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Corinth, or Korinth (Κόρινθος) a Greek city, on the Isthmus of Corinth, the original isthmus, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. To the west of the isthmus lies the Gulf of Corinth.

Corinth is about 48 miles (78 km) west of Athens. The isthmus, which was in ancient times traversed by hauling ships over the rocky ridge on sledges, is now cut by a canal.

History

Prehistoric era

The city was founded in the Neolithic Age, circa 6000 BC. According to myth, the city was founded by Corinthos, a descendant of the god Helios (the Sun), while other myths suggest that it was founded by the goddess Ephyra, a daughter of the titan Oceanus, thus the ancient name of the city (also Ephyra). There is evidence that the city was destroyed around 2000 BC.

Before the end of the Mycenaean period the Dorians attempted to settle in Corinth. While at first they failed, their second attempt was successful when their leader Aletes followed a different path around the Corinthian Gulf from Antirio.

Some ancient names for the place, such as Korinthos, derive from a pre-Greek, "Pelasgian" language; it seems likely that Corinth was also the site of a Bronze Age Mycenaean palace-city, like Mycenae, Tiryns or Pylos. According to myth, Sisyphus was the founder of a race of ancient kings at Corinth. It was also in Corinth that Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, abandoned Medea. During the Trojan War Corinthians participated under the leadership of Agamemnon.

Classical era

Corinthian Amphora ca. 600 BC

Later, in classical times the ancient city rivalled Athens and Thebes in wealth, based on the isthmian traffic and trade. Until the mid-6th century Corinth was a major exporter of black-figure pottery to cities around the Greek world. Athenian potters later came to dominate the market. Corinth's great temple on its acropolis was dedicated to Aphrodite. According to most sources, there were more than one thousand temple prostitutes employed at the Temple of Aphrodite. Corinth was also the host of the Isthmian Games.

In the 7th century BC, when Corinth was ruled by the tyrants Cypselus (r. 657-627 BC) and his son Periander (r. 627-585 BC), the city sent forth colonists to found new settlements: Epidamnus (modern day Durres, Albania), Syracuse, Ambracia (modern day town of Lefkas), Corcyra (modern day town of Corfu) and Anactorium. Periander also founded Apollonia (modern day Fier, Albania) and Potidaea (in Chalcidice). Corinth was also one of the nine Greek sponsor-cities to found the colony of Naukratis in Ancient Egypt. Naucratis was founded to accommodate the increasing trade volume between the Greek world and the pharaohnic Egypt, during the reign of Pharaoh Psammetichus I of the 26th dynasty.

Periander was one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. During his reign the first Corinthian coins were forged. He was the first to attempt to cut across the Isthmus to create a seaway to allow ship traffic between the Corinthian and the Saronic Gulf. He abandoned the venture due to the extreme technical difficulties he met, but he created the Diolkos (a stone-build overland ramp) instead. The era of the Cypselids, ending with Periander's nephew Psammetichus, named after the hellenophile Egyptian Pharaoh Psammetichus I (see above), was the golden age of the city of Corinth.

Korinth, Stater, Korinth, Stater,

Korinth, Stater, Korinth, Stater, Korinth, Stater, Korinth, Stater,

During this era Corinthians developed the Corinthian order, the third order of the classical architecture after the Ionic and the Doric. The Corinthian order was the most complicated of the three, showing the accumulation of wealth and the luxurious lifestyle in the ancient city-state, while the Doric order was analogous to the strict and simplistic lifestyle of the older Dorians like the Spartans, and the Ionic was a balance between those two following the philosophy of harmony of Ionians like the Athenians. At this time there was a famous ancient saying: "Ou pantos plein es Korinthon", which translates as "Not everyone is able to go to Corinth", due to the expensive living standards that prevailed in the city. The city was renowned for the temple prostitutes of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who served the wealthy merchants and the powerful officials living in or travelling in and out of the city. The most famous of them, Lais, was said to have extraordinary abilities and charged tremendous fees for her favours.

The city had two main ports, one in the Corinthian Gulf and one in the Saronic Gulf, serving the trade routes of the western and eastern Mediterranean, respectively. In the Corinthian Gulf lied Lechaion, which connected the city to it's western colonies (Greek: apoikoiai) and Magna Graecia, while in the Saronic Gulf the port of Kenchreai served the ships coming from Athens, Ionia, Cyprus and the rest of the Levant. Both ports had docks for the large war fleet of the city-state.

The city was a major participant in the Persian Wars, offering 40 war ships in the sea Battle of Salamis under the admiral Adeimantos and 5,000 hoplites (wearing their characteristic Corinthian helmets) in the following Battle of Plataea but afterwards was frequently an enemy of Athens and an ally of Sparta in the Peloponnesian League. In 431 BC, one of the factors leading to the Peloponnesian War was the dispute between Corinth and Athens over the Corinthian colony of Corcyra (Corfu), which probably stemmed from the traditional trade rivalry between the two cities.

After the end of the Peloponnesian War, Corinth and Thebes, which were former allies with Sparta in the Peloponnesian League, had grown dissatisfied with the hegemony of Sparta and started the Corinthian War against it, which further weakened the city-states of the Peloponnese. This weakeness allowed for the subsequent invasion of the Macedonians of the north and the forging of the Corinthian League by Philip II of Macedon against the Persian Empire. Philip's son Alexander the Great was the first general of the Hellenes.

In the 4th century BC, Corinth was home to Diogenes of Sinope, one of the world's best known cynics.


Roman era

The Romans under Lucius Mummius destroyed Corinth following a siege in 146 BC; when he entered the city Mummius put all the men to the sword and sold the women and children into slavery before he torched the city, for which he was given the cognomen Achaicus as the conqueror of the Achaean League. While there is archeological evidence of some minimal habitation in the years afterwards, Julius Caesar refounded the city as Colonia laus Iulia Corinthiensis in 44 BC shortly before his assassination. According to Appian, the new settlers were drawn from freedmen of Rome. Under the Romans it became the seat of government for Southern Greece or Achaia (Acts 18:12-16). It was noted for its wealth, and for the luxurious, immoral and vicious habits of the people. It had a large mixed population of Romans, Greeks, and Jews.

Paul stamp 1951, Greece, 1900 years since his visit to Corinth

Corinth, Part of the Agora, Reconstruction

Ancient Corinth, urban street

Ancient Corinth, Roman fountain


Glauke Fountain

Citadel of Ancient Corinth

Corinth

Chronology of Apostle Paul's Journeys and Epistles

During Alaric's invasion of Greece, in 395-–396, Corinth was one of the cities he despoiled, selling many of its citizens into slavery.

Where, Corinth, are thy glories now--
Thy ancient wealth, thy castled brow,
Thy solemn fanes, thy halls of state,
Thy high-born dames, thy crowded gate?
There's not a ruin left to tell
Where Corinth stood, how Corinth fell.
The Nereids of thy double sea
Alone remain to wail for thee.

Antipater of Sidon, about the destruction of Corinth by the Romans (tr. Goldwin Smith)

Archaeological Museum of Corinth,

Persons

Links

Pausanias 2.4.1:

Sisyphus had other sons besides Glaucus, the father of Bellerophontes a second was Ornytion, and besides him there were Thersander and Almus. Ornytion had a son Phocus, reputed to have been begotten by Poseidon. He migrated to Tithorea in what is now called Phocis, but Thoas, the younger son of Ornytion, remained behind at Corinth. Thoas begat Damophon, Damophon begat Propodas, and Propodas begat Doridas and Hyanthidas. While these were kings the Dorians took the field against Corinth, their leader being Aletes, the son of Hippotas, the son of Phylas, the son of Antiochus, the son of Heracles. So Doridas and Hyanthidas gave up the kingship to Aletes and remained at Corinth, but the Corinthian people were conquered in battle and expelled by the Dorians.

Aletes himself and his descendants reigned for five generations to Bacchis, the son of Prumnis, and, named after him, the Bacchidae reigned for five more generations to Telestes, the son of Aristodemus. Telestes was killed in hate by Arieus and Perantas, and there were no more kings, but Prytanes (Presidents) taken from the Bacchidae and ruling for one year, until Cypselus, the son of Eetion, became tyrant and expelled the Bacchidae. Cypselus was a descendant of Melas, the son of Antasus. Melas from Gonussa above Sicyon joined the Dorians in the expedition against Corinth. When the god expressed disapproval Aletes at first ordered Melas to withdraw to other Greeks, but afterwards, mistaking the oracle, he received him as a settler. Such I found to be the history of the Corinthian kings.

References

  • J. B. Salmon: Wealthy Corinth. A History of the City to 338 B.C., Oxford 1984.

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