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|Historical era||Classical Antiquity|
|-||Founding||700 BC 700 BC|
|Historical era||Classical Antiquity|
|-||Founding||700 BC 700 BC|
Corinth, or Korinth (Greek: Κόρινθος, Kórinthos) was a city-state (polis) on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northeast of the ancient ruins. Since 1896, systematic archaeological investigations of the Corinth Excavations by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens have revealed large parts of the ancient city, and recent excavations conducted by the Greek Ministry of Culture have brought important new facets of antiquity to light.
Ancient Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities of Greece, with a population of 90,000 in 400 BC. After the Romans built a new city in its place and made it the provincial capital of Greece in 44 BC, the city population was between 100,000 to 700,000 according to different sources.
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Neolithic pottery suggests that the site of Corinth was occupied from at least as early as 6500 BC, and continually occupied into the Early Bronze Age, when, it has been suggested, the settlement acted as a centre of trade However, there is a dramatic drop in ceramic remains during the Early Helladic II phase, and only sparse ceramic remains in the EHIII and MH phases; thus it appears that the area was very sparsely inhabited in the period immediately before the Myceanaean period. While pottery dating to the Mycenaean period is negligible at the site of Corinth, there was a settlement on the coast near Lechaion which traded across the Corinthian Gulf; the site of Corinth itself was likely not heavily occupied again until around 900 BC, when it is believed the Dorians settled there.
According to Hellenic myth, the city was founded by Corinthos, a descendant of the god Helios (the Sun), while other myths suggest that it was founded by the goddess Ephyra, a daughter of the Titan Oceanus, thus the ancient name of the city (also Ephyra). There is evidence that the city was destroyed around 2000 BC.
Some ancient names for the place, such as Korinthos, derive from a pre-Greek, "Pelasgian" language; it seems likely that Corinth was also the site of a Bronze Age Mycenaean palace-city, like Mycenae, Tiryns or Pylos. According to myth, Sisyphus was the founder of a race of ancient kings at Corinth. It was also in Corinth that Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, abandoned Medea. During the Trojan War, the Corinthians participated under the leadership of Agamemnon.
In a Corinthian myth related in the 2nd century AD to Pausanias, Briareus, one of the Hecatonchires, was the arbitrator in a dispute between Poseidon and Helios, between the sea and the sun: his verdict was that the Isthmus of Corinth belonged to Poseidon and the acropolis of Corinth, Acrocorinth, to Helios. Thus Greeks of the Classical age accounted for archaic cult of the sun-titan in the highest part of the site.
The Upper Peirene spring is located within the walls of the acropolis. "The spring, which is behind the temple, they say was the gift of Asopus to Sisyphus. The latter knew, so runs the legend, that Zeus had ravished Aegina, the daughter of Asopus, but refused to give information to the seeker before he had a spring given him on the Acrocorinthus." (Pausanias, 2.5.1).
Corinth had been a backwater in 8th-century Greece. The Bacchiadae (Ancient Greek: Βακχιάδαι Bakkhiadai), a tightly-knit Doric clan, were the ruling kinship group of archaic Corinth in the 8th and 7th centuries BC, a period of expanding Corinthian cultural power. In 747 BC (a traditional date) an aristocratic revolution ousted the Bacchiad kings, when the royal clan of Bacchiadae, numbering perhaps a couple of hundred adult males, took power from the last king, Telestes. They dispensed with kingship and ruled as a group, governing the city by electing annually a prytanis, who held the kingly position for his brief term, no doubt a council (though none is specifically documented in the scant literary materials) and a polemarchos to head the army.
During Bacchiad rule, from 747 to 650 BC, Corinth became a unified state. Large scale public buildings/monuments were constructed at this time. In 733 BC, Corinth established colonies at Corcyra and Syracuse. By 730 BC, Corinth emerged as a highly advanced Greek city with at least 5,000 people.
Aristotle tells the story of Philolaus of Corinth, a Bacchiad who was a lawgiver at Thebes. He became the lover of Diocles, the winner of the Olympic games. They both lived for the rest of their lives in Thebes. Their tombs were built near one another and Philolaus' tomb points toward the Corinthian country while Diocles' faces away.
Cypselus or Kypselos (Greek: Κύψελος) was the first tyrant of Corinth, Greece, in the 7th century BC. From 658–628 BC, Cypselus removed the Bacchiad aristocracy from power and ruled for three decades. He built temples to Apollo and Poseidon in 650 BC.
Aristotle reports that "Cypselus of Corinth had made a vow that if he became master of the city, he would offer to Zeus the entire property of the Corinthians. Accordingly, he commanded them to make a return of their possessions."
In the 7th century BC, when Corinth was ruled by the tyrants Cypselus (r. 657–627 BC) and his son Periander (r. 627–585 BC), the city sent forth colonists to found new settlements: Epidamnus (modern day Durrës, Albania), Syracuse, Ambracia (modern day town of Lefkas), Corcyra (modern day town of Corfu) and Anactorium. Periander also founded Apollonia in Illyria (modern day Fier, Albania) and Potidaea (in Chalcidice). Corinth was also one of the nine Greek sponsor-cities to found the colony of Naukratis in Ancient Egypt. Naucratis was founded to accommodate the increasing trade volume between the Greek world and pharaonic Egypt, during the reign of Pharaoh Psammetichus I of the 26th dynasty.
With increased wealth and more complicated trade relations and social structures, Greek city-states tended to overthrow their traditional hereditary priest-kings; Corinth, the richest archaic polis, led the way. Like the signori of late medieval and Renaissance Italy, the tyrants usually seized power at the head of some popular support. Often the tyrants upheld existing laws and customs and were highly conservative as to cult practices, thus maintaining stability with little risk to their own personal security. As in Renaissance Italy, a cult of personality naturally substituted for the divine right of the former legitimate royal house.
Cypselus, the son of Eëtion and a disfigured woman named Labda, who was a member of the Bacchiad kin usurped the power in archaic matriarchal right of his mother, became tyrant and expelled the Bacchiadae.
According to Herodotus the Bacchiadae heard two prophecies from the Delphic oracle that the son of Eëtion would overthrow their dynasty, and they planned to kill the baby once it was born. However, Herodotus says that the newborn smiled at each of the men sent to kill it, and none of them could go through with the plan. An etiological myth-element, to account for the name Cypselus (cypsele, "chest") accounted how Labda then hid the baby in a chest, and when the men had composed themselves and returned to kill it, they could not find it. (Compare the infancy of Perseus.) The ivory chest of Cypselus, richly worked with mythological narratives and adorned with gold, was a votive offering at Olympia, where Pausanias gave it a minute description in his 2nd century AD travel guide.
When Cypselus had grown up, he fulfilled the prophecy. Corinth had been involved in wars with Argos and Corcyra, and the Corinthians were unhappy with their rulers. At the time, around 657 BC, Cypselus was polemarch, the archon in charge of the military, and he used his influence with the soldiery to expel the king. He also expelled his other enemies, but allowed them to set up colonies in northwestern Greece. He also increased trade with the colonies in Italy and Sicily. He was a popular ruler, and unlike many later tyrants, he did not need a bodyguard and died a natural death.
He ruled for thirty years and was succeeded as tyrant by his son Periander in 627 BC. The treasury Cypselus built at Delphi was apparently still standing in the time of Herodotus, and the chest of Cypselus was seen by the traveler Pausanias at Olympia in the 2nd century AD. Periander brought Corcyra to order in 600 BC.
Periander was considered one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. During his reign the first Corinthian coins were struck. He was the first to attempt to cut across the Isthmus to create a seaway to allow ship traffic between the Corinthian and the Saronic Gulf. He abandoned the venture due to the extreme technical difficulties he met, but he created the Diolkos (a stone-build overland ramp) instead. The era of the Cypselids, ending with Periander's nephew Psammetichus, named after the hellenophile Egyptian Pharaoh Psammetichus I (see above), was the golden age of the city of Corinth.
Periander killed his wife Melissa. His son found out and refused to talk to him. Periander sent his son away to Corcyra. Periander later wanted his son Lycopron to replace him as sovereign of Corinth. His son was finally convinced to come home on the condition that Periander go to Corcyra while he goes back to Corinth. The Corcyreans heard about this and killed Lycophron in order to keep Periander out of their country.
Herodotus relates that the harpist Arion was sailing home on a Corinthian vessel when the Corinthians decide to kill him and steal his money. Arion begs them to let him sing a last song and then he will kill himself. He threw himself overboard and escaped to Taernarus on the back of a dolphin. He presents himself to Periander and the sailors are found to be guilty.
In 581 BC, Periander's nephew, who succeeded Periander, was assassinated. This brought Corinth's dictatorship to an end.
In 581 BC, the Isthmian Games established by leading families.
In 570 BC, the inhabitants started to use silver coins called 'colts' or 'foals.'
In 550 BC, Corinth became the ally of Sparta.
In 525 BC, Corinth formed a conciliatory alliance with Sparta against Argos.
In 519 BC, Corinth mediated between Athens and Thebes.
Around 500 BC, Athenians and Corinthians entreat Spartans not to harm Athens by restoring the tyrant.
Just before the beginning of the classical period, the Corinthians developed the trireme. This ship design would become widespread in the navies of the Mediterranean area until the late Roman period. Corinth took part in the first naval battle on record, against the Hellenic city of Corcyra. According to Thucydides, Corinth was the first place in Hellas to build triremes. The Corinthians were also known for their wealth because of its location on the isthmus. All information to and from the Peloponnese traveled through Corinth, because many travelers came through delivering messages and goods.
In classical times, Corinth rivaled Athens and Thebes in wealth, based on the Isthmian traffic and trade. Until the mid-6th century, Corinth was a major exporter of black-figure pottery to city-states around the Greek world. Athenian potters later came to dominate the market.
During some time, in classical times and earlier, Corinth had a temple of the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, employing some thousand hetairas (temple prostitutes) (see also Temple prostitution in Corinth). The city was renowned for these temple prostitutes, who served the wealthy merchants and the powerful officials living in or traveling in and out of the city. The most famous of them, Lais, was said to have extraordinary abilities and charge tremendous fees for her favours. Horace is quoted as saying: "non licet omnibus adire Corinthum", meaning "Not everyone is able to go to Corinth", due to the expensive living standards that prevailed in the city, including those expensive prostitutes.
Corinth was also the host of the Isthmian Games. During this era, Corinthians developed the Corinthian order, the third order of the classical architecture after the Doric and the Ionic. The Corinthian order was the most complicated of the three, showing the accumulation of wealth and the luxurious lifestyle in the ancient city-state, while the Doric order was analogous to the strict and simplistic lifestyle of the older Dorians like the Spartans, and the Ionic was a balance between those two following the philosophy of harmony of Ionians like the Athenians.
The city had two main ports, one in the Corinthian Gulf and one in the Saronic Gulf, serving the trade routes of the western and eastern Mediterranean, respectively. In the Corinthian Gulf lay Lechaion, which connected the city to its western colonies (Greek: apoikoiai) and Magna Graecia, while in the Saronic Gulf the port of Kenchreai served the ships coming from Athens, Ionia, Cyprus and the rest of the Levant. Both ports had docks for the large war fleet of the city-state.
In 491 BC, Corinth mediated between Syracuse and Gala.
During the years 481–480 BC, the Conference at Isthmus of Corinth (previous conference had been at Sparta) established the Hellenic League, which allied under the Spartans in the Greco-Persian Wars against Persia. The city was a major participant in the Persian Wars, sending 400 soldiers to try to defend the Thermopylae and offering forty war ships in the sea Battle of Salamis under the admiral Adeimantos and 5,000 hoplites (wearing their characteristic Corinthian helmets) in the following Battle of Plataea but afterwards was frequently an enemy of Athens and an ally of Sparta in the Peloponnesian League. The Greeks demanded the surrender of Thebans who had aided the Persians. Pausanias took them to Corinth where they were put to death.
Herodotus, who was believed to dislike the Corinthians, mentions that Corinthians were considered the second best fighters to the Athenians.
In 458 BC, Corinth was defeated by Athens at Megara.
In 435 BC, Corinth and Corcyra went to war over Epidamnus. In 433 BC, Athens allied with Corcyra against Corinth. The Corinthian war against the Corcycraeans was the first recorded naval war in history. In 431 BC, one of the factors leading to the Peloponnesian War was the dispute between Corinth and Athens over the Corinthian colony of Corcyra (Corfu), which probably stemmed from the traditional trade rivalry between the two cities.
With the Syracusan troops in Athens, Ariston, a Corinithinan helmsman had the idea to move the market down to the sea which would allow the commanders to have a full meal, and then attack the Athenians while they were least expecting it. A messenger was sent to the market and the plan was carried through. The Athenians, expecting the Syracusan troops to be busy at the market, went upon their daily tasks, unprepared for battle. Suddenly the Athenians realized the Syracrusan troops were waging battle upon them so they scrambled to meet the Syracusans at the sea for battle. In the end, the Syracusan troops claimed victory and the Athenians retreated.
In 404 BC, Sparta refused to destroy Athens. This refusal caused bad relations with Corinth. Corinth joined Argos, Boeotia, and Athens against Sparta in the Corinthian War.[clarification needed]
To convince his countrymen to behave objectively, Demosthenes noted that the Athenians of yesteryear had had good reason to bear malice against the Corinthians and the Thebans for their conduct during the last part of the Peloponnesian War; but they bore no malice whatever.
After the end of the Peloponnesian War, Corinth and Thebes, which were former allies with Sparta in the Peloponnesian League, had grown dissatisfied with the hegemony of Sparta and started the Corinthian War against it, which further weakened the city-states of the Peloponnese. This weakness allowed for the subsequent invasion of the Macedonians of the north and the forging of the Corinthian League by Philip II of Macedon against the Persian Empire.
The Corinthians "voted at once to aid them [the Syracusans] heart and soul themselves". They also sent a group to Lacedaemon where they found Alcibiades. From there the Syracusans, Corinthians and Alcibiades convinced the Lacedaemonians to join their forces. After a convincing speech from Alcibiades, the Lacedaemonians agreed to send troops to aid the Sicilians.
As an example of facing danger with knowledge, Aristotle used the example of the Argives who were forced to confront the Spartans in the battle at the Long Walls of Corinth in 392 BC.
In 366 BC, the Athenian Assembly ordered Chares to occupy the Athenian ally and install a democratic government. This failed when Corinth, Phlius and Epidaurus allied with Boeotia backing Corinth up in the war.
Regarding Corinthian exiles, Demosthenes recounted information he heard from elders who we can assume had been alive during the event in question. Athens had fought the Lacedaemonians in a great battle near Corinth. The city decided not to harbor the defeated Athenian troops, but instead sent heralds to the Lacedaemonians.
The Corinthian heralds opened their gates to the defeated Athenian army and refused to betray them to the victorious Lacedaemonian army. Demosthenes notes that they “chose along with you, who had been engaged in battle, to suffer whatever might betide, rather than without you to enjoy a safety that involved no danger.” These actions saved the Athenian troops and their allies.
Demosthenes acknowledged that Philip’s military force exceeded that of Athens and thus they must develop a tactical advantage. He notes the importance of a citizen army as opposed to one made up of mercenary soldiers, citing a previous mercenary force in Corinth. In this particular force, citizens fought alongside mercenaries and beat the Lacedaemonians.
In 337 BC, in the spring, the Second congress of Corinth established Common Peace.
By 332 BC, Alexander the Great was in control of Greece, as hegemon.
During the Hellenistic period, Corinth, like many other Greece cities, never quite had autonomy. Under the successors of Alexander the Great, Greece was contested ground, and Corinth was occasionally the battleground for contests between the Antigonids, based in Macedonia, and other Hellenistic powers. In 308 BC, the city was captured from the Antigonids by Ptolemy I, who claimed to come as a liberator of Greece from the Antigonids. The city was recaptured by Demetrius in 304 BC, however.
Corinth remained in Antigonid control for half a century. After 280 BC it was ruled by the faithful governor Craterus, but in 253/2 BC his son Alexander of Corinth, moved by Ptolemaic subsidies, resolved to challenge the Macedonian supremacy and seek independence as a tyrant. He was probably poisoned in 247 BC and after his death the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas retook the city in the winter of 245/44 BC.
Thanks to an alliance agreement with Aratus, the Macedonians recovered Corinth once again in 224 BC, but after the Roman intervention in 197 BC the city was permanently brought into the Achaean League. Under the leadership of Philopoemen the Achaeans went on to take control of the entire Peloponnesus and made Corinth the capital of their confederation.
In 146 BC, Rome declared war on the Achaean League, and after victories over league forces in the summer of that year, the Romans under Lucius Mummius besieged and captured Corinth; when he entered the city Mummius put all the men to the sword and sold the women and children into slavery before he torched the city, for which he was given the cognomen Achaicus as the conqueror of the Achaean League. While there is archeological evidence of some minimal habitation in the years afterwards, Corinth remained largely deserted until Julius Caesar refounded the city as Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis (‘colony of Corinth in honour of Julius’) in 44 BC, shortly before his assassination.
Corinth is mentioned many times in the New Testament, largely in connection with Paul the Apostle's mission there. Traditionally, the Church of Corinth is believed to have been founded by Paul, making it an Apostolic See.
When the apostle Paul first visited the city (AD 51 or 52), Gallio, the brother of Seneca, was proconsul. Paul resided here for eighteen months (see Acts 18:1–18). Here he first became acquainted with Priscilla and Aquila with whom he worked and travelled.
Paul wrote at least two epistles to the Christian community, the First Epistle to the Corinthians (written from Ephesus) and the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (written from Macedonia). The first Epistle occasionally reflects the conflict between the thriving Christian church and the surrounding community.
Some scholars believe that Paul visited Corinth for an intermediate "painful visit" (see 2Corinthians 2:1), between the first and second epistles. After writing the second epistle he stayed in Corinth for about three months[Acts 20:3] in the late winter, and there wrote his Epistle to the Romans.
Based on clues within the Corinthian epistles themselves some scholars have concluded that Paul wrote possibly as many as four epistles to the church at Corinth. Only two of them, the First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, are contained within the Canon of Holy Scripture. A Third Epistle to the Corinthians was rejected from the canon.
The city was largely destroyed in the earthquakes of 365 and 375, followed by Alaric's invasion in 396. The city was rebuilt after these disasters on a monumental scale, but covered a much smaller area than previously. Four churches were located in the city proper, another on the citadel of the Acrocorinth, and a monumental basilica at the port of Lechaion.
During the reign of Emperor Justinian I (527–565), a large stone wall was erected from the Saronic to the Corinthian gulfs, protecting the city and the Peloponnese peninsula from the barbarian invasions from the north. The stone wall was about six miles (10 km) long and was named Hexamilion ("six-miles").
Corinth declined from the 6th century on, and may even have fallen to barbarian invaders in the early 7th century. The main settlement moved from the lower city to the Acrocorinth. Despite its becoming the capital of the theme of Hellas and, after ca. 800, of the theme of the Peloponnese, it was not until the 9th century that the city began to recover, reaching its apogee in the 11th and 12th centuries, when it was the site of a flourishing silk industry.
In November 856, an earthquake in Corinth killed an estimated 45,000.
The wealth of the city attracted the attention of the Sicilian Normans under Roger of Sicily, who plundered it in 1147, carrying off many captives, most notable silk weavers. The city never fully recovered from the Norman sack.
Following the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, a group of Crusaders under the French knights William of Champlitte and Geoffrey of Villehardouin carried out the conquest of the Peloponnese. The Corinthians resisted the Frankish conquest from their stronghold in Acrocorinth, under the command of Leo Sgouros, from 1205 until 1210. In 1208 Leo Sgouros killed himself by riding off the top of Acrocorinth, but resistance continued for two more years. Finally, in 1210 the fortress fell to the Crusaders, and Corinth became a full part of the Principality of Achaea, governed by the Villehardouins from their capital in Andravida in Elis. Corinth was the last significant town of Achaea on its northern borders with another crusader state, the Duchy of Athens. The Ottomans captured the city in 1395. The Byzantines of the Despotate of the Morea recaptured it in 1403, and the Despot Theodore II Palaiologos, restored the Hexamilion wall across the Isthmus of Corinth in 1415.
In 1458, five years after the final Fall of Constantinople, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire conquered the city and its mighty castle. The Ottomans renamed it Gördes and made it a sanjak (district) centre within the Rumelia Eyalet. The Venetians captured the city in 1687 during the Morean War, and it remained under Venetian control until the Ottomans retook the city in 1715. Corinth was the capital of the Mora Eyalet in 1715–1731 and then again a sanjak capital until 1821.
During the Greek War of Independence, 1821–1830 the city was destroyed by the Turkish forces. The city was officially liberated in 1832 after the Treaty of London. In 1833, the site was considered among the candidates for the new capital city of the recently founded Kingdom of Greece, due to its historical significance and strategic position. Nafplio was chosen initially then Athens.
In 1858, the village surrounding the ruins of Ancient Corinth was totally destroyed by an earthquake, leading to the establishment of New Corinth 3 km (1.9 mi) NE of the ancient city.
Acrocorinthis, the acropolis of ancient Corinth, is a monolithic rock that was continuously occupied from archaic times to the early 19th century. The city's archaic acropolis, already an easily defensible position due to its geomorphology, was further heavily fortified during the Byzantine Empire as it became the seat of the strategos of the Thema of Hellas. Later it was a fortress of the Franks after the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks. With its secure water supply, Acrocorinth's fortress was used as the last line of defense in southern Greece because it commanded the isthmus of Corinth, repelling foes from entry into the Peloponnesian peninsula. Three circuit walls formed the man-made defense of the hill. The highest peak on the site was home to a temple to Aphrodite which was Christianized as a church, and then became a mosque. The American School began excavations on it in 1929. Currently, Acrocorinth is one of the most important medieval castle sites of Greece.
Corinth had two harbours: Lechaeum on the Corinthian Gulf and Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf. Lechaeum was the principal port, connected to the city with a set of long walls of about 2 miles (3.2 km) length, and was the main trading station for Italy and Sicily, where there were many Corinthian colonies, while Cenchreae served the commerce with the Eastern Mediterranean. Ships could be transported between the two harbours by means of the diolkos constructed by the tyrant Periander.
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