It wasn’t easy for just anyone to drop anchor in this distinguished city, whose fame for wealth, luxurious lifestyle and excellent pottery had in ancient times, spread throughout civilization. A city renowned for its temples and for the priestesses of Aphrodite, who served the numerous temples in her name throughout the city the most important of which was in its acropolis, the imposing Acrocorinth.
Helius and Poseidon were the two gods that laid claim to this corner of the Peloponnese. They resolved their differences with a compromise, Poseidon took the region of Isthmus and Helius took the rock of Acrocorinth and the plain that stretched out below it. Later on Helius passed on his rights to the land to he goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite who was worshipped there in the temple that bore her name.
The mythical personalities Jason and Medea had ties with Corinth, having lived here for a number of years until the tragic end of their two children and Medea’s flight.
The earliest inhabitation of Archaic Corinth has been placed in Neolithic times. The earliest inhabitants of the city chose to establish themselves there due to the favourable conditions that prevailed in the region. It was a fortunate choice as they could control movement on land and at sea, thanks to the Isthmus (see Journey 2) while its two rich ports Lechaio in the Gulf of Corinth and Cechrees on the Saronic coast established it as an important commercial center.
According to mythology, Lechis and Cechrias, who gave their names to the ports of the city, were sons of the god of the sea, Poseidon and the renowned springs Peirene, who was the daughter of the river god Achelous.
During the archaic and classical periods the port of Lechaio was the most important, due to its closeness to the city and its situation, looking towards the west, the principal direction of trade for Archaic Corinth. The whole conception and construction of the port was a technological miracle in ancient times, which was later copied by the Romans and applied to many other ports.
The port was connected to the city by long walls 12 stadiums (2,200 mtrs.) in length, which enclosed the famous Lechaio road.
Today the port is situated 1 km. west of the new Corinth, beside the old national road, distinguished by two parallel hills and the marsh of Lechaio covering an area of approximately 125 acres and is known locally as Vounalakia
To the west of the port, excavations brought to light the largest early Christian basilica in Greece, the basilica of Lechaio, which was built in the 5th century in honor of Leonidis and the Seven Virgins who were martyred for their beliefs. Today a large part of its marble floor, foundations of the walls and many capitals of columns with relief decorations have been saved.
If one wants to travel further back in time to an even older period, turn left towards Corinth. About 1,7 km. along, one can see to the right beside the road, on top of a low hill, the remains of a most significant Mycenaean settlement of Corinthia known as Korakou. This settlement flourished a long time before the Mycenaean period 3,000 – 2,000 BC. After a catastrophic fire around 2,000 BC, the settlement was deserted but life returned and prosperity continued throughout the Mycenaean period. Around the year 1,100 BC the settlement was once again destroyed by fire and life there came to a decisive end around 1,000 BC.
A few kilometers to the south of the modern day Corinth we find the village of Ancient Corinth, which is built on the ruins of the Corinth of antiquity. The remains of the wealthy Corinth are unique: the market place, the center of the city, amongst the most representative of antiquity, of rectangular design, and 200 mtrs. in length with a width of 100 mtrs. on the western side and 70 mtrs. on the eastern side. The central free area, amongst the largest of the Roman period, surrounded by public buildings and arcades with shops on three sides. The most noteworthy of the arcades is the Southern Arcade built in the 4th century BC to house the Congress of Corinth. Between the central buildings is the spectacular building for public speaking, the rostrum. From here Paul the Apostle preached the new “God of Love”, laying the foundations for the first Christian church of Corinth.
Of unique beauty is the first-rate and imposing ancient temple of Apollo, with its monolithic columns, built around the year 540 BC. Just a few meters to the north of this we find the foundations of an older temple of Apollo, of the 7th century BC, that is to say the period that the city was governed by Periandros. If you have a little time, open the third book of history of Herodotus and read of the deeds of this sovereign who was heralded as one of the seven wise men of ancient Greece.
Leaving the market place and descending the monumental steps of Propylaius, stand a while at the fountain of Peirene, and imagine the lithe Corinthian women filling their urns from its waters. To the west of the temple of Apollo a small temple and courtyard can be seen, the place where the Corinthians worshipped Athena Halinitida, the goddess who helped Bellerophon to bridle and tame the winged horse Pegasus. Here close by, even today one can hear, from the theatre cheers and applause from Roman citizens attending the battles of the wild beasts. The theatre that held 15,000 spectators was built with columns and a marble stage which was constructed probably at the beginning of the 1st century AD, while the original construction from the 5th century BC. At the beginning of the 3rd century AD the auditorium was transformed into a Roman arena.
Ascending the steps we pass by the Odeon (school of music) which was carved out of a rock in the 1st century AD that held around 3,000 spectators. In 20 AD it was destroyed by fire and was reconstructed by Herodus Atticus. At a distance of approximately 500 mtrs, north of the market place within the walls but far enough away from the center of the city, the sanctuary of Asclepius has been preserved, with the well of Lerna close by to the east and to the south was the Gymnasium of Corinth, a place for physical exercise.
In the deep green, inebriating landscape of Ancient Corinth and close to the foot of Acrocorinth the Archaeological Museum is to be found, one of the most important museums of the provinces in the whole of Greece. Masses of visitors from all over the world gather here, to wonder at the Corinthian and Roman works of art housed in the three specially prepared exhibition halls and the porches all around the central court. Surrounded by the countless exhibits, visitors can imagine the long and brilliant history of the city and follow its stages of development from Neolithic times up until the Middle Ages and its periods of rise and decline and eventual fall, which lead to the construction of a new and modern city of Corinth. To the south of the village of Ancient Corinth the imposing rock of Acrocorinth dominates the view. Its beauty and important geographical situation made two gods quarrel over its ownership. Poseidon and Helius fought over who would take possession of Acrocorinth. With the reconciliatory negotiation of the judge Briarius Poseidon took the Isthmus and Helius Acrocorinth. Later on Helius passed the lands below Acrocorinth on to his son Aeetes and he gave Acrocorinth to Aphrodite.
The castle of Acrocorinth acted as the eye of the Peloponnese. It was founded in the times of the mythical King Sisyphus, who solved the problem of lack of water on the mount, when he asked the river god Asopus to make a spring well-up and in exchange he would reveal where Asopus’ daughter Aegina, who had been abducted by Zeus, could be found. Thus Acrocorinth acquired a source of water, Peirene, which gave life to the place.
Pausanias informs us that the rock constituted an important center of worship, with a temple dedicated to Isida and Sarapis, the altar of Helius, a memorial to Anage and Bia, a temple and throne of the Mother of the Gods, a temple of the Fates, of Demeter and of Core, the temple of Bounia Hera and the temple of Aphrodite.
The walls of Acrocorinth had been strengthened on many occasions; frightful battles and attacks had taken place below its battlements, the most historical was that of 1821, after which Kiamil-beis reluctantly handed over the fortress in January of 1822, but without revealing the whereabouts of his treasure, a secret he guarded until his death in the July of the same year.
Take a walk to the highest peak of the mount, following in ancient footsteps. Look into the distance and embrace the deep blue gulf, the multicolored plain and the surrounding mountains, the majesty of nature, composing an enchanting picture seen by people for thousands of years.
The present day City of Corinth was built on its present site in 1858, when the old Corinth (the present day village of Ancient Corinth) was razed to the ground after a terrible earthquake. In 1928 it was once again shaken by an earthquake and rebuilt once again with wonderful layout. If you stay in Corinth and pay a visit to its center, you will find a well-planned city, with wide, central streets, parks and squares that distinguish this city of 30,000 inhabitants.
The church of Paul the Apostle, which holds a celebration festival on the 29th of June each year, adorns the city. At the entrance to the church is an engraved marble plaque containing an excerpt of Paul the Apostle’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, which speaks of love.
Take a seat on a bench in the large square that surrounds the church, with the inebriating aroma of wild oranges and laurels and try to feel the love preached by The Lord through the mouth of Paul, His most fervent of apostles.
If you visit Corinth, start your day with a coffee at one of the many pavement cafes. In the seaside square of Eleftherios Venizelos is to be found a small, picturesque fishing port, with fishing boats and a few tourist vessels. Next to it is the most important attraction of the city, the Historical and Folklore Museum of Corinth. The architect Kydoniatis designed the building; its three floors contain rare treasures and sketch out the everyday life in Greece for the last three hundred years. The unique achievement of an unusual Greek lady from Corinth, Alcmene Petropoulou-Gartagani who dedicated her life to the collection of wonderfully preserved traditional clothes from all parts of Greece. These exhibits constitute a small part of the general collection, which are kept under ideal conditions in the basement of the museum.
After the museum you can take a walk to Kalamia beach, a wide, well maintained pebble beach with numerous cafes and ouzeries serving tasty dishes from the sea.
The present day village of Ancient Corinth has many restaurants and guesthouses, and attracts many tourists each year. So enjoy your coffee at one of the cafes and visit the archaeological site and the museum, strolling along the footpaths of myths and history in this renowned and distinguished city.
This is an ideal pace for a visit, especially in the springtime when the pastures are full of yellow wild flowers and poppies, the hinterland of the municipality of Corinth. Examilia, Xylokeriza, Solomos, small, picturesque villages with their own special colour, where one can enjoy a special view of the rock of Acrocorinth, or ascend mount Oneia enjoying a wonderful journey through the pine forest.