The site of Corinth in ancient Greece was first inhabited in the Neolithic period (5000-3000 BC) and flourished as a major Greek city from the 8th century BC until its destruction by the Romans in 146 BC. Ancient Greek Corinth, the original Corinth, founded in the 10th Century BCE, had been the richest port and the largest city in ancient Greece. Corinth was a rival of Athens and sided against it with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.
Ancient Greek Corinth
Ancient Corinth was a city located on the narrow stretch of land connecting the Peloponnesian peninsula with the Greek mainland. The modern city of Corinth is located about 5km away approximately from the ancient Corinthian city. It was a town right where southern Greece and northern Greece come together. It was certainly a Mycenaean city. Strategically located guarding the narrow isthmus that connects the Peloponnesus (as southern Greece is called) to the mainland, it was a powerful commercial center near two seaports only 4 miles apart. Corinth became the center commercial traffic between Europe and Asia reaching its height circa the 5th century BC.
The city was the immensely wealthy-a key center of the Greek and Roman worlds controlling trade between the northern mainland of Greece and the Peloponnese. Lechaeum, the western harbor in the Corinthian Gulf was the trading port to Italy and Sicily, and Cenchreae, the eastern harbor in the Saronic Gulf, was the port for the eastern Mediterranean countries.
By around 800 BC, the Corinthians had begun making things themselves to sell to the traders who were always in their port. They made perfume, and fancy little pots to put the perfume in.
Isthmus of Corinth ancient Greece
The isthmus of Corinth was a narrow stretch of land connecting the Peloponnesian peninsula with the Greek mainland. The word ‘Isthmus’ came from the ancient word which meant neck referring to its narrowness. It was the bounded by the gulf of Corinth to the west and Saronic Gulf to the east.
This was a major for Corinthian fortunes, as it stood at the juncture between Spartan and Athenian land trade routes, and was also perfect for monitoring overland movements between Eastern and Western Seas.
Ancient Corinth culture
The ancient city of Corinth, being on a very important trade route both land and sea routes built a very healthy and prosperous commercial culture. Cicero, the Roman statesman, had Corinth ‘the eye of all Greece’ and Homer referred to it as ‘Wealthy Corinth’.
It had a population of 200,000 with many being educated. This population made full use of its position and Corinth was sometimes richer than even Athens and posed many valuable art and statues.
Its maritime connections brought in a host of visitors from foreign lands and thus it developed a culture that according to the Greek standard of morality could be referred to as morally inferior. They had rich taverns facilitating the whims of foreign merchants and many evenings were occupied by feasts.
It had a vibrant culture of dancing and entertainment with itinerant performers visiting the city and livening the Agora. It has a theatre and Odeon or music hall which could hold an audience of about 18,000 people.
Luxury and material comforts were appreciated which placed great emphasis on the women to have an attractive appearance. Fashionable items like earrings, necklaces, hairpins, and brooches made of bone or metal were very popular. The women even carried powder, perfumes, cosmetics, and mirrors for maintaining their appearance.
The city was also the host of Isthmian games, happening twice a year and was awarded a high status just after the Olympian Games. This was dedicated to Poseidon, the sea god.
Corinth Greek mythology
Her silver stators, the “Colts” or “polo” (in Greek), issued from the earliest times, carried on their obverse the winged Pegasus, wondrous horse of Corinth Greek mythology, connected with Poseidon, god of the sea, and with Athena, goddess of wisdom.
Ancient Corinth Education
Although Corinth’s schools were not as fine as those of Athens, their boys were educated in the arts and the sciences. As a child, kids were taught at home. From age 7-14, boys attended a nearby day school, where they studied poetry, drama, public speaking, accounting, reading, writing, math, science, and the flute. Boys attended a higher school if their parents could afford it. All boys went to military school for at least two years.
Ancient Corinthian columns
The Corinthian columns or the Corinthian order are one of the three famed Greek architectural orders and the last to be developed. It is considered to be the most ornate, slender, and sleek of the three.
They contain a decorative, bell-shaped capital with volutes, and also two rows of acanthus leaves with an elaborate cornice. In many cases, the columns are seen to be fluted.
We can spot a modified version of Corinthian-style columns in the exterior portion of the Capitol Building in the US.
7 Facts about Ancient Corinth
- It was located in the Peloponnese region just between Athens and Spartan states.
- Its wealth was almost equal to that of Athens if not more during the classical times.
- The Ancient state of Corinth was destroyed by the Roman republic under Lucius Mummius in 146 BC in which all men were killed and the women and children sold as slaves leaving the city burnt and uninhabited for almost a century.
- The Acropolis of Corinth was known as the Acrocorinth and its monolithic rocks were inhabited even until the 19th century.
- Corinth had a temple dedicated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite during the classical period which employed thousands of hetairas or temple prostitutes who used to serve wealthy citizens.
- It hosted the Isthmian Games, which was one of the four Panhellenic Games and was rated just the Olympic Games.
- The ancient city of Corinth had one of the earliest Dorian temples which were constructed around 560 BC by using local limestone. It consisted of 42 monolithic columns out of which 7 survive even today.
Ancient Corinthian Military
The ancient state of Corinth was known more for its commercial prosperity than its military. But still, it had quite a strong army which helped them possess colonies like Syracuse which contributed highly to their prosperity.
Battle of Corinth
The Battle of Corinth was a decisive battle between the Roman Republic and the state of Corinth along with their allies of the Achaean League which took place in the year 146 BC.
The city of Corinth was sacked and almost destroyed where all the men were killed and women taken as slaves.
The battle ended the Achaean resistance and subsequent annexation of Greece to the Romans.
The Ancient Greek Corinth Paul knew had been refounded by Julius Caesar as a Roman colony in 44 BCE.Some say that the city was punished by God when two huge earthquakes struck it in 375 and 521 A.D., which leveled the Roman buildings and cleaned out the population once again.