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Corinth is a city in Greece, at the southwestern end of the Isthmus of Corinth. Corinth (Greek Korinthos) is the capital of the nomos (department) of Corinthia (Korinthia). The chief crops of the region are grapes, tobacco, and olives. The modern city was founded on the coast in 1858, when an earthquake razed the old town of Corinth, situated 4 miles (6 km) to the southwest at the base of Acrocorinth, the citadel of the ancient city. A new village has since grown up at the old site.
Characteristics of Ancient Corinth
Corinth was one of the most powerful and prosperous cities of ancient Greece. Its early wealth was based on agriculture, but largely because of the city's location on the Isthmus of Corinth it soon became a major trading state. Corinth had ports both on the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf, named Lechaeum and Cenchreae respectively. Corinth also controlled the paved roadway (diolkos) that was built across the isthmus in the 6th century B.C. and over which both cargo and ships could be hauled. This route was much preferred to the hazardous sea voyage around the southern tip of the Peloponnesus; Corinth thus became a main junction for trade between the eastern and western Mediterranean. The city's own commercial activities were extensive, especially in the West, where Corinth founded many colonies, including Syracuse and Corcyra (Corfu). The Isthmian sanctuary of Poseidon was governed by Corinth, and the Panhellenic festival celebrated there every two years added to the city's prestige. The reputation of
Corinth as a city of pleasure was unrivaled in Greece. There was an ancient saying: "It is not given to every man to go to Corinth." The dominant position of Acrocorinth made Corinth one of the most important military properties in Greece. Philip V of Macedonia (reigned 221-179 B.C.) spoke of Corinth, along with Chalcis and Demetrias, as the "fetters of Greece."
Corinth is named in early myths as the realm of Sisyphus and the place where Bellerophon, aided by the goddess Athena, bridled the winged horse Pegasus. Corinth was also the setting for one of the great tragedies of Euripides, Medea.
Corinth was inhabited from the early Neolithic period, that is, from about 5,500 B.C., but little is known of the prehistoric site. The city was ruled by the Bacchiad kings during the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. During the time of the tyrants Cypselus and his son Periander (about 620-550 B.C.), Corinth began to lose its preeminence in trade to Athens; but with the advent of an oligarchic government in the middle of the 6th century B.C., the city embarked on a major building program, while continuing to manufacture and export terra-cottas, bronzes, and many other products. The Hellenic League, formed to repel Persian invaders, held its meetings (481-479 B.C.) at the Isthmian sanctuary, and from that time the sanctuary was the most important topographical symbol of Hellenic unity. It was there also that Philip II of Macedonia and his son Alexander revived the Hellenic League late in the 4th century B.C.
Corinth was an ally of Sparta during the Peloponnesian War 431-404 B.C.), but was Sparta's enemy during the Corinthian War (394-386 B.C.). Corinth was ruled by a succession of Macedonian commanders from 338 B.C. until the citadel was captured in a daring night raid by Aratus of Sicyon in 243 B.C.; Corinth then became a member of the Achaean League. The city changed hands several times in the next half century but became Achaean again in 196 B.C. After the Roman army of Lucius Mummius defeated the Achaean forces in 146 B.C., Corinth was largely destroyed and its inhabitants enslaved or killed.
Julius Caesar ordered the refounding of Corinth in 44 B.C., and the new city soon became as important as the Greek city had been. It was the capital of Achaea in 51 a.d. when the Apostle Paul was brought before the Roman governor, L. Junius Gallic, by the Jews of Corinth. The city was burned by Herulian invaders in 267, greatly damaged by an earthquake in 375, and, in 395, sacked by Alaric and his Goths. A series of devastating earthquakes and a plague nearly depopulated the city by the mid-6th century. Corinth was ruled in the succeeding centuries by Avars, Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, Knights of St. John, and Turks.