Corinth & the Corinthian Gulf
The …dreamy destination of the ancient world
οὐ παντός πλεῖν ἐς Κόρινθον
Not everyone can afford a trip to Corinth (Strabo)
I am Strabo, a Greek geographer, philosopher and historian and my life is characterized by extensive travels. I am most famous for my 17-volume work Geographica, which is not only a geography book but also a sort of encyclopedia of the ancient world, a description of the cultural and geo-political world of my time, a historical geography, and – as some have put it – a “philosophy of geography”.
I travel to the Mediterranean world from Spain to Egypt, Asia Minor and Europe, including Gaul and Britain.
From antiquity until today there are places that, because of their fame, seem to be “dreamy destinations” for those who cannot afford to visit them. It appears that ancient Corinth was one of them. Why was that? Imagine a very busy trading city, made up of three parts; the acropolis on the hill (Acrocorinth), the city itself and its port (Lechaion) on the coast. It had a cosmopolitan character, loose living and was noted for its wealth and for the luxurious, immoral and vicious habits of its people. It was also very much know for the temples and priestesses indulged in sacred prostitution at the Temple of Aphrodite in Acrocorinth and the numerous temples in the city. More than one thousand priestesses had taken the initiation of the men in the arts of Aphrodite, with the analogue fee of course, which must have been notable. Therefore, not everyone could afford a trip to Corinth. The Isthmia games also took place there.
The reason for its wealth was its strategic geographical location on the Isthmus of Corinth – the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece. As a consequence, Corinth was able to control the only land access to the Peloponnese and thus dominated the trade in both the Saronic Gulf (to the east) and the Gulf of Corinth or Gulf of Lepanto – as it was known in the medieval times – (to the west). It was also famous for its pottery and a major exporter of black-figure pottery to city-states around the Greek world.
In order to provide a quick passage for the boats between the Saronic Gulf and the Corinthian Bay, the Corinthians built the Diolkos, a paved road that snaked some 7 kilometers across the isthmus, which was used for the transport of boats by land on a platform (“puller of boats”).
If you wish to read how I describe all these in Geographica it is easy :
Today the site includes the monuments of:
- Diolkos of Corinthian Isthmus – Peirene Fountain – Temple of Apollo
- Asklepieion and the Lerna Fountain -Glauke Fountain
- Bema of Saint Paul (Roman Forum)
- Odeion (Odeum) – Amphitheater – Temple E (of Octavia)
The museum is located within the archaeological site and houses finds dated to the Prehistoric Period from the area of Ancient Corinth, finds from the Geometric, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic City of Corinth and finds from the Roman, Byzantine and Frankish City.