Cutting down the tallest ears of grain: archaeological evidence for tyranny and sumptuary law in ‘wealthy’ Corinth


  • Angela Ziskowski



In one of his few references to the city of Ancient Corinth, Homer described it as wealthy, ‘aphneios.’ Yet archaeological investigation has exposed a city lacking great numbers of lavish offerings and monumental temples in the Greek periods. Explanations for this anomaly have included the Mummian destruction of the city in 146 BC, when Roman looting could have removed evidence for wealth, or the argument that the agora of Corinth has yet to be located. In a 1996 article Elizabeth Pemberton argued that the lack of opulent dedications in Corinth was because the early community made the choice to offer only goods made from that which they had. Local resources were primarily limited to wood, clay, and limestone. Since resources for marble, gold, and other metals are lacking in the Corinthia, she proposed that the city chose not to make offerings from such materials.


Amyx, D. 1988. Corinthian Vase-Painting of the Archaic Period. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Anderson, G. 2005. Before turannoi were tyrants: rethinking a chapter of early Greek history. Classical Antiquity 24.2: 173–222.

Beloch, K.J. 1913. Griechische Geschichte I.2. Strassburg: K.J. Trübner.

Berve, H. 1967. Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen. Munich: C.H. Beck.

Biers, W.R., K.O. Gerhardt, and R.A. Braniff 1994. Lost Scents. Investigations of Corinthian ‘Plastic’ Vases by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bookidis, N. 1970. Archaic sculptures from Corinth: (from the notes of Edward Capps, Jr.). Hesperia 39.4: 313–25.

— 1995. Archaic Corinthian sculpture: a summary, in Corinto e l’Occidente (Atti del Trentaquattresimo Convegno di Studi sulla Magna Graecia, Taranto, 7–11 Ottobre 1994): 231–56. Taranto: Istituto per la storia e l’archeologia della Magna Grecia.

— 2003. The Sanctuaries of Corinth, in C.K. Williams and N. Bookidis (eds) Corinth XX: Corinth, the Centenary 1896–1996: 247–59. Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Blegen, C., H. Palmer, and R.S. Young. 1964. Corinth XIII.1: The North Cemetery. Princeton: American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Burrows, R.M. and P.N. Ure. 1907/8. Excavations at Rhitsóna in Boiotia. Annual of the British School at Athens 14: 226–318.

Camp, J.M. 1994. Before democracy: Alkmaionidai and Peisistratidai, in W.D.E. Coulson, O. Palagia, T.L. Shear, H.A. Shapiro and F.J. Frost (eds) The Archaeology of Athens and Attica under the Democracy: 7–12. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Carter, J.B. 1989. The chests of Periander. American Journal of Archaeology 93.3: 355–78.

Caskey, L.D. 1922. A votive offering of the Kypselids. Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin XX: 65–8.

Clement, P. and M. MacVeagh Thorne. 1974. From the west cemetery at Isthmia. Hesperia 43.4: 401–11.

Dickey, K. 1992. Corinthian Burial Customs ca. 1100 to 550 BCE. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Bryn Mawr College.

Ducat, J. 1961. Note sur la chronologie des Kypsélides. Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 85: 418–25.

Dunbabin, T.J. 1962. Perachora II. The Sanctuaries of Hera Akraia and Limenia. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Frederiksen, R. 2011. Greek City Walls of the Archaic Period 900–480 BCE. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Garland, R. 1989. The well-ordered corpse: an investigation into the motives behind Greek funerary legislation. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 36: 1–15.

Gehrke, H.-J. 1990. Herodot und die Tyrannenchronologie, in W. Ax (ed.) Memoria Rerum Veterum: Neue Beiträge zur Antiken Historiographie und Alten Geschichte: 33–47. Stuttgart: F. Steiner.

Gunter, A.C. 2009. Greek Art and the Orient. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hopper, R.J. 1949. Addenda to Necrocorinthia. Annual of the British School at Athens 44: 162–267.

Jeffery, L.H. 1976. Archaic Greece: The City-States c. 700–500 B.C. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Jones, W.H.S., J. Ormerod, and R.E. Wycherly. 1918. Pausanias’ Description of Greece with an English Translation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Kissas, K. 2013. Ancient Corinthia: from Prehistoric Times until the End of Antiquity. Athens: Phoinikas Publications.

Korka, E. 2013. Η γραπτή πώρινη σαρκοφάγος Φανερωμένης Χιλιομοδίου Κορινθίας. Προκαταρκτική παρουσίαση›, in K. Kissas and W.-D. Niemeier (eds) The Corinthia and the Northeast Peloponnese. Topography and History from Prehistoric Times until the end of Antiquity: 305–311. Munich: Hirmer Verlag GmbH.

Lawrence, P. 1964. Five grave groups from the Corinthia. Hesperia 33.2: 89–107.

Leão, D. and P.J. Rhodes. 2015. The Laws of Solon. A New Edition with Introduction, Translation and Commentary. London and New York: I.B. Tauris.

Lupu, E. 2005. Greek Sacred Law: a Collection of New Documents. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

Lyons, C. 1996. Morgantina Studies: The Archaic Cemeteries (Volume 5). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Morgan, C. 1990. Athletes and Oracles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

— 2002. The Corinthian aristocracy and Corinthian cult during the eighth century BCE, in R. Hägg (ed.) Peloponnesian Sanctuaries and Cults: Proceedings of the Ninth International Symposium at the Swedish Institute at Athens, 11–13 June 1994: 45–51. Stockholm: Svenska Institutet i Athen.

Morris, I. 2000. Archaeology as Cultural History. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mosshammer, A. 1979. The Chronicle of Eusebius and Greek Chronographic Tradition. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

Neer, R. 2007. Delphi, Olympia, and the art of politics, in H.A. Shapiro (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece: 225–264. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Oost, S.I. 1972. Cypselus the Bacchiad. Classical Philology 67(1): 10–30.

Osborne, R. 2009. Greece in the Making, 1200–479 BC (Second Edition). London and New York: Routledge.

Papalexandrou, N. 2008. Boiotian Tripods: The Tenacity of a Panhellenic Symbol in a Regional Context. Hesperia 77.2: 251–282.

Payne, H. 1940. Perachora. The Sanctuaries of Hera Akraia and Limenia Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pemberton, E. 1996. Wealthy Corinth: the archaeological evidence for cult investment at Greek Corinth, in M. Dillon (ed.) Religion in the Ancient World: New Themes and Approaches: 353–66. Amsterdam: A.M. Hakkert.

Pernice, E. 1899. Kothon und Räuchergerat. Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 14: 60–72.

Perrin, B. 1948. Plutarch’s Lives, Volume I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pettegrew, D. 2011. The Diolkos of Corinth. American Journal of Archaeology 115.4: 549–74.

Raaflaub, K.A. 2003. Stick and glue: the function of tyranny in fifth-century Athenian democracy. in K. Morgan (ed.) Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and its Discontents in Ancient Greece: 59–93. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Morris, I. 1987. Burial and Ancient Society: the Rise of the Greek City-State. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

Raepsaet, G. 1993. Le Diolkos de l’isthme à Corinthe: son trace, son fonctionnement. Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 117: 233–56.

Robertson, M. 1981. A Shorter History of Greek Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rolley, C. 1977. Fouilles de Delphes V,3: Les Trépieds à cuve Clouée. Paris: Ecole française d’Athènes.

Salmon, J. 1984. Wealthy Corinth: A History of the City to 338 BCE. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

— 1997. Lopping off the heads? Tyrants, politics, and the polis, in L. Mitchell and P.J. Rhodes (eds) The Development of the Polis in Archaic Greece, 60–73. London and New York: Routledge.

Scheibler, I. 1964. Exaleiptra. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 79: 72–108.

Servais, J. 1969. Hérodote et la chronologie des Cypsélides. L’Antiquité Classique 38: 28–81.

Scott, M. 2010. Delphi and Olympia: the Spatial Politics of Panhellenism in the Archaic and Classical Periods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Small, D. 2015. A defective master narrative in Greek archaeology, in D. Haggis and C. Antonaccio (eds) Classical Archaeology in Context: Theory and Practice in Excavation in the Greek World: 71–85. Berlin and Boston: de Grutyer.

Snodgrass, A. 2006. The economics of dedication at Greek sanctuaries, in A. Snodgrass (ed.) Archaeology and the Emergence of Greece: 258–68. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Sokolowski, F 1969. Lois sacrées des cites grecques. Paris: E. de Boccard.

Stahl, M. 1983. Tyrannis und das Problem der Macht: die Geschichten Herodots über Kypselos und Periander von Korinth. Hermes 111.2: 202–20.

Stewart, A.F. 1986. When is a kouros not an Apollo? The Tenea ‘Apollo’ revisited, in M.A. Del Chiaro (ed.) Corinthiaca. Studies in Honor of Darrell A. Amyx: 54–70. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Stein-Hölkeskamp, E. 2013. The tyrants, in K.A. Raaflaub and H. van Wees (eds) A Companion to Archaic Greece: 100–16. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.

Toher, M. 1991. Greek funerary legislation and the two Spartan funerals, in M.A. Flower and M. Toher (eds) Georgica: Greek Studies in Honour of George Cawkwell: 159–75. London: University of London, Institute of Classical Studies.

Verdelis, N.M. 1956. Der Diolkos am Isthmus von Korinth. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Athenische Abteilung 71: 51–9.

—1958. Die Ausgrabung des Diolkos während der Jahre 1957–1959. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Athenische Abteilung 73: 140–5.

—1966. ‘Ανασκαφὴ τοῦ Διόλκου.’ Praktika (1960): 136–43.

Will, E. 1955. Korinthiaka: Recherches sur l’histoire et la civilization de Corinthe des origins aux guerres médiques. Paris: de Boccard.

Ziskowski, A. and D. Lamp. 2015. Topography and liminality: the Perachora peninsula and the sanctuary of the Heraion. Journal of Hellenic Religion 8: 1–26.



How to Cite

Ziskowski, A. (2017). Cutting down the tallest ears of grain: archaeological evidence for tyranny and sumptuary law in ‘wealthy’ Corinth. Journal of Greek Archaeology, 2, 155–170.



Archaic to Classical