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EnvironmentalGeology(1996) 27:233-245 9 Springer-Verlag 1996

D . P. C r o u c h

Environmental geology of ancient Greek cities

Received: 15 June 1995 Accepted:10 July 1995

Abstract Man environment relations in the ancient the New World, because a readable documentary base
Greek world, as now, were complex interactions. To un- was lacking, Americanists who study indigenous cultures
derstand them, we need to study a range of physical fea- of North and South America have needed to apply scien-
tures and man's impact on the setting. The underlying tific procedures to archaeological findings, with excellent
geological reality of this area is karst, which is widely dis- results. Equal profit is predictable from interdisciplinary
tributed, dominating Greece, the southern half of Turkey, and scientific studies of Mediterranean cities.
and southern Italy and Sicily, where the Greco-Roman Furthermore, a city is so complex that it requires every
cities that we study were located. Year-round water from possible sort of investigation. Urban historians conceptu-
karst springs was important because of scarce rainfall, in- alize the city as made up of various systems--the govern-
tense evaporation, and infertile soil--none under human ing system, the defense system, the food supply system, the
control. Examples from the Greek mainland (Corinth), an water management system, etc.--and not simply of singu-
Aegean island (Rhodes), Turkey (Priene), and Sicily (Syra- lar items arranged in chronological series. Little of such
cuse) are selected and de,scribed to suggest the way that systematic work had been done on ancient Greek cities
karst water potential played an important role in site when I began my study in 1970.
selection and development. A wider look at criteria for Trying to learn about how the Greeks managed their
urban location and a new classification of urban patterns water system, I found a previously unnoticed set of clues
help to revise conventional understandings of these an- to the development of those cities. The high importance
cient cities. In conclusion, some modern findings about the of the geological base for urban development gradually
interaction between city and setting suggest new research became evident, first for determining the water resources,
agendas for geologists and engineers, ancient historians but also for a truer understanding of the topography and
and archaeologists, and water policy makers--preferrably geomorphology of a site, the nature of the soil, and avail-
working together. ability of resources such as building materials.
Now I am working with geologists and hydraulic engi-
K e y w o r d s Greco-Roman cities 9 Urban location 9 Karst neers in Turkey, Greece, and Sicily, studying the ways that
geology 9Colonization the physical bases of ten Greco-Roman cities determined
their urban development. In this paper, I will summarize
my findings about the interaction between water manage-
Introduction ment and Greek urban development and point to some of
our new investigations. For fuller explication and detailed
Until recently, ancient Mediterranean cities have been bibliography, the reader is referred to Water Management
investigated mainly by ancient historians and classical in Ancient Greek Cities (Crouch 1993), and our forth-
archaeologists. The documents of the historians and the coming Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns
physical remains located by archaeologists seem to an (Crouch and others 1997-1998), both Oxford University
urban historian like myself, however, to be useful but in- Press.
complete sources that take for granted the geographical
base and assume that there was a social organization. In

D. P. Crouch
Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture,RensselaerPolytechnic More precisely subdivided geological timescales within
Institute; 739 Yale St. # 6B, Santa Paula, California93060, USA the last 10,000 years would be of inestimable value to the
historian who attempts to use geological information re- 0 !000 M
lated to particular sites. The very slow pace of geological
change is commonly but erroneously thought o f - - a t least
by nongeologists--as unrelated to historical change. We
will argue in Geoloiy and Settlement: Greco-Roman Pat-
terns (Crouch and others 1997-1998) that geology fur-
nishes not merely a passive long-term backdrop to human
action, but also the changing milieu with which we inter-
act: our building materials, our landscapes, and the earth- 6
quakes, tidal waves, aggradation, and other processes ~ - ".- " . . . . . " " ~ : "- : - , "-" i ": - ": ",5 :.: "-:. "~"." 5 : : "-"; - . "~-:.1= : : ". : ".:. "~" .": ":: . • : "-" " # " : Q;'-" b - 1

that constantly change the world we try to master. M a n -

environment relations in the ancient Greco-Roman world,
Fig. 1 Karst diagram. 1: caprock, impermeable strata; 2: limestones;
as now, were complex interactions of mode, duration, and 3: swallet,where water enters the rock; 4: shaft; 5: collapse sink, one
intensity of human interference with the initial site condi- of a series; 6: resurgence. Based on diagrams by Pohl (1955) and
tions and with the climatic and biotic flux, affected by the Crawford (1984)
resilience of the ecosystem. To understand these human
communities in their physical setting, we need to study a
range of features, many complex interactions, and man's Karst is defined as an area of limestone terrane having
impact on the setting. The underlying geological reality of surface openings, pinnacles, blind valleys, and under-
this area is karst. ground drainage channels, or we may describe it as an
interactive process between water and carbonate rocks,
resulting in the formation of shafts and channels, fostering
the appearance of springs (Fig. 1). In the Mediterranean
area, karst phenomena are widely distributed, dominating
Karst basis of urbanization continental Greece including the Peloponnesos and north-
eastern Greece, Crete, and the Aegean islands. Karst is a
Much of the land bordering the Mediterranean is made of significant landform in several areas of Italy that were
carbonate rocks, laid down and uplifted in the long eons of major importance for Greek colonization, such as the
when sea alternated with dry land. These rocks are seen "heel" area, and the east and south coasts of Sicily (Belloni
today as layers of limestone, dolomite, or marble, depend- and others 1972). The southern and western one third to
ing on their exact chemical composition and their sub- one half of Turkey and more than one third of its water
sequent history of pressure and heat. Coarse crystalline potential is karstic with one to two thirds of the river flow
limestone has less karst than fine crystalline limestone, originating in karst springs (Clzis 1985) (Fig. 2).
especially in areas where limestone overlies impermeable It is not easy to look at a landscape and be certain that
rock (Bogli 1980). Karst is most common where soluble it is or is not karstic (Quinlin 1978). The simple assump-
rock lies under a permeable but insoluble rock such as
sandstone, or the extremely hard marble cap on the hills Fig. 2 Karst map of Turkey, Greece, and Italy, after two maps by
at Miletus (White 1977). PT Milanovic.

tion of one water table per region is frequently void in organisms that damage or exterminate species have
karst, where an irregular and discontinuous water table had major impact on geomorphology quite indepen-
interacts with the strata of limestone, forming karst at dent of human actions. The best areas of land were
many levels, hence multiple "perched" water tables (Loy so before man's arrival and in most respects have
1965-1966; Bogli 1980; Burdon 1964; Palmer 1976). Cir- continued to be so until the present .... The present
culation in karst may vary from superficial to extremely dangers for the islands from human misuse are
deep, down to -3000 m, up to +2000 m (Bogli 1980). palpable but it is anachronistic to transfer present
Both shallow and deep karst are revealed by surface conditions of human ecology.., uncritically into the
springs. past [Bintliff 1977].
The dominant land formations associated with karst
are dolines (also called sinkholes, poljes, or katavothres The dangers referred to are exacerbated because of
depending on their size), crevices or ravines, and cave sys- scarce rainfall, intense evaporation, and infertile soil--
tems. A larger form of doline, the polje or estavelle (Bogli none under human control. The erratic quality of the cli-
1980), is found extensively in Greece and in Italy especially mate has been a major factor in the way karst has de-
east of Rome in the Apennines (Dufaure 1977). A polje veloped here, and consequently in how people manage the
differs from a lake in its drainage pattern, since not only resulting water supply. The thin, barren soil of Mediterra-
can all the water drain out abruptly, like pulling a plug, nean rocky peninsulas and islands is the result of climate,
but also water can, under some circumstances, flood up not m a n - - a t least, the currently observable extensive and
into the polje from its shaft. The former Lake Kopais permanent deforestation of uplands seems to be locally a
north of Athens, for instance, is a large standard polje very recent phenomena, not a cause but a result of existing
(Knauss and others 198,0; Knauss 1987). Other poljes conditions. The condition of the watersheds of urban hin-
in mainland Greece are known at Tripolis, Feneos, terlands, in good times and bad, is directly pertinent to the
Stymphalos/Climendi, and Alea/Skotini. ability of cities to extract water and transport it to munici-
The Greek natural geography is steep slopes, bare or pal users. Some problems of the area have been recurrent
with few trees, but densely wooded on terraces and pla- since archaic times, namely, deforestation and drought.
teaus (LeGrand 1977). The steep slopes concentrate run- Ancient deforestation may be partially attributed to recur-
off into dolines and hence into underground shaft-and- rent dry spells such as the 25-year drought in the third
channel systems, which behave as natural pipelines, with quarter of the fourth century (Camp 1982). Although mod-
direct conduits enlarging and indirect ones being aban- ern writers have tended to blame the goat, Bintliff (1977)
doned (Fekete 1977). The, water appears again downhill asserts that the goat was not a significant agent: The goat,
in surface springs, or flows underground as aquifers. he writes, has been domesticated (with the sheep) for 7000
In Attica, for example, permeable limestone or dolomite years in Greece, but many areas have been deforested only
with or without marble, plus travertine from an ancient in the last 200 years. However, the noted classical archae-
spring near Kifissia, and crystalline marble at Mt. Ymettos ologist Homer Thompson reports that with the demise of
together constitute a "three-fold complex of limestone, goat farming in the past 50 years, the hillsides of Attica are
marble, and dolomite, each thick enough to form a good green once again (H. Thompson personal communication).
reservoir and each separated from the other by a thick Karst geology can ensure a year-round water supply,
series of water-retaining shists," according to Picard without which life is impossible. This geology serves as an
(1957), who did a UN survey of karst water potential in excellent reservoir for drinking water, owing to its joint
Greece shortly after World War II, a report in which he network, caves, shafts, and dolines (Jennings 1971; Picard
comments repeatedly on the excellent "producer quality" 1957). Mountains behave as gigantic water towers (Mija-
of the limestones and marbles of the country. Yet informa- tovic 1977), an example being Mt. Parnis in Attica, with
tion about the yield of water from the carbonate rocks had "ideal geohydrological conditions for the storage of
been lost in Greece for many centuries. groundwater" (Burdon 1964). These conditions include
Problems of erosion are relevant to both the manage- high infiltration and low runoff. The springs that appear
ment of water and the process of urbanization (Thrower at the base of a mountain, where the soluble layer of lime-
and Bradbury 1973; Aschmann 1973). In the islands, stone abuts an impermeable layer of stone or clay (Bogli
whose bare rocky surfaces excite photographers and poets 1980), made karst eminently useful to Greek city builders.
but make settlement difficult, Such exurgences are the result of local seepage and in
many cases are seasonal only, flowing at the end of winter
most of the island soils are barren from structural and into the spring season. Yet in a karst system, protected
causes, while the sediment systems seem also to have from surface evaporation, seasonal variation would not be
led a fairly independent life. It is important to re- nearly as marked as the observable flow differential in
member that denuding is a natural process in karst rivers or alluvial wells. Emergent springs include the
terranes, and will take place without human aggra- spring "at the foot of barren limestone hills" of Mt. Ida,
vation-although human misuse of land can exa- from which flows the Scamander River of the plain of Troy
cerbate the effects of denudation. In addition to the in Turkey (Diller 1881), and the spring that supplies the
sheet erosion that pulls topsoil into karst dolines river at Gortys in the Greek Peloponnesos. Frequently,
and fissures, other factors such as natural fires and springs are located within caves, such as the springs asso-
ciated with the church and monastery of Panayia Spiliani rock. The rate at which the water flows through a karst
on Samos, above Pithagorio. system varies from a few meters to half a kilometer per
An assured water supply was essential to the stability hour, depending on the chemistry of the water and the
and long life of a settlement. Output of many karst systems degree of slope and permeability. These processes are
is available year round in the forms of springs and rivers, often difficult to gauge. Although we would like to know,
which could either be used directly or tapped for long- for instance, precisely how fast the process of the physi-
distance waterlines. Perennial springs are particularly ap- cal change called downcutting has been through a given
preciated in Mediterranean lands where rainfall is mostly limestone strata, we can at best approximate the rate
confined to the winter season, while need for water is (see Dreybrodt 1990).
greatest in summer. Collecting water from a large water-
shed, a karst system is often out of phase with local rain
events, and karst springs therefore exhibit a dampened
curve in their outflow, which is to the advantage of hu- Problems
mans (di Castri and Mooney 1973; Mijatovic 1977). The
amount of water can be big enough for rivers, such as the Sinter (deposit of calcium carbonate) is a basic by-product
biggest spring in the Peloponnesos, Ayios Flores, which of the circulation of carbonated waters when large dissolu-
has such a large catchment that it flows during several dry tion and large precipitation take place, especially near the
years when lesser springs dry up, in contrast with the thou- surface (Bogli 1980). In the disused Roman aqueducts east
sands of seeps that are gone by August (Burdon 1964; Loy of the city of Rome, more deposit of sinter is seen where
1965-1966). the flowing water had to change direction, around a cor-
ner, and in the fountainhouse at Megara, Greece, more
sinter has accumulated on the front sides of the front piers,
where the water was continually stirred by people drawing
Sea changes water. Sintering is significant because its tendency to fill up
channels and pipes constituted a severe challenge to the
A different kind of geological behavior affects cities ancient technicians. Sinter made the maintenance of the
located near rivers. Mediterranean rivers are limited in urban water supply a more difficult task.
length, but their transport of huge amounts of suspended Urbanization itself produces a second problem. It has
material has led to landlocked cities. Ancient ports such as the effect of greatly increasing runoff, proportionate to the
Ephesus became separated from their coasts beginning in amount of pavement, and thus of displacing the point of
the fourth century AD (Furon 1952-1953; Meiggs 1960). entry of the groundwater into the ground. Instead of gen-
Gage (1978) reports stream terraces being formed very eralized and gradual seepage of water through tree and
rapidly--months or decades, not millennia--in areas of plant roots into the soil, the urbanized area pours tor-
strong relief, steep gradients, and high precipitation such rents of water gathered from roofs and pavements onto the
as the west coast of Asia Minor, where the amount immediately surrounding unpaved surfaces, overloading
of energy available allows rapid change. He comments, their capacity to absorb and promoting flooding. Con-
"Slow continuous change is clearly not a characteristic of versely, the action of karst waters in gradually cutting
this geomorphological process." deeper and deeper into the limestone may eventually leave
At the same time, the sea has risen or the land has sunk high and dry a city that was depending upon them for its
in many coastal areas, slightly but constantly in the last water supply (Melhorn and Flemal 1975).
2000-5000 years, about 2 m as an average: Ionia, 1.75 m Learning to control water in the karst terrane, begin-
average; Leptis Magna, 2 m; Attica, 1-3 m; Delos, 1-3 m; ning in the archaic period, was a significant accomplish-
but at Syracuse, there is no evidence of change. At Pylos, ment of the Greeks. The ancient engineers learned to keep
Mycenaean ruins on Older Fill are 3 m underwater, while their cities appropriately watered. The famous tunnel at
Hellenistic ruins are under 1.5 m (Bintliff 1977). The diffi- Samos and the fountainhouse at Megara, of the sixth and
culty of managing the water supply and drainage of a city seventh centuries, respectively, are evidence that long-
undergoing such drastic change to its physical setting can distance water supply lines and their associated fittings
well be imagined. and structures were well within the competence of these
Within karst terrane, all waters, whether pure or pol- engineers who mastered the complex interaction of karst
luted, are more or less equal in their rates of circulation. geology, human management of water, and the process of
Treatment of waste through soil is good when site factors urbanization.
such as topography, soils, geology, and hydrology all are
positive (Belson 1977; Tennyson and Settergren 1977).
Karst, because it is easily polluted, is a less reliable waste-
disposal environment than soil. A 50-day minimum is Karst cities
thought necessary for purification of wastes fed into the
groundwater system in soil, but in the stone channels of To get a sense of the relationship between karst geology
karst, circulation may be faster, and certainly the amount and Greek settlement, we will look at examples from the
of filtering done by the soil cannot be expected in bare Greek mainland, an Aegean island, Turkey, and Sicily.

These examples are selected to suggest the way that karst

water potential played an important role in site selection
and development. Major examples are Corinth for main-
land Greece, Rhodes for the Aegean Islands, Priene for
Ionia, and Syracuse for Sicily.


Ancient Corinth stands on gradually sloping terraces Fig. 3 Sketch by P. Marinos of the hydrology of ancient Corinth
and Acrocorinth. Water appears at each outer edge of a terrace,
below the isolated protuberance of Acrocorinth, which where impermeable clay and permeable rock come together. Thus
acts as a reservoir, the flow of waters through it resulting the mountain acts as a "water tower" for the settlement
in springs (Fig. 3). That karst waters are to be found in
perched nappes even at high altitudes accounts for the
spring of U p p e r Peirene not far below the summit of Acro- Tubes and channels have been reported again and
corinth, as well as the two fountains halfway down the again in the excavations at Corinth, some recognized as
road from its citadel, and the fountain called Hadji Musta- being in use at least by the fifth century BC (Wiseman
pha, at the immediate foot of the citadel. The hydrogeol- 1978), others flowing until at least AD 400, and still others,
ogy of Corinth has been studied for Geology and Settle-
ment (Crouch and others, 1997-1998), by Prof. Paul G. Fig. 4 Map of the central business district of Corinth, with Greek
Marinos of Athens Technical University. Further work on buildings (before 150 BCE) overlying natural and man-made or
man-altered tunnels. Four water sources are shown: Glauke, Sacred
the local quarries is underway by Chris Hayward, to be Spring, Peirene Fountain, and Cyctopean Fountain. The site slopes
published in the Corinth excavation series. downhill to the north

. ~"\ " ~ \\ \ \ \ \\\"~\ \~~\ \\\\\\llII/ll~/, //, -

deteta ~r~c~e~


2 ~ \ [k i ([~k\\\ ~ ' \ Sacred

~ Spring

uke ~'~

south stoa




Glauke - Fountain - Drain before 150 B.C.
CB - Centaur bath F - Fountain
TofA - Temple of Aphrodite A - Lower Agora
7777777 - Resevoir B - Upper Agora
~....,~" - Channel

such as the West Tunnel, serving as reservoirs for at least How much water would this Agora tunnel system have
1800 years, holding up to 120,000 gallons (Hill 1964) (Fig. supplied to Corinth? The west tunnel was giving 11,356-
4). Even today, with very little repair, this system could be 13,249 1(original estimate: 3000-3500 gal) per hour at the
made to supply a good-sized modern city. These tubes or time of excavation and could hold 454,2441 (original
tunnels varied in length from 50 to 3000 m (Wiseman 1978; estimate: 120,000 gal), but other tunnels brought the total
Hill 1964; Robinson 1969), collecting water from several to possibly 30,283 1 (original estimate: 8000 gal) per hour
underground streams or seeps that they intersected. The even in summer. The southeast branch gave 11,460 l/h,
walls of these tunnels were impervious clay, the roof of or half as much as the west branch (Hill 1964). Glauke's
conglomerate, sometimes stuccoed for water retention. reservoirs could hold another 54,509 1 (original estimate
Some changes in the levels of the clay-cut channels may be 14,400 gal). Engels estimates that Peirene gave 18 m 3 h -1
attributed to natural changes as the flowing water down- on average, plus about 21 for Glauke, and 13 for the Ask-
cut its bed, but others were probably man-made. lepieion, a total of 52 m 3. (Note that estimates in one mea-
Careful comparison of the patterns of Corinth tunnels suring system, translated into a second system, seem to
in the Agora area and at the Asklepion-Lerna complex give precise numbers that may not be warranted by the
with the patterns of Italian karst tunnels suggests strongly evidence or intended by the investigator.)
that the ancient Corinthian engineers were utilizing exist-
ing but irregular karst tunnels, carved out during long
cons in the permeable limestone and conglomerate lying Rhodes
just above the impermeable clay. At first, in the sixth cen-
tury or earlier, the builders would only have formalized Karst water supply on Rhodes can be seen not only in the
the outlet of the resurgence into a fountainhouse, such as complete water supply and drainage system that underlies
the Sacred Spring or the Cyclopean Fountain, but later-- the main city of Rhodes but also in the provisions for
although still in the fifth century--in order to balance watering the very ancient sanctuary of Lindos and its as-
supply and demand, reservoirs were dug adjacent to the sociated town (Renz 1929; Meulenkamp and others 1972).
outlets, by digging in the clay and supporting the over- Meulenkamp and others refer to the "bioclastic limestones
hanging conglomerate with walls, piers, and columns. of the Rhodos Formation dipping west [-from Paradision
Early reservoirs at Corinth effectively prove that the on the northeast coast] with intercalation and displaced
Greeks preceded the Romans in building reservoirs on the boulders of bluish clays or marls"--a combination that
principle of filling up at night and drawing down in the would permit karstic activity, especially as the authors go
daytime (Glaser 1983; Fahlbusch 1982). on to say that "limestones of the Rhodos Formation are
An important piece of evidence for the natural karst found at more than 200 meters above sea level," from
origin of the tunnels and springs is their intermittent flow. which height water from the karst formations in the higher
The original small spring that fed both Peirene and the ground to the south was brought to the acropolis and on
Cyclopean Fountain was amplified no later than classical into Rhodes City. The Acropolis here is noted for its grot-
times by flow from uphill through a series of tunnels lead- toes that were reservoirs for the city's aqueducts. These
ing back to the mountain and a series of reservoir cham- grottoes also are cut "in the bioclastic limestones of the
bers that follow the natural contours in clay and stone. Rhodos formation, with, in some cases, the floor cut down
These interventions tell us that the flow of the small natu- into clayey and marly units that correspond to a line of
ral spring there was insufficient for the classical city. The seepage." It is significant that our knowledge of the most
Sacred Spring which, like Peirene, lay one level below the ancient street pattern of Rhodes comes from discoveries of
Agora, tucked under the conglomerate shelf, was monu- its water pipelines and sewer pipes, as published most re-
mentalized in the sixth and fifth centuries but gradually cently by Hoepfner and Schwandner (1994). Thanks to
went out of use in the fourth century, as the water deserted these undervalued bits of evidence from the ancient water
its natural channel. It is possible that the construction of supply and drainage system, we know that the city plan
the elaborate water system of the South Stoa along the of Rhodes was a grid subtly adjusted to produce smaller
upper side of the Agora, at the end of the fourth century, blocks bounded by more frequently occurring streets in
cut off the supply to the Sacred Spring. Farther to the west, the districts near the port, and larger blocks with more
the Glauke Fountain seems never to have been a natural widely spaced streets farther out.
spring, being located in a layer of limestone above the
conglomerate, and yet it was given the shape of a crude
grotto. Its reservoirs held 36,758 1 (14,400 gal), fed by Priene
conduit from the Hadji Mustapha source at the foot of
Acrocorinth. Possibly, the common occurrence of veins of Vit Klemes, then president of the International Associa-
water in limestone quarries had suggested that this relic of tion of Hydrological Sciences, declared categorically to me
quarrying for the archaic Apollo Temple be adapted as a in 1988 that there was no Greek city that was not built on
fountain for its neighborhood, with the ditches from which or next to karst and cited as proof the Greek cities of Asia
limestone had been quarried becoming the reservoirs. Cer- Minor. Karst in these areas is distinguished by carbonate
tainly as a fountain, Glauke was a convenient source of rocks, subsurface streams in the upland areas, and karst
water for visitors to the temple and its district. springs that contribute significantly to surface flow in the

lower elevations (Wiegand and Schrader 1904; ()zis 1985).

Major karst basins are located at Sardis, Dalaman, and on
along the south coast of Anatolia ((Szis 1984). Karst is A-A
found in Ionia as far north as Troy.
Farther south on the coast, at Priene, there is a moun-
tain range of marble, well wooded and supplying ample
water for settlement and for agriculture. Indeed, so much v9 A
water was available from the mountain, that--unlike any
other city I have studied--no more than 20 or 25% of the
houses at Priene had cisterns, most being supplied rather
by short pipelines directly tapping the hill or long ones
delivering water from are, servoir on the Acropolis to stor-
age chambers just inside the eastern rampart but above
most of the settlement, w;hence it flowed by gravity to the
fountains and houses below.


It was precisely the karstic areas of the Italian peninsula

and of Sicily that drew the Greek colonists during the
archaic period. Italian karst has been studied by Belloni
and others (1972), who showed the major areas near the
Alps, in the Central Apennines, around Bari, and through
the whole heel area. For Sicilian karst one must turn to
Dall'Aglio and Tedesco's work (1968). Sicilian karst has
been studied perhaps the least of all but is locally de-
veloped in the Madonie mountains of the interior, at
Palermo, in the hills above Syracuse, and in the south-
central area; some of these karsts depend upon gypsum
outcroppings (Belloni and others 1972), as at Akragas.
U U.b I >' ~ 4
Syracuse is located near the bottom of the southeast I. I I I _[ i
coast of Sicily, in an area where two major layers of lime- km
stone are interstriated with narrow terraces of marl and Geologicalstrata Locations
1. Clay & conglomerate A.
Ft. Euryalos
conglomerate (Fig. 5). The strata tip upward inland to the 2. Basalt B.
northwest. Within these terraces, the karst process over 3. Limestone C.
4. Tufa D.
many millennia has cut channels that slope gently toward 5. Marble (blue) E.
6. Silt F.
the sea, channels that were used to deliver water to the Water elements G.
growing city in Greek times. Rather than a single source A Fountain H.
for the water supply of the city, Syracusan water comes I Galermi aqueduct K.
from many surface and subsurface openings in the lime- II Aqueduct (no name) []
III Aqueduct Ninfeo Th
stone, particularly where this stone lies above imperme- IV Aqueduct Paradiso AM
able strata such as marl. Already in the fifth century BC, V Aqueduct Tremilia Roman gymnasium
VI Arethusa spring AG1+ Catacombs
the karst process (and probably a big increase in popula- Agora 1
AG2 Agora 2
tion) seems to have left the important fountains above the AG3 Agora 3
theater with insufficient water, for at that time a 25-kin-
long aqueduct called Ga][ermi was built to bring water Fig. 5 Hydrogeology and topography of Syracuse. Geological stra-
from mountains farther to the west (Fig. 6). Later, in ta, water elements, and elements of the urban form are indicated.
At the top are two profiles of the site. After Dr6gemfiller (1969),
Roman and Byzantine times, when the many channels Schubring (1865) and others
at the level of the theater went dry, they were reused as
catacombs for burials.
Teammates in Syracuse,', headed by Robertio Maugeri, being studied by Professor Aurelio Aureli and his assistant
are studying the long-term change from fault to aqueduct Marina de Meio. At the very edge of the water on the west
to catacomb in two of the well-known catacombs there. side of the original island site, Ortygia, the spring of
The karstic origins of these,' catacomb passages are evident Arathusa still bubbles up. Other outlets of fresh water in
in the irregular twists and turns that they take. Equally the Great and Little Harbors have been part of travelers'
plausible is a karst origin for the submarine and coastal tales since Greek times. Modern studies of similar springs
springs that Syracuse is famous for. Harbor springs and off the Greek and Yugoslavian coasts have helped us real-
the history of hydraulic management at Syracuse are ize that karst waters have been cutting shafts upward

and fish or crops and meat. This alternative broadens the

number and kinds of "ideal" sites.
Trade routes, a third determining factor, also are more
complex in form and have more varied effects on urban
location than earlier theories would admit. There are
at least three kinds of route intersections and resulting
urban locations: (1) intersection of overland routes--for
example, the Santa Fe Trail, with its two terminals at
Independence, Missouri, and Santa Fe., New Mexico,
USA, with Santa Fe being a crossroads where routes from
Los Angeles and Mexico City also converged; (2) land and
water interchanges--the n o r t h - s o u t h land route through
France crossing at Paris the east-west river route along
the Seine; and (3) water-water interchanges such as New
Orleans (Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River) or Am-
sterdam (Rhine River and Atlantic Ocean).
The economist Hohenberg and the historian Lees
(Hohenberg and Lees 1985) have shown that central place
theory, traditional among economic historians, fails to ac-
count for the patterns between and among cities during
the past 1000 years in Europe. They have developed a
richer theory that incorporates both central place and net-
work concepts, thereby much more completely explaining
the origin and persistence of cities for the period studied.
They define a "central place system" as ~'more or less even
spatial distribution of cities around a central capital, with
regional boundaries typically falling in zones of weak in-
teraction," and emphasizing local production and admin-
istration. A "network city" functions in long-distance
trade, as part of an extensive but irregular linkage (Hohen-
berg and Lees 1985). A detailed study of networks and
central places, based on many examples, is lacking for the
Fig. 6 Galermi aqueduct at Syracuse, dating from the fifth century
BCE. It brought water from distant mountains, utilizing siphons Greek period, but I have risked assigning these cities to
one catagory or the other.
Ideally an ancient Greek town was located amid the
area of best soil where the most work was done, while
through limestone and, under the pressure of the head farthest away was the worst soil, to be allotted the least
from the inland mountains, driving the fresh or brackish work. The ideal pattern of ancient settlement favored
waters out into the sea whenever the sea floor came to be springs but only where good land was also available. Some
pierced by a fissure or collapsed as a doline. The brilliant geographers assert that sites adjacent to springs, rivers,
success of Syracuse during the Late Classical and Hellenis- and lakes were the urban locations of choice. Soil scientists
tic periods was dependant on the copious water supply counterclaim, with some justice, that water can, after all,
available within the city and its immediate hinterland. be transported, and therefore soil, which cannot easily be
moved and which must be of good quality for farming, is
the ultimate determinant of settlement location. The an-
cient settlers, indeed, chose fertile soil if they could not
Urban location and geology have water and fertile soil at the same spot. Springs might
be as much as 20 minutes away from the major focus of
The received wisdom about the placement of cities usually settlement (Bintliff 1977). Several developments made this
rates defense as the primary factor in location decisions, choice logical--the cistern for storing rainwater at the
with access to arable land and concentration of trade point of use; wells in the torrent beds, in alluvial fans, and
activities being almost as important. Such a formulation into perched water tables; and long-distance waterlines
leaves out the possibility that the ancients recognized the that made moving water feasible in a way that moving soil
importance of a balance of either fish or meat for comple- could never be. Thus ancient Greek settlers had more lee-
menting cereals in the diet. Colonists might deliberately way in choice of settlement location than one might at first
choose as a site a port city that tapped directly into think, because their water management technology freed
grazing lands, like Priene, as an alternate to the more them from total reliance on running water at the same
common site amid farmland. Thus, it is more accurate location as their farmland or their settlement.
to say that two kinds of food were necessary, either crops The studies of Van Andel and others (1986), Pope and

Van Andel (1984), Vita-Finzi (1969), and Herak and Sting- Table 1 Urbanization factors abstracta
field (1972) have begun to help us understand the limits
placed on settlements by geology. Their analyses suggest
that details of the geographical situation, such as the
Site A B C D E F G H I
amount of rainfall and extent of karstification, together
with the amount and quality of arable land at a particular 1 x x + x x + + x x
site, were significant for ancient Greek urban develop- 2 x x + x x + + x x
ment. A fortunate combination of site, resources, and 3 x x + x x + + x x
human energy (often ethnically hybrid vigor) was essential 4 x x + x x + + x x
5 x x + x x x x x x
to enable m a x i m u m growth. Expansion was based on ex- 6 x x + x x x x x x
ploitable resources of all kinds and on technological devel- 7 x x + x x x x x x
opments such as increasingly sophisticated water manage- 8 x x + x x x x x x
ment skills. 9 x x x x x x x x x
10 x x x x x x x x x
Modest agricultural surpluses have already been men- ll X X X - X X X X X
tioned as resource constraints. These were strongly affect- 12 X X X - X X X X X
ed by the amount of arable land near a city. Megara, for 13 X X X - X X X X X
instance, is situated on a narrow isthmus with a range of 14 X X X X X X X X
15 X X X X X X - X
mountains behind the c i t y - - m i n i m a l agricultural lands,
16 X X X X X X X
marginal for a city that aspired to prominence. Outgrow- 17 X X X X X X X
ing its food base in the coastal plain, Megara turned to 18 X X X X X X X
trade and colonization for survival. The citizens spent 19 X X X X X X X
great amounts of energy and wealth in a long but eventu- 20 X - - X X X
21 - - - X X X
ally futile attempt to stave offsecond- or third-class status. 22 - - X X X
if they had been able to concentrate on trade and coloni- 23 X X -
zation in an era of peace, they might have survived with 24 - -
high status, but their resource base near the urban core
was too narrow to permit them to withstand the damages a X = factor is present; + = strongly present; -- = factor may be
of the incessant wars of the fifth century, and their loca-
tion on the major ithsmus between central Greece and
the Peloponessos did not permit them to avoid damage. Being at the center of an area of arable land (factor B)
Yet one of Megara's colonies was Byzantium (later Con- was important at 19-21 of the sites.
stantinople, later I s t a n b u l ) - - a brilliant success by any Having a trade crossroads (factor C) was significant to
standards. We can imagine the realists of ancient Megara some extent at 20-22 of the settlements, and for eight of
cutting their losses by emigrating to the colony, leaving them trade was a major reason for existence. Two others
the mother city to become a backwater. of the 22, Paestum and Pella, were not major traders but
The data currently available suggest for ancient Greek undoubtedly had some trade.
cities the following series of urban location determinants: At least ten of these settlements were clearly founded
(designated by their respective letters in Table 1 and com- as colonies (factor D), plus ancient Corinth, which was
ments that follow). refounded by the Romans after the mid-second century
BC, and Pompeii, which went through several periods of
A. On a defensible site
conquest and recolonization.
B. Amid arable land
Only for Gortys do we lack all information about its
C. On a trade route
role as a central place or network city (factor E). Since,
D. Where needed by superior government
however, it was a religious pilgrimage site, it functioned in
E. Where appropriate for central place or network
a modest way as both. F o r the cities listed, I have intu-
urban function
itively assigned an N (network) or C (central place) desig-
F. At a focus of m a x i m u m variations
nation, except in the four to six cases where the city seems
G. At a juncture of best water and soil resources
to have played both roles. These assignments should not
H. Founded before the hinterland was developed
be taken to mean that the point has been proved, but
I. On a beautiful site
rather that it has been indicated.
Water Management in Ancient Greek Cities (Crouch 1993) Factor F, variety, is noticeable at 19 of the sites,
examines 24 cities: Akragas, Argos, Assos, Athens, Cor- in varying degrees. Outstanding are Pergamon, Priene,
inth, Delos, Delphi, Gela, Gortys, Lindos, Megara, Mile- Rhodes, and Syracuse, where the variety contributed to
tus, Morgantina, Olynthos, Pella, Pergamon, Pompeii, growth to metropolitan status at three sites, with only
Posidonia/Paestum, Priene, Rhodes, Samos, Selinus, Syr- Priene remaining a small town. Priene may have been
acuse, and Thassos. Of these cities, defensibility (factor A) eclipsed by its very large neighbor, Miletus.
was a major factor in 20 or even 22 settlements. The defen- All of the settlements studied had water resources (fac-
sive features were superb at eight of them, while two had tor G) as a major feature, as one would expect from their
below-average strength. inclusion in this study. In this they are not unusual or
exceptional as Greek sites go, except perhaps in their suc-
cess as urban centers. Of the 24, only Delos had meager Urban patterns
water supplies, but this deficiency was overcome by use of
cisterns, a standard Grecco-Roman technology. Contrari- Classifying ancient urban plans solely by pattern or by
wise, five of the sites--Akragas, Gortys, Priene, Syracuse, century is not satisfactory. Two standard patterns have
and T h a s o s - - h a d excellent water reserves, easily accessi- been mentioned in the literature, the grid and the fan-like
ble. Pergamon came very quickly to rely on a combination terraces of"scenographic urbanism." Closer inspection of
of cisterns and long-distance water supply lines that to- the street patterns and the relation of those patterns to
gether made up the very good supply system of this site. the site allows classification into five basic types, which
Both technologies were well developed by the fifth or sixth for easy remembrance ! name after representative cities of
century BC. each type (Fig. 7):
Some 14 or 15 of the settlements are known as delib- 1. Athens type. A general rule states that "the capital
erately founded places (factor H) rather than organic city is unlike the others in form." Athens, a seemingly
growths. Rhodes, for example, was the product of delib- formless, organic city, is quite unlike the well-regulated
erate union of several small towns in the late fifth century cities (many of them colonies) of the other types. Although,
BC. If the time period of this study were pushed back to there were particular central areas--the Agora (central
the third millennium, we would no doubt find that many business district) and Acropolis (hilltop set aside for large
more of the settlements were deliberate foundations of religious buildings)--in Athens that were elegantly orga-
that age, possibly of the eponymous heroes associated nized, the residential areas apparently grew up irregularly.
with each site. That the history of nearly 60% of the ar-
chaic and classical settlements has preserved knowledge of Urbanpatterns
a deliberate founding in the late second or, more likely, the
early first millennium BC suggests that this procedure was
the norm for ancient Greek settlements.
Most interestingly, factors A, B, C, E, F, G, and I seem
to correlate strongly. That is, sites well placed on good
soil, with an ample water supply, with a good variety of
other resources including human ones, easily defensible,
and participating in trade have left enough remnants of
their material arrangements to be discovered by modern
archaeologists, analyzed and described by urban histo-
rians, and very often visited by tourists who want to expe- A Athens type
rience their beauty. Of the 24 sites listed, only Megara and
Pella are not overwhelmingly beautiful in their modern
form, and even they are pleasant enough. Neither of those i "" f,__-.,J
two has been excavated extensively enough to reveal the
pattern of the settlement as a whole, although excavations z////lI////z/
are proceeding at Pella. The Roman author Strabo first
drew attention to the Greek predeliction for choosing 9 I
beautiful sites for their cities (Strabo, C 235). B Posidonia type C Morgantina type
The accessibility of water was highly significant. During
the period studied, the Greeks learned how to extend their
reach for water farther and farther into each city's hinter-
land, so that the city could house a larger population with
its water-using activities. We suspect that changes in water - Jll I [ I , .
resources were major factors in changing economic bases. .~ H i i-
For instance, water and food shortages may have neces-
sitated colonization--as John Camp (1979b, 1982) has
demonstrated for the effects of the eighth and fourth cen-
tury BC droughts at Athens. Other kinds of resources D Priene type E Pergamon type
were also limiting in particular situations, such as short-
ages of wood for building houses and ships and for fuel, Fig. 7A-E Urban patterns. (A) Athens type--organic plan devel-
oped around two nuclei. (B) Posidonia type--residential streets and
ample supplies of silver for money and lead for pipes, etc. central zone are perpendicular to the main street; central zone was
(Athens and Pergamon both benefited from such assets), set aside for temples, agora, and other public uses. (C) Morgantina
or wool or clay as raw materials for exportable manufac- type --residential grids on two flat-topped hills flank a lower agora
tured goods. A city with ample trade goods could buy area. (D) Priene type--Hippodamian grid of regularized blocks of
houses surround a rectangular agora lined with porticoes. (E) Per-
any food not supplied by the local area but still had to gamon type scenographic urbanism, with terraces stepped down
find water within its own territory in order to survive and like blades of a fan--the city as stage setting for royal spectacles. Not
prosper. drawn to the same scale

At the core, a band of private structures bordered the pub- of what effect these cities have had on their natural sur-
lic buildings of the Agora and the Acropolis, producing a roundings. The resulting questions are useful even if the
centralized, dual-focus settlement. Already in antiquity, answers are imprecise. Changnon (1973), for instance, as-
Athens sent out tentacle-like streets to connect itself to the serts that urban effects on weather are both obvious and
Lyceum and Academy, and the Long Walls to connect subtle. He concludes with these figures: increased rain over
with its port Piraeus. Perhaps Athens is the prototypical the town and downwind: 5 30~o; increased thunderstorms:
octopus city. 15-30~; increased number of days with 2 or more inches
2. Posidonia/Paestum type (Posidonia was the Greek of rain: 20-40~; runoff increased: 15 29~o; and ground-
name of this site, south of Naples, and Paestum its Roman water more polluted downwind. The city used as chief
name). In this colonial city of the mid-seventh century BC, example in Changnon's article is St. Louis, Missouri. His
there was one long main street. At the center, perpendicu- interpretation of modern data cannot be applied uncriti-
lar to the axis street, a wide band of public space was set cally to ancient cities, but in the absence of climatological
off, eventually occupied by the Agora and the major tem- study of ancient cities, one must extrapolate from what is
ples as well as by municipal buildings. Residential streets available.
ran parallel to this band of public space and perpendicular McPherson (1974), too, has noted the hydrological im-
to the main street; there were no cross streets (Bradford pacts of urbanization, adding to Changnon's list the effect
1957). This pattern could be described as axis-with- of the built-up area on disposal of waste and surplus
perpendicular stripes or "bar-and-stripes." waters, as well as on the water supply itself, both amount-
3. Morgantina type. In the fifth century, in western ing to a change in the water balance. McPherson shows
Greek cities of southern Italy and Sicily, a common pat- that if only 20~o of a natural catchment is urbanized, peak
tern was two flat-topped hills laid out in grids for houses, runoff is increased 200~o. There is reduced infiltration into
flanking a lower open space, which was the Agora. the ground, plus changes in the local microclimates. Since
4. Miletus/Priene type. The city of Miletus in Ionia was natural radiation and wind are altered by the buildings,
rebuilt in the fifth century after the Persian Wars. The zone urban heat, water vapor, and pollution rise into the atmo-
of public buildings and open space at the center was irreg- sphere and the urban traffic contributes to local air turbu-
ularly adapted to the peninsula's typography, and the rest lence. The water vapor content of the air is different from
of the peninsula was laid out in blocks of houses. Nuanced that in the rural areas, since the temperature is up but the
regularity of this sort was later associated with the name relative humidity is down and the precipitation is quicker.
of Hippodamus of Miletus, who carried the ideas to other Higher temperatures in turn generate more fog in more
cities such as Rhodes, which he planned. polluted cities, both at low levels and higher as clouds.
5. Pergamon type. This third century BC city was laid These findings of modern hydraulic engineers and sci-
out on a series of terraces, like the blades of a fan, a pattern entists, if routinely applied to the sites of ancient Greek
termed "scenographic urbanism" (Martin 1956), a con- cities, could help us understand more clearly the mutually
scious effort to build the city as a "theatrical" backdrop for interactive effects of city and setting. Having observed dur-
human and especially princely activities. The change in ing several centuries many of these effects of urbanization,
scale, towards giantism, is thought to mirror the political it was not beyond the Greeks to deliberately plan for them
changes of the time. and to site their towns according to the end result rather
A reevaluation of the significance of urban pattern must than the original situation. In a colonization effort extend-
consider both the amount of wealth tied up in buildings, ing from the eleventh to the third century BC and then
streets, fountains, plazas, public buildings, houses, ram- renewed by the Romans in the first century BC to third
parts, etc., and also the durability of most of these features. century AD, there was time to observe results and plan
Even if the residents of grid-platted Miletus came to prefer better the next time.
the scenographic urbanism of Pergamon, the practical
difficulties of remodeling their grid plan into a system of
radiating terraces precluded such alteration. Thus each
city's pattern made physically evident the urban concepts Conclusions
that were current when it was first being laid out and built.
Each pattern demonstrates a specific site's particular ad- For all these Greek cities, the criteria of site selection that
aptation to the local combination of stone, soil, water, we have inferred from the resulting settlement patterns
climate and orientation, as these combined with the ethos are thought-provoking. Particularly in the United States,
of the people and the city planning ideas at the time of where so many towns seem to have "just happened" or
construction. been located mainly to profit one person or a small group
of developers, these ancient Greek criteria for urbaniza-
tion stimulate us to reconsider what it is that we do when
we build cities, and for whose benefit. For purposes of this
Modern findings study, it is significant that provision of water was carefully
considered at the beginning and carefully managed during
Finally, I join with colleagues in water policy and environ- the active history of the settlement. This is but one aspect
mental engineering to urge :future comprehensive studies of their traditional attention to the physical environment,

an a t t e n t i o n t h a t allowed cities like A t h e n s a n d A r g o s to 1976. Bowling Green, KY: West Kentucky University Press.
persist for over 3000 years. pp 35, 279-285
Furon R (1952-1953) Introduction a la geologic et hydrogeologie de
la Turquie, Mere Mus Natl Hist Nat Set C 3 : 1-99, 102
Acknowledgments The author and editor gratefully acknowledge Gage M (1978) The tempo of geomorphological change. J Geol 78:
permission from Oxford University Press to include material sum- 619-625
marized from Water Management in Ancient Greek Cities and to refer Glaser F (1983) Antike brunnenbauten (Kphnai) in Griechen-
to forthcoming material from Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman land. Vienna: Verlag der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissen-
Patterns. The author wishes to thank the many geologists who have schaften
been quick to see the significance of these studies and to provide Herak M and Stingfield VT (1972) Historical review of hydrological
feedback which has improved the results. concepts. In: Herak M and Stingfield VT (Eds), Karst: Important
karst regions of the northern hemisphere. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
pp 19-24
Hill BH (1964) The springs. Corinth I, pt. VI. Princeton, NJ: Ameri-
can School of Classical Studies at Athens. pp 16, 54, 57
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