After leaving Messene, Evan and his companions head north towards the Corinthian Gulf. However, the trip wasn’t without a few incidents: an altercation with a Mycenaean princess and her ignoble father, and a sword fight with brigands, in which Evan was seriously injured. In any case, the group eventually arrive in Corinth, a city St. Paul in 51CE, had preached to and pleaded Christian unity. Why did St. Paul go to Corinth? Aside from stamping out “paganism” and converting pagans to Christianity, Corinth was considered a sinful city.
The location of Corinth on the isthmus, enabled the city to become a powerful and rich rival to that of Athens. It was surrounded by fertile plains and had plentiful natural springs. During the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman periods, Corinth had played an important role in trade, had a strong naval fleet, participating in many Greek wars, and had the status of a major Roman colony.
The settlement of Corinth dates back to Neolithic times, c. 5,000 BCE, and from the 10th century, the population grew denser. From 750 BCE, the founders of the city were the Bacchiadae, and replaced a long line of kings.
‘The Bakchiadai, who became tyrants, were wealthy and numerous and of distinguished family, and held power for nearly two hundred years and enjoyed in security the profits from this trade.’
Strabo VIII 6.20
Corinth had a long history of being ruled by tyrants, what Herodotos describes as an oligarchy, which is a government where power is dominated by a few people or class of people.
The wealth of Corinth began c. 8th century BCE, mainly from the export of their high-quality pottery across Greece and beyond. For two hundred years, the Corinthian pottery with its innovative figure decorations, flourished and helped Corinth become a formidable city-state. They also exported Corinthian stone and bronzewares, further establishing their trading powers.
They were also ingenious. The Corinthians had built a short-cut over land to transport goods from one harbour to the other: one at Lechaion on the Corinithian Gulf and the other at Kenchreai on the Saronic Gulf. The diolkos was a stone track with carved grooves designed for wagons, and was used during the Peloponnesian War to transport triremes. It was used until the 9th century CE. Today, that same stretch is where cruise ships use to go from the Corinthian gulf to the Saronic.
I was fortunate to see a ship use this stretch of water when I was in Greece in 2004.
There was another reason why Corinth was considered corrupt, and that was due to the popular priestesses of Aphrodite. The temple was located on the Acrocorinth; sadly only one lone column remains today. Most of the ruins are from the Medieval period. It was said the temple housed over 1000 priestesses, who according to ancient authors were sacred prostitutes. They were also very expensive, and only rich men could afford to ‘visit’ them.
‘The temple of Aphrodite was so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple slaves (hierodouloi), hetairai whom both men and women had dedicated to the goddess. And therefore it was on the account of these women as well that the city was crowded with people and grew rich…’
Strabo VIII 6.20
Corinth continued to be a viable centre up until 396 CE, when the Visigoths led by Alaric, burned down the city.
Articles of interest:
Nobel Prize-Winning Economist: We’re Headed for Oligarchy https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/04/nobel-prize-winning-economist-were-heading-for-oligarchy/361200/
The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy by Akbar Ganji http://www.huffingtonpost.com/akbar-ganji/the-transformation-of-ame_1_b_7945040.html
Ancient Greek temples of sex: After encountering Aphrodite’s servants, visitors to ancient Corinth always went home happy by Tony Perrottet https://thesmartset.com/article11210701/
Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.
Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.