Betsey Robinson, associate professor in the departments of history of art and classical studies, received the Chancellor’s Award for Research at the Vanderbilt Fall Faculty Assembly on August 22. Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos recognized Robinson for her groundbreaking research in classical archaeology and art history, citing her monograph, Histories of Peirene: A Corinthian Fountain in Three Millennia (American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 2011), which won the prestigious PROSE Award for Archaeology and Anthropology by the Professional Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers.
“Praised as a singular achievement of cross-disciplinary research, Histories of Peirene represents a remarkable study of a historic site known in Greek mythology as the place where Bellerophon tamed the winged horse Pegasus,” said Zeppos. “Betsey Robinson combined precise archaeological and archival research, and drawings that illustrate the development of the site, with a beautiful narrative to illuminate the story with a sense of human interaction with the fountain.”
Robinson was one of five faculty members to be recognized for excellence in research, scholarship, or creative expression. Each winner received $1,000 and an engraved pewter julep cup. “This award is fitting recognition of Betsey Robinson’s important contribution to the field of art history as well as to the humanities more broadly,” said Kevin Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities and chair of the history of art department.
Captivated by Peirene during her first visit to Corinth in 1996, Robinson has conducted research at the Corinth Excavations of the American School of Classical Studies since 1997, focusing on water supply, architecture, and works of art in context. “Peirene struck me at once as a unique monument,” said Robinson during an interview with ASCSA publisher Andrew Reinhard. “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.
Her current project, Divine Prospects: Mounts Helicon and Parnassus in Ancient Experience and Imagination, is a book-length manuscript on Hellenistic and Roman perceptions of, and engagement within, Greek landscapes and sanctuaries. Ongoing research considers Roman-era mosaics in Corinth, and the history of archaeological excavation in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Robinson (Harvard University, A.B., A.L.M.; University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D.) teaches courses in the art, architecture, and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean world. Her primary interests include Greek and Roman architecture and art, ancient cities and sanctuaries, and landscapes—actual, imagined, and as represented in ancient art and literature.
The Jacque Voegeli Fellow and co-director of the 2011/2012 Warren Center Fellows Program, “Sacred Ecology: Landscape Transformations for Ritual Practice,” Robinson is the co-organizer of a one-day symposium to be hosted by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities on August 30, 2013.