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Ancient Corinth

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Ancient Corinth Review

Ancient Corinth, at the base of the massive Acrocorinth peak, was one of the great cities of classical and Roman Greece. In ancient times, goods and often entire ships were hauled across the isthmus on a paved road between Corinth's two ports—Lechaion on the Gulf of Corinth and Kenchreai on the Sarionic Gulf—ensuring a lively trade with colonies and empires throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Excavations have gone on since 1896 and have exposed ruins on the slopes of Acrocorinth and northward toward the coast. Most of the buildings that have been excavated are from the Roman era; only a few from before the sack of Corinth in 146 BC were rehabilitated when the city was refounded under orders of Julius Caesar.

The Glauke Fountain is past the parking lot on the left. According to the Greek traveler Pausanias, Glauke, Jason's second wife, also known as Creusa, threw herself into the water to obtain relief from a poisoned dress sent to her by the vengeful Medea. Beyond the fountain is the museum, which displays examples of the black-figure pottery—decorated with friezes of panthers, sphinxes, bulls, and warriors—for which Corinth was famous.

Seven of the original 38 columns of the Temple of Apollo (just above the museum) are still standing, and the structure is by far the most striking of Corinth's ancient buildings—as well as one of the oldest stone temples in Greece (mid-6th century BC). Beyond the temple are the remains of the North Market, a colonnaded square once surrounded by many small shops, and south of the temple is the main forum of Ancient Corinth. A row of shops bounds the forum at the far western end. East of the market is a series of small temples, and beyond is the forum's main plaza. A long line of shops runs lengthwise through the forum, dividing it into an upper (southern) and lower (northern) terrace, in the center of which is the bema (large podium), perhaps the very one where in AD 52 St. Paul delivered his defense of Christianity before the Roman proconsul Gallio.

The southern boundary of the forum was the South Stoa, a 4th-century-BC building, perhaps erected by Philip II of Macedonia to house delegates to his Hellenic confederacy. There were originally 33 shops across the front, and the back was altered in Roman times to accommodate such civic offices as the council hall, or bouleuterion, in the center. The road to Kenchreai began next to the bouleuterion and headed south. Farther along the South Stoa were the entrance to the South Basilica and, at the far end, the Southeast Building, which probably was the city archive.

In the lower forum, below the Southeast Building, was the Julian Basilica, a former law court. Continuing to the northeast corner of the forum, you approach the facade of the Fountain of Peirene. Water from a spring was gathered into four reservoirs before flowing out through the arcadelike facade into a drawing basin in front. Frescoes of swimming fish from a 2nd-century Roman refurbishment can still be seen. The Lechaion Road heads out of the forum to the north. A colonnaded courtyard, the Peribolos of Apollo, is directly to the east of the Lechaion Road, and beyond it lies a public latrine, with toilets in place, and the remains of a Roman-era bath, probably the Baths of Eurykles described by Pausanias as Corinth's best known.

Along the west side of the Lechaion Road is a large basilica entered from the forum through the Captives' Facade, named for its sculptures of captive barbarians. West of the Captives' Facade the row of northwest shops completes the circuit.

Northwest of the parking lot is the odeon (a roofed theater), cut into a natural slope, which was built during the AD 1st century, but burned around 175. Around 225 the theater was renovated and used as an arena for combats between gladiators and wild beasts. North of the odeon is the theater (5th century BC), one of the few Greek buildings reused by the Romans, who filled in the original seats and set in new ones at a steeper angle. By the 3rd century they had adapted it for gladiatorial contests and finally for mock naval battles.

North of the theater, inside the city wall, are the Fountain of Lerna and the Asklepieion, the sanctuary of the god of healing with a small temple (4th century BC) set in a colonnaded courtyard and a series of dining rooms in a second courtyard. Terra-cotta votive offerings representing afflicted body parts (hands, legs, breasts, genitals, and so on) were found in the excavation of the Asklepieion, and many of them are displayed at the museum.

    Contact Information

  • Address: Off E94, 7 km (4½ mi) west of Corinth | Map It
  • Phone: 27410/31207
  • Cost: €6
  • Hours: Apr.–Oct., daily 8–7:30; Nov.–Mar., daily 8–5
  • Website:
  • Location: Ancient Corinth
Updated: 11-17-2011

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