, forming a precipice 24 meters high. A large quadrangular space is cut into the bedrock of this cliff (fig.4). A cross- dimension of 6.3 meters is consistent with the uniformly clear widths of 6.0 meters to 6.3 meters found in ship-sheds at Sounion, Piraeus, Oeniadae and Apollonia2. Cuttings in the floor for slips and a keelslot, if they exist, are covered by layers of gravel and silt. Still exposed are ramps which have been carved out of bedrock on either side (east, 0.20m. wide; west, 0.50m. wide) and slope downwards toward the river at 14° 30' (fig.5). This gradiant approaches the 15° 50' found at Sounion. In both instances small ships probably were involved. Parallel ramps may have been footers for a portion of the flanking walls of the shed. The vertical wall cut out of bedrock at the back of the chamber has been carefully dressed to a height of about 11 meters. The wall consists of three vertical planes, stepped back by a shelf 0.15m. wide at a height of 2.5m. and a second shelf 0.80m. wide at 4.0m. The lowest meter or so of the dressed face has been eroded away due to flooding waters.
Three meters to the west of the face of the west side wall and at the 4.0 meter level there is a rectangular cutting 1.0m. by 2.0m. by 0.6m. high. This cutting also may have served as bedding for the superstructure of the shed.

Around the bend of the cliff twelve meters to the east and just out of view in the photo of fi g. 3, there is a second cutting in the face of the bedrock which may represent a second ship-shed. In this case, all but a few centimeters of the side walls were chopped away for the installation of the aqueduct. In fact, due to the same modern construction, a large portion, probably as much as 10 meters, of the side walls of the first chamber were cut away.
On the other hand, these cuttings may simply represent a quarry. The site is obscured not only by the proximity of the concrete aqueduct, but also by gravel and by a heavy growth of underbrush (fig.3). Confirmation of this interpretation as ship- sheds must await further investigation.


Half a kilometer upstream we found a number of scattered, ashlarhewn blocks, four of which contained bronze dowels (fig.6). They are located within a sheltered ravine that cuts into the north bank at the mouth of the gorge to the Neda River. A sloping defile at the back of the ravine provides manageable egress from the river to the rim of the cliffs 150 meters above, thence to Stomion and Phigalia (fig.1).
Undoubtedly, the blocks (dimensions varying from 0.50m. by 0.60m. by 0.30m. to the largest, 1.30m. by 0.60m. by 0.30m.) formed part of a wall which collapsed and the remainder has been covered by fill -from landslides and erosion. The surviving bronze plugs ( average dimen- sion 0.016 m.) appear to be tenons for attachments that are now sheared away -perhaps mooring rings or hooks along the top of a quay (fig.5). The physical remains and the topographical setting suggest that in antiquity this may have been used as a Stillwater harbor for the protection of small craft from the strong currents of the Neda but also within easy reach of Phigalia. Indeed this along with the area further downstream may represent parts of the inland port for the city of Phigalia as suggested by the passage in Pausanias.


Ruins of a circular tower were discovered on a high promontory overlooking the valley of the Neda River as it crosses the coastal plain of lower Triphylia (figs.2 and 7). The hill provides an ideal vantage point for watching the mouth of the Neda River 11 kilometers to the west and for overseeing the inland harbor areas. Fortifications of Phigalia are also within sight, 2.5 kilometers to the east.
The tower has been leveled to the ground, but enough survives in lower courses to give a clear plan of the structure. Otherwise the blocks lie scattered. The tower was approximately 4.5 meters in diameter, judging from the arcs along the circumference of outer blocks and from the overall dimensions of the extant foundations. There are no signs that this tower was joined by a circuit or fortification wall. Instead, it probably functioned as a free-standing and independent watch tower in an early warning system for Phigalia3. No datable sherds were visible in the area; however, the masonry technique is comparable to that used in the semicircular towers along the easterly fortification wall of Phigalia, which Professor Winter in Greek Fortifications (Toronto, 1972) p.Ill, note 23, assigns to the first half of the fourth century B.C.

Doric Temple

In the summer of 1972 I came across an unknown classical temple of the Doric order near the modern village of Perivolia (fig.1). The remains lie adjacent to a mountain road which passes from Bassai (9 kilometers to the east) to the ancient Phigalia or modern Pavlitza (3 kilometers away) and to the coast (31 kilometers to the west). Nineteenth century travellers of the Morea on their way to Bassai from Phigalia noticed regular blocks, fragments of an Ionic architrave and column base4. Parts of that particular structure may still be observed in the fabric and around the chapel to Hagia Paraskeve which is by a spring below Dragonion on the path from Phigalia.

The ancient monument at Perivolia is more than a kilometer away, and to my knowledge, had not been previously noted.
It is constructed of local limestone and measures 9- 10 meters wide by 14- 15 meters long, as indicated by exposed blocks, in situ, as well as by the size and proportion of numerous scattered ones. The north wall of the cella remains standing to the height of the first orthostate course for a length of seven meters (fig.8). An accumulation of rubble, mixed with preserved fragments rises in a mound over the interior area of the structure to a height of about three meters; a thicket grows on top (fig.9). No less than six blocks of the Doric frieze appear within the cover; two are from corners. Triglyph and metope are combined into single stones measuring 0.68 meters in height and 1.29 meters in length (fig.10). A number of identifiable blocks from the temple are built into modern drywalls surrounding the site; others lie scattered about in the immediate vicinity. A summary inventory includes drums (diameter, 0.55m.) from shafts of engaged Doric columns, moulded cornice blocks, pieces of the krepidoma and stylobate with faces bearing raised- decorative panels and quantities of terracotta roof tiles. A preliminary estimation of date is fourth or third century B.C., ascertained on the basis of the high quality and style of craftsmanship of the masonry in addition to the proportions of the temple and its members.
Physical remains around the site prove that the temple was part of a larger sanctuary. An open conduit constructed with oblong limestone blocks, slopes diagonally down the flanking hill to a wall which, in turn, runs parallel to the east-west axis of the temple and 10 meters to the north (fig.11). This wall is overgrown with tall grass and weeds, but appears to be a structural part of a contiguous fount in-house (fig.9).
The temple at Perivolia may be of singular importance: much of the collapsed superstructure appears to be preserved, in contrast generally with sites throughout the classical world which have been robbed over the years. Moreover, the example at Perivolia contains special features such as engaged Doric columns and an unusual moulded cornice, which could alter present day opinions about architectural developments in late- classical Greek temples.

FREDERICK A. COOPER University of Minnesota
Topographical notes from Southwest Arkadia
Αρχαιολογικά Ανάλεκτα εξ Αθηνών. Τόμος V, Τεύχος 3, 1972. Σελ. 359-367

1. Likewise at Oeniadae, according to local tradition, bronze rings were once attached to the walls of the ship-sheds there: J. M. Sears, AJA 8 (1904), 232.
2. A recent bibliography is listed by D. J. Blackman in his chapter on «Ship-sheds» in J. S. Morrison and R. T. Williams, Greek Oared Ships, Cambridge, 1968.
3. A comparable, but larger, circular watch tower stands to nearly full height in the valley at Pagae, between Megara and Aegosthena. See H.J.W. Tillyard, BSA 12 (1905/1906) and N. G. L. Hammond, BSA49 (1954).109-111.
4. References cited by E. Meyer, RE, 19, 2, 1938, 2072.