Corinth

This Greek city state is about 48 miles southwest of Athens. The city is now the capital of Corinthia; however, ancient Corinth has been in existence for approximately 8000 years.

According to legend, the city was founded around 6000 B.C. by Corinthos, a descendent of the Sun God. A related myth claims that the city was founded by the goddess Ephyra, and is reflected in the city’s ancient name – Ephyra.

Archaeological evidence shows that the city was destroyed in 2000 B.C., only to be rebuilt. A thousand years later, this ancient city was as wealthy as Athens or Thebes, mainly due to trade and the export of exclusive black-figure pottery to other cities. The great temple of Corinth was dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love. At one time, over 1000 temple prostitutes worked there.

In the classical architecture of ancient Greece, there were three orders – the Ionic, the Doric, and the Corinthian. Of the three, the Corinthian was the most luxurious and complex.

At the end of the Peloponnesian war, Corinth was dissatisfied with the former ally, Sparta. Another war broke out, further weakening the city states. The Macedonians saw their chance, and they invaded Corinth.

Corinth was destroyed in 146 B.C. following a siege by the Romans. Upon entering the city, the leader of the Romans Mummius, killed all the men and sold women and children into slavery. He then set fire to the city. Julius Cesar re-founded the city shortly before his assassination in 44 B.C. Renamed Colonia laus Iulia Corinthienses, it attracted settlers, freedmen of Rome. The city grew quickly, and became known for its wealth and luxury. On the darker side, it was also famed for the immorality and viciousness of the inhabitants.

During the Byzantine era, the city was destroyed twice by earthquakes (in 375A.D and 551 A.D.).

Corinth is on an isthmus. Many attempts were made throughout the years to cut a canal through this isthmus, leading directly to the Saronic Gulf. Starting with the tyrant Periander in the 7th century B.C., and extending to Julius Caesar and the Roman emperor Nero, many attempts were made. None were successful until the 1870s. Using the experience developed from the Suez Canal, the project went forth and was completed in 1893. Using this canal, ships can avoid a 240-mile journey around the Peloponnesus. Unfortunately, it is too small (only 60 feet wide) and shallow (25 feet of water) for modern ocean freighters; still, nearly 11,000 ships travel this waterway every year.

The Corinth Canal. Courtesy Wikipedia.
6th c. BC representation of an animal sacrifice scene in Corinth. Courtesy Wikipedia.