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CORINTHUS (Κόρινθος: Eth. Κορίνθιος, Eth. Corinthius: Gortho), one of the most important cities of Greece.


Corinth stood upon the Isthmus, which connected the northern division of Greece, or Hellas Proper, with the Peloponnesus. On either side of the Isthmus, which is a rocky and sterile plain, rise the mountains of Northern Greece and Peloponnesus respectively. The mountains to the north of the Isthmus, which bore the name of Geraneia, extend across the Isthmus from sea to sea. There are only three passes through them, of which the most celebrated, being the shortest road between Corinth and Megara, is upon the shore of the Saronic Gulf, and bore the name of the Scironian rocks. A more particular account of the Geraneian mountains is given under Megara, to which they more properly belong. [MEGARA] The mountains to the south of the Isthmus were called the Oneian ridge, from their resemblance to an ass's back (τὸ Ὄνειον, Thuc. 4.44; Xen. Hell. 6.5. 51; τὰ Ὄνεια, Strab. viii. p.380.)1 They did not, however, occupy the whole breadth of the Isthmus. The lofty rock, which formed the citadel of Corinth, and which was hence called the Acrocorinthus, is properly an offshoot of the Oneian ridge, but is separated from the latter by a ravine, and seen from the north appears to be an isolated mountain. The Oneian ridge extends eastwards as far as the Saronic Gulf. Westward, the Acrocorinthus does not reach the sea; but there is a narrow level space between the foot of the mountain and the sea. This level space was protected by the two long walls connecting the city with its port town Lechaeum; while eastward of the city there were only two passes, through which an invading force could penetrate, one through the ravine, which separated the Acrocorinthus and the Oneian mountains (Pol. 2.52), and the other along the shore at Cenchreae. (Xen. Hell. 6.5. 51) Thus Corinth completely commanded the three passes,which alone led from the Isthmus to the Peloponnesus, the one upon the shore of the Corinthian Gulf being occupied by the Long Walls, the one through the ravine between the Acrocorinthus and the Oneian mountains being under the very fortifications of the citadel, and the third upon the Saronic Gulf, being under the walls of Cenchreae. From its position, Corinth was called by the last Philip of Macedon one of the fetters of Greece; the other two being Chalcis in Euboea, and Demetrias in Thessaly. (Pol. 17.11; Liv. 32.37.)

The Corinthia (Η῾ Κορινθία), or territory of Corinth, was not fertile (χώραν δ᾽ ἔσχεν οὐκ εὔγεων σφόδρα, ἀλλὰ σκολιάν τε καὶ τραχεῖαν, Strab. viii. p.382). Neither the rocky sides of the Geraneian and Oneian mountains, nor the stony and sandy plain of the Isthmus, were suitable for corn. The only arable land in the territory of any extent is the plain upon the coast, lying between Corinth and Sicyon, and belonging to these two cities. The fertility of this plain is praised in the highest terms by the ancient writers (ager nobilissimae fertilitatis, Liv. 27.31): and such was its value, that to possess “what lies between Corinth and Sicyon” became a proverbial expression for great wealth. (Athen. 5.219a.) It must not, however, be inferred from these and similar expressions, that this plain surpassed in fertility every other district in Peloponnesus; but its proximity to the wealthy and populous city of Corinth greatly enhanced its value; and hence an estate in this plain produced a much larger revenue than one of a similar size in the most fertile parts of Peloponnesus. It was watered by the mountain torrents coming from Nemea and Cleonae; and it furnished Corinth and its port towns with fruit and vegetables, but could not have yielded any large supply of corn. Of the other products of the Corinthia scarcely any mention is made; its wine was very bad ( Κορίνθιος οἶνος βασανισμὸς ἐστι, Athen. 1.30f.).

Shut in within this narrow territory by the mountain barriers towards the north and the south, and unable to obtain from the soil a sufficient supply of the necessaries of life, the inhabitants were naturally led to try their fortune on the sea, to which their situation invited them. Corinth was destined [p. 1.675]by nature to be a great maritime power. Standing upon a narrow isthmus between two important seas, at a time when all navigation was performed by coasting vessels, and it was difficult and dangerous to convey goods round the Peloponnesus, Corinth became the highway of ancient commerce. In consequence of its position it formed by far the most direct communication between the two principal Grecian seas, uniting the Ionian and Sicilian seas on. the one hand, with the Aegaean, the Hellespont, and the Pontus on the other. It thus became the emporium of the trade between the East and the West. The position of Corinth is well described by Cicero (de Leg. Agr. 2.32):--“Erat posita in angustiis atque in faucibus Graeciae sic, ut terrâ claustra locorum teneret, et duo maria, maxime navigation diversa, paene conjungeret, quum pertenui discrimine separentur.” Hence also Euripides (Eur. Tro. 1097) describes Corinth, as δίπορον κορυφὰν Ἴσθμιον, ἔνθα πύλας πέλοπος ἔχουσιν ἕδραι; and Horace (Hor. Carm. 1.7) speaks of “bimaris Corinthi moenia.”


The favourable position of Corinth for commerce could not have escaped the notice of the Phoenicians, who had settlements on other parts of the Grecian coast. There can be little doubt that a Phoenician colony at an early period took possession of the Acrocorinthus. If there were no other evidence for this fact, it would have been sufficiently proved by the Oriental character of the worship of Aphrodite in this city, of which a further account is given below. But in addition to this, the recollection of the early Phoenician settlement was perpetuated by the Corinthian mountain called Phoenicaeum (Φοινίκαιον, Ephor. ap. Steph. B. sub voce and by the worship of the Phoenician Athena (Φοινίκη Ἀθῆνα ἐν Κορίνθῳ, Tzetzes, ad Lycophr. 658.)

Thucydides mentions (4.42) Aeolians as the inhabitants of Corinth at the time of the Dorian invasion; but there can be no doubt that Ionians also formed a considerable part of the population in the earliest times, since Ionians were in possession of the coasts on either side of the Isthmus, and on the Isthmus itself was the most revered seat of Poseidon, the chief deity of the Ionic race. Still the earliest rulers of Corinth are uniformly represented as Aeolians. The founder of this dynasty was Sisyphus, whose cunning and love of gain may typify the commercial enterprise of the early maritime population, who overreached the simple inhabitants of the interior. Under the sway of Sisyphus and his descendants Corinth became one of the richest and most powerful cities in Greece. Sisyphus had two sons, Glaucus and Ornytion. From Glaucus sprang the celebrated hero Bellerophon, who was worshipped with heroic honours at Corinth, and whose exploits were a favoutite subject among the Corinthians down to the latest times. Hence we constantly find upon the coins of Corinth and her colonies the figure of the winged horse Pegasus, which Bellerophon caught at the fountain of Peirene on the Acrocorinthus. Bellerophon, as is well known, settled in Lycia; and the descendants of Ornytion continued to rule at Corinth till the overthrow of the Sisyphid dynasty by the conquering Dorians.

The most ancient name of the city was Ephyra (Ἐφύρη). At what time it exchanged this name for that of Corinth is unknown. Müller, relying upon a passage of Velleius Paterculus (1.3) supposes that it received the name of Corinth upon occasion of the Dorian conquest; but Homer uses both names indiscriminately. (Ἐφύρη, Il. 6.152, 210; Κόρινθος, 2.570, 13.664.) According to the Corinthians themselves Corinthus, from whom the city derived its name, was a son of Zeus; but the epic poet Eumelus, one of the Corinthian Bacchiadae, gave a less exalted origin to the eponymous hero. This poet carried up the history of his native place to a still earlier period than the rule of the Sisyphids. According to the legend, related by him, the gods Poseidon and Helios (the Sun) contended for the possession of the Corinthian land. By the award of Briareus Poseidon obtained the Isthmus; and Helios the rock, afterwards called the Acrocorinthus, and then Ephyra, from Ephyra, a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and the primitive inhabitant of the country. Helios had two sons Aeëtes and Aloeus: to the; former he gave Ephyra, to the latter Asopia (Sicyon). Aeëtes, going to Colchis, left his country under the government of Bunus, a son of Hermes; upon whose death Epopeus, the son of Aloeus, obtained Ephyra as well as Asopia. Marathon, the son of Epopeus, who had left the country during his lifetime, returned at his death, and divided his territory between his sons Corinthus and Sicyon, from whom the two towns obtained their names. Corinthus dying without children, the Corinthians invited Medea from Iolcos,as the daughter of Aeëtes; and thus her husband Jason obtained the, sovereignty of Corinth. Medea afterwards returned to Iolcos, leaving the throne to Sisyphus, with whom she is said to have been in love. (Paus. 1.1.2, 1.3.10; Schol. ad Pind. Ol. 13.74.) Upon this legend Mr. Grote justly remarks, that “the incidents in it are imagined and arranged with a view to the supremacy of Medea; the emigration of Aeëtes, and the conditions under which he transferred his sceptre being so laid out as to confer upon Medea an hereditary title to the throne. . . . . We may consider the legend of Medea as having been originally quite independent of that of Sisyphus, but fitted on to it, in seeming chronological sequence, so as to satisfy the feelings of those Aeolids of Corinth who passed for his descendants.” : (Hist. of Greece, vol. i. p. 165, seq.)

The first really historical fact in the history of Corinth is its conquest by the Dorians. It is said that this conquest was not effected till the generation after the return of the Heracleidae into Peloponnesus. When the Heracleidae were on the point of crossing over from Naupactus, Hippotes, also a descendant of Hercules, but not through Hyllus, slew the prophet Carnus, in consequence of which he was banished for ten years, and not allowed to, take part in the enterprise. His son Aletes, who derived his name from his long wanderings, was afterwards the leader of the Dorian conquerors of Corinth, and the first Dorian king of the city. (Paus. 2.4.3.) It appears from the account of Thucydides (4.42) that the Dorian invaders took. possession of the hill called Solygeius, near the Saronic gulf, from which they carried on war against the Aeolian inhabitants of Corinth till they reduced; the city.

The Dorians, though the ruling class, appear, to have formed only a small proportion of the population of Corinth. The non. Dorian inhabitants, must have been admitted at an early period to the citizenship,; since we find mention of eight Corinthian tribes (πάντα ὀκτὼ, Phot., Suidas), whereas [p. 1.676]three was the standard number in all purely Doric states. It was impossible to preserve in a city like Corinth the regular Doric institutions; since the wealth acquired by commerce greatly exceeded the value of landed property, and necessarily conferred upon its possessors, even though not Dorians, great influence and power. Aletes and his descendants held the royal power for 12 generations. Their names and the length of their reign are thus given:

Aletes reigned 38
Ixion reigned 38
Agelas reigned 37
Prymnis reigned 35
Bacchis reigned 35
Agelas reigned 30
Eudemus reigned 25
Aristodemes reigned 35
Agemon reigned 16
Alexander reigned 25
Telestes reigned 12
Automenes reigned 1

Pausanias speaks as if Prymnis was the last descendant of Aletes, and Bacchis, the founder of a new, though still an Heracleid dynasty; but Diodorus describes all these kings as descendants of Aletes, but in consequence of the celebrity of Bacchis, his successors took the name of Bacchidae in place of that of Aletiadae or Heracleidae. After Automenes had reigned one year, the Bacchiad family, amounting to about 200 persons, determined to abolish royalty, and to elect out of their own number an annual Prytanis. The Bacchiad oligarchy had possession of the government for 90 years, until it was overthrown by Cypselus, with the help of the lower classes, in B.C. 657. (Diod. vi. fragm. 6, p. 635, Wess.; Paus. 2.4.4; Hdt. 5.92.) Strabo says (viii. p. 378) that the Bacchiad oligarchy lasted nearly 200 years; but he probably included within this period a portion of the time that the Bacchiads possessed the royal power. The Bacchiads, after their deposition by Cypselus, were for the most part driven into exile, and are said to have taken refuge in different parts of Greece, and even in Italy. (Plut. Lys. 1; Liv. 1.34.)

According to the mythical chronology the return of the Heracleidae took place in B.C. 1104. As the Dorian conquest of Corinth was placed one generation (30 years) after this event, the reign of Aletes commenced B.C. 1074. His family therefore reigned from B.C. 1074 to 747; and the Bacchiad oligarchy lasted from B.C. 747 to 657.

Under the Bacchiadae the Corinthians were distinguished by great commercial enterprise. They traded chiefly with the western part of Greece; since the eastern sea was the domain of the Aeginetans. The sea, formerly called the Crissaean from the town of Crissa, was now named the Corinthian after them; and in order to secure the strait which led into the western waters, they founded Molycria opposite the promontory of Rhium (Thuc. 3.102.) It was under the sway of the Bacchiadae that the important colonies of Syracuse and Corcyra were founded by the Corinthians (B.C. 734), and that a navy of shpis of war was created for the first time in Greece; for we have the express testimony of Thucydides that triremes were first built at Corinth. (Thuc. 1.13.) The prosperity of Corinth suffered no diminution from the revolution, which made Cypselus despot or tyrant of Corinth. Both this prince and his son Periander, who succeeded him, were distinguished by the vigour of their administration and by their patronage of commerce and the fine arts. Following the plans of colonization, which had been commenced by the Bacchiadae, they planted numerous colonies upon the western shores of Greece, by means of which they exercised a sovereign power in these seas. Ambracia, Anactorium, Leucas, Apollonia and other important colonies, were founded by Cypselus or his son. Corcyra, which had thrown off the supremacy of Corinth, and whose navy had defeated that of the mother country in B.C. 665, was reduced to subjection again in the reign of Periander. It has been noticed by Miller that all these colonies were sent out from the harbour of Lechaeum on the Corinthian gulf; and that the only colony despatched from the harbour of Cenchreae on the Saronic gulf was the one which founded Potidaea, on the coast of Chalcidice in Macedonia. (Müller, Dor. 1.6.7.)

Cypselus reigned 30 years (B.C. 657--627), and Periander 44 years (B.C. 627--583). For the history of these tyrants the reader is referred to the Dict. of Biogr. s. vv. Periander was succeeded by his nephew Psammetichus, who reigned only three years. He was without doubt overthrown by the Spartans, who put down so many of the Grecian despots about this period. The government established at Corinth, under the auspices of Sparta, was again aristocratical, but apparently of a less exclusive character than that of the hereditary oligarchy of the Bacchiadae. The gerusia was probably composed of certain noble families, such as the Oligaethidae mentioned by Pindar, whom he describes as οἶκος ἅμερος ἀστοῖς. (Pind. O. 13.2, 133.) From the time of the deposition of Psammetichus Corinth became an ally of Sparta, and one of the most powerful and influential members of the Peloponnesian confederacy. At an early period the Corinthians were on friendly terms with the Athenians. They refused to assist Cleomenes, king of Sparta, in restoring Hippias to Athens, and they lent the Athenians 20 ships to carry on the war against Aegina (Hdt. 5.92; Thuc. 1.41); but the rapid growth of the Athenian power after the Persian war excited the jealousy of Corinth; and the accession of Megara to the Athenian alliance was speedily followed by open hostilities between the two states. The Corinthians marched into the territory of Megara, but were there defeated with great loss by the Athenian commander, Myronides, B.C. 457. (Thuc. 1.103-106.) Peace was shortly afterwards concluded; but the enmity which the Corinthians felt against the Athenians was still further increased by the assistance which the latter afforded to the Corcyraeans in their quarrel with Corinth. This step was the immediate cause of the Peloponnesian war; for the Corinthians now exerted all their influence to persuade Sparta and the other Peloponnesian states to declare war against Athens.

In the Peloponnesian war the Corinthians at first furnished the greater part of the Peloponnesian fleet. Throughout the whole war their enmity against the Athenians continued unabated; and when the Spartans concluded with the latter in B.C. 421 the peace, usually called the peace of Nicias, the Corinthians refused to be parties to it, and were so indignant with Sparta, that they endeavoured to form a new Peloponnesian league with Argos, Mantineia and [p. 1.677]Elis. (Thuc. 5.17, seq.) But their anger against Sparta soon cooled down (Thuc. 5.48); and shortly afterwards they returned to the Spartan alliance, to which they remained faithful till the close of the war. When Athens was obliged to surrender to the Spartans after the battle of Aegospotami, the Corinthians and Boeotians urged them to raze the city to the ground. (Xen. Hell. 2.2. 19

But after Athens had been effectually humbled, and Sparta began to exercise sovereignty over the rest of Greece, the Corinthians and other Grecian states came to be jealous of her increasing power. Tithraustes, the satrap of Lydia, determined to avail himself of this jealousy, in order to stir up a war in Greece against the Spartans, and thus compel them to recall Agesilaus from his victorious career in Asia. Accordingly he sent over Timocrates, the Rhodian, to Greece with the sum of 50 talents, which he was to distribute among the leading men in the Grecian states, and thus excite a war against Sparta, B.C. 395. (Xen. Hell. 3.5. 2) Timocrates had no difficulty in executing his commission; and shortly afterwards the Corinthians united with their old enemies the Athenians as well as with the Boeotians and Argives in declaring war against Persia. Deputies from these states met at Corinth to take measures for the prosecution of the war, which was hence called the Corinthian war. In the following year, B.C. 394, a battle was fought near Corinth between the allied Greeks and the Lacedaemonians, in which the latter gained the victory (Xen. Hell. 4.2. 9, seq.) Later in the same year the Corinthians fought a second battle along with the other allies at Coroneia in Boeotia, whither they had marched to oppose Agesilaus, who had been recalled from Asia by the Persians, and was now on his march homewards. The Spartans again gained the victory, but not without much loss on their own side. (Xen. Hell. 3 § 15, seq., Ages. 2.9. seq.)

In B.C. 393 and 392 the war was carried on in the Corinthian territory, the Spartans being posted at Sicyon and the allies maintaining a line across the Isthmus from Lechaeum to Cenchreae, with Corinth as the centre. A great part of the fertile plain between Sicyon and Corinth belonged to the latter state; and the Corinthian proprietors suffered so much from the devastation of their lands, that many of them became anxious to renew their old alliance with Sparta. A large number of the other Corinthians participated in these feelings, and the leading men in the government, who were violently opposed to Sparta, became so alarmed at the wide-spread disaffection among the citizens, that they introduced a body of Argives into the city during the celebration of the festival of the Eucleia, and massacred numbers of the opposite party in the market-place and in the theatre. The government, being now dependent upon Argos, formed a close union with this state, and is said to have even incorporated their Corinthian territory with that of Argos, and to have given the name of Argos to their own city. But the opposition party at Corinth, which was still numerous, contrived to admit Praxitas, the Lacedaemonian commander at Sicyon, within the long walls which connected Corinth with Lechaeum. In the space between the walls, which was of considerable breadth, and about 1 1/2 mile in length, a battle took place between the Lacedaemonians and the Corinthians, who had marched out of the city to dislodge them. The Corinthians, however, were defeated, and this victory was followed by the demolition of a considerable part of the long walls by Praxitas. The Lacedaemonians now marched across the Isthmus, and captured Sidus and Crommyon. These events happened in B.C. 392. (Xen. Hell. 4.4. 1, seq.)

The Athenians, feeling that their own city was no longer secure from an attack of the Lacedaemonians, marched to Corinth in the following year (B.C. 391), and repaired the long walls between Corinth and Lechaeum; but in the course of the same summer Agesilaus and Teleutias not only retook the long walls, but also captured Lechaeum, which was now garrisoned by Lacedaemonian troops. (Xen. Hell/ 4.4. 18, 19; Diod. 14.86, who erroneously places the capture of Lechaeum in the preceding year; see Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. ix. p. 471, seq.) These successes, however, of the Lacedaemonians were checked by the destruction in the next year (B.C. 390) of one of their morae by Iphicrates, the Athenian general, with his peltasts or light-armed troops. Shortly afterwards Agesilaus marched back to Sparta; whereupon Iphicrates retook Crommyon, Sidus, Peiraeum and Oenoë, which had been garrisoned by Lacedaemonian troops. (Xen. Hell. 4.5. 1, seq.) The Corinthians appear to have suffered little from this time to the end of the war, which was brought to a conclusion by the peace of Antalcidas in B.C. 387. The effect of this peace was the restoration of Corinth to the Lacedaemonian alliance: for as soon as it was concluded, Agesilaus compelled the Argives to withdraw their troops from the city, and the Corinthians to restore the exiles who had been in favour of the Lacedaemonians. Those Corinthians who had taken an active part in the massacre of their fellow-citizens at the festival of the Eucleia fled from Corinth, and took refuge, partly at Argos, and partly at Athens. (Xen. Hell. 5.1. 34; Dem. c. Lept. p. 473.)

In the war between Thebes and Sparta, which soon afterwards broke out. the Corinthians remained faithful to the latter; but having suffered much from the war, they at length obtained permission from Sparta to conclude a separate peace with the Thebans. (Xen. Hell. 7.4. 6, seq.) In the subsequent events of Grecian history down to the Macedonian period, Corinth took little part. The government continued to be oligarchical; and the attempt of Timophanes to make himself tyrant of Corinth was frustrated by his murder by his own brother Timoleon, B.C. 344. (Diod. 16.65; Plut. Tim. 4; Cornel. Nep. Tim. 1; Aristot. Pol. 5.5.9.) From the time of the battle of Chaeroneia, Corinth was held by the Macedonian kings, who always kept a strong garrison in the important fortress of the Acrocorinthus. In B.C. 243 it was surprised by Aratus, delivered from the garrison of Antigonus Gonatas, and annexed to the Achaean league. (Pol. 2.43.) But in B.C. 223 Corinth was surrendered by the Achaeans to Antigonus Doson, in order to secure his support against the Aetolians and Cleomenes. (Pol. 2.52, 54.) It continued in the hands of Philip, the successor of Antigonus Doson; but after the defeat of this monarch at the battle of Cynoscephalae, B.C. 196, Corinth was declared free by the Romans, and was again united to the Achaean league. The Acrocorinthus, however, as well as Chalcis and Demetrias, which were regarded as the three fortresses of Greece, were occupied by Roman garrisons. (Pol. 18.28, 29; Liv. 33.31.)

When the Achaeans were mad enough to enter into a contest with Rome, Corinth was the seat of government of the Achaean league, and it was here that the Roman ambassadors were maltreated, who [p. 1.678]had been sent to the League with the ultimatum of the senate. The Achaean troops were at once defeated, and L. Mummius entered Corinth unopposed. The vengeance which he took upon the unhappy city was fearful. All the males were put to the sword, and the women and children sold as slaves. Corinth was the richest city in Greece, and abounded in statues, paintings, and other works of art. The most valuable works of art were carried to Rome; and after it had been pillaged by the Roman soldiers, it was at a given signal set on fire; and thus was extinguished what Cicero calls the lumen totius Graeciae (B.C. 146). (Strab. viii. p.381; Pol. 40.7; Paus. 2.1.2, 7.16.7; Liv. Epit. 52; Flor. 2.16; Oros. 5.3; Vell. 1.13: Cic. pro Leg. Man. 5

Corinth remained in ruins for a century. The site on which it had stood was devoted to the gods, and was not allowed to be inhabited (Macr. 3.9); a portion of its territory was given to the Sicyonians, who undertook the superintendence of the Isthmian games (Strab. viii. p.381); the remainder became part of the ager publicus, and was consequently included in the vectigalia of the Roman people. (Lex Thoria, 100.50; Cic. de Leg. Agr. 1.2, 2.19.) The greater part of its commerce passed over to Delos. In B.C. 46 Julius Caesar determined to rebuild Corinth, and sent a numerous colony thither, consisting of his veterans and freedmen. (Strab. viii. p.381; Paus. 2.1.2; Plut. Caes. 57; D. C. 43.50; Diod. Excerpt. p. 591, Wess.; Plin. Nat. 4.4. s. 5.) Henceforth it was called on coins and inscriptions COLONIA IVLIA CORINTHVS, also LAYS IVLI CORINT., and C. I. C. A., i. e., Colonia Julia Corinthus Augusta. The colonists were called Corinthienses, and not Corinthii, as the ancient inhabitants had been named. (Festus, p. 60, ed. Müller.) It soon rose again to be a prosperous and populous city; and when St. Paul visited it about 100 years after it had been rebuilt by the colony of Julius Caesar, it was the residence of Junius Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia. (Acta Apost. 18.12.) St. Paul founded here a flourishing Christian church, to which he addressed two of his epistles. When it was visited by Pausanias in the second century of the Christian era, it contained numerous public buildings, of which he has given us an account; and at a still later period it continued to be the capital of Achaia. (Hierocl. p. 646; Böckh, Inscr. Graec. no. 1086.)


It has been already noticed that Corinth was one of the earliest seats of Grecian art. (Strab. viii. p.382.) It was in this city that painting was said to have been invented by Ardicas, Cleophantus, and Cleanthes (Plin. Nat. 35.5), and at the time of its capture by the Romans it possessed some of the finest paintings in Greece. Among these was the celebrated picture of Dionysus by Aristeides of Thebes, for which Attalus offered the sum of 600,000 sesterces, and which was afterwards exhibited at Rome in the temple of Ceres. (Strab. viii. p.381; Plin. Nat. 35.8.) The numerous splendid temples which the wealth of the Corinthians enabled them to erect gave an impulse to architecture; and the most elaborate order of architecture was, as is well known, named after them. Statuary also flourished at Corinth, which was particularly celebrated for its works in bronze; and the name of Aes Corinthiacum was given to the finest kind of bronze. (See Dict. of Ant. p. 25, 2nd ed.) One of the earlier works of Corinthian art, which retained its celebrity in later times, wag the celebrated chest of Cypselus, made of cedar wood and adorned with figures. It was dedicated at Olympia, where it was seen by Pausanias, who has given a minute description of it (5.17, seq.). The Corinthian vases of terra cotta were among the finest in Greece; and such was their beauty, that all the cemeteries of the city were ransacked by the colonists of Julius Caesar, who sent them to Rome, where they fetched enormous prices. (Strab. viii. p.381.)

In the time of Periander poetry likewise flourished at Corinth. It was here that Arion introduced those improvements into the dithyramb, which caused him to be regarded as its inventor, and which led Pindar to speak of Corinth as the city in which Μοῖς᾿ ἁδύπνοος ἀνθεῖ. (Hdt. 1.23; Pind. O. 13.31.) Among the most ancient Cyclic poets we also find the names of Aeson, Eumelus, and Eumolpus, all of whom were natives of Corinth. (Schol. ad Pind. l.c.) But after the time of Periander little attention was paid to literature at Corinth; and among the illustrious writers of Greece not a single Corinthian appears. It is mentioned by Cicero that Corinth did not produce an orator (Brut. 13); and Deinarchus, the last and least important of the Attic orators, is no exception, since, though a native of Corinth, he was brought up at Athens, and practised his art in the latter city.

The wealth of the Corinthians gave rise to luxury and sensual indulgence. It was the most licentious city in all Greece; and the number of merchants who frequented it caused it to be the favourite resort of courtezans. The patron goddess of the city was Aphrodite, who had a splendid temple on the Acrocorinthus, where there were kept more than a thousand sacred female slaves (ἱερόδουλοι) for the service of strangers. (Strab. viii. p.378.) Hence they are called by Pindar (Fragm. p. 244, Bergk) πολύξεναι νεάνιδες, ἀμφίπολοι Πειθοῦς ἐν ἀφνειῷ Κορίνθῳ. In no other city of Greece do we find this institution of Hieroduli as a regular part of the worship of Aphrodite; and there can be no doubt that it was introduced into Corinth by the Phoenicians. [See above, p. 675a.] Many of the Corinthian courtezans, such as Lais, obtained such high sums as often to ruin the merchants who visited the city; whence arose the proverb (Strab. viii. p.378):-- οὐ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἐς Κόρινθον ἔσθ̓ πλοῦς:

which Horace renders (Ep. 1.17. 36):--“Non cuivis homini contingit adire Corinthum.”

So celebrated were the Corinthian courtezans, that they gave rise to many other proverbial expressions. Κορινθιάζεσθαι=μαστροπεύειν ἑταιρεῖν, Pollux, 9.6.75; Κορινθία κόρη, i. e. a courtezan, Plat. Rep. iii. p. 404d.; so Κορινθία παῖς, Poll. 10.7.25; Suidas, s. v. χοῖρος; Müller, Dor. 4.4.6.)


Of the topography of the ancient city before its destruction by Mummius we know next to nothing; but of the new city which was built by the Roman colonists, both Strabo (viii. p.379) and Pausanias (2.2, seq.) have left us an account. The following is the description of Strabo:--“A lofty mountain, called Acrocorinthus, being 3 1/2 stadia in perpendicular height and 30 stadia in the ascent by the [p. 1.679]road, ends in a sharp point. Its northern side is the steepest, under which the city lies upon a level spot in the form of a trapezium, close to the very roots of the Acrocorinthus. The city itself was 40 stadia in circumference, and was surrounded with walls wherever it was not protected by the mountain. The mountain of the Acrocorinthus also was included within the same inclosure, so far as it was able to receive a wall; and as we ascended, the remains of the line of fortifications were visible. The whole circuit of the walls amounted to about 85 stadia; On the other sides the mountain is less steep, but it is here spread out further, and presents a wide prospect. On the summit is a small temple of Aphrodite; and under the summit is the small fountain of Peirene, having no outlet, but always full of clear and drinkable water. They say that from this fountain and from some other subterraneous veins the fountain bursts forth, which is at the foot of the mountain, and which flows into the city, supplying the latter with a sufficiency of water. There is also an abundance of wells in the city; and, as it is said, in the Acrocorinthus likewise, but we did not see any. Below the Peirene is the Sisypheium, preserving considerable remains of a temple or palace built of white marble. From the summit towards the north are seen the lofty mountains of Parnassus and Helicon, covered with snow.”

Strabo's account of the Acrocorinthus is very accurate; and his estimate of the height agrees very nearly with that of the French surveyors, according to whom the perpendicular height of the mountain above the sea is 575 metres, equal to 1886 English feet, which is equal to three stadia and a tenth at 607 feet to the stadium. (Leake, Peloponnesiaca, p. 392.) All modern travellers agree that the Acrocorinthus, rising abruptly and isolated from the plain, is one of the most striking objects of its class that they had ever seen. Col. Mure observes that “neither the Acropolis of Athens, nor the Larissa of Argos, nor any of the more celebrated mountain fortresses of western Europe--not even Gibraltar--can enter into the remotest competition with this gigantic citadel. It is one of those objects more frequently, perhaps, to be met with in Greece than in any other country of Europe, of which no drawing can convey other than a very faint notion. The outline, indeed, of this colossal mass of rugged rock and green sward, interspersed here and there, but scantily, with the customary fringe of shrubs, although from a distance it enters into fine composition with the surrounding landscape, can in itself hardly be called picturesque; and the formal line of embattled Turkish or Venetian wall, which crowns the summit, does not set it off to advantage. Its vast size and height produce the greatest effect, as viewed from the seven Doric columns, standing nearly in the centre of the wilderness of rubbish and hovels that now mark the site of the city which it formerly protected.” The Acrocorinthus is well described by Livy (45.28) as, “arx in immanem altitudinem edita;” and Statius is not guilty of much exaggeration in the lines (Theb. 7.106):

qua summas caput Acrocorinthus in auras
Tollit, et alterna geminum mare protegit umbra.

The view from the Acrocorinthus comprehends “a greater number of celebrated objects than any other in Greece. Hymettus bounds the horizon to the eastward, and the Parthenon is distinctly seen at a direct distance of not much less than 50 English miles. Beyond the isthmus and bay of Lechaeum are seen all the great summits of Locris, Phocis, Boeotia, and Attica, and the two gulfs from the hill of Koryfé (Gonoessa) on the Corinthiac, to Sunium at the entrance of the Saronic gulf. To the westward the view is impeded by a great hill, which may be called the λῆμμα, or eye-sore, of the Acrocorinthus, especially with regard to modern war. Its summit is a truncated peak, which may be reached on horseback, by turning to the right of the road which leads to the Acrocorinthus, at a small distance short of the first gate.” (Leake.)

The city of Corinth lay at the northern foot of the Acrocorinthus. It did not stand in the plain, but upon a broad, level rock, which is nearly 200 feet in height above the plain, lying between it and the bay of Lechaeum. Across this plain, as we have already mentioned, ran the long walls connecting Corinth and its port-town Lechaeum.

Corinth was one of the largest cities in Greece, and was in size inferior only to Athens. According to Strabo the walls of the city were 40 stadia, and those of the city and Acrocorinthus together 85 stadia. Each of the two Long Walls connecting Corinth and Lechaeum was 12 stadia in length; and adding to these the fortification of Lechaeum, the whole circuit of the fortifications was about 120 stadia; but a considerable portion of the space thus included was probably not covered with houses. The fortifications were very strong; and so lofty and thick were the walls, that Agis, the son of Archidamus, is reported to have exclaimed upon beholding them, “What women are these that dwell in this city.” (Plut. Apophth. Lac. p. 215.) Of the population of Corinth we have no trustworthy accounts. Clinton computes the population of the whole state at about 100,000 persons, of whom he supposes 70,000 or 80,000 to have inhabited the city, and the remaining 20,000 or 30,000 to have been distributed through the country. According to a statement in Athenaeus (vi. p. 272) Corinth had 460,000 slaves; but this number is quite incredible, and ought probably to be corrected to 60,000. In that case the free population

  • A. Acrocorinthus.
  • B. Suburb Craneium.
  • C. Lechaeum.
  • 1. Agora.
  • 2. Temple of Athena Chalinitis.
  • 3. Temple of Apollo.
  • 4. Gate of Cenchreae.
  • 5. Gate of Lechaeum.
  • 6. Gate of Sicyon.
  • 7. Gate of Tenca.
  • 8. Fountain of Peirene.
  • 9. Sisypheium. [p. 1.680]

would have been about 40,000. These numbers of Clinton, however, are only conjectural, and are at the best only an approximation to the truth. (Clinton, Fasti Hell. vol. ii. p. 423, 2nd ed.)

Notwithstanding the destruction of Corinth by Mummius, some of the ancient buildings still existed at a later time. Pausanias begins his description of the city by stating that “it contained many things worthy of notice, some being the relics of the ancient city, but the greater part executed in the flourishing period afterwards” (2.2.6). He appears to have come to Corinth from Cenchreae. The road leading to the city was lined with sepulchral monuments; and on either side of the road was a grove of cypresses adorned with temples of Bellerophon and Aphrodite, the sepulchre of Lais, and many other monuments. This suburb, called CRANEION (Κράνειον), was the aristocratic quarter of the city, and the favourite place of residence of the wealthy Corinthians, like Collytus at Athens, and Pitane at Sparta (Plut. de Exsil. 6, p. 601; see ATHENAE p. 302a.) Hence it was the chief promenade of Corinth. Here Diogenes of Sinope used to bask in the sun, a striking contrast to the luxury and splendour around him; and close to the city gate his tomb was still shown even in the time of Pausanias. (Paus. 2.2.4; Alciphr. 3.60; Lucian, Quom. Hist. conscrib. 3.) Xenophon mentions the Craneium in his account of the civil dissensions of Corinth in B.C. 392, as the place where one of the parties took refuge and from thence escaped to the Acrocorinthus. (Hell. 4.4.4.)

Upon entering Corinth through the gate which probably bore the name of Cenchreae, Pausanias proceeded to the Agora, where the greatest number of temples stood. He mentions an Artemis Ephesia;--two wooden statues of Dionysus;--a temple of Tyché (Fortune);--a temple sacred to all the gods;--near the latter a fountain, issuing from a dolphin at the foot of a Poseidon in bronze;--statues of Apollo Clarius, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Zeus. In the middle of the Agora was a statue of a bronze Athena, on the basis of which were the figures of the Muses in the relief. Above the Agora was a temple of Octavia, the sister of Augustus (2.2.6--2.3.1).

From the Agora four principal streets branched off, one leading to Cenchreae, by which Pausanias entered the city, the second leading to Lechaeum, the third to Sicyon, and the fourth to the Acrocorinthus.

Pausanias next describes the monuments on the road towards Lechaeum. On leaving the Agora to go to Lechaeum a person passed through the Propylaea, on which stood two gilded chariots, one bearing Phaethon and the other the Sun. A little beyond, to the right of the road, was the fountain of Peirene. This fountain was adorned with white marble; and the water flowed from certain artificial caverns into an open receptacle. It was pleasant to drink, and was said to have contributed to the excellence of the Corinthian bronze, when it was plunged into the water red hot (2.3. § § 2, 3). Further on in his account of the Acrocorinthus, Pausanias says that a fountain rises behind the temple of Aphrodite on the summit of the mountain, and that this fountain is supposed to be the same as that of Peirene in the city, and that the water flowed underground from the former to the latter (2.5.1). This agrees with the statement of Strabo already quoted so far as relates to the rise of the Peirene in the Acrocorinthus, and its connection with the fountain in the lower city; but the two writers differ respecting the position of the latter fountain, Strabo placing it at the foot of the Acrocorinthus, and Pausanias on the road from the Agora to Lechaeum. It would thus appear that there were three sources at Corinth, all of which were at some period of time at least known by the name of Peirene. Col. Leake remarks that all the three are still observable; namely, the well in the Acrocorinthus, the rivulets which issue at the foot of that hill as described by Strabo, and the single source below the brow of the height on which the town is situated, in the position alluded to by Pausanias. The same author adds, with much probability, that “it is not difficult to imagine, that between the times of Strabo and Pausanias a change may have taken place in the application of the name Peirene in the lower city, in consequence of the water of the northern fountain having been found by experience better than that at the sources at the foot of the Acrocorinthus. The practice of the modern Corinthians gives countenance to this supposition; for they use the former fountain alone for drinking, while the water which issues from below the Acrocorinthus, instead of being thought the lightest in Greece, as Athenaeus describes that of Peirene, is considered heavy: the water is little used for drinking, and the springs are the constant resort: of women washing clothes. As the remark of Athenaeus is nearly of the same date as the description of Pausanias (ii. p. 43b.), it is fair to apply them both to the same source of water.” (Morea, vol. iii. p. 242, seq.) The grotto inclosing the fountain of Peirene upon the Acrocorinthus is described by Göttling in the Archäologische Zeitung for 1844 (p. 326, seq.). A representation of it is given in the Dict. of Ant. (p. 544, 2nd ed.)

The fountain of Peirene is frequently mentioned by the ancient writers. So celebrated was it that Corinth is called by Pindar “the city of Peirene” (ἄστυ πειράνας, Pind. O. 13.86), and the Corinthians are described in one of the oracles of the Pythia at Delphi, as “those dwelling around the beautiful Peirene” (οἱ περὶ καλὴν πειρήνην οἰκεῖτε, Hdt. 5.92). The fountain in the lower city was the favourite place of resort of the Corinthian elders, where they used to assemble to play at draughts and converse with one another (σεμνὸν ἀμφὶ πειρήνης ὕδωρ, Eur. Med. 69.) It was at the fountain of Peirene that Bellerophon is said to have caught the winged horse Pegasus, which is hence called by Euripides the Peirenaean steed, (Eurip. Electr. 475; Strab. viii. p.379.) As Pegasus was in some legends represented as the horse of the Muses, Peirene is mentioned by the Roman poets as a fountain sacred to these goddesses. (Stat. Silv. 1.4. 27; Pers. Prolog. 4.) The Roman poets frequently use the adjective Pirenis in the general sense of Corinthian. (Ov. Met. 7.391, ex Pont. 1.3. 75.)

Notwithstanding the excellence of the water of the Peirene, the inhabitants of the Roman colony were not contented with it; and the Emperor Hadrian accordingly constructed an aqueduct 20 miles in length, to bring water for them from Stymphalus. This aqueduct, as well as the native sources, supplied the public baths and fountains, which abounded in Corinth. (Paus. 2.3.5, 8.22.3.) Some remains of this aqueduct may still be seen not far from the sea, west of Corinth, near some mills upon the river Lungo-potamos. (Stauffert, in the Appendix to Forster's Bauzeitung, 1844, p. 70.)

Returning to the road leading from the agora to [p. 1.681]Lechaeum, Pausanias mentions near the Peirene a statue of Apollo; and next along the road a statue of Hermes with a ram, and statues also of Poseidon, Leucothea, and Palaemon upon a dolphin. Near the statue of Poseidon were the baths constructed by Eurycles, the Laconian, which were the most splendid in all Corinth, and were adorned with various kinds of marble, particularly with that which came from Croceae, in Laconia. Further on was the most remarkable of all the fountains in Corinth; it represented Bellerophon mounted on Pegasus, through whose hoof the water flowed (2.3. § § 3--5).

Pausanias next describes the monuments in the street leading from the Agora to Sicyon. (Comp. “Porta, quae fert Sicyonem,” Liv. 32.23.) These were, in succession, the Temple of Apollo, with a bronze statue of the god; the fountain of Glauce; the Odeium, probably the covered theatre, built by Herodes Atticus, in imitation of the one he had erected at Athens, but of smaller size (θεατρον ὑπωρόφιον, Philostr. Vit. Soph. 236, Kays.); the tomb of Medea's children; the temple of Athena Chalinitis, so called because she gave Bellerophon the bridle by which he secured Pegasus; the theatre (comp. Plut. Arat. 23; Plb. 5.27); the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; the ancient gymnasium and the fountain called Lerna, surrounded with columns and seats; and close to the gymnasium two temples sacred to Zeus and Asclepius respectively (2.3.6, 3.4. § § 1--5).

Pausanias then ascends the Acrocorinthus. In Roman Corinth no part of the Acrocorinthus appears to have been inhabited: there were only a few public buildings by the side of the road leading up to the summit. Pausanias mentions in the ascent two sacred enclosures of Isis, and two of Sarapis; altars of the Sun, and a sanctuary of Necessity and Force, which no one was allowed to enter; a temple of the Mother of the Gods, containing a pillar and a throne, both made of stone; a temple of Juno Bunasa; and upon the summit a temple of Aphrodite, to whom the whole mountain was sacred (2.4. § § 6, 7). Pausanias does not mention the Sisypheium, which Strabo describes (viii. p. 379) as situated below the Peirene. This building is mentioned by Diodorus Siculus (20.103), who says that part of the garrison of Cassander took refuge in the Acrocorinthus, and part in the Sisypheium,when Demetrius was admitted into the town by a part of the citizens. From this narrative it is clear that the Sisypheium was near the fountain issuing at the foot of the Acrocorinthus, and not near the one upon the top of the mountain: from Strabo's words above, it is not clear which of the two fountains adjoined the Sisypheium. From its name we may conclude that it was regarded as the ancient palace of the kings of the race of Sisyphus.

On descending from the Acrocorinthus, Pausanias did not go back to the lower city, but turned to the south, and quitted Corinth by the Teneatic gate, near which was a temple of Eileithyia. All the other gates.of the city led towards the sea; but this one conducted into the mountainous country in the interior. Hence it is described as the gate behind the mountain ( Τενεατικὴ πύλη, Paus. 2.5.4; αἱ μετὰ κορυφὴν πύλαι, Polyaen. 4.17.8).

Scarcely any thing remains of ancient Corinth. The most important relics are seven Doric columns on the western outskirts of the modern town. Five of these columns belonged to one of the fronts of a temple, and three (counting the angular column twice) to one of the sides of the peristyle. The diameter of the columns, 5 feet 10 inches, is greater than that of any other columns of the same order now existing in Greece. When Wheeler visited Greece in 1676, there were twelve columns standing; and the ruin was in the same state when described by Stuart 90 years afterwards. It was in its present condition when visited by Mr. Hawkins in 1795. This temple appears to have had originally six columns in front. It is conjectured by Leake to have been the temple of Athena Chalinitis. At a short distance to the northward of these seven columns, on the brow of the cliffs overlooking the plain and bay of Lechaeum, Leake remarked upon an artificial level, the foundations of a large building, and some fragments of Dcric columns, sufficient, in his opinion, to prove that in this spot there stood another of the principal edifices of Grecian Corinth. He supposes that it was a hexastyle temple, about 75 feet in breadth, and that from its dimensions and position, it was one of the chief temples of the lower city. He further conjectures that this was the temple of Apollo, which Pausanias describes as on the road to Sicyon; and that as the temple of Aphrodite was the chief sanctuary on the Acrocorinthus, so this of Apollo was the principal sacred building in the lower city. This seems to be supported by the fact mentioned by Herodotus, that in the edict issued by Periander, whoever held any converse with his son, Lycophron, was to pay a fine to Apollo. (Hdt. 3.52.)

Besides these remains of Grecian Corinth, there are ruins of two buildings of Roman Corinth. The Roman remains are:--1. A large mass of brickwork on the northern side of the bazaar of modern Corinth, perhaps a part of one of the baths built by Hadrian. 2. An amphitheatre, excavated in the rock on the eastern side of the modern town. As this amphitheatre is not noticed by Pausanias, it is possibly a work posterior to his time. The area, below is 290 feet by 190: the thickness of the remaining part of the cavea is 100 feet. At one end of the amphitheatre are the remains of a subterraneous entrance for the wild beasts, or gladiators. This, amphitheatre is apparently the place of meeting of the Corinthians, described in a passage of Dion Chrysostom, to which Leake has directed attention, (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως ἐν χαράδρᾳ τινὶ, πλῆθος μὲν δυναμένῳ δέξασθαι, τόπῳ δὲ ῥυπαρῷ ἄλλως, Or. Rhod., p. 347, Morell; Leake, Peloponnesiaca, p. 393).

The most important of the. isolated antiquities of Corinth is the περιστόμιον or mouth of an ancient well, the exterior of which is sculptured with ten figures of divinities in very low relief. This beautiful work of art, which was seen by Dodwell, Leake and others in the garden of Notará‘s house at Corinth, is now in London, in the collection of the Earl of Guildford. The subject represents the introduction of Aphrodite into Olympus. (Dodwell, Classical Tour, vol. ii. p. 200; Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 264; Welcker, Alte Denkmäler, vol. ii. p. 27.) Curtius noticed before the present government buildings a fine torso of Aphrodite. It has been asserted, but without proof, that the four bronze horses of St. Mark at Venice, came from Corinth.

Corinth is now a small town, but is extremely unhealthy in the summer and autumn in consequence of the malaria, for which it is difficult to account, as it receives the sea breezes from either side. It is called by the inhabitants Gortho, which is only a corruption of the ancient name. [p. 1.682]

Port-Towns.--LECHAEUM (τὸ Λεχαῖον, Lecheae, Plin. Nat. 4.4. s. 5; Lecheum, Stat. Silv. 4.3. 59), the port on the Corinthian gulf connected with the city by means of the Long Walls, 12 stadia in length. already mentioned. (Strab. viii. p.380; Xen. Hell. 4.4. 17) The Long Walls ran nearly due north, so that the wall on the right hand was called the eastern, and the one on the left hand the western or Sicyonian. The space between them must have been considerable; since, as we have already seen, there was sufficient space for an army to be drawn up for battle. [See above, p. 677a.] The flat country between Corinth and Lechaeum is composed only of the sand washed up by the sea; and the port must have been originally artificial (χωστὸς λίμην, Dionys.), though it was no doubt rendered both spacious and convenient by the wealthy Corinthians. The site of the port is now indicated by a lagoon, surrounded by hillocks of sand. Lechaeum was the chief station of the Corinthian ships of war; and during the occupation of Corinth by the Macedonians, it was one of the stations of the royal fleet. It was also the emporium of the traffic with the western parts of Greece, and with Italy and Sicily. The proximity of Lechaeum to Corinth prevented it from becoming an important town like Peiraeeus. The only public buildings in the place mentioned by Pausanias (2.2.3) was a temple of Poseidon, who is hence called Lechaeus by Callimachus. (Del. 271.) The temple of the Olympian Zeus was probably situated upon the low ground between Corinth and the shore of Lechaeum. (Paus. 3.9.2; Theophr. Cans. Plant. 5.14.)

CENCHREAE (Κεγχρεαί, Strab. viii. p.380; Paus. 2.2.3; Ptol. 3.16.13; Κεγχρειά, Thuc. 4.42; Κεγχρειαί, Thuc. 8.20; Κερχνίς, Callim. Del. 271; Cenchreis or Cenchris, Ov. Tr. 1.10. 9), the port of the Saronic gulf, was distant from Corinth about 70 stadia, and was the emporium of the trade with Asia. (Strab. l.c.) This port was not simply an artificial one, like that of Lechaeum. It is a bay protected by two promontories on the north and south, from which the Corinthians carried out moles, as the existing remains prove, in order to render the harbour more secure. On a Corinthian coin of Antoninus Pius (figured below) the port of Cenchreae is represented as inclosed between two promontories, on each of which stands a temple, and between them at the entrance of the harbour a statue of Poseidon, holding a trident in one hand and a dolphin in the other. This agrees with the description of Pausanias, from whom we learn that the brazen Poseidon stood upon a rock in the sea, that to the right of the entrance was the temple of Aphrodite, and to the left, in the direction of the warm springs,


On the obverse the lead of Antoninus Pius: on the reverse the port of Cenchreae. The letters C.L.I. COR. stand for COLONIA LAYS IVLIA CORINTHVS: see above, p. 678a.) were the sanctuaries of Asclepius and of Isis. (Paus. 2.2.3, in which passage instead of ῥεύματι, we ought either to adopt Leake's emendation, ἕρματι, or else χάματι.

Cenchreae is mentioned in the history of St. Paul (Act. Apost. 18.18; Ep. ad Rom. 16.1.) It is now deserted, but it retains its name in the form Kekhriés. The ancient town, stood upon the slopes of the hill above the town, as the numerous remains of its foundations prove. Between this hill and the heights to the right and the left there were two small plains, through one of which ran the road leading to Schoenus, and through the other the road leading to Corinth.


A. Site of the town.

a a. Road to Corinth.

b b. Road to Schoenus.

Pausanias mentions (l.c.) certain luke-warm salt-springs, flowing from a rock into the sea over against Cenchreae, and called the bath of Helen. They are found about a mile SW. of Cenchreae, on the west promontory. They rise at a sufficient distance and height from the sea to turn a mill in their passage.

The road from Cenchreae to Corinth ran in a southwesterly direction through a narrow valley, shut in by two ranges of mountains, which almost served the purpose of long walls. On the left hand were the high ranges of the Oneian mountains; on the right the continuation of the heights on which Cenchreae stood.


The most important part of the territory of Corinth was the Isthmus, both as the place across which merchandise was carried from the eastern to the western sea, and more especially as hallowed by the celebration of the Isthmian games. The word Isthmus (Ἰσθμός) probably comes from the root ι, which appears in ἰ-έναι “to go,” and the Latin i-re, and hence originally meant a passage. From being the proper name of this spot, it came to be applied to the neck of any peninsula. The situation of the Isthmus, a stony plain lying between the mountain barriers of the Geraneia on the north and the Oneia on the south, has been already described. [See above, p. 674.] The word was used both in a wider and a narrower signification. In its wider use it indicated the whole land lying between the two gulfs, and hence Corinth is said to have been situated on the Isthmus (Κόρινθος ἐπὶ τῷ Ἰσθμῷ [p. 1.683]κείμενος, Strab. viii. p.380; Corinthum in Isthimo condidit, Vell. 1.3): in its more restricted sense it was applied to the narrowest part of the Isthmus, and especially to the neighbourhood of the Poseideium and the locality of the Isthmian games τὴν εἰς Κεγχρέας λόντων ἐξ Ἰσθμοῦ, Paus. 2.2.3; τὰ Ἰσθμοῖ δγάλματα,, Philostr. Vit, Her. 5.) Most of the Greek writers make the breadth of the Isthmus 40 stadia.. (Strab. viii. p.335; Diod. 11.16; Scylax, p. 15.) Pliny states it as 5 miles (4.4. s. 5), and Mela 4 miles (2.3). The last statement is the most correct, the real breadth being about 3 1/2 English miles in direct distance. In the Byzantine time it was called τὸ ἑξαμίλιον, the name which the village on the Isthmus still bears, and which was also given to the Isthmus of Mount Athos.

The only town on the Isthmus in ancient times was SCHOENUS on the Saronic gulf. ( Σχοινοῦς, viii. p. 380; Portus Schoenitas, Mel. 2.3.) Situated at the narrowest part of the Isthmus, it was the port of the Isthmian sanctuary, and the place at which goods, not intended for the Corinthian market, were transported across the Isthmus by means of the Diolcos. This harbour, which is now called Kalamáki, is exposed to the east and south-east: the site of the town is indicated by a few fragments of Doric columns.

The Isthmian sanctuary lies rather less than a mile south-east of Schoenus. It was a level spot, of an irregular quadrangular form, containing the temple of Poseidon and other sanctuaries, and was surrounded on all tides by a strong wall, which can still be clearly traced. The northern and north-eastern parts of the enclosure were protected by the wall, which extended across the Isthmus, and of which we shall speak presently. On the other sides it was shut in by its own walls, which are in some cases more than 12 feet thick. The enclosure is about 640 feet in length; but its breadth varies, being about 600 feet broad on the north and northeast, but only 300 feet broad at its southern end. Its form, as well as the way in which it was connected with the Isthmic wall, is shown in the annexed plan copied from Curtius, which is taken with a slight improvement from Leake. The interior of the enclosure is a heap of ruins, which in consequence of earthquakes and other devastating causes have been so mixed, that it is impossible without extensive excavations to discover the ground-plan of the different buildings.


A. The Sanctuary.

B. The Stadium.

C. The Theatre.

a a. Road to Schoenus.

Pausanias's account of the Isthmian sanctuary is unusually brief and unsatisfactory (2.1). He came to it from the port. Towards his left he saw the stadium and theatre, both constructed of white marble, of which there are still some vestiges. Both lay outside the sacred enclosure, the stadium towards the south, and the theatre towards the west, Here the Isthmian games were celebrated; and these buildings were connected with the sacred enclosure by a grove of pine trees. (Strab. viii. p.380.) The main gate of the sanctuary appears to have been in the eastern wall, through which Pausanias entered. The road leading from this gate to the temple of Poseidon, was lined on one side by the statues of conquerors in the Isthmian games, and on the other side by a row of pine trees. Upon the temple, which was not large, stood Tritons, probably serving as weather-cocks, like the Triton on the Horologium of Andronicus Cyrrhestes at Athens. In the pronaus Pausanias saw two statues of Poseidon, and by their side statues of Amphitrite and Thalassa. The principal ornament of the cella was a magnificent gift of Herodes Atticus, consisting of four gilded horses with ivory hoofs, drawing the chariot of Poseidon, Amphitrite and Palaemon. The chariot rested upon a base, on which were represented in bas-relief Thalassa with her child Aphrodite in the centre, while on either side were the Nereids. The fragments of Doric columns found within the enclosure may be assigned to this temple. Leake measured the end of the fluting of one of these shafts, and found it ten inches and a half.

Within the sacred enclosure, to the west, was the Palaemonion, consisting of two sanctuaries, one above ground, containing statues of Poseidon, Leucothea, and Palaemon; and a subterraneous adytum, where Palaemon was said to have been buried. This adytum was the most sacred spot in the Isthmus, since the festival was originally in honour of Palaemon. Poseidon was subsequently substituted for this local divinity as the patron god of the festival; but Palaemon continued to receive special honour, and in his adytum the most sacred oaths were sworn. Pausanias also mentions an ancient sanctuary, called the altar of the Cyclopes. Sisyphus and Neleus were said to have been buried here, but the site of their graves was unknown.

These are all the buildings in the Isthmic sanctuary mentioned by Pausanias; but we learn, from an inscription discovered by Wheeler in 1676, and now preserved at Verona, that there were several other buildings besides. (See the inscription in Böckh, Corp. Inscr. n. 1104.) It contains a list of the Isthmian edifices erected by Publius Licinius Priscus Juventianus, high priest for life at Roman Corinth. “He built lodgings for the athletae, who came to the Isthmian games from the whole world. He erected, at his own expense, the Palaemonium, with its decorations;--the ἐναγιστήριον, probably the subterraneous adytum, spoken of by Pausanias;--the sacred avenue;--the altars of the native gods, with the peribolus and the pronaos (perhaps the sanctuary containing the altars of the Cyclopes);--the houses in which the athletae were examined;--the temple of Helios, together with the statue and peribolus;--moreover, the peribolus of the Sacred Grove, and within it temples of Demeter, Core, Dionysus and Artemis, with their statues, decorations and pronai. He repaired the temples of Eueteria, of Core, of Pluto, and the steps and terrace-walls, which had fallen into decay by earthquakes [p. 1.684]and antiquity He also decorated the portico at the Stadium, with the arched apartments and the decorations belonging to them.”

It has been already mentioned that the northern portion of the walls which surrounded the Isthmic sanctuary belonged to a line of fortification, which extended at one period across the Isthmus. This wall may still be traced in its whole extent across the narrowest part of the Isthmus, beginning at the bay of Lechaeum and terminating at the bay of Schoenus. It was fortified with square towers on its northern side in the direction of Megaris, showing that it was intended for the defence of Peloponnesus against attacks from the north. It was not built in a straight line, but followed the crest of a range of low hills, the last falls of the Oneian mountains. The length of the wall, according to Boblaye, is 7300 mètres, while the breadth of the Isthmus at its narrowest part is only 5950 mètres. At what period this wall was erected, is uncertain. The first Isthmian wall, mentioned in history, was the one thrown up in haste by the Peloponnesians when Xerxes was marching into Greece. (Hdt. 8.71; Diod. 11.66.) But this was a work of haste, and could not have been the same as the massive walls, of which the remains are extant. Moreover, it is evident from the military operations in the Corinthia, recorded by Thucydides and Xenophon, that in their time the Isthmus was not defended by a line of fortifications: the difficulties of an invading army always begin with the passes through the Oneian mountains. Diodorus (15.68) speaks of a temporary line of fortifications, consisting of palisades and trenches, which were thrown across the Isthmus by the Spartans and their allies, to prevent the Thebans from marching into Peloponnesus (B.C. 369), from which it clearly appears that there was no permanent wall. Moreover, Xenophon (Xenoph. Hell. 7.1.15, seq.) does not even mention the palisading and trenches, but places the Lacedaemonians and their allies upon the Oneian mountains. It is not till we come to the period of the decline of the Roman empire, that we find mention of the Isthmian wall. It was then regarded as an important defence against the invasions of the barbarians. Hence, it was restored by Valerian in the middle of the third century (Zosim. 1.29), by Justinian towards the end of the sixth (Procop. de Aedif. 4.2), by the Greeks against the Turks in 1415, and after it had been destroyed by the Turks it was rebuilt by the Venetians in 1463. It was a second time destroyed by the Turks; and by the treaty of Carlowitz, in 1699, the remains of the old walls were made the boundary line between the territories of the Turks and Venetians.

The Isthmian wall formed with the passes of the Geraneian and with those of the Oneian mountains three distinct lines of defence, which are enumerated in the following passage of Claudian (de Bell. Get. 188):--

Vallata mari Scironia rupes,
Et duo continuo connectens aequora muro
Isthmus, et angusti patuerunt claustra Lechaei.

A short distance north of the Isthmian wall, where the ground was the most level, was the Diolcos (δίολκος, Strab. viii. p.335). It was a level road, upon which smaller vessels were drawn by moving rollers from one sea to the other. The cargoes of those ships, which were too large for this mode of transport, were unloaded, carried across, and put on board other vessels upon the opposite coast Hence we find the expressions διϊσθμεῖν τὰς ναῦς, ὑπερισθμεῖν (Pol. 4.19), ὑπερφέρειν (Thus. 8.7), διελκύειν (Diod. 4.56). In some seasons of the year there was an uninterrupted traffic upon the Diolcos, to which allusion is made in one of the jokes of Aristophanes (Aristoph. Thes. 647).

The narrow breadth of the Isthmus, and the important traffic across it, frequently suggested the idea of cutting a canal through it. This project is said to have been formed by Periander (D. L. 1.99), Demetrius Poliorcetes (Strab. i. p.54), Julius Caesar (D. C. 44.5; Suet. Jul. 44; Plut. Caes. 58), Caligula (Suet. Calig. 21), Nero, and Herodes Atticus (Philostr. Vit. Soph. 2.6). But the only one who actually commenced the work was Nero. This emperor opened the undertaking with great pomp, and cut out part of the earth with his own hands; but the work had advanced only four stadia, when he was obliged to give it up, in consequence of the insurrection of Julius Vindex in Gaul. (D. C. 65.16; Suet. Nero 19; Paus. 2.1.5; Plin. Nat. 4.4. s. 5; Lucian, de Fossa Isthmi.) The canal was commenced upon the western shore close to the Diolcos, and traces of it may still be seen at right angled to the shore. It has now little depth; but it is 200 feet wide, and may be traced for about 1200 yards. It ceased where the rocky ground begins to rise; for even the Isthmus is not a perfect level, but rises gradually from either shore, and steeper from the eastern than the western side. Curtius says that the highest point is 246 feet above. the level of the sea. The existing remains of the canal leave no doubt respecting its position; but since it was said by some authorities to commence ἀπὸ τοῦ Λεχαίου, Chandler erroneously concluded that it commenced at the port of Lechaeum. Leake, however, has shown that the bay of the Corinthian gulf at the Isthmus bore the name of Lechaeum, and that we are to understand the bay, and not the port, in the passages referred to.


The territory of Corinth extended some distance to the north and south of the Isthmus. At an earlier period the boundary line between the Corinthia and Megaris commenced at Crommyon; but at a later time the Corinthia extended as far as the Scironian rocks and the other passes of the Geraneia. South of the Isthmus Corinth possessed the part of the Peloponnesus extending as far as the northern slopes of the Argive mountains, and along the coast of the Saronic gulf as far as the territory of Epidaurus. The direct distances in English miles, from the city of Corinth to its frontiers, as measured by Clinton, are: to the river Nemea, which divided Corinthia from Sicyonia, 7 1/2 miles; to the confines of Epidauria, 13 1/2 miles; to the confines of Megaris, 12 miles. Corinth was only 8 1/2 miles from Cleonae, which stood beyond the Corinthian frontiers towards Argos. In the time of the Roman empire the Corinthia was included under Argolis ( Κορινθία χώρα μοῖρα οὖσα τῆς Ἀργείας, Paus. 2.1.1).

South of Cenchreae the Oneium runs out into the Saronic gulf, forming a promontory called Chersonesus. Between this promontory and a spot called Rheitus or the stream is a bay with a flat shore, where the Athenians under Nicias landed in B.C. 425, intending to take possession of the mountain called SOLYGEIUS (Σολύγειος), which had been Formerly seized by the Dorian invaders for the purpose [p. 1.685]of carrying on war against the then inhabitants of Corinth. This hill is described by Thucydides as distant 12 stadia from the shore, 60 from Corinth, and 20 from the Isthmus; and upon it there stood the village of SOLYGEIA (Σολύγεια). The sepulchres between Mertési and Galatáki probably belonged to Solygeia. It was here that a very ancient vase was found, which Dodwell procured at Corinth. (Classical Tour, vol. ii. p. 197.) The attempt of Nicias failed. The Corinthians, having received information of the Athenian movements, stationed a body of troops at Cenchreae, lest the Athenians should endeavour to seize the port of Crommyon, outside of the Isthmus, and with the remainder of their army occupied Solygeia. A battle took place in the broken ground between the village and the sea, in which the Athenians gained the victory. The Corinthian detachment at Cenchreae, who could not see the battle in consequence of the interposition of the ridge of Oneium, marched to the scene of action as soon as the dust of the fugitives informed them of what was taking place; and as other reinforcements were also approaching, Nicias thought it more prudent to re-embark his men, and sailed away to the neighbouring islands. (Thuc. 4.42, foll.; Σολύγης λόφος, Polyaen. 1.39; and the map of the scene of action in the 2nd volume of Arnold's Thucydides.)

Beyond Solygeius, to the SE., was a harbour, called PEIRAEUS (Πειραιός), which is described by Thucydides as uninhabited, and the last port towards the confines of Epidaurus. In this harbour some Peloponnesian ships, which had fled hither for refuge, were kept blockaded by an Athenian fleet during a great part of the summer of B.C. 412. The Athenian fleet took up their station at a small island opposite the entrance of the harbour. (Thuc. 8.10, 11.) Peiraeus is the harbour now called Frango-Limióna or Porto Franco; and the small island alluded to bears the name of Ovrio-nísi, or Ovrió--kastro, Jews-Castle. Ptolemy (3.16.12) gives the following list of places on this part of the coast:--Ἐπίδαυρος, Σπείραιον ἄκρον, Ἀθηναίων λιμήν, Βουκέφαλος λιμήν, Κεγχρεαὶ ἐπίνειον. In Pliny (4.4. s. 5) we find “Spiraeum promontorium, portus Anthedus et Bucephalus et Cenchreae.” Both Ptolemy and Pliny omit the harbour Peiraeus; but the promontory Speiraeum is probably the same name. Miller indeed proposed to read Speiraeus instead of Peiraeus in Thucydides; but this is hardly admissible, since Stephanus B. (s. v. Πειραῖος) read Peiraeus.

South of Corinth, on the northern slopes of the Argive mountains, lay Tenea, at the distance of 60 stadia from the capital [TENEA]; and in the same mountainous district we may perhaps place PETRA the residence of Eetion, the father of Cypselus. (Hdt. 5.92.)

The Corinthian territory, north of the Isthmus, may be divided into two parts, the eastern half consisting of a series of small plains between the Geraneian mountains sloping down to the Saronic Gulf, while the western half is composed of a mass of mountains, running out into the Corinthian Gulf, in the form of a quadrangular peninsula. The north-eastern point of this peninsula was called the promontory OLMIAE (Ὄλμιαι, Strab. viii. p.380, x. p. 409), which lay opposite Creusis, the port of Thespiae, in Boeotia, and formed along with the latter the entrance to the bay called Alcyonis. The south-western point of the peninsula was the promontory HERAEUM (now C. St. Nikolaos or Melankávi) of which we shall speak further presently, and which along with thle opposite Sicyonian coast formed the entrance to the bay of Lechaeum.

This district bore the general name of PERAEA (Περαία, Steph. B. sub voce or the country beyond the Isthmus. The possession of it was of great importance to the Corinthians, who obtained from its mountains a supply of timber, and found here pasturage for their cattle, when the grass in the plains was burnt up. Moreover, the shortest road to Boeotia and Phocis ran across this mountainous district. The chief place in this district was PEIRAEUM (Πείραιον, Xen. Hell. 4.5. 1, Ages. 2.18), now called Perachóra, lying inland between the promontories Heraeum and Olmiae, and not to be confounded with the above-mentioned port of Peiraeus on the Saronic Gulf. Peiraeum was a strong fortress, and formed one of a chain of fortresses, intended to secure this part of the country from the attacks of the Megarians and Athenians. To the east of Peiraeum, and near the Alcyonian Gulf, was the fortress OENOE (Xen. Hell. 4.5. 5; Strab. viii. p.380, x. p. 409), the site of which is marked by a quadrangular tower above the harbour of Skino The third fortress stood on the promontory at the western corner of the peninsula, which was called the HERAEUM from its being the site of the temple and oracle of HERA ACRAEA (Strab. viii. p.380; Xen. Hell. 4.5. 5; Plut. Cleom. 20; Liv. 32.23.) The fortress consisted of the temple itself, which stood upon the extremity of the promontory, and was surrounded with strong walls, of which the remains are still extant. A little way inland is a chapel of St. Nikolaos, also surrounded with walls, and probably the site of an ancient sanctuary: perhaps it was a temple of Poseidon, who is frequently represented by St. Nikolaos.

The geography of the Peraea is illustrated by the campaign of Agesilaus in B.C. 390, when he took Peiraeum, Oenoe and the Heraeum. (Xen. Hell. 4.5. 1, seq., Ages. 2.18.) Xenophon, in his account of this campaign, mentions certain THERMA (τὰ Θερμὰ) or warm springs, situated on the road to Peiraeum by the bay of Lechaeum (Hell. 4.5. § § 3, 8). These warm springs are still visible at the small village and port of Lutráki, which derives its name from them. They are situated close to the sea at the foot of the mountain of Peiraeum, where the level ground of the Isthmus ends and the mountains of the Peraean peninsula begin. (Ulrichs, Reisen in Griechenland, p. 3.) The lake near the Heraeum, on the banks of which Agesilaus was seated, when he received the news of the destruction of the Lacedaemonian mora by Iphicrates (Xen. Hell. 4.5. 6 seq.), is now called Vuliasméni. It is a salt lake surrounded by mountains, except on the side open to the sea; and it is conjectured by Curtius, with great probability, to be the same as the lake ESCHATIOTIS (Ἐσχατιῶτις λίμνη). Gorgo, the daughter of Megareus and wife of Corinthus, is said to have plunged into this lake upon receiving intelligence of the murder of her children, in consequence of which it received the name of Gorgopis. (Etym. M. s. v. Ἐσχατιῶτις; Phavorin. Ecl. p. 209, Dind.; Aesch. Ag. 302.)

Towards the Saronic gulf the Geraneian mountains are not nearly so lofty and rugged as in the Peraea. Between the flat ground of the Isthmus and the Scironian rocks there are three plains upon the coast. The chief town in this district was Crommyon [CROMMYON], and the name Crommyonia was sometimes [p. 1.686]given to the whole country between Megara and Schoenus. Between Crommyon and Schoenus was the village of Sidus. [SIDUS] To the east of Crommyon, at the western extremity of the Scironian rocks, was a temple of Apollo Latous, which marked the boundaries of the Corinthia and Megaris in the time of Pausanias (1.44.10). This temple must have been near the modern village of Kinéta, a little above which the road leads over the Scironian rocks to Megara. [MEGARA]

The best modern authorities on the topography of Corinth and its territory are Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 229, foll., Peloponnesiaca, p. 392; Boblaye, Recherches, &c., p. 33, seq.; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 514, seq.


1 Strabo in this passage confounds the Oneia with the Geraneia, and erroneously represents the former as extending as far as Boeotia and Cithaeron. (Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. i. p. 25.)

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