John M. Camp
Ancient stone documents; History of Ancient Athens
John M. Camp
Archaeology and history of Ancient Athens
Greek mythology; Interview in Spanish
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
8 Jun 2004
- Athens; Ancient Agora; Stoa of Attalos; Museum of the Ancient Agora
- 37.975 23.724167
- :57 - 25:51
- Athens; Ancient Agora of Athens
- 37.975 23.7225
- 25:51 - 1:05:34
- Athens; The Areopagus
- 37.972222 23.723611
- 40:00 - 1:29:00
- Athens; near Syntagma Square
- 37.975556 23.734722
- 1:38:19 - 1:50:35
Split Track to 0:34:11; Decoded MS Stereo after 0:34:11
Dat # 10
JC = John Camp
CJ = Chris Joyce
JG = Jessica Goldstein
JR = Josh Rogosin
ok welcome to tape #10. This is going to be split track interview with Christopher Joyce in the right channel. And John Camp on the left channel in the basement of the museum at Avara of Athens.
Whatever you can say on tape and not with me is for the best.
Ambi: Sound of air-conditioning rumbling, birds chirping outside.
JC: Did you talk to Susan, you got something from her?
Did you talk to Susan or have you not talked to Susan.
JG: We have not talked to Susan
Ambi: Keys being turned into a lock.
CJ: So can you tell us first of all where we are and what's contained here?
We're down in the basement of the museum and there are several very large storerooms and the one we're in at the moment is for the inscriptions. About seven and a half thousand inscriptions come out and these are a particularly useful class of antiquities because we're not going to get any more Herodotus or Fusidites or other ancient authors. We do find these documents written on stone which were set all the time and all over Athens and we find several a year and they provide a wide variety of information. This one here although very worn has a reference to violent death and a reference to the democracy and a few lines lower down a reference to orphans.
JC: And we can associate it with the events of 403 bc when the Athenians were beaten by the Spartans at the end of the Peloponnesian war and had 30 tyrants installed to run the government. The democrats went into exile, and within months came back and there was a civil war and the democracy was restored. And what you have hear is a record of those who died a violent death fighting to restore a democracy. Their orphans are going to be fed and maintained at public expense until they become adults and along the side of the stone is a list of the names of the young men whose fathers died as heroes fighting to restore the democracy.
CJ: I know it seems obvious to you perhaps but all records of this period that we have other than the writing that have been copied over the years but really the records that you have to work with are all in stone.
JC: Many of them are. In antiquity they would have copies on papyrus or on lead sheets and we don't necessarily recover those but you need in a democracy very good record keeping because in the case of the Athenian democracy the whole government is going to change every year so you have to have very good records of how people are going to come in and run things so in Athens more than any other Greek city we find inscriptions. There's another one over here, this one's kind of nice. It's dated to the year by the chief magistrate. It dates to the 370s bc and it concerns the circulation of counterfeit coinage in the market place and how they're going to deal with that and withdraw the bad silver out so that only reliable money is circulated.
CJ: I wonder when you have to work with stone like this, these are slabs of stone that are 4 or 5 feet high, 2 or 3 feet wide. There's got to be a limit to where you put these. I mean the storage problems must be huge when you can't put them in filing cabinets.
JC: You're right. Our storerooms are just about full.
CJ: I'm talking about the Greek's themselves these were raised and put into the ground somewhere.
JC: Yes, these were raised. They put them in the ground. There would have been a forest of these around all the public buildings and in the sanctuaries. Many of the things that record are honorific and they have a certain amount of valid time and then they become am little old fashioned so after a few years you don't care whose being honored. In that case they take the stone down and they reuse it. They get recycled. The reason these are so worn is that they were reused as cover tiles and all the wear you see here is actually moisture from its use over the top of a drain. And they are perfect building blocks. They make good thresholds they make good cover slabs. So what you're seeing here is an early example of recycling.
CJ: And have some of these been found as blocks and houses.
JC: Yes absolutely. Many of these, many of our inscriptions, a lot of our sculpture comes out of the medieval houses and the late roman houses that we don't find them in place. They've been reused as later building blocks.
CJ: So people were literally standing on and walking over the history of Greece laid in stone in their foundation.
JC: Yeah. Yeah. And as I said, these are particularly good for thresholds so whenever you go through a door in Greece you always want to check and make sure that the block you're stepping on isn't inscribed.
CJ: That's amazing. Um. In um, there are several here I mean, we're particularly interested in memorializing, the daily, the quotidian day-to-day pursuit of democracy. Are there any inscriptions here that would give us an idea of how things were carried on day to day?
JC: Well some of these are honorific. This one here and this one here are just to honor the citizens that served in the senate that year and as again if you served in the boulay or the senate, you held the presidency or served as part of the executive committee for a period of 35-36 days and what you're getting here are inscription honoring these normal people and listing their names for their month of service as rotating president so there's along with the concept of the Greek's competing against each other there competing particularly for honor because there's not a whole lot lese to go for here in Greece, it's a poor country and the concept of fame was extremely important to them so a lot fairly regular common people here are being recorded for their service to democracy.
CJ: Did they believe in an after life?
JC: There are hints of it in the cult of Demeter, the vegetation goddess, (ambi: 08:04 bell rings) and that maybe there was some concept but generally they have the concept of the Elysian fields, they have the concept of your soul going across in Chiron's boat to the other side and you have the story in the odyssey of visits to the underworld but it wasn't a place that you wanted to be.
CJ: I just wonder if the intention to honor fame perhaps but honor is not quite the same as fame being the ultimate of things that you can get as a living person had any relationship to there not being anything else. As opposed to catholic religion or other modern religions where forget the present, just do well and you'll live forever.
JC: ¿live for the future. Well, yeah that's possible. There's a wonderful instance of a man who burned down a huge temple in emphasis simply because he wanted his name remembered is what we're told and indeed I'm not going to share it with you but 2 and a half thousand years later I can tell you the name of that man so it worked. He became immortal for a very crummy reason.
CJ: And you don't want to share it because you don't want to give him the credit.
JC: No! I don't want him to get away with it. Laughs
CJ: But you learned it from someone.
JC: Yes, it's enstraybo
CJ: These are great. Do you have a question?
JG: Could you read something? Can we just hear what it sounds like.
CJ: You mean in Greek?
JC: Yeah, probably.
CJ: Perhaps the one that you translated for us about the orphans.
That one's a little too fragmentary because you'll see there I can't actually read .
You can't have full sentences
Oh there's something here.
Let me see¿No there's not enough for a continuous running text, let me just find one that we can read. They always start out with a dating formula and they tell you exactly the year and the month in which they were past and then they give the various officials who were in charge at that time and eventually they tell you what the inscription is about. So it will say speaks in Greek which means it seems good to the senate and people. And then it will say when so and so was chief magistrate and who was in charge of the executive committee at that time. Let me see if there are in others that we can read off. It's more a question of eyesight I'm afraid.
CJ: Or the light.
We can read¿I don't think there are sorry. We can get one out or we can read a text off a from a book but I know these are, they're tough to read just right off because they don't divide the words and where to stop and where to start is something that you can figure out easily enough.
JG: There's just one thing right here that just looks like a, it's dark but¿it's dark but¿you hold the paper Josh. It's hard the light is bad.
JC: I should know what it is. That is the, that's the citation for the honors of a man called Callious. So it says the people honored understood Callius the son of Phemocares of the dean of Svetious and he was active between about 300 and 250 bc and this great long inscription gives you a list of all the things he did for the city of Athens over a full career as a senior statesman and all the reasons he's being honored by the city.
CJ: Could you read it in Greek? Are you able to do that?
JC: Speaking in Greek.
JG: Would you mind doing it again?
JC: Sorry. I want to make sure that I have all the letters. Speaks in Greek.
CJ: I guess you've had plenty of practice.
JC: Yeah, yeah they're fun it's like this is your real crossword puzzles where you're literally filling in the missing letters and trying to make sense of the text.
CJ: Do you do that, do you do textual interpretation.
JC: Yeah, I like inscriptions or something I like. There one of the things that are more fun to work with.
CJ: Was there an inscription. I remember seeing something¿I think it was in your book of a copy of an inscription of a constitution.
CJ: Did the Greeks, did they have a constitution?
JC: They did, they had a whole law code and that would have been set up at the building we visited the royal ostello because he's the chief legal magistrate if we go farther down, I can maybe pull out a big chunk of it for you.
CJ: Oh you have it here?
JC; You want me to go have a look for it?
CJ: Oh yes.
Ambi: rustling noise, footsteps.
I don't know if it's in the shelves right now. We take it out a lot because we know everybody likes to visit it.
JC: Yeah. Its number is easy to remember because it's 737 so it's like a jet plane. (Ambi: pulling out a drawer) But it is . It's a big inscription inscribed on both sides on this side and on the backside and it was passed in the years around 403 bc, again right after the Peloponnesian war when they'd had both a democracy then an oligarchy and the laws were in kind of a disarray so they recodify their old laws and it give this part here as a sacred calendar of who they're going to sacrifice to because in those days there is no separation of church and state and therefore it's up to the state to make the proper sacrifices to the proper gods in the proper time and this is a list for the month of hecotombione of which deities they need to sacrifice to and what animal specifically they have to offer the god for the well being of the state. So this part here is actually a sacred calendar but it's actually part of the constitution of Athens because it is required by law that these sacrifices be carried out.
CJ: So the constitution is in a sense being like a religious prologue if you will or an introduction would be on several tablets.
JC: Oh yes this would run. There are dozens of these um the original law code would have dozens that would go all along the back wall of the royal stoa and then additional annexes were built to carry the rest of it and that meant any Athenian citizen could go down and read in stone the entire constitution of the city.
CJ: That's very democratic. And no shortage of chances for the citizens to second-guess the officials.
JC: No, it's right there in writing and everybody can read it. This is the law and that's of course why so many of these law are published in democratic society. So let's just as you can see just shelf after shelf of many unfortunately fragmentary but inscriptions with all sorts of information that would otherwise be lost to us.
CJ: Well, this thing, this storeroom goes on for a good hundred fifty, a hundred yards of shelf after shelf.
JC: Seven and a half thousand of them.
CJ: OK, Anything else?
JG: Could you pull that out again and then push it back in without talking?
Ambi: Pulling out a drawer and closing.
JG: How much does that weigh. Could you take it out again I want to take a photograph.
Jess takes photo
CJ: You know, it does make you think. I suppose it makes me think. Actually we could get this on tape. Do you ever think about whether or not the constitution the people of the United States framed and the laws that the united states govt. passes are going to be memorialized 2500 years from now?
JC: Fair question. I would imagine not.
CJ: Why do you think that the Greeks have lasted that long and other cultures and their laws and constitutions would not.
JC: I think it's primarily cause the worlds a much more complex place today and our ability to wipe out, even we have the ability to record things better we also have the ability to wiper things out far more effectively and we don't¿I have not idea what the computer technology is going to be like in archival terms. Once you put something on stone it's there for a while.
CJ: So it's more a matter of what it's laid into as opposed to the principles that are evinced in the words.
JC: Ever since these guys, the principles have been around and they're still around in a slightly modified form in our own constitution and I think once the cat is out of the bag those principles are going to stick around to something that a lot of people are going to think is the best way to do it.
CJ: I also wonder you know, the principles that were evinced by the Greeks were of such value and interest to people and cultures that followed. I'm thinking of that wonderful book how the Irish saved civilization. The fact that people of different cultures and religions would codify and copy these things in these great text to keep them safe even if the originals disappeared, whether anybody would bother to do that with what we create.
JC: I think not, I think that these are far more lasting value. As you say, a lot of people have gone through a lot of trouble to keep them because they are enduring values. I think we're part of that same continuum but I don't think we've changed it or improved it a whole lot. The technology has changed but I don't think most of human political aspirations have changed so we're carrying it on to. We're torchbearers like the Romans and like the Irish but I don't think we've created anything particularly new or distinctive.
JG: We need to get some ambience in.
CJ: There's ambience in here?
CJ: Ok well
JR: I'll do it
CJ: well you're actually near a window with birds so you might want to get away from that.
JR: Ok this is ORTF style stereo ambiance in the basement.
Ambi: sounds of birds chirping in the background. Not very much "room noise"
19:50 ~ a little more vibration
20:13 ~ sounds of talking and laughter outside.
20:38 ~ footsteps, door latch opening.
20:51 ~ door shuts
21:03 ~ dog barks
JR: That was two minutes.
CJ: In terms of if I were to describe how these were done. Are they carved or¿or¿
JC: They're carved. Yeah they're carved with chisels.
CJ: With chisels. Both talking at the same time.
JC: They're beautiful aren't they?
CJ: They're very regular.
JC: Well they lay out a grid with something like a pencil, a piece of chalk and each letter fits into a letter space. They're beautiful aren't they.
CJ: Yeah they're I mean it's¿
JC: Do you want to look at pottery or any of those things?
CJ: Sure we could take a quick look at pottery.
JG: Is there something down here that like just stands out that you just absolutely love?
JC: No, this is it. This stuff. All these guys here.
JR: What's this?
JC: That is oh, God, I've forgotten. No, I'd be lying to you if I said. No.
CJ: Bless this house.
JC: No I don't remember what it is.
CJ: What is the Jewish object you put at the doorway.
JG: The mezuzah.
CJ: Mezuzah, the Greek mezuzah. You can carry it until we get there. You want me to carry it.
JC: It's a dedication I think to the phosheroy the light bearers at the council house very late to judge from the letters which are both crudely cut end of an elite form. That's a little (inaudible) to some very minor deities.
CJ: Ok pottery?
JC: C'mon and let's see if Susan¿we can just look at the context pottery. The kids will start collecting from all those layers. We haven't done this tour have we?
CJ: We came when you were lecturing but we haven't taped it.
JC: So you saw all that. That's right. So Susan, I thought Susan was down here. It's just the bits and pieces of pottery. You've seen all that it's fine., I couldn't remember whether you had been down to this part and Susan was here working on it but she's not here now. That's fine.
CJ: And what she does is basically examine both the sherds as well as the holes.
JC: Yeah she's working on the sherds to give us the dates of the pont and build up the chronology.
CJ: I mean there's so many, that's what I was¿the fragments of the stella and the sherds and the whole pots I mean it's daunting.
JC: Yeah, literally millions of objects if you just count the pieces.
CJ: Yeah I mean working for the next one or two or three or four or five generations of archaeologists.
JC: Yeah, I think that's fair. It will take a long time to analyze this and the techniques keep changing and you can go back to the same old material and do something different with it 20-15 years later.
CJ: Not the profession, certainly, not that one doesn't have ego in this profession but it's not for somebody that demands immediate gratification.
JC: That's true. Yeah you're quite right. You don't get rich and you don't get famous.
CJ: But honor.
JC: Honor, there we go.
JG: Is there a phrase that kind of sticks with you that something that you repeat in your head, something from ancient Greek that you read once and it just runs through your head.
JC: No. Not really not in Greek. Every so often I think of what John Adams said when he wrote Abigail where I'm going to have to study in war and politics so my children can study law and commerce and their children can study art and porcelain and painting and sculpture. I'm at the right end of that sequence.
25:11 ¿ 25:23
Ambi: Loud sounds from the basement.
JC: Where to? Upstairs, downstairs, you done?
CJ: I guess, I think we're done unless there's something that you really think we should see.
JC: I think you've probably got more than 8 ½ minutes for sure.
CJ: Ok thanks, thank you very much.
Ambi: loud rumbling mechanical sound.
JG: We're at the excavation site now with John Camp. We're going to do a quick two-way split track. It will be on the left channel, the channel that you're hearing now. It's 1:57 in the afternoon.
CJ: And when did Corinthian come in?
JC: It comes in in the 4th century BC. It's basically just an adaptation. It's¿the ionic column is two-dimensional, you see volutes at one end and the bolsters at the other. And a Corinthian column is nothing more than a capital that you can see from all four sides but the actual it's just the capital it's adapted the order is exactly the same.
CJ: So tell us where we are and what this is and it's importance in the dig.
JC: Ok. We're at the recent and most newest part of the excavations where we have just the end of a great long building, most of which lies beneath modern buildings. The steps that you see here are the short end of a building that probably ran 100-115 feet and it's a stoa. It's one of these collonading buildings it would have had 3 solid walls and then the south side would have had columns letting in fresh air and light. It's usually identified I think correctly as the painted stoa in which case it was built about 470-460 bc and it served as a, in a way a museum. The reason it was called the painted stoa was because of a series of handsome paintings, paneled paintings were hung on the back wall of the building and those paintings were there for 600 years or more. The go up in 460 Polsanious in 150 ad can still describe 4 of them for us. By 400 ad when the bishop sianesious visits Athens they'd been taken down so we're not going to get the paintings. They'd been carried off by the Romans sometime before 400 ad but this building unlike all the other buildings in agora is built as a hangout. It serves no one particular function, no one particular group, or magistrate. It's where you spent time when you weren't doing anything else. So anybody's trade who required a crowd would come here. Jugglers, sword swallowers, beggars, fire eaters and amongst those would be the philosophers who needed an audience, and in particular the philosopher Zino who came to Athens from Cyprus in 300 BC and so preferred this building and met with the student here so regularly that he and his followers became known as the stoics and this is the stoa that gives that branch of western philosophy it's name.
CJ: And that branch of philosophy honored what?
JC: I'm not a philosopher. You're going to have to ask that question of somebody else. I'm sorry.
CJ: I know right where to go.
CJ: Now, one other question on this stoa. You have uncovered or somebody uncovered, I guess it's your team has uncovered what I guess is the two steps that lead up to I guess there may be a third one but there were 3 steps that let up to it.
JC: Three steps and then there would just be a solid wall on this side. Just around the corner there there would be 3 steps and the top of those would be columns set every 2 meters apart.
CJ: Now unfortunately the building that's still there what's left of it runs underneath.
Ambi: church bell rings.
CJ: What you hope lies underneath an existing building. A very big building big building actually, pretty big building. So what do you do?
JC: Well we buy buildings one by one. We try to buy them on the open market and we're usually successful otherwise the state will expropriate them and we'll but up the money and within, we only need four of the six buildings you see overlying the ancient building now and I hope next fall we'll start taking them down and by this time next year we'll actually be digging over the stoa.
CJ: What do you hope to find there
JC: The rest of the building and maybe in slightly better shape.
JC: Columns, the foundation. And probably inscriptions and monuments that were set up in it commemorating various events because it's such a public place this is a good place to set up your displays.
CJ: Can we go over to this temple then, there was a temple right across from this stoa.
JC: Well it's a sanctuary of Aphrodite.
CJ: A sanctuary of Aphrodite
JC: That's right. At least we think so.
Ambi: more walking, people talking and working in the background, birds chirping.
CJ: So, to the layman's eye, I can see that this is manmade and you've got several large pieces of slabs of stone and you've got some on their sides and some in the middle. Tell me what it is.
JC: Yeah, what this is is your altar and it is basically just a big platform of stone, limestone inside nice carefully finished marble blocks on the outside. And it's the platform on which you put sacrificial victims and ultimately having slaughtered them, cooking parts of it for the gods. Prometheus as well as giving mankind fire, also persuaded the gods is what they liked was the smell of roasting meat. They didn't really care what happened to that leg of lamb after the sacrifice had been made. So here you would slaughter the animal, take certain parts and burn them to the gods and that's your basic act of ritual.
JR: Let's wait I'm sorry (too much background noise)
CJ: Now is this his [son] first dig? Now he knows how hard dad worked.
CJ: I'm curious this was not a temple this was a sanctuary.
JC: No the key thing for cult in antiquity was the altar that's where you have to perform the sacrifice. The temple is secondary and it's primarily to house a cult statue and to keep sacred treasures so you can have a cult without a temple, you can't have a cult without the altar. So you see here the altar that probably goes back to 500 BC we don't know if there's a temple because it would lie to the wet under those modern buildings behind it. And in later times other buildings were added to the sanctuary so by the roman period there is this simple temple here represented by those foundations but that's not essential for a cult.
CJ: You really have to be an expert in foundations. I mean foundations can tell you a lot.
JC: That's very true. That's absolutely true. It's amazing what you can read out of a foundation once somebody tells you what to look for and when you really look at them and seventy percent of archaeology is observation.
CJ: OK, you happy Jess?
JG: I am, let me just take another photo.
Talking about taking photos.
JC: Yeah, you're right, it's a great setting for all sorts of stories.
JG: This is MS ambience in the new excavation of the Agora, is that how you would describe it?
Ambi: birds chirping, people working in the background, chattering.
Ambi: fly buzzes by
JR: Greetings friends. This is MS stereo walking to the¿where are we walking
? : To the areopagus, the hill of Aries.
Ambi: sound of feet crunching on gravel.
JG: Are these the stones from the road?
?: Do you know Proxitimus? The sculpture from classic times? Here is the signature.
talking in Greek
CJ: Proxitilus did it. He did the stone
?: he did the sculpture.
38:03 CJ and there was a statue here.
38:08 CJ and does anybody know where it is now?
38:14 Man No, it had disappeared. (Greek words)
wind picks up as the crew begins walking.
38:55 Walking continues, gravel crunches and chatter between crew.
40:20 Interview begins with Pedro.