Betsey Robinson’s book, Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia, volume 2 in the “Ancient Art and Architecture in Context” series of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Princeton University, 2011), has received the 2011 PROSE award for Anthropology and Archaeology by the Professional Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers.
Robinson, associate professor of history of art and classical studies, was captivated by Peirene during her first visit to Corinth in 1996. “Peirene struck me at once as a unique monument,” she said. “I’d imagined it to be a great fountain on the forum like so many others, and was surprised to find its façade well below the forum and facing away from it, tucked into the landscape instead of towering over it. As I worked on Corinthian fountains and the ‘culture of water’, Peirene’s longer history caught my attention.”
Her interdisciplinary approach to Peirene merges archaeology, art history, architecture, mythology, historiography, hydrology, chemistry and microbiology. Reflecting her major interest in visual and contextual analysis, the volume tells the story of the celebrated Peirene fountain, the evolution of the site of Corinth around it, and the history of excavation from 1898 to the present.
Robinson remains interested in the classical culture of water, from the poetics of springs to fountain design. She is the Jacque Voegeli Fellow and co-director of the 2011/2012 Warren Center Fellows Program, “Sacred Ecology: Landscape Transformations for Ritual Practice.” She is currently pursuing a comparative study of landscape, monuments, politics, and rituals at Delphi and the Thespian Valley of the Muses, both in central Greece, in the Hellenistic and Roman Imperial periods. The Valley of the Muses is a sanctuary owned and operated by the Thespians in honor of those female deities who inspire poets and musicians, and Delphi, a seat of Apollo, god of music and creativity.
“By their very essence these two sites are musical, and musical competitions were central to their religious rites,” said Robinson. “What fascinates me about these two mountain sanctuaries, though, are the resonances between the natural settings, ritual practices, and monumental development.” ~Fay