Corinth history

As with most ancient cities, Corinth history tells us that the importance of the city was due to the location. The city grew in an area which controlled the only land access to the Peloponnese from the north.

Although sea travel could be dangerous, the mountainous nature of Greece made trade by land almost impossible. As goods were traded with countries all over the Mediterranean, Corinth was in a unique position, and had two harbours. Lechaion controlled the Gulf of Corinth, while Kenchreai controlled access to the Aegean.

 

ancient corinth
The remains of ancient Corinth

Early years

After the DorianEarly Greeks, thought to have arrived from the north. invaders settled in around 1000BC, the city began to develop. It became prosperous under the Bacchiad dynasty from the middle of the 8th C BC.

Periander is famous in Corinth history. Although he was renowned for his cruelty, he was also considered to be one of the seven sages of Greece. He made the city wealthy by imposing large taxes on goods passing across the isthmus.

Local resources

Corinth history must include the local resource of clay. The Corinthians used it to develop their pottery, which was know and sought after throughout the ancient world. They used the clay to make ceramic vases and pots. The clay was very fine, and they were able to produce very delicate objects.

They were also creative in other ways. They developed the production of bronze objects, glass and purple dyes for cloth. (Purple dyes were extracted from foul-smelling snails.)

Colonies

roman statue
Roman statue from the museum

Like many other Greek states, Corinth established colonies, included Corfu and Syracuse in Sicily. This enabled them to develop trading links, and so helped with their exports.

In the 5th C BC Athens became the dominant power in the region. But after the war between Athens and Sparta (which Sparta won), Corinth took back some of her influence as one of the Greek cities in the "League of Corinth" under the leadership of Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great.

Plan

This plan shows the main structures which have been excavated in ancient Corinth. As you can see, most of them are from the Roman era, but there also remains from the Greek era, especially the Temple of Apollo.

 

 

Temple of Apollo

An important part of Corinth history, this is one of the oldest temples from ancient Greece. It was built between 550 and 525 BC and replaced a 7th C BC temple.

It was built in the Doric style using monolithic columns (each column made from one solid piece of poros stone). Pausanias states that the temple contained a bronze statue of Apollo.

temple apollo

North Market

This is the site of a Roman market place. The long structure overlapping it is the north Stoa.

Roman market

Another market from the Roman period.

Baths of Eurykles

From the Roman period in Corinth history, these baths are from the 2nd century BC. They include a public latrine.

Lechaion Way

"Lechaion Street" led to Corinth's western harbour, Lechaion, on the Gulf of Corinth.

The road was protected by long walls, and was in use until the 10th C AD. On the site here the road has been excavated for about 100m. The ancient historian Pausanias describes statues lining either side of the road, and many of the bases for these statues have been found.

lechaion way

Greek Agora

The remains of a stoa from the Greek period of Corinth history was found here, and it's thought this was the site of a Greek agora, or market place, from the 5th C BC.

There was an outer row of Doric columns and an inner row of Corinthian ones. They were destroyed in about 146 BC, presumably to make way for Roman developments.

Peribolos of Apollo

The garden (peribolos) of Apollo

Roman Basilica

On this terrace the foundation walls of a large Roman basilica were found. They date from the 1st C AD. (The remains of the Greek agora were found beneath this terrace.)

Fountain of Peirene

Dating from the 6th C BC, the water from this fountain was considered to be the healthiest in Greece. According to Pausanias, Peirene cried so much when her son was accidentally killed by Artemis, that she was turned into a fountain.

(There's another fountain dedicated to Peirene on the Acrocorinth.)

The buildings of this fountain were added to over the centuries of Corinth history. During the Greek period it was in the form of an Ionic stoa. Herod Atticus improved it no end in the 2nd C AD. It was one of the most impressive monuments in Corinth during the Roman period.

peirene fountain

Northwest Stoa

A stoa dating from the Hellenistic Period (3rd C BC). It had an outer row of Doric columns and an inner one of Corinthian.

Temple of Hera Acraia?

A temple sanctuary believed to be dedicated to Hera Acraia.

Glauke Fountain

Legend has it that Glauke, daughter of King Creon of Corinth, married Jason. On the day of her wedding she put on a dress which had been poisoned by Medea, who had been deserted by Jason.

The dress began to burn, and Glauke jumped into the fountain, but died. Creon tried to help her, but died as well.

(Greek legends rarely end happily!)

The fountain is not built from stone, but is carved out of the rock.

glauke spring

Captives' Facade

Originally a large two story building overlooking the agora incorporating Corinthian columns. On the upper floor, instead of columns, there were four large statues of barbarians which supported the roof. (You can see the remains of these in the museum.)

Sacred Spring

You can still see the base of this fountain with its triglyphs. Steps lead down to the underground spring. This was linked by a secret passage to the sanctuary of the Oracle, which was just to the northwest.

Northwest Shops

Here on the northwest of the agora is a line of shops. They are of Roman origin from the middle of the 1st C AD. In the middle of these you can still see one where the roof vaulting is still intact, and is the most impressive surviving building you'll see in the agora.

arch roof

Babbius Monument

A round monument dedicated to Babbius Philinus. Just behind and to the side you'll see the remains of some small Roman temples. They were in honour of such deities as Hermes, Apollo, Poseidon, Hercules and Venus Fortuna. There was also a Pantheon, dedicated to all the gods.

Starting Line

Corinth history can be confusing, as there is usually more than one layer of remains. Here the Roman surface has been dug up to expose remains from the Greek period. What you can see is the starting line for races, where up to 16 athletes could take part. This shows that during the Greek period this area was used as a stadium.

The Julia Basilica

A large building built by the Emperor Claudius in about 45 AD, with steps leading down to the agora. It is know as the Julia Basilica because among the remains found here were bits of statues of the members of the family of Julius Caesar.

Altar

Pausanias claims that at the centre of the agora was a statue of the goddess Athene, with reliefs of the Muses at its base. The remains of a large altar and some statues were found here.

Museum

This is well worth a visit, as it contains all the objects found on the site and from the surrounding area.

museum corinth

Temple of Octavia?

This is possibly a temple dedicated to Octavia. It's from the 1st C AD. Octavia was the sister of the Emperor Augustus. Pausanias mentions such a temple in his description of Corinth.

octavia temple

West Stoa

The West Stoa is thought to have contained a series of shops.

Sanctuary of Dionysus

A building believed to have been dedicated to the god Dionysus.

Central Shops (East)

A line of 30 shops ran roughly east to west. They took up almost the entire length of the agora, separating it into two parts.

Central Shops (West)

A line of 30 shops ran roughly east to west. They took up almost the entire length of the agora, separating it into two parts.

Bema

The Bema, or Speakers' Podium, was a large platform from which the Roman Proconsul addressed the people.

The Apostle Paul spoke to the Proconsul Gallio from here when he defended his speaking about the Christian faith in Corinth. A small Christian church once stood above the remains of the bema.

bema

South Stoa

This was one of the largest structures in ancient Greece. Two stories high, it was 525 feet long (160m) and about 80 feet wide (24m). The front was composed of 71 Doric columns, and behind these was a second row of 34 Ionian columns. In front of it stood about 100 statues.

The stoa was built in the 4th C BC, was altered in the 2nd, and destroyed shortly afterwards.

South Shops

Shops were situated in the South Stoa behind the colonnades.

Bouleuterion

This horse-shoe shaped structure was the Bouleuterion, or town hall.

Fountain House

One of the buildings contained a spring of water, and has become known as the Fountain House.

Agoneth's Room

This building has a well preserved floor mosaic. The roof is in place to protect the mosaic.

South Basilica

This was a structure similar to the Julia Basilica, and contained statues of the emperors.

 

Corinth history - decline and fall

Corinth history tells us that due to earthquakes and invasions the city lost its importance. The earthquake of 521 AD completely destroyed the city, and only a small settlement grew up on the site of the old agora in the 10th C AD. Trade bypassed it, and Corinth never regained its former status, whether under the rule of the Franks, the Venetians or the Turks.

 

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