by Betsey A. Robinson
The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (July 2011)
The Peirene Fountain as described by its first excavator, Rufus B. Richardson, is “the most famous fountain of Greece.” Here is a retrospective of a wellspring of Western civilization, distinguished by its long history, service to a great ancient city, and early identification as the site where Pegasus landed and was tamed by the hero Bellerophon. Spanning three millennia and touching a fourth, Peirene developed from a nameless spring to a renowned source of inspiration, from a busy landmark in Classical Corinth to a quiet churchyard and cemetery in the Byzantine era, and finally from free-flowing Ottoman fountains back to the streams of the source within a living ruin. These histories of Peirene as a spring and as a fountain, and of its watery imagery, form a rich cultural narrative whose interrelations and meanings are best appreciated when studied together. The author deftly describes the evolution of the Fountain of Peirene framed against the underlying landscape and its ancient, medieval, and modern settlement, viewed from the perspective of Corinthian culture and spheres of interaction. Published with the assistance of the Getty Foundation in support of the Ancient Art and Architecture in Context series of which this is the second volume. Winner of the 2011 Prose Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in the category of Archaeology/Anthropology. The Prose Awards are given annually by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the American Association of Publishers.