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CORINTH (Korinthos) Corinthia, Greece.

On the S coast of the Gulf of Corinth, some 9 km W of the Isthmus of Corinth. Principal city of the region, whose territory extended W to the river Nemea (adjacent to the territory of Sikyon), E across the Isthmus to Krommyon (modern Haghioi Theodoroi), and S to an uncertain line in the mountains bordering on the lands of Mycenae and Epidauros; due N of the city, across the SE bay of the Gulf, the peninsula of Peraion (modern Perachora) with its Sanctuaries of Hera was also under Corinthian control. The ancient city lay on the slopes of its fortified acropolis (Akrokorinthos), some 3.5 km from the shore and from the harbor town of Lechnion, which served the maritime traffic to and from the West. A second harbor town, Kenchreai, 10 km distant toward the SE on the shore of the Saronic Gulf, enabled Corinth to enjoy also the benefits of trade with the East. A stone-paved portage road, built across the narrowest part of the Isthmus in the 6th c. B.C., made it possible to transport whole ships (with their cargos?) between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.

Human occupation of the late Neolithic period is found at various mounds lying W, N, and E of the Classical city; on the hill of Korakou, near the shore at Lechaion, appear extensive remains of domestic habitation of all three phases of the Bronze Age. Within the area of the Classical city there is evidence of almost uninterrupted occupation from the Late Neolithic period through the Bronze and the Early Iron Age; but no significant architectural remains of those periods have yet appeared.

The earliest architectural monument is to be associated with the Bacchiad kings. About 700 B.C. a primitive temple (middle or 3d quarter of 7th c.) was built on the so-called Temple Hill which dominates the center of the city. Its walls were of small limestone blocks from ground to eaves; the roof, hipped at one end, was covered with the earliest known Corinthian terracotta tiles. There was probably no peristyle. This temple was destroyed ca. 580 B.C., possibly in the violence attending the fall of the tyranny and the establishment of the oligarchy which was to control Corinth for the next four centuries. The temple, sacred probably to Apollo Pythios, was replaced ca. 560-540 B.C. by a larger, peripteral (6 x 15) temple of limestone; only seven columns survive in situ. The cella of the temple is divided: the smaller, W chamber contained a basis probably used for a chryselephantine or bronze image of Apollo of the 5th-4th c.; the more ancient image of Apollo (xoanon or sanis) would have been located in the larger, E chamber; a tank for holy water was located beneath the floor of the pronaos (cf. the Temple of Apollo Pythios at Gortyn in Crete).

With the construction of the second temple the Temenos of Apollo was enlarged to the N and a ramp or stairway led from the lower ground at the N up through the temenos wall to the sanctuary. SE of the temple another stair led down to the area of a shrine (Athena Hellotis?) with semicircular mudbrick altar, a sacred spring, an apsidal building (of oracular function), and a racecourse. From there a road led N past the Fountainhouse of Peirene (the city's main public water supply) toward the sea and the harbor town of Lechaion. Immediately N of Peirene was a shrine, possibly of Artemis. A small Doric temple (A; distyle in antis) of the 5th c. B.C. was replaced in the 4th c. by a tetrastyle baldachino (covering a cult image?); at the same time the circular altar of the sanctuary was also covered with a baldachino. Beyond this shrine to the N lay a cleaning and dyeing works, with vats and concrete drying floors. Across the street to the W of Temple A lay a commercial building, a stoa of the 5th c., possibly a fish market. To the N of the archaic Temple of Apollo Pythios a stoa and a hot bath were constructed in the 5th c.; W of the temple a public road led NW toward Sikyon. Thus at a relatively early date constructions of civic and secular use encroached upon the great temple on the W, N, and E; to the S lay the Sanctuary of Athena Hellotis and the racecourse. The location of the civic center or agora of Greek times is by no means certain, though scholars have long tended to place it S of Temple Hill, on the site of the Roman forum. It is not clear just what civic buildings were required for the processes of the oligarchic government of Greek Corinth or what open meeting places (if any) were used by its popular assembly. A public archives must have existed for the preservation of documents on papyrus or parchment (the Corinthians appear not to have recorded public documents on stone, probably because of the lack of local marble quarries to supply a material suitable for the inscribing of long texts). None of the Greek buildings so far excavated can be associated with specifically civic functions.

During the 5th and 4th c. the irregular terrain dominated by the sacred spring and oracular building was gradually filled in until a broad floor, rising slightly toward the S, covered the whole valley that lay to the S of Temple Hill. At the S limit of this valley, a large stoa of the Doric order (165 m long) was built toward the end of the 4th c. This S Stoa consisted of a single order on the N facade; but in the rear half of the interior the 33 two-room shops were covered by as many rooms on a mezzanine level. Each of the ground-floor shops but two was provided with a well; many of these shops apparently served as establishments for eating and drinking. Broneer believes the building was constructed by Philip II after the battle of Chaironeia in order to provide food and accommodations for the delegates of the various Greek states to the meetings in Corinth of the Hellenic League which Philip founded. For the construction of the S Stoa there were sacrificed several private houses of the 5th c. and two shrines, one of Aphrodite and the other probably for a hero cult, connected with the sacred races run on the nearby racecourse.

Towards the end of the 4th c. the racecourse was redesigned, its orientation changed so as to create a wider open area N of the S Stoa. At the W end of this open area, and on a rock ledge rising about 7 m above the racecourse level, lay an old shrine, perhaps rebuilt at this time and certainly enclosed now by a large peribolos measuring about 93 x 130 m. In Roman times this temple was replaced by the heavy rubble-concrete basement of a podium temple (E) which completely obscures the Greek or Hellenistic construction.

By 300 B.C. the valley S of Temple Hill had acquired the form it was to retain until the Roman sack in 146. Meanwhile other areas of the ancient city had been developed. The fortifications of Corinth may go back in part to the 6th c.; by the 4th c. they had reached their maximum extent, enclosing an area two and one-half times as great as that of Classical Athens. From the fortress of Akrokorinthos at the S, walls extended N to enclose the city; the N city wall lay along the top of a rock ledge, which gave strategic advantage to the defenses. From the N wall two long walls (patterned after those of 5th c. Athens) extended to the sea and enclosed the harbor town of Lechaion. Within the main city enclosure were not only public buildings and residential structures, but also extensive farming and grazing lands. Cemeteries (burials of Geometric to Hellenistic times) occur at several points within the city. These are for the most part small; the largest cemeteries were outside the walls at the N and E.

The athletes who competed in the sacred contests on the racecourse in the center of the city had at their disposal one gymnasium (frequented in the 4th c. by Diogenes the Cynic) located in the suburb of Kraneion to the SE and another at the N, referred to by Pausanias as the “ancient gymnasium.” Recent excavations on the supposed site of the latter have revealed only the constructions of the gymnasium of Roman times. Between that and the N city wall there had existed, as early as the 6th c. B.C., a Sanctuary of Apollo; in the 4th c. Asklepios took over this shrine, where a temple was constructed on a rock terrace; at a lower level to the W a colonnaded court with fitted banquet rooms and abundant water supply served the physical needs of the worshipers. Some distance to the W lay a Sanctuary of Zeus; the exact site is not yet identified, but architectural fragments from the shrine indicate a late archaic Doric temple, greater in size than any other at Corinth (or in the entire Peloponnesos). A road connected the gymnasium and Asklepieion area with the center of the city further S. Adjacent to the W side of this road lay a theater. The stone seats and stairways of the cavea (capacity ca. 15,000) and the earliest (wooden) skene were laid out at the end of the 5th or in the early 4th c. B.C.; the skene was rebuilt in stone about a century later.

Pausanias records many small sanctuaries lying beyond the center of the city; some of these clearly had their origins in Greek times. The important cult of Aphrodite had its center in a shrine on Akrokorinthos; the architectural remains are meager, but the sanctuary appears to have originated at least in the period of the tyrants. Recent excavations have brought to light one of the ten sanctuaries which Pausanias noted on the road leading up to Akrokorinthos—the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. A small, popular rather than civic, shrine, it was founded in the early 7th c. B.C. It is marked by no distinctive temple building but has an open-air meeting place (seats cut as steps in the rock); a stoa below at the N perhaps constituted a skene. Several dining rooms with couches point to communal religious banquets. Extremely fine examples of terracotta sculpture of the 6th through the 3d c. have been found here. To the NW of the city, on the ancient road just outside the Sikyonian Gate, has appeared a stela-shrine where hundreds of votive terracotta figurines of the 5th and 4th c. were offered (by travelers?); many of the figurines represent groups of women dancing about a central figure of a flute player.

Residential buildings always crowded close to the civic and commercial buildings of the city. Private houses lay near the central area at E and S. East of the theater, just across the road that connected the center with the gymnasium, lie the remains of a private house with an early and unusual pebble-mosaic floor. Further W other houses of the 5th and 4th c. and of Hellenistic times are known to exist, but all have been damaged by Roman or later rebuilding and no complete Greek house plan has yet been exposed in Corinth. Ancient sources record that the suburb of Kraneion, lying to the SE of the civic center, on a hillock between the Kenchreai and Argos gates, was marked by a grove of cypresses and by luxurious residences: no excavations have been carried out here.

The Corinthians of Greek and Roman times have left many monuments of their understanding of hydraulic engineering. Rain water, penetrating the porous upper limestone beds, was trapped (at levels varying from 2 to 30 m below the surface) by the lower, impervious clay deposit. This water made its appearance naturally at many points where a vertical rock scarp exposed both the upper limestone and the lower clay. The Fountain of Peirene near the center of the city is the best example of this type of supply; another is the so-called Baths of Aphrodite below the N city wall E of the Asklepieion. At both these points tunnels dug back into the clay, just below the overlying limestone, served to augment the water supply and to draw it forward to the rock scarp. The tunnels dug for the Peirene system extend S, SE, and SW in a network well over a km in length. Manholes dug at varying distances from one another served for the initial tunnel construction and subsequently as a means of drawing water for public and private use. The Peirene tunnels may have been initiated in the period of the tyrants. From a natural water source at the foot of Akrokorinthos a tunnel, excavated in the late 5th c. or earlier, carried water NW to serve private houses, farmsteads, and small industries (a pottery?), and to provide water for irrigation. The tunnel of this system has been investigated over a length of more than 1 km. Here the manholes were dug generally at intervals of ca. 60 m. Other similar tunnels are known to have existed in the ancient city but have not yet been explored.

Cisterns of many forms were used by the Corinthians: large chambers dug into the rock (one, excavated in 1962, had a storage capacity of ca. 245,000 liters); long, narrow, rock-cut tunnels connecting two or three manholes (one such tunnel cistern had a capacity of ca. 100,000 liters); a series of tunnels intersecting in a pattern not unlike that of the so-called Hippodamian city plan; small bottle-shaped cisterns dug in rock near the surface of the ground (this type, common in Athens, is infrequent in Corinth). Although many of these cisterns and tunnels were in use in Roman times, it seems almost certain that most represent engineering feats of the Greek period. They are generally coated with a fine, creamy-yellow hydraulic cement which is typical of Greek times. Throughout the city, wells (independent of cisterns and tunnels) provided water to individual private and public buildings; the earliest so far excavated is of the Late Geometric period.

The public water supply of the center of the city was provided by the Fountain of Peirene, to the E of the archaic Temple of Apollo, and by the Fountain of Glauke, W of the same temple. Glauke consisted of a series of three storage chambers cut into the rock of the W extension of Temple Hill; the N slope of the hill provided access to an architectural facade, cut from the living rock, just in front of the storage chambers. Water was brought to the chambers in terracotta pipes from some source lying far away to the S. Another and important water supply existed on Akrokorinthos, where a natural spring welled up among the rocks. This was doubtless in use in the time of the tyrants; in the Hellenistic period the collecting basin was covered by a concrete vault, which survives today.

The building material of Greek Corinth was almost exclusively native limestone (poros). Marble, of which there was no local source, was used very rarely in Greek times, though Roman builders employed it extensively from the 1st c. A.D. Limestone was obtained from quarries some 4 km to the E of Corinth or even from the rock outcrops within the city itself. Quarrying of the W extension of Temple Hill (begun at least as early as the 4th c. B.C. and terminated in early Roman times) eventually isolated the Fountain of Glauke from the hillside of which it had been an integral part and left the monument, as it stands today, a lonely cube of living rock rising about 6 m above the surrounding terrain.

In 146 B.C. a Roman army, led by the consul L. Mummius (Achaicus), sacked Corinth, then the leading city of the Achaian League. All the citizens were killed or enslaved; the buildings, to a large extent, demolished. The site lay waste for a century; such land as was not turned over to the people of Sikyon was declared ager publicus. In 44 B.C., on the initiative of Julius Caesar, a Roman colony (Laus Julia Corinthiensis) was established at Corinth. The purpose of the foundation was in part commercial, in part political—Corinth became the administrative center of the senatorial province of Achaia.

In the first quarter of the 1st c. A.D. an extensive building program was begun. The designers made use of some Greek structures whose ruins were substantial enough to permit repair (the Temple of Apollo Pythios, S Stoa, Fountains of Peirene and Glauke, theater, Asklepieion), but otherwise they created a Roman city. Within 75 years of the foundation of the colony the plan of the new city was well established. A Roman arch (ornamental rather than triumphal) marked the S end of the stone-paved road from Lechaion, where it entered the forum. Adjacent to the arch at the W a basilica was constructed, with shops in the basement level opening out onto Lechaion Road. Two other basilicas, almost identical with one another in plan and elevation, were built at the E end and on the S side of the forum; a third similar structure apparently existed at the W. The S basilica was entered through the reconstructed S Stoa, into which were now incorporated also a horseshoe-shaped meeting room for the members of the local senate and several large administrative rooms. A row of one-story shops extending E-W through the center of the forum area was interrupted at its midpoint by a speakers' platform designated “rostra” (inscription of 2d c. A.D.) or “bēma” (Nov. Test., Act. Ap. xviii.12). All these structures served the administrative needs of the colony itself and of the provincial governor and his considerable staff. A rectangular structure built in the early 1st c. A.D. in the SE corner of the forum has been identified tentatively as the tabularium.

Across the W end of the forum, in front of and below the peribolos of temple E (see supra), were built six small podium temples and a circular monopteros (the last, dedicated by Gn. Babbius Philinus before the middle of the 1st c., perhaps housed a statue of Aphrodite). This architectural complex, developed between the years A.D. 35 and 190, included a pantheon and Temples of Venus-Fortuna, Herakles, and the emperor Commodus. Between the NW corner of the forum and the Fountain of Glauke a Temple of Hera Akraia (?) with peribolos was built during the 1st c.

North of Peirene the Greek Shrine of Artemis was replaced in early Roman times by a peribolos, sacred to Apollo but apparently serving as a place of meeting and of business for those engaged in shipping; a row of shops separated the peribolos from the colonnaded sidewalk of Lechaion Road to the W. The N flank of Temple Hill was quarried away in the early 1st c. to create space for a large quadrangular marketplace enclosed on all sides by colonnades. Another commercial structure, of like width, opened onto the W side of Lechaion Road.

Roman Corinth boasted at least three great public baths. The thermae built by Eurykles in the late 1st or early 2d c. are probably to be identified with the ruins just N of the Peribolos of Apollo. Another great bath is being excavated at a point some 200 m N of the forum (its ground area may surpass 10,000 sq. m); it is probably the Thermae of Hadrian mentioned by Pausanias. The third large bath is located due N of the theater. At least four other small public baths of the later Roman period are known within the city.

For the entertainment of the populace the Romans rebuilt the Greek theater, constructing a typical Roman scenae frons. In later times the orchestra was redesigned for use as an arena and even for aquatic performances. A smaller odeum was constructed in the 1st c. A.D. S of the theater; a colonnaded court of trapezoidal plan joined the two structures. In the 2d c. the odeum was remodeled at the expense of Herodes Atticus (as was also the court of the Fountain of Peirene). For more typically Roman performances, an amphitheater (the only one in the province of Achaia) was laid out (3d or 4th c.) in the NE quarter of the city.

Traces of Roman private houses are found throughout the city area. Two have been excavated. One, lying some 750 m W of the odeum, was built in the early 1st c. and was remodeled several times. A dining room, redesigned in the last quarter of the 1st c. to accommodate nine couches, was provided with a splendid mosaic floor in which many tesserae of glass were employed; adjacent to this room was a small, Italianate atrium. A house of the 3d c., built just outside the city wall at the NW, beside the road to Sikyon, is distinguished by numerous well-preserved mosaics with mythological and pastoral scenes; this house, too, had an atrium. It is clear that Herodes Atticus possessed a villa in or near Corinth; it may have been N of the suburb of Kraneion. An elaborate villa near the shore, just E of Lechaion, is probably of the 3d c.; it is marked by extensive and complex provisions for the supply of water.

In Roman times the Sanctuary of Aphrodite on Akrokorinthos continued to flourish, and Romans inscribed their names on the walls of the subterranean chamber that gave access to the natural fountain on the citadel. The fortifications of the hill, however, as well as those of the lower town, demolished by Mummius, were not needed in the Early Imperial period and were not rebuilt. There is no evidence of a rebuilding prior to the invasion of the Heruli in A.D. 267; but traces of N-S lines of rubble-concrete walls some 1,000 m W and a like distance E of the forum may perhaps represent the post-Herulian fortifications of a smaller area than that covered by the Greek and early Roman city. The major repairs to the walls of Akrokorinthos are to be attributed to the Byzantines and their successors.

Excavations at Corinth were begun in 1896. A museum at the site (built 1932, enlarged 1950) houses almost all finds from the excavations as well as chance finds from the vicinity.


Corinth, Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1929—); 16 vols. in 26 parts to date, plus 3 albums of plates. Vols. (6 parts), II, III (2 parts), V, X, XIV, XV.1, XVI deal with topography & architectureMPI; Ancient Corinth: A Guide to the Excavations, 6th ed. rev. (1960)MPI; Corinth, A Brief History of the City and a Guide to the Excavations, rev. ed. (1969)MPI.

J. G. O'Neill, Ancient Corinth with a Topographical Sketch of the Corinthia. Part I: From the Earliest Times to 404 B.C. (1930); Édouard Will, Korinthiaka: Recherches sur l'Histoire et la Civilisation de Corinthe des Origines aux Guerres Médiques (1955); Georges Roux, ed., Pausanias en Corinthie (1958)MPI; H. S. Robinson, “The Urban Development of Ancient Corinth,” Études sur L'Art Antique (1963) 53-77 (repr. separatim 1965)MPI; C. Roebuck, “Some Aspects of Urbanization in Corinth,” Hesperia 41 (1972) 96-127.

Reports in AthMitt 71 (1956) 51-59; 73 (1958) 140-45; in Praktika (1960) 136-43; (1962) 48-50; in Hesperia 29 (1960) 225-53; 31 (1962) 95-133; 34 (1965) 1-24; 36 (1967) 1-41, 402-28; 37 (1968) 299-330, 345-67; 38 (1969) 1-106, 297-310; 39 (1970) 1-39; 40 (1971) 1-51; 41 (1972) 1-42, 143-84, 283-354; 42 (1973) 1-44.


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