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in the footsteps of paul
 Corinth
detail map

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 Home | History | Series
 Introduction
 Tarsus (Birth - 30CE)
 Jerusalem (30-34)
 Antioch (34-43)
 Spreading the Word (43-48)
 The Wider World (49-50)
 Corinth (50-52)
 Ephesus (52-56)
 Into the Fire (56-70)
Corinth: Aphrodite of Cities
6
 Pages
123

The Romans destroyed Corinth and then rebuilt it. In the war with the Romans, some Corinthians dared to pour filth from their homes onto Roman officials passing by. Due to these and other actions, an army was sent, and the city was razed. For a long time Corinth remained deserted. The deified Caesar restored it, because of its good position, and most of the settlers he sent were freedmen.
–Strabo 8.4.8, 8.6.20-23

Ancient Corinth
Ancient Corinth
(from the film)

Paul among the Corinthians
Paul among the Corinthians
(historical re-creation)

On the road into Corinth there are many funerary memorials, and in front of the city is a cypress grove called the Kraneion. In the grove is a temple to Black Aphrodite, and the grave of Lais. It is said Lais was born in Sicily and as a child was taken captive by the Athenians, and sold to Corinth.
–Pausanias Description of Greece 2.2.4.

Temple of Apollo in Corinth
Temple of Apollo in Corinth
(from the film)

The city is called "Wealthy Corinth" on account of its trade. Situated on an isthmus it is master of two harbors, one leading to Asia and the other to Italy. In earlier times, the Temple of Aphrodite acquired such wealth that it owned over one thousand slaves, women dedicated to the goddess for sex and entertainment. And so the city was crowded and enriched because of these women, as ship masters easily spent everything they had.
–Strabo Geography 8.6.20-23


l
ocated on the south side of the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese to the mainland, at the foot of a mountain fortress, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. A great lighthouse and Temple to Poseidon guided ships into the harbors, to fill the city markets and the warehouses down on the wharves with merchandise from the around the empire and beyond -- spices from India, silk from China, linen from Tarsus, local Corinthian marble and variegated marble from Turkey, Greece, and North Africa, timber from Italy, and wine and olive oil, fruits and vegetables from fertile fields of Corinth. Ships were dragged across the isthmus on a road called the diolkos, and in 67, Nero would begin to build a canal -- using the labor of 6,000 Jewish prisoners from Judea -- though it was never finished in antiquity. The city had made a remarkable comeback after its total destruction at the hands of the Romans in 146 BCE. The entire city had been razed-its people killed or enslaved. Julius Caesar revived the city as a colony in 44 BCE, and by the mid-first century CE, Corinth had the largest population in Greece, a population that would swell with visiting sailors and merchants to the ports, and tourists attending the festivals of athletic games. Corinth served the nearby Isthmian games, an ancient international athletic festival held every two years. Dedicated to Poseidon, the victor's prize was a crown of wild celery. Contests included chariot and foot races, and literary contests. The games were revived in the Roman period, and added to with games in honor of Caesar. Two days journey from Corinth was the city of Epidauros, which had one of the most important sanctuaries to Asklepios, the god of healing. Pilgrims would come from around the empire in hopes of healing.

Because of its great wealth and transitory population, Corinth had a reputation for luxury, and uninhibited pleasures. This reputation was further bolstered by the city's association with Aphrodite -- her image appeared on the city's coinage, and Corinth had at least three temples to the goddess of love, including one on the very high summit of Acrocorinth, where she held a shield before her like a mirror. In addition, the harbors had their own temples to the goddess of love. In pre-Roman times, one temple of Aphrodite was served by temple prostitutes, and, though modern scholars debate whether ritual prostitution had ceased by the time of Paul's arrival, there is little doubt that prostitution would have thrived. Brothels have been excavated in several Roman cities, including Pompeii and Ephesus. But Aphrodite was important to the city in other ways, too. Born out of the sea, she could protect the sailors and ships on which the city's economy depended. And Julius Caesar, the city's colonial patron, claimed descent from Venus, the Roman form of Aphrodite.

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