The castle of Acrocorinth, the biggest in Moreas, was the watching eye of the entire Peloponnese. Excavations started in 1961 by the Archaeological Institute of America. It was created during the reign of Sisyphus, the mythical king of Corinth, and its first fortification took place in the late 7th- early 6th century, during the Kypselid Tyranny. After a long history of different occupations by different conquerors –Romans, Franks, Venetians, Turks – the castle finally returned to Greek hands in 1823 with the liberation of Corinth. Fortification works from every period, the Mycenaean, the Classical, the Byzantine and the Medieval can be seen on Acrocorith due to the Turkish and Venetian occupation.
The castle includes a large multileveled yard, covering 25 hectare of land and is a typical example of fortress architecture. The walls have a polygonal shape following the natural curve of the rock and are strengthened at intervals with towers and bastions.
The view from Acrocorinth is breathtaking. In front of the visitor’s eyes spreads the entire Corinthian Land, until the borders of Argolis, over the Geraneia Mountains and until the beginning of Achaia, and Central Greece can clearly be seen. That’s way Acrocorinth is the Magical All-Overseer of Peloponnese.
Acrocorinth was the favorite base of God Helios (Sun God), who arrived first every morning. On the higher of the two peaks of the mountain are traces of the throne that was given to Aphrodite. It is the most significant fortification work of the area from the antiquity until the middle Ages, starting from in the Mycenaean Times. It resisted to various enemies and it was exploited by various conquerors. It’s the biggest castle in Greece and guard of Peloponnese.
It was built on the mountain bearing the same name, 575m above sea level and its walls today have a total perimeter of over 3000m, surrounding an area of 240.000 m2. Its conical size gives a certain special touch to the landscape and its position was an excellent choice. The castle was strategically-placed, since it could, on the one hand, supervise the road connecting Peloponnese to the Central Greece, and on the other hand, controlling the two ports, Lechaion and Kechrees.
During ancient times, there was a 9.5 km long wall starting from the northwestern side of the castle that surrounded the Classical city of Corinth. Through the years the walls of the castle, which are longer than 2km, have been constructed and repaired by the Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians and the Turks and in many spots cover the ancient wall. The medieval settlement, built by the Corithians around the 15th century when they fled to the castle in order to protect themselves from the raids, is also visible.
This imposing rock experienced heroic moments, discords, and grandeur. In 1208, the leader of the castle, Leon Sgouros, besieged by the Franks, without any allies and strength, jumped from the top of the castle with his horse. In the 14th century, all the inhabitants of Corinth settled in Acrocorith. During the next 3 centuries the city was completely depopulated and abandoned. In 1395, it was sold to Theodore Paleologos and in 1397 he sold it to the Knights of St. John of Malta, but six years later they returned. In 1458, it is Mohamed’s turn to become the leader of the castle. But, in 1687, the Venetians disagree with this, so after discords the castle returns to Turkish hands and stays under their occupation. The Saray (seraglio) of the Turk Kamil Bey was constructed, that had an untold treasure and was the last Bey of Corinth, since in 1822 the castle was surrendered to Th. Kolokotronis who finally freed it.
Today, visitors enter the castle from the western side, at the end of the road departing from the village of Ancient Corinth. In the prehistoric times, the entrance used to be located at the northwestern side.
The fortification of Corinth consists of three parts: 1)the Acropolis -Acrocorinth- on the northern foot of the hill where the ancient town is situated as well, 2) the wall of the town that used to surround the entire ancient city and ended up to the eastern and western walls of Acrocorinth, 3)the long walls that used to link the walls of the city with the city and the ancient port of Lechaion.
The western entrance of the yard is protected by two successive gates and two small successive yards. All the gates are 2m wide and can be approached from the west. First we cross the wooden bridge, over the protective ditch. The first gate is 7m long, has a vaulted roof and supports the defensive tower. The gate, the tower and the walls on each side are additional defensive works constructed by the Franks in order to protect the second gate that is located a little more to the east; it also has a vaulted roof, it supports a tall tower and it is 8-9 m long. In about the middle of its length (4,1+4,8=8,9) there is a dome , that allowed the retrieval of mobile diaphragm grid cross beams. Here the walls are erected, similarly with stucco, suggesting Byzantine origin.. Some small parts of the wall were made with boulders of limestone dating back to the ancient times and finally, the last gate is 6, 60 m long and has a vault as well. The second and the third have Byzantine origins.
On the right side of the third gate, there are two successive vaulted halls measuring 10×3.20, which possibly housed the guarding of this gate. If we notice the size of the halls, the size of the guarding is also obvious.
Except for these three successive gates, there are also more “entrances”: on the northern wall there is an exit gate and a communication port, which eased
communication with the triangular bastion and on the eastern wall another communication port in contact with the open-air bastion. At the highest spot of the hill, on the top, there are only ruins as a reminder of the temple of the Patron Goddess of Corinth, Aphrodite and her 1000 priestess. On these remains a Christian Basilica has been constructed.
The walls follow a polygonal route and they are sporadically strengthened with the addition of towers and bastions. Generally, the walls are almost 2m thick, the parapet 0.60-0.70 m, with successive openings 1.65 m tall.
Work on the building walls, occurred at different times:
Classical Times. (The part of the wall with the polygonal appearance, in order to flatten the ground, is considered to be of Mycenaean origin)
Byzantine Period. During the 6th- 13th century Acrocorinth was a very significant part of the Byzantine power and the Magical All-Overseer of Peloponnese. From there Constantinople was informed about everything that happened. Procopius mentions that the fortification took place under the rule of the Emperor Justinian.
Frankish Rule 13th- 15th century
Turkish und Venetian Occupation until 1821
On the inside of the castle the small temple of Aphrodite, the small temples dedicated to Goddess Demetra and her daughter Persephone, altars of Helio and the fountain of “Ano Peirini” among others have been brought to light. Because the castle had been used constantly from the early antiquity until recently, the buildings have been disassembled and reconstructed many times, while the material was used several times to cover needs of the time.