(Korinthos) Corinthia, Greece.
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
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
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
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
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.
; 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
; H. S. Robinson,
“The Urban Development of Ancient Corinth,” Études
sur L'Art Antique
(1963) 53-77 (repr. separatim
; 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.
H. S. ROBINSON