Ancient Corinth

Corinth (/ˈkɔrɪnθ/; Greek: Κόρινθος Kórinthos), was a city-state (polis) on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northeast of the ancient ruins. Since 1896, systematic archaeological investigations of the Corinth Excavations by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens have revealed large parts of the ancient city, and recent excavations conducted by the Greek Ministry of Culture have brought important new facets of antiquity to light.

For Christians, Corinth is known from the two books First Corinthians and Second Corinthians in the New Testament. The 2nd book of Pausanias’ Description of Greece is devoted to Corinth.

Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece, with a population of 90,000 in 400 BC. After theRomans built a new city in its place and made it the provincial capital of Greece in 44 BC, the city’s population was between 50,000 to 700,000 according to different sources.

Neolithicpottery suggests that the site of Corinth was occupied from at least as early as 6500 BC, and continually occupied into the Early Bronze Age, when, it has been suggested, the settlement acted as a centre of trade. However, there is a dramatic drop in ceramic remains during the Early Helladic II phase, and only sparse ceramic remains in the EHIII and MH phases; thus it appears that the area was very sparsely inhabited in the period immediately before the Mycenaean period. While pottery dating to the Mycenaean period is negligible at the site of Corinth, there was a settlement on the coast near Lechaion which traded across the Corinthian Gulf; the site of Corinth itself was likely not heavily occupied again until around 900 BC, when it is believed the Dorians settled there.


According to Hellenic myth, the city was founded by Corinthos, a descendant of the godHelios (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.

Some ancient names for the place, such asKorinthos, derive from a pre-Greek, “Pelasgian” language; it seems likely that Corinth was also the site of a Bronze AgeMycenaean 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 thatJason, the leader of the Argonauts, abandoned Medea. During the Trojan War as portrayed in the Iliad, the Corinthians participated under the leadership ofAgamemnon.

In a Corinthian myth related in the 2nd century AD to Pausanias, Briareus, one of the Hecatonchires, was the arbitrator in a dispute between Poseidon and Helios, between the sea and the sun: his verdict was that the Isthmus of Corinth belonged to Poseidon and the acropolis of Corinth, Acrocorinth, to Helios. Thus Greeks of the Classical age accounted for the archaic cult of the sun-titan in the highest part of the site.

TheUpper Peirene spring is located within the walls of the acropolis. “The spring, which is behind the temple, they say was the gift of Asopus to Sisyphus. The latter knew, so runs the legend, that Zeus had ravished Aegina, the daughter of Asopus, but refused to give information to the seeker before he had a spring given him on the Acrocorinthus.” (Pausanias, 2.5.1).



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