Sikyon survey project

Introduction

The Sikyon project is a fully integrated multidisciplinary research program to study the human presence and activity on the plateau of ancient Sikyon, a city in northeastern Peloponnese between Corinth and Achaia. The project was begun in the summer of 2004 by the University of Thessaly in collaboration with the 37th Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, the Institute of Mediterranean Studies at FORTH and the University of York (UK). The current research follows on, and is integrally linked with, an extensive survey conducted between 1996 and 2002 in the ca. 360 km2 territory of the ancient city (Lolos, 2011).


Location of the ancient city of Sikyon.

The plateau, which rises some 3.5 km southwest of the Corinthian gulf between the Asopos and Helisson rivers, was according to the ancient sources the acropolis of the Archaic and Classical city, which was itself located on the coast. In Archaic times, when ruled by the tyrannic family of the Orthagorids, Sikyon was one of the most powerful states of the Greek world and a cradle of the arts. Its artistic reputation carried on through the Classical and Hellenistic ages thanks to such famous painters and sculptors as Pausias, Kanachos and Lysippos. In 303 B.C., Demetrios Poliorketes, son of Antigonos I, destroyed the city in the plain and transferred it to the site of its acropolis. This initiative, beyond its practical purposes, conveyed a strong political message since Sikyon-Demetrias is one of the only two cities ever founded, or more precisely refounded, by a Macedonian ruler in the Peloponnese. The city grew in its new setting during the Hellenistic and Roman periods and witnessed a golden age in the third century B.C. under general Aratos, head of the Achaian Confederacy. During the Roman Empire Sikyon lived in the shadow of Corinth, which was the capital of the province of Achaia. Likewise her bishopric attested already from the late 4th century A.C. depended on the archibishopric of Corinth. After the collapse of the Roman Empire Sikyon appears again in sources related to Frankish possessions in the Corinthia of the 13th and 14th centuries, this time under the name of Vasilika or Vasiliko. The village of Vasiliko, which presently occupies the southeastern corner of the plateau, is often mentioned in archives of the Ottoman and Second Venetian period (15th-18th centuries).

The goals of the on-going research are twofold: The primary aim is to produce a multidisciplinary study of the intra-mural area across the ages, and to trace human presence and activity from prehistoric times to the early modern era. The second and more broad-ranging aim is to investigate the plateau in its context within the landscape and thus build upon the framework of the previous extensive survey of the territory of Sikyon. This extensive survey underscored the need for research into both the rural and urban components and it is hoped that the intensive survey of the urban area will complement this previous work and allow a wider understanding of both city and chora.

In order to successfully meet these goals the project incorporates a range of specialist participants. The results from the various aspects of the research are discussed throughout the project, with data from one area of study informing research in the others.