Ancient Corinth -
Corinth was transferred to a new site in 1858 after a severe earthquake
and rebuilt after a further earthquake in 1928 and a great fire
in 1933. The city of ancient Corinth grew up 7 km (4 miles) SW in
a beautiful setting on the northern slopes at the foot of the hill
of Acrocorinth (Akrokorinthos), which acted as the fortified citadel
of the ancient and medieval cities. The site was occupied continuously
from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages. There are extensive
remains, mostly dating from the Roman period, dominated by the imposing
ruins of the Archaic Temple of Apollo.
Corinth owed its great
importance in ancient times to its situation. The hill of Akrocorinth
provided a strong acropolis and the town controlled the 6km (4 miles)
wide Isthmus, the only land route into the Peloponnese, and with
its two harbors, Lechaion in the Gulf of Corinth and Kenchreai in
the Saronic Gulf, also controlled the movement of goods between
the two gulfs. The city was governed by a local oligarchy or by
tyrants, such as the cruel Periander, who was yet considered one
of the Seven Sages of Greece, and imposed considerable taxes on
the passage of goods across the Isthmus. The warehouses were filled
with wheat from Sicily, papyrus from Egypt, ivory from Libya, leather
from Cyrenaica, incense from Arabia, dates from Phoenicia, apples
and pears from Euboia, carpets from Carthage and slaves from Phrygia.
The Corinthians also used the coastal clay to make the ceramic vases,
they still do (Time for shopping if you wish, there is a market
with handicrafts at the entrance of the old city.), often very tiny
(perfume flasks), they developed the production of bronze (cuirasses,
statues), glass and purple-dyed cloth, their naval shipyards launched
the first triremes. The economic and artistic acme of Corinth began
in the 8th c. BC and is connected with the rule of the Bakkhiadai
family and the foundation of two important colonies, Corcyra (Corfu)
and Syracuse. In the 5th c. BC Corinth was one of the three major
powers in Greece, and took part in all the battles against the Persians.
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The Corinthian capital
is thought to have been invented in the 5c BC by the sculptor Kallimachos.
After the Persians ceased to be a danger to Greece, her intense
rivalry with Athens reduced Corinth to a secondary position. In
the 146 BC the Consul Mummius captured the city which was then pillaged
and burned by his legions: the bronze, as well as the gold and silver,
on the statues was removed to be used for the roof of the Pantheon
in Rome whence it was later removed by Pope Alexander VII to make
the palanquin in St. Peter's. In 44 BC Julius Caesar founded a new
town, Colonia Julia Corinthiensis, on the ruins of Ancient Corinth.
It became the capital of Roman Greece and was mainly populated by
freedmen and Jews, who were Latin speakers. Emperor Nero visited
Corinth in AD67 to announce the independence of the Greek cities
and to take part in the Isthmian games. Emperor Hadrian's in his
turn erected many buildings, refurbished the baths and built an
aqueduct to bring water from Lake Stymphalos. Under the combined
effect of barbarian invasions and earthquakes Corinth was brought
low, only Akrocorinth retained a certain importance as a military
The archaeological site
is dominated by the Archaic temple of Apollo (photo), built on a
rocky hill. It is a Doric peripteral temple with monolithic columns
(6x15). First the Naos Oktavias:
a Roman building from which three Corinthian capitals found. Left
The collections consist of most of the pieces produced by the excavations.
Left round Naos Iras: an old sanctuary to Hera, to reach the adjoining
fountain Glauke, cut into the natural rock.
a wall surmounted by tripods and statues. Agora: sanctuaries and
temples, fountains and public buildings, flanked by a series of
shops and stoas. In the middle of a row of shops which stood along
the south edge of the agora's central section, is the
(tribunal) from which St .Paul
spoke to the Corinthians in AD 52.
South Stoa, Propilea: only the base
of the monumental entrance to the agora remains. In the Roman era
it was surmounted by two great gold Chariots belonging to Helios
and his son Phaeton. A paved street, the
led from the agora, through Propylaea to the port.
The Peirene fountain dates from the 6cBC but has been remodeled
many times. Odeon:
Excavations have revealed a small Roman theatre dating from the
AD 1. The banks of seats, most of which are hewn out of the rock,
could accommodate about 3000 spectators.
in the 5c BC it was remodeled several times
particularly in the AD 3 when the stage
was enlarged to accommodate gladiatorial combats and nautical spectacles.
It held about 18000 people.
The ascent to
Acrocorinth - Akrocorinthos, 575m (1887 ft) is facilitated by a
road which climbs to a point near the lowest gate on the W side.
This commanding site was fortified in ancient times , and its defenses
were maintained and developed during the Byzantine, Frankish, Turkish
and Venetian periods.
moat (alt. 380 m -1247 ft) constructed by the Venetians
there follow the first gate, built in the Frankish period
(14th,c.) and the first wall 15th c. then come the second
and third walls (Byzantine: on the the right, in front
of the third gate, a Hellenistic tower). Within the
fortress we follow a path running NE to the remains
of a mosque (16th c.) and then turn S until we join
a path leading up to the eastern summit, on which there
once stood the famous Temple of Aphrodite, worshipped
here after the Eastern fashion (views of the hills of
the Pelloponnese and of Isthmos) The steep rock of the
Acrocorinth rises to the south-west of ancient Corinth,
surmounted by the fortress, also called the Acrocorinth,
which was the fortified citadel of ancient and medieval
Corinth and the most important fortification work in
the area from antiquity until the Greek War of Independence
in 1821. It is 575 m. high and its walls are a total
of almost 2.000 m. in length. The ascent to Akrocorinthos,
is facilitated by a road which climbs to a point near
the lowest gate on the W side. This commanding site
was fortified in ancient times and its defenses were
maintained and developed during the Byzantine, Frankish,
Turkish and Venetian periods. After a moat (alt. 380
m -1247 ft) constructed by the Venetians follow the
first gate, built in the Frankish period (14th,c.) and
the first wall 15th c. then come the second and third
walls (Byzantine: on the the right, in front of the
third gate, a Hellenistic tower). Within the fortress
we follow a path running NE to the remains of a mosque
(16th c.) and then turn S until we join a path leading
up to the eastern summit, on which there once stood
the famous Temple of Aphrodite, worshipped here after
the Eastern fashion (views of the hills of the Pelloponnese
and of Isthmos). Courses of roughly dressed polygonal
masonry allow us to suppose that the Acrocorinth was
fortified as early as the time of the Kypselid tyranny
(late 7th c. early 6th c. BC). The surviving parts of
the ancient fortifications, however, which are at many
points beneath the medieval enceinte, belong mainly
to the 4th c. BC. In 146 BC, Mummius destroyed the fortifications
of the lower city and the acropolis. The destroyed sections
were subsequently reconstructed from the same ancient
material in Late Roman times.
|During the Middle
Ages, the Acrocorinth was of prime importance for the
defense of the entire Peloponnese, and held out against
the attacks of the barbarians. The Byzantines sporadically
repaired the walls, especially after hostile raids (by
the Slavs, Normans and others), and added new fortifications
on the west side of the fortress. In 1210, after a five-year
siege, the Acrocorinth was captured by Otto de la Rocheand
Geoffroy I Villehardouin, and was incorporated in the
Frankish principate of Achaea. In the middle of this
century, William Villehardouin extended the fortifications
of the fortress, to be followed in this by the Angevin
prince John Gravina at the beginning of the 14th c.
In 1358 the Acrocorinth passed to the Florentine banker
Niccolo Acciajuoli, and in 1394 to Theodoros I Palaiologos
despot of Mystras.
Apart from a brief occupation
by theKnights of Rhodes from 1400-1404, the fortress remained in
Byzantine hands until 1458, when it was captured by the Ottoman
Turks. The Venetians made themselves masters of the Acrocornth from
1687 to 1715, after which it reverted once more to the Turks, until
the Greek Uprising of 1821. The approach to the fortress is from
the west side. The walls have an irregular shape, which was dictated
by the form of the terrain and remained the same in general terms
from the Classical period to modern times. Three successive zones
of fortifications, with three imposing gateways, lead to the interior
of the fortress. The fact that the same material was used for extensions
or repairs to the walls frequently makes it difficult to distinguish
the building phases or assign a date to them.
||The Isthmos of
Corinth is cut by the Corinth Canal, constructed between
1882 and 1893. Involving an excavation of up to 80 m
(262 ft) in depth , the canal is 6,3km (4 miles) long,
23m (75 ft) wide and 8m (26 ft) deep , and can take
ships of up to 10,000 tons.
||The ancient Greeks also
thought to cut a channel through the Isthmus to avoid
ships having to circumnavigate the Peloponnesus
or be hauled over the Diolkos.
Both Periander and Alexander the Great had considered the
question but it was Nero who inaugurated the digging in
AD 67 with a golden shovel: 6.000 prisoners were employed
on the work. the site was abandoned after about 3 or 4 months
when Nero returned to Rome. The canal was begun in 1882
by a French company, the Society International du Canal
Maritime de Corinth, inspired by a proposal made in 1829
by Virlet d' Aoust, a member of the Morean Commission.
stopped in 1889 when the company went bankrupt but the canal was
competed by the Greeks in 1893. The best view of the canal is
from the bridge whish carries the road over it.
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