The ruins of ancient Corinth are located just an hour from the Greek capital of Athens, offering you and your family the opportunity to explore this historic destination. The beautiful archaeological site of Ancient Corinth is located on the north side of the Acrocorinth Hill. Explore with your family this historic part of Greece that is closely associated with Percy Jackson.
The strategic location and fertile land were the main reasons why this location was perfect for settlement and offered the region the potential for growth, prosperity, and communication with other nearby settlements.
The history of the city was written as early as the Neolithic period (6500-3250 BC). Witnesses like the famous writer Homer recorded the community of Corinth and described it as a prosperous land (Iliad, Book 2, line 570). Economic prosperity was unmistakable from the early 8th century BC. The agricultural products of Corinth favored the spread of the population throughout the Mediterranean.
Corinth was once completely destroyed during the great battle of Leukopetra between Greeks and Romans, but a century later, under the command of the great emperor Julius Caesar, it was reborn like the mythical bird Phoenix from its ashes.
Philosophers, sculptors, historians, and athletes were all proud to be Corinthians. They played an important role in the community and made Corinth known and strong.
Today you can visit the archaeological site of ancient Corinth and its museum, which are the perfect destination for the whole family. Let's explore the history, mythology, and architecture of this great land.
Ancient Corinth - credits: marmion/depositphotos
Historical Background of Ancient Corinth
Ancient Corinth has a long history, beginning in the Neolithic period (6500 BC) and extending to the present. In different periods the city was considered an important trade center and one of the richest cities in the Mediterranean.
Due to the triumph of trade, the city reached its economic peak in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Corinth also established colonies as far away as Corfu and Syracuse (Italy) in the 8th and 7th centuries BC.
The Isthmian Games were part of the great celebrations in honor of the Greek gods, the Panhellenic Games. The Panhellenic Games also included the Olympic Games, the Nemean Games, and the Pythian Games.
According to ancient sources, the Isthmian Games probably began in 582 BC and were held every 2 years in the spring. The festivities included athletic, musical, and artistic competitions in honor of the Greek sea god Poseidon. The athletic contests included chariot racing, pankration, wrestling, and boxing.
The winners of the Isthmian Games won a wreath of celery and a statue of themselves, which decorated the facilities.
When the Romans conquered ancient Corinth, the Isthmian Games continued and allowed the Romans to participate in the festivities. The last time that the Isthmian Games were mentioned in the literature of the time was 365 BC.
During the long life of ancient Corinth, many great leaders ruled the city. From aristocracy to tyranny to democracy, this city had it all over the years. Through a great alliance with Athens, Corinth gained reach and was part of a great whole. This was the main reason why Corinth stood against the Spartans in the long and great Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).
A few years later, in 395 BC, the Corinthian War began, which lasted 11 years. We call it the Corinthian War because much of it took place on the Corinthian territory. Actually, it was another war between Athens (and its allies) against Sparta. But the allies kept changing sides and it was hard to tell who would win the war. In the end, Sparta won this war, just as it had won the Peloponnesian War a few years earlier, but only because a major ally, the Persians, switched sides and supported Sparta.
The Romans in Ancient Corinth
Time passes and Corinth continues to prosper until 146 BC when a great battle took place at Lefkopetra. The two sides were Corinthians (and allies) against Romans. In a fierce battle, the Romans won against them and took full control of the city. Nothing remained in Corinth, it turned into a ghost town except for a small group of inhabitants who weren't Corinthians.
A century later (44 BC), the great emperor Julius Caesar re-founded the city of Corinth and turned it into a colony of Rome with all the important buildings such as the Roman Forum (Agora). There are not many reasons to believe that the Corinthian culture survived with its gods, because the colonists were not Corinthians.
After the Roman period, Corinth was struck by a great earthquake in the late 4th century. Many buildings were destroyed and great sanctuaries that once stood in the city collapsed or were closed. Also in the next centuries, the city was hit by many earthquakes, the plague, and fire.
Corinth in Biblical Times
It was not long after Julius Caesar that the Apostle Paul came to Corinth as part of his great mission. According to tradition, the Metropolitan Church of Corinth was founded by Apostle Paul. He wrote at least two letters to the Corinthians supporting the idea that Christians were many and formed a respectful community.
Later, the city changed hands many times: Florentine prince (1358), Byzantine control (1395), Ottomans (1458), and Venetians (1687-1715).
Another earthquake in 1858 destroyed the ancient part of the city and modern Corinth was built about 3 km from it. Today Corinth is a beautiful city with a great landscape all around.
With beautiful parks, the Metropolitan Church of St. Paul, museums, and a picturesque harbor, there is much to see. The cultural background of the city is huge and you can explore many things with your family.
Mythological background of Ancient Corinth
The establishment of Ancient Corinth in Mythology
There are many myths about the origin of this famous city-state. Below are the most common versions.
As we learn from the ancient geographer and writer Pausanias, the ancient Corinth was founded by Corinthos, who was the son of the god Helios (Sun). Other sources suggest that the city was founded by the goddess Ephyra, daughter of the Titan Oceanus.
Zeus and Sisyphus
Another interesting mythological approach says that Sisyphus, a Corinthian King, got involved in a story that included the mighty Zeus.
When Zeus kidnapped Aegina, the daughter of the river god Asopus, Sisyphus told her father where Zeus had taken her. This angered Zeus, and he ordered the god Thanatos (Death) to take Sisyphus' soul. However, when Thanatos came to take his soul, Sisyphus took the opportunity to put Thanatos in chains. He had cheated death.
Ares found Thanatos and freed him. Before Sisyphus died, he ordered his wife not to bury him. When he arrived in the underworld, he complained to Persephone about this and asked to be allowed to return to life, scolding his wife for not giving him a proper burial. The goddess allowed him to return to life, and when he did, he remained in Corinth until he died of old age many years later.
As punishment, he had to roll a boulder up a hill after his death, on the condition that he would then be released back into freedom. Sisyphus tried, but every time he reached the top of the hill, the boulder fell down again, and so he tried forever.
The myth of Sisyphus - credits: matintheworld/depositphotos
Poseidon: The Patron God of Ancient Corinth
Poseidon was one of the most important Olympian gods and the god of the sea and rivers. As the brother of the mighty Zeus and Hades, he was very powerful. He protected sailors and held a trident in his hand. In addition, his guardian animal was the horse.
According to mythology, Poseidon held the Isthmus of Corinth, which was an important sea route. He revealed himself to the Corinthians at the Isthmian Games, which were held every 2 years in his honor. After a competition with other Olympic gods, Poseidon won and became the patron god of Corinthos. The Corinthians worshiped him and built a temple in his name.
What you will see in Ancient Corinth
The ruins of ancient Corinth stand to this day on the northern foothills of the Acrocorinth Hill. The ruins extend around the temple of Apollo. The site has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. However, the peak of this city-state was in the Archaic period and especially in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Most of the ruins represent this period.
Among the facilities of the archaeological site are:
- Temple of Apollo (Doric Temple, built-in 560 BC)
- Peirene Fountain (According to mythology, Peirene wept so much when her son was killed by Artemis that the gods turned her into spring so as not to waste the precious water)
- Temple E of Octavia (Roman Temple dedicated to the sister of Augustus, Octavia)
- Asklepieion of Corinth (5th century BC)
- Bema of St Paul (rostra) in the Roman Forum (1st century BC/)
- Ancient theater (5th century BC)
- Roman Amphitheater (1st century AD)
- Glauke Fountain (probably created during the archaic period. Glauke was about to marry the hero of the Argonauts, Jason, when Medea, the princess of Colchis, who was in love with Jason, poisoned her. To be saved, she fell into the fountain that was named after her)
- Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore (archaic-classical period)
- Roman Odeio (1st century AC)
- Basilica of Lechaion (3rd century AC)
- Basilica of Kraneion (classical period)
Temple of Apollo
The Temple of Apollo was built in 560 BC and is one of the earliest examples of Doric temples in the Greek mainland. It was built of local limestone and was over 7 meters/23 feet high.
During the Roman occupation of the city, the temple was renovated and a basilica was built next to it. The temple was an ornament for the city and a great emblem of prosperity and wealth.
Temple of Apollo in Ancient Corinth - credits: dinosmichail/depositphotosv:
Asklepieion of Corinth
Very close to the temple of Apollo you can see the sanctuary of the Asklepieion. The Asklepieion was founded in the 5th century and was in operation for more than 800 years. The location was ideal because as an infirmary, it was just a few meters outside the city center and the strong winds purified the atmosphere.
During the catastrophic earthquake in the 4th century BC, the sanctuary was renovated and a temple of Asclepius and Hygeia (health) was built on the site. In order to serve the visitors, the sanctuary contained stoas. The fountain of Lerna contained the necessary water for the treatments.
The site once contained temples, restaurants, recreational areas, and more.
On the steep rock of the Acrocorinth hill, you can visit the Acrocorinth castle. It was the fortified acropolis in ancient times and in the Middle Ages. The great walls and towers are still visible today.
The first fortification dates back to the 7th century BC when the rulers of the city-state were tyrants. The walls were rebuilt by Julius Caesar in 44 BC. During the Byzantine, Frankish, Ottoman, and Venetian periods, the Acropolis was alive and ready to protect its citizens.
Castle of Acrocorinth- credits: photo_stella/depositphotos
The Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth
The archaeological museum of ancient Corinth was built in 1932 to house the countless archaeological finds that were brought to light by the excavations. During the period 2007-2008 the museum was renovated.
The museum houses finds from the prehistoric period to the Frankish occupation of Corinth. A selection of sculptures and statues and even finds showing the Jewish community of the area are also on display. The museum includes 5 exhibition areas.
Archaeological Museum of Corinth - credits: email@example.com/depositphotos
Isthmus of Corinth
Before arriving at Corinth you pass by the Corinth Canal, which is a narrow strip of land connecting Central Greece with the Peloponnese. The Isthmus extends to 6 km and divides the Corinthian Gulf from the Saronic Gulf.
In ancient times the ships were dragged to pass the two Gulfs, until 67 BC, when the Roman emperor Nero created a canal. The isthmus was first crossed in 600 BC. It was not before 1893 when the Corinth canal was opened and extended by approximately 6 km (4 miles). The width varies between 21 meters (69 feet) and 25 meters (82 feet).
Isthmus of Corinth - credits: pajche/depositphotos
Corinthian Ancient Currency
In the 7th century, ancient Corinth began to produce Corinthian silver coins, as it was an important trading center visited by people from various places. The types of Corinthian coins refer to the myth of Bellerophon and Pegasos on one side of the coin and to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, on the other.
According to the myth, the hero Bellerophon was born in Corinth. He was one of the greatest heroes and monster hunters together with Perseus. His greatest prey was the monster Chimera. With the help of the goddess Athena, he managed to capture the winged horse Pegasus.
Corinthian coin with Pegasus and Bellerophon- credits: Morphart/depositphotos
Corinthian Column Style
Ancient Greek column styles are divided into three styles: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The Corinthian style is the most complex and beautiful of the three.
Its features include fluted shafts decorated with acanthus leaves and flowers. Sometimes the Corinthian style includes small scrolls. It is difficult to carve. For this reason, it is one of the most beautiful styles of columns.
The name comes from the city-state of Corinth, although we are not sure about the connection. The oldest example of the Corinthian column style is the temple of Apollo Epicurius in Arcadia. (450 BC). Although the temple has a Doric colonnade and an Ionic order, there is a single Corinthian column.
Corinthian style capital - credits: Dawid.Dobosz/depositphotos
Excavations in Ancient Corinth
In 1896, archaeologists began excavations in ancient Corinth. It was none other than the American School of Classical Studies in Athens that has continued excavations at the site almost without interruption from 1896 until today.
Many great archaeologists have worked at the site all these years to unlock the secrets of the ancient city-state of Corinth. They began with the excavation of the ancient Temple of Apollo and came across more and more buildings and constructions.
The work of the last 35 years has not changed the overall plan of the site, but it has changed our understanding of the urban and historical landscape of this great ancient city.
Are there any Kid-Friendly Tours at Ancient Corinth?
Ancient Corinth is a great destination for families with many attractions. The stunning natural landscape will show you how the ancient Corinthians lived. The long history will be revealed to you not only when you explore the site, but also when you visit the Corinth Archaeological Museum.
The Temple of Apollo, the Asklepeiion, and the other ancient ruins will send you on a journey through time and give you a glimpse of the past. In the castle of Acrocorinth, you can explore the rural life of the past, when ancient Corinth was under Frankish, Ottoman, and Venetian rule.
On site, many different tours take place daily with professional and licensed tour guides. Ancient Corinth along with other nearby destinations in a day trip or even as part of a multi-day tour. You have the option to choose between private and group tours. Most tours start from Athens and Nafplio.
What are the Best Places to Visit Near Ancient Corinth?
Ancient Corinth is situated in one of the most beautiful areas of Greece, with amazing landscapes and natural beauty, the Peloponnese. The Peloponnese has a long history and mythology that you can discover in nearby places:
Ancient Epidaurus: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an incredible complex, famous for the theater, which has the best acoustics. It is also famous for the Sanctuary of Asclepius.
Distance: 74 km/46 miles from Ancient Corinth
Mycenae: The long history and mythology of this place are laid out before you. From the 19th century BC, the Mycenaeans gave their name to an entire civilization that played a significant role in Greek history. Explore the cyclopean walls and the famous treasure of Atreus.
Distance: 34 km/21 miles from Ancient Corinth
Nafplio: One of the most beautiful and medieval places in Greece is Nafplion. Explore with your family the small stone pavements, the fortress of Palamidi, and the fortress of Bourtzi.
Distance: 66 km/41 miles from Ancient Corinth
How Can I Get to Ancient Corinth?
If you want to enjoy a trip to ancient Corinth, a day trip with a licensed tour guide is the best way to travel. Due to the popularity of the site, there are many tours that will take you there depending on your starting point. The most common starting point is Athens, which is 112 km/69.5 miles away from Ancient Corinth.
You can also take a taxi from any place or even rent a car. This is probably the fastest way to reach Ancient Corinth. If you prefer to travel with other people, you can also take the public bus.