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In the first century, forty-eight miles west of
Athens, Corinth guarded a land-bridge (isthmus) between two gulfs.
(NASA photos, above and below, are in public domain.
Markers and names inserted by author).
The Gulf of Corinth stretched to the west and
the Saronic Gulf to the east of the isthmus joining the Peloponnesus to
mainland Greece, determining Corinth’s lucrative socio-economic activities.
Thanks to its strategic location, Corinth prospered at AD 50 from both
east-west sea trade and north-south land trade.
The sea route around the Peloponnesus
peninsula was hazardous. Most seafarers chose to unload their cargo at
Cenchrea or Lechaion (Corinth’s east and west harbors named after the sons
of Poseidon), transport the goods by wagon from one harbor to the other
eight miles away, and load it on another ship to proceed to the destination.
After unloading their cargo, smaller ships
were hauled by trolley over the four mile wide isthmus, using the Diolkos, a
narrow stone-paved road.
(Picture from CD Pictorial Library of Bible
The Channel of Corinth was
completed in 1893. The highest point is about 260 ft above sea level. It
shows the arduous uphill and downhill trek boats had to complete when hauled
over the Diolkos. Picture by author.
By day, Corinth and its harbors were
busy ant-nests of transport activity. By night, the city's entertainment
industry came to life. Sadly, Corinth’s hard work and good money
spawned indulgence and excess. Taverns and brothels increased and
flourished. The city’s immoral ways became proverbial. Even in other
parts of the Roman Empire a person with a wild life-style was labeled a
"Corinthian." Paul warned the Corinthians in his letters against
sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5). The mere fact that many Corinthians did accept the
gospel and did change their life-style is nothing short of a miracle (Acts
Wagons loaded with merchandise from the East
Mediterranean moved from Cenchrea westward to
Corinth. Having paid the toll, they proceeded north to Lechaion on the Gulf of
Corinth. Another stream of wagons with cargo coming from the West
Mediterranean moved the opposite way. The location of city and harbors formed a triangle
(see NASA photos above).
The two mile long Lechaion Road was paved with
flat stones and protected by stone walls on either side (Picture from CD Pictorial Library of Bible
Lands). In the city, this street ended at
steps and an arched entrance leading to the agora.
In the spring of every third year, the year
before and after the Olympics, Corinth hosted the Isthmian Games on the
isthmus, honoring the sea-god Poseidon for bringing
the trade ships to Corinth.
The terrain of the Isthmian Games was
south-east of the Diolkos, near the temple of Poseidon. This
event was popular with the Athenians too, as this locality was closer to them
than any of the other major Greek athletic events. Even more important—they
could come in great numbers by boat, eliminating an arduous journey by foot or
horse carriage. What better way to honor Poseidon than to come by sea! They
were brought by wagons from Cenchrea to the Games.
After the sacrifice at the temple, people
streamed to the stadium to the east of the temple. The old stadium started at
the temple, its far end meeting the new stadium in a T-formation.
The well preserved Delphi stadium (Picture from CD Pictorial Library of Bible
Lands) shows the layout of Greek stadia.
The 600 foot running course of Corinth's new stadium was also flanked by
seat-covered embankments on each side of the running track. The length of a
stadium became the unit to measure long distances. Paul referred to athletes
in his letters to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
Before the destruction of Corinth by the
Romans in 146 BC the Aphrodite temple on Acrocorinth (the mountain south of
the old city) was served by thousand temple prostitutes trying to convince
the goddess of love to send rain on time. When Julius Caesar ordered the
restoration of Corinth a century later, the ruined Aphrodite temple was not
included in the project. The remains of the Apollo temple is in the
foreground of the picture taken by the author.
The apostle Paul reached this sinful city
with the gospel about AD 51 (Acts 18). He planted a church and ministered to
them for eighteen months. Afterwards, he visited them twice and wrote to
them four letters, of which two survived. When Gallio was
proconsul (judge) in Corinth
the Jews dragged Paul to the Bema and accused him of inciting unrest. The
Bema was an eight foot high platform in the agora and is shown
here in the foreground of the picture taken by the author. In 2 Cor. 5:10 Paul
refers to the Bema of Christ―the Corinthians would have understood.
On the agora (city square), just opposite the
Bema, are the remains of shops, with the Apollo temple in the background in
picture taken by the author.
According to a myth, Peirene shed so many
tears over the accidental death of her son Cenchreas that her tears turned into this
fountain, a source of comfort for the grieving and thirsty.
(Picture from CD Pictorial Library of Bible Lands). Greek mythology was memorialized by the names of
temples, fountains, and harbors.
It starts in Corinth, goes to Africa, and ends in Rome.
NASA composite photo of the River Nile
meandering through Sudan and Egypt.
(Photo is in public domain. Markers and
names inserted by author).