Located on the southern peninsula of Greece, at the southernmost tip of the Gulf of Corinth, sits modern day Korinthos. Less than 3 km southwest of the modern city, lie the ruins of the ancient city which most know as Corinth. Today it is a beach paradise for many. Though it was a bit hazy the morning we were there, it is gorgeous.
This city is old. It existed during the Greek empire era, the Roman empire, etc. One reason for it being a place of civilization through the millenia is its location. The calm waters of the Gulf of Corinth allowed ships to bring goods for supply and trade to the ancient city.
This is one big stone. It used to be even bigger. The stone building blocks for some of the surrounding structures were cut from this limestone to, in turn, make this the Glauke Fountain. The fountain got its name from a torturous assassination that is famous in Greek history. Corinth was the exile point for Jason–famous for his association with the Argonauts. His first wife, Medea, wasn’t so happy that she had been replaced by another and was now being exiled. So, she gives a cloak to Jason’s second wife as a gift. That was nice enough except for the poison that was on the garment. Don’t put it on! Oops, too late. Trying to wash off the poison, Glauke, Jason’s new wife, jumped into the fountain for an impromptu bath. It didn’t help. These events with some modifications and embellishments were recorded in Euripides’ tragedy Medea. Moral to this story is never make a Greek woman named Medea mad, especially if you live in ancient Corinth.
This is the Temple of Apollo. Well, it was. Originally it had 6 pillars on each end and 15 per side. Apollo was the Greek and Roman god of many aspects including light, poetry, truth, oracles, and several other things. The remains of this temple are the most iconic image of the Corinthian ruins.
This is the Peirene Fountain. A super-long construction project that was ever-changing with each ruling state, the fountain area was the waterworks for Corinth under the Greek and Roman rule. The source of the spring that fed into the fountain area has a couple of possibilities according to mythology. Perhaps it was the dissolution of Peirene–one of Poseidon’s lovers–into tears over another Greek tragedy. Or maybe the spring birthed due to the stamping of Pegasus’ hoof when he was bridled.
This statue shows the detail in what was one of the biggest portico structures in all of ancient Greece–the South Stoa. Built in the 4th century BC, it had a bit of a revision when a Roman road was laid through the middle of it. Even with the remodel, the structure was in use for about 1,000 years. Though it was abandoned some 1,500 years ago, these and other remains are still around. Amazing!
This is one of the two Roman roads that cut through the center of Corinth. This shows the importance the Roman empire placed on transportation and their willingness to disrupt tradition and aesthetics. At the top right of the picture, on top of the mountain, Acrocorinth, a mammoth Byzantine Castle is visible.
This gathering place is the Bema. Centrally located in ancient Corinth, it was a spot for officials to make pronouncements to the people and likely a meeting place for the who’s who during the Roman era of Corinth.
During this era, there was a growing prosperity due to increased commercial trade. The Apostle Paul was in the city at this time working as a tentmaker along with a couple of Italian tentmakers mentioned in the Bible, Aquila and Priscilla. After a year and a half of making tents and “teaching the word of God,” many Corinthians had believed in the message Paul shared. According to Acts 18, Paul was taken to a trial of sorts before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia.
Historians believe that Paul’s hearing before Gallio happened here in the Bema. Today, a Vesper service is held at this spot annually on the 29th of June by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Now back to our story. After hearing the complaints against Paul, Gallio dismissed the charges as being simply a “matter of questions about words and names.” Those who were against Paul then grabbed the ruler of the Jewish synagogue, Sosthenes, and beat him up. So, another take-away is don’t move to old Corinth if your name is Sosthenes.
There are a lot of remains all around in this museum area. Lots. Besides the Temple of Apollo in the background here, there were other notable temples that have not survived as well.
One key temple was for Aphrodite, the goddess of love. There were more than 1,000 heitaris or temple prostitutes working in honor of the goddess. These prostitutes were famous for their high prices working with the people of commerce who came into the city. One of the ways to note who was in the trade was whether or not her hair was cropped closely. Paul addressed this in his first letter to the Corinthians when he instructed the ladies to cover their head. This showed grace to those who had come out of prostitution to do life with the Christians. There was to be no distinction between new believers in Christ and those who had been a part of the church all their life. The church was to be a safe people. With this, a serious re-reading of 1 Corinthians 11 may be in order.
Outside the paid-for tour area, there are more remains. This is a pasture where a farmer was out tending to a cow amid the Corinthian ruins. Just another day in another really old historic place.
The theater also is outside of the paid tour area. It is behind the official entrance. Be sure to check it out. And, for any cheap skates, pay for the tour. It was only 6 Euros and kids are free.
Shooting out over this field with relics of the past lying scattered on the ground, you can see the proximity of the city to the gulf.
Ancient Corinth is definitely worth a visit. You can get there and back from Athens in a day. Depending on your level of interest in the history, story, and photography, you’ll want to allow at least a couple hours for ancient Corinth. There is so much to see. When you finish, go to the right down the street and visit Marino’s on the left for a gyro and something cold to drink. It’s the spot the locals pointed us toward. We already tried it out for you. Good stuff and you’ll have a view of the Gulf of Corinth while you eat. One more recommendation is for the start. Grab a popsicle on the way into the tour area to hydrate and keep you cool. The family with the ice cream stand are also helpful to give directions and feedback.