Ancient Meets Modern in Corinth, Greece

Ancient Meets Modern in Corinth, Greece

An interestimg must-see tourist attraction , historically, archaeologically, geographically, and biblically, in the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the City of Corinth (“Korinthos” in Greek) where ancient meets modern.

On a warm day in September my wife and I have a half-day excursion to visit the site by boarding a public transit from the Ktel Kifissou bus terminal in the capital city of Athens. The journey along the scenic south west through the olive-groved landscape takes a little over the hour with a sight-seeing stop at the world famous Corinth Canal. Cutting through the narrowest part of the Isthmus of Corinth, the Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with another body of water, the Saronic Gulf, in the Aegean Sea. Excavation of the canal at sea level began in 1882 (thus requiring no locks, pretty much the same as the Suez Canal that connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea) and was completed in 1893 – 6.4 kms. long (4 miles) and 23 feet (7 meters) deep (the rock walls are at a near-vertical angle) and only 82 feet (25 meters) wide making it impassable for most modern ocean freighters; the canal is currently used mainly for tourist ships and has brought economic benefits to the region.

We proceeded on to visit and explore Ancient Corinth. Located on the northern slopes of a mountain known as Akokorinthos, Ancient Corinth has been inhabited well before 3,000 BC. A very busy trading city it became to be known as “Wealthy Corinth” thus becoming one of the major cities of antiquity although its power declined in 44 BC and flourished again when it became a Roman colony but declined again in the later part of the Middle Ages until it was reduced into a small town by the Turkish invasion of 1458.

Protected by a wall, Ancient Corinth was made of three parts: the Acropolis on the hill, the city itself and the port. The earthquake of 1858 destroyed and leveled all the town, all of the ancient city, and excavation began in 1896 by the Americans making it an impressive archaeological site. The remains of the ancient city include the “Agora” and the 6th century Temple of Apollo, the Greek god of music, prophecy, healing, the sun, and poetry.

Spending hours at Agora ruins it’s quite evident that back to ancient times Corinth was amongst one of the richest cities on the planet. The Agora, meaning gathering place or assembly, was the central public space as the centre of athletic, artistic, spiritual, and political life in the city and also served as a marketplace where merchants kept stalls and shops to sell their goods. Located at the centre of the agora is a raised platform called the “bema”, also known as the “tribunal” where government officials gave public addresses and heard legal disputes. For a long time we stood at the “bema” which is quite significant for understanding the world of St. Paul, the Apostle who first visited the city in 49 or 50 AD and resided here for eighteen (18) months during his missionary travels, because Paul was brought here to defend himself against the accusations by the Corinthians of contrary teachings. The Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the bema saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law”. The judge however dismissed the affair as a Jewish quarrel and did not constitute an offense against the Roman law. For us Christians, Corinth is mentioned many times in the New Testament and is well known for the two letters of St. Paul in the New Testament, First and Second Corinthians.

Dominating the whole area of archaeology, the remains of the Temple of Apollo sitting on a terrace which appears to be on the highest part of the city is regarded as one of the best examples of early Doric temple building anywhere in the Greek world. Dating back to around 540 BC, the temple once had 38 monolithic columns made from single pieces of stone; today only 7 standing columns remain.

The modern city of Corinth with a population of approximately 37,000, is located approximately 5 kms. northeast of the ancient city. Home to shops and bars as well as high quality local leather and jewellery outlets, the town centre is an industrial hub.

Our trip ended up in a local cafe where we grabbed a bite of crisp but moist “gyro”, the popular Greek dish made from meat (pork) cooked on a vertical rotisserie eaten with sliced tomatoes, chopped onions and tzatziki sauce wrapped in a pita.

In the late afternoon we returned to Athens.