Ancient Corinth

ancient corinth


The site of ancient Corinth was first inhabited in the Neolithic period (5000-3000 BC), and flourished as a major Greek city from the 8th century BC until its destruction by the Romans in 146 BC. Its commanding position on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow strip of land that separates the Peloponnese from northern Greece, was the primary basis of its importance. Corinth controlled the diolkos (Greek for "haul across"), the 6th-century BC stone-paved roadway that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. This overland route was highly valuable in that it allowed passengers and cargo to avoid the difficult and time-consuming trip around the southern end of the Peloponnese. Being a leading naval power as well as a rich commercial city enabled ancient Corinth to establish colonies in Syracuse on the island of Sicily and on Corcyra (modern Corfu).


acrocorinthThese colonies served as trading posts for the richly ornamental bronze works, textiles, and pottery that Corinth produced.
Beginning in 582 BC, in the spring of every second year the Isthmian Games were celebrated in honor of the sea God Poseidon.The Doric Temple ofApollo, one of Corinth's major landmarks, was constructed in 550 BC at the height of the city's wealth. Corinth was conquered by Philip II of Macedon in 338 BC, but it was named the meeting place of Philip's new Hellenic confederacy. After Philip was assassinated, Alexander the Great immediately came to Corinth to meet with the confederacy, confirm his leadership, and forestall any thoughts of rebellion. At the Isthmian Games of 336 BC, the Greeks chose Alexander the Great to lead them in war against the Persians. Corinth was partially destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, but in 44 BC it was rebuilt as a Roman city under Julius Caesar. Roman Corinth prospered more than ever before and may have had as many as 800,000 inhabitants by the time of Paul. It was the capital of Roman Greece, equally devoted to business and pleasure, and was mostly populated by freedmen and Jews. The Apostle Paul visited Corinth in the 50s AD and later wrote two letters to the Christian community at Corinth (the books of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the New Testament). When Paul first visited the city (51 or 52 AD), Gallio, the brother of Seneca, was proconsul of Corinth. Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months (Acts 18:1-18), working as a tentmaker and converting as many Jews and pagans as he could.

Here he first became acquainted with Aquila and Priscilla, who became his fellow-workers.
Although Paul intended to pass through Corinth a second time before he visited Macedonia, circumstances were such that he first went from Troas to Macedonia before stopping at Corinth for a "second benefit" (2 Corinthians 1:15). This time he stayed in Corinth for three months (Acts 20:3). It was probably during this second visit in the spring of 58 that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians, written from Ephesus, reflects the difficulties of maintaining a Christian community in such a cosmopolitan city. Acanal through the isthmus of Corinth was begun under the emperor Nero in 67 AD. Wielding a gold shovel, Nero himself was first to break ground, but the canal was not completed. Up to the 12th century, ships were dragged on rollers across the isthmus. In 267 AD, the invasion of the Herulians initiated the decline of the city. During Alaric's invasion of Greece in 395–396, he destroyed Corinth and sold many of its citizens into slavery. Nevertheless, Corinth remained inhabited for many centuries through successive invasions, destructions and plagues.

the temple After 1204, when
Constantinople fell to the Fourth Crusade, Corinth was a prize sought by all. Corinth was captured by the Turks in 1458; the Knights of Malta won it in 1612; the Venetians took a turn from 1687 until 1715, when the Turks returned; and the city finally came into Greek hands in 1822. In 1893 a 4-mile (6-km) Corinth canal was finally completed, providing an essential shipping route between the Ionian and Aegean seas. Like its ancient predecessor, modern Corinth is the center of commerce between northern and southern Greece. Today, it has a population of about 30,000. Systematic archaeological excavations of the area, initiated by the American School of Classical Studies in 1896, are still continuing today and have brought to light the agora, temples, fountains, shops, porticoes, baths and various other monuments. The finds are exhibited in the on-site Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth.