A major city in Greece, mentioned in the Iliad it was occupied throughout most of the first millennium BCE and until 521 CE. The problem of sexual immorality (incest and fornication) among Saint Paul's converts in Corinth is noteworthy (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20) as is illustrated by the meaning one of the Greek verbs meaning "to practice fornication" was korinthiazomai, a derivative of the city's name. It’s most likely a result of being adjacent to two bustling seaports rather that to its temple of Aphrodite.

Corinth owes much to it's geographical location set on the isthmus dividing the harbor towns of Lachaeum on the Corinthian Gulf from Cenchreae on the Saronic Gulf. Also of geographical note was the citadel of the Acrocorinth directly south of Corinth.

Notable historical events in the city's history were its destruction by the Roman consul Mummius in 146 BCE, as well as its reestablishment in 44 BCE by Julius Ceasar as a Roman colony.

Archeological excavations to date have shown that Corinth was indeed populated, although sparsley as evidenced by the discoveries of artifacts such as stoas, the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore and the archaic temple Asclepieum. These sites were indeed in use well after the city's defeat in 146 and not totally abandoned as was previously thought. With this newly unearthed physical evidence, the importance of nascent Christianly in Corinth of the Apostle Paul's writings becomes clearer. As a province of the Roman Archaia and the home of proconsul Gallio one can understand why Paul would address a circular letter to "all the saints throughout Archia" to Corinth. (2 Corinthians 1:1)

The prevalent Roman custom of wearing devotional head coverings during worship is reflected by the practice of some Christian men at Corinth wearing head coverings while prophesying and prayer. Paul wrote of the scandalous difference between 'weak' and 'strong' Christians of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 8:10, and the resulting consequences of the participation in meals at an idol's temple. His descriptions of these temples have been found to be reasonably accurate based upon the recent discoveries of the physical size and the social functions of the temples he makes reference to. Although Acts 18 refers to a synagogue in Corinth, the famous lintel inscription found there in "Synagogue of the Hebrews," unfortunately has not been accurately dated as of this time.

There were an abundance of claims to miracles, healings, ecstatic prophesies and visions from many cultures adding to the confusion of that era. Among such a rich variety of diversity it's understandable how easily the Gentile Christians would find themselves bewildered and in need of guidance regarding their own spiritual gifts.

Summarized from The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993.

An ancient Greek city and polis, located just west of the Isthmus. Corinth became a powerful mercantile power in Greece in the 6th century BCE, under the tyranny of the Bacchiads, and although the polis joined the Peloponnesian League that was lead by Sparta, Corinth managed to preserve a great amount of independence. All through the 6th and 5th centuries BC, and until the breaking of the First Peloponnesian War, Corinth was the most amicable polis towards Athens within the Peloponnesian League, and managed to prevent the application of many sanctions that Sparta wanted to lay on the polis that was quickly growing to become its main competitor over the supremacy in Greece.

Corinth participated in the Persian War and had the second largest and most efficient fleet in Greece (after Athens)

It was, in fact, only after the great dispute over Curcyra broke between Athens and Corinth, that Sparta managed to get the League to declare war over Athens, heralding the First Peloponnesian War.

During the Second Peloponnesian War, however, Corinth switched sides, and, seceding from the Peloponnesian League, united with Argos creating one united polis that dominated all of the North-Eastern Peloponnesian Peninsula. When Sparta won the war, it forced the united polis to separate into the two former components.

During the Third Peloponnesian War Corinth quite often switched sides (as did most of the Greek poleis).

After the occupation of Greece by Philip II of Macedonia, Corinth became one of the important centers of the Greek province. It retained this position until the Third Macedonian War in which Rome conquered Greece. As a retaliation of Greek mutiny attempts Corinth was then utterly destroyed.

The city was later rebuilt.

Corinth is called “wealthy” because of trade, since it is situated on the Isthmus and is mistress of two harbors, of which the one leads straight to Asia, and the other to Italy. It facilitates the exchange of goods between these far-distant lands. Just as the straits of Sicily were difficult to sail long ago, so too was the sea, especially that part of it off Cape Malea on account of crosswinds. For this reason there is the saying: “When you double ‘round Malea, forget your home!” At any rate, it was a welcome alternative to traders from Italy and Asia to avoid the voyage to Malea and to land their cargoes here. In addition, the duties on whatever was exported on foot from the Peloponnesus and what was imported to it fell to whoever held the keys, and this has remained the case until the present time.
(Strabo, The Geography 8.6.20, writing near the beginning of the Christian era.)

Strabo’s sophisticated explanation for the wealth—and importance—of Corinth is right on the money, as you can see for yourself by climbing the city’s massive natural citadel, called Acrocorinth. The Saronic Gulf on the east (which communicates with the Aegean and beyond) comes to within only a few kilometers of land from the western Gulf of Corinth, which communicates with Italy. Corinth, mistress of this short overland portage, was the best route for east-west trade, growing immensely rich and powerful from the late tenth century BC on. Her intensive trade contact with the Levant made Corinth one of the first Greek cities to absorb the profound artistic and intellectual patrimony of the Near East in the eighth and seventh centuries BC: the sphinxes, griffins, and other common Near Eastern images populating her renowned pottery are the most visible traces of this influence. In Roman times the trade route through Corinth was still so important that the Emperor Nero resurrected an age-old plan of piercing the Isthmus with a canal to eliminate the costly transisthmus haul, but the canal remained a dream until the twentieth century. (You can still see the traces of Nero’s abortive attempt south of the western mouth of the modern canal, as well as the recognizable path of the ancient diolkos, a by no means easy portage across which even entire ships were occasionally hauled.)

Acrocorinth can be seen from the Athenian Acropolis on a rare smog-free day. It was too high for regular habitation (it dwarfs the Acropolis) having only a few sanctuaries and a fountain house atop. Not much of the fabric of the Greek city, which was at its base, is visible, thanks mostly to the Roman sack of 146 and the Roman colony of 44 BC, which has chiefly absorbed excavators’ interests. In its day, however, Corinth rivalled even Athens as a center of trade and artistic production, and it is not surprising to find that the two cities hated one another, or that enmity between the two contributed to the Peloponnesian War which ended Athens’ greatest epoch. The Athenians in turn spiritedly played up the ostensibly reprehensible sensuality of Corinth, their poets coining terms like “Corinthize” for “fornicate”, and propagating stories of legions of sacred prostitutes dedicated to Aphrodite.

Strabo relates an apposite joke, however (8.6.20): “A certain prostitute is recorded as having retorted to a woman insulting her for laziness and refusing to engage in woolworking (a respectable woman’s work): “yet even so, I have just now taken down three looming beams.” This clever riposte is a triple entendre: there is the obvious reference to the loom; and a reference to ships coming to port, since ancient ships removed their stiff jutting masts and stowed them when landing (the word for mast and loom are close enough in Greek for punning); and of course the third entendre plays on the second, with an erect phallus (cumulatively, of the sailors) understood for the mast. In other words, she has just deflated three shiploads!

There is much worth seeing at Corinth. From the Greek period, the archaic Temple of Apollo (c. 575-550 BC: near the Forum of the Roman city), with its unusual monolithic columns (rather than superimposed drums) is a must-see; its ruins sheltered Greek patriots from gunfire in the war of independence against Turkey (1821-1828). When on Acrocorinth, it is possible to look around and see how small classical Greece was: to the northwest lie Mt. Helicon and Delphi; to the northeast are Athens and the famous island of Salamis. The impressive Forum of the Roman city, which was famously host to St. Paul, and the archeological museum are worth seeing.

Near Corinth, and well worth a detour, are the Corinthian port of Cenchreai (modern Kehries) and the Panhellenic Sanctuary of Isthmia (in modern Kyra Vrysy). Cenchreai has been largely submerged by seismic shifts, but in the museum there is an absolutely splendid set of late antique art-glass panels. These had been damaged in antiquity and set aside and were excavated more or less intact within the ruin of their packing crates under the present water level. Isthmia, on the other hand, was the site of biennial games similar to those at Olympia. They were established in 582 BC by the Corinthians and had a prize a philosopher must approve of: a modest wreath of celery.

Corinth also had a rich mythological history; the Fountain of Peirene on Acrocorinth was said to have been created when a hoof of the horse Pegasus first struck earth; but another legend states that the fount was created in a cruel bargain struck by the mythical founder of Corinth, Sisyphus: he told the river-god Asopus the fate of his daughter (raped by Zeus) on the price that Asopus create the fount to nourish the new city. For his shady cunning Homer (Odyssey 11.593-600) imagined Sisyphus suffering torments in Hades, forced forever to roll a stone uphill, only to have it roll right back down.

Again, in another set of myths reported in PausaniasDescription of Greece (3.8-11), Medea and her husband Jason (of Argonautic fame) ruled Corinth for a time before the tragic dissolution of their marriage and slaughter of their children, at which time Sisyphus inherited the kingdom. Oedipus, in Sophoclesplay, rejoices to hear of the natural death of a Corinthian King, Polybus: for having been (unsuccessfully) exposed as an infant by his real father King Laius of Thebes, he wound up raised by Polybus as his son. Knowing himself fated to kill his father, he had fled Corinth; but in his wanderings he killed a rude passerby in an altercation: his father Laius!

Outside the city gate on the road leading to Cenchreai, though no longer visible, was the tomb of the philosopher Diogenes the Cynic as reported by Pausanias (2.4). An exile from his native Sinope, Diogenes practiced a mode of living which honored living in accordance with nature and the jettisoning of convention above all else. His noble paring down of his behavior to what he considered the elemental ethical basics was too often missed by those who jeered at his attendant bad manners and snappy insults (they thought him shameless, like a dog: kynikos in Greek). Asked by Alexander the Great if he would like anything, Diogenes merely asked that Alexander cease to stand between him and the sun.

Cor"inth (k?r"?nth), n. [L. Corinthus, Gr. . Cf. Currant.]


A city of Greece, famed for its luxury and extravagance.


A small fruit; a currant.




© Webster 1913.

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