Fertile Lands . As did other places in the ancient world, Corinth had agriculture as its fundamental economic activity, especially in the Archaic Period (700-480 b.c.e.). Corinth’s territory was smaller than that of Athen’s. Its agricultural land was therefore limited; moreover, it was divided into many small farms, which probably for that reason were less productive. On the other hand, the Corinthian land was more fertile than the land of Attica.
Crossroads. From an early time the commercial element in Corinth was stronger than elsewhere in Greece. This situation was only natural, given the city’s location at the crossroads of land and sea routes. The historian Thucydides wrote that “Corinth was an emporium from most ancient times. At first it collected tolls from trade moving by land from and into the Peloponnese, then from trade by sea. The Corinthians built a navy, put down piracy, and used their naval power to increase their revenues.” Another ancient author says that Corinth became wealthy because of its ports of trade. It had two harbors, one on the Aegean Sea and facing Asia, the other on the Corinthian Gulf looking toward western Italy. The income generated in the harbors was of two kinds. The first type consisted of the tolls and duties imposed upon maritime and land traffic moving across the land bridge. Masters of cargo vessels preferred the transshipment from one side of the Isthmus to the other as opposed to the dangerous rounding of the southern tip of the Peloponnese. The other kind of revenue came from the trade that Corinth carried on in her own right in her harbors. Corinthian pottery was exported widely: it has been found in some quantity on sites in Italy and Sicily, where Corinth established its only significant colony, Syracuse. At the end of the sixth century Corinthian
pottery began to be displaced in the markets by pots made in Athens. Nonetheless, Corinth continued to be a lively manufacturing sector, and although few if any ancient states survived from manufacture alone, the city must have derived at least a part of its revenues from making and exporting commodities.
Isthmia. Another source of income, perhaps as productive as trade, was the festival held every two years in honor of Poseidon on the Isthmus of Corinth. Recent archaeological research has established that the cult of Poseidon began during the transition from the Bronze Age (3000-1100 b.c.e.) to the Iron Age (1100-700 b.c.e.), while the Isthmia (the site of the sanctuary of Poseidon) was a center of production of terracotta ware as early as 800 b.c.e. From an early date the Isthmian Games attracted athletes, spectators, and pilgrims from all parts of the Greek world; by the beginning of the fifth century the festival had become popular, offering not only sport spectacles, but also such entertainment as plays, concerts, dance performances, and literary recitals in prose and verse. Audiences and spectators spent handsomely while attending the Games; money was also spent by the performing artists, while the official delegations of various states enriched the sanctuary of Poseidon with the valuable gifts that they dedicated to the god. Visits to nearby Corinth by many in the large crowds gathered at the Isthmia added to Corinth’s revenues.
Grain Imports. The general prosperity of Corinth led to an increase in population and so to a growing need for grain of which Corinth became the prime importer in the Peloponnese. Athenian naval activity during the Second Peloponnesian War (431-404 b.c.e.) kept Sicilian corn shipments from reaching the Peloponnese. In the later fourth century Corinth received grain from Cyrene in North Africa.
Decline. Corinth suffered much from the Peloponnesian War: its commerce was eroded, and its small businesses declined. A sign of impoverishment and unemployment in the overpopulated city-state was the emigration of many Corinthians to Sicily in the second half of the fourth century. After that time Corinth never again was a major power in the history of antiquity.
Antony Andrewes, The Greeks (New York: Knopf, 1967).
Moses I. Finley, The Ancient Economy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).
Borimir Jordan, “Isthmian Amusements,” Classics Ireland, 8 (2001): forthcoming.
Corinth (city, Greece)
Corinth (kŏr´Ĭnth) or Kórinthos (kô´rĬnthôs), city (1991 pop. 27,412), capital of Corinth prefecture, S Greece, in the NE Peloponnesus, on the Gulf of Corinth. It is a port and major transportation center trading in olives, tobacco, raisins, and wine. Founded in 1858 after the destruction of Old Corinth by an earthquake, it was rebuilt after another earthquake in 1928. It formerly was known as New Corinth. Old Corinth, just southwest of modern Corinth, is now a village. Strategically situated on the Isthmus of Corinth and protected by the fortifications on the Acrocorinthus, Corinth was one of the largest, wealthiest, most powerful, and oldest cities of ancient Greece. Dating from Homeric times, it was conquered by the Dorians. In the 7th and 6th cent. BC, under the tyrants Cypselus, his son Periander, and their successors, it became a flourishing maritime power. Syracuse, Kérkira, Potidaea, and Apollonia were among its colonies. The natural rival of Athens, Corinth was traditionally allied with Sparta. Athenian assistance to the rebellious Corinthian colonies was a direct cause of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). During the Corinthian War (395–387 BC), however, Corinth joined with Athens against the tyrannical rule of Sparta. After the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) Corinth was garrisoned by Macedonian troops. It became (224 BC) a leading member of the Achaean League and in 146 BC was destroyed by the victorious Romans. Julius Caesar restored it (46 BC) and also reestablished the Isthmian games. Corinth was again laid waste by the invading Goths (AD 395) and by an earthquake in 521. Early in the 13th cent., Corinth was conquered by Geoffroi I de Villehardouin following the Fourth Crusade. It was taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1458, and in 1687 was seized by Venice, which lost it to the Turks in 1715. In 1822 it was captured by Greek insurgents. Ancient ruins at Old Corinth include the marketplace, fountains, the temple of Apollo, and a Roman amphitheater. Paul preached here and wrote two epistles to the infant Corinthian church.
CORINTH , Greek city. The earliest evidence of Jews in Corinth is contained in Agrippa i's letter to Caligula (Philo, De Legatione ad Caium, 281). The apostle Paul spent one and a half years in Corinth, preaching in the synagogue on Sabbaths (cf. the two Epistles to the Corinthians), and through his influence Crispus and his family were baptized. The Jews were embittered by Paul's activities; they brought him before Gallio, procurator of Achea, who, refusing to judge in a religious matter, said they would have to resolve their differences themselves (Acts 18:2ff.). Corinthian Jewry apparently belonged to the lower classes. Aquila and Priscilla, with whom Paul dwelt, were weavers, and he worked with them for his bread. These Jews went to Corinth from Rome when Claudius expelled the Jews from the city. There were no direct links between the Jews of Corinth and Ereẓ Israel, but Corinthian products were known in the Holy Land. Josephus (Wars, 5:201) mentions the Corinthian copper that coated one of the Temple gates, the Gate of Nicanor (whose special copper is also noted in talmudic sources, Tosef., Yoma 2:4; Yoma 38a), and he similarly mentions the Corinthian candelabra in Agrippa ii's house (Life, 68). Vespasian, after his victory in Galilee, sent 6,000 captive youths to Nero to dig at the Isthmus of Corinth (Wars, 3: 540). Conceivably, some of them might have escaped and found haven in the nearby settlements including Corinth.
When the Visigoths invaded Corinth in 395 the Jews moved to the neighboring island of Aegina. Jews suffered persecution by the Byzantine emperors during the 9th and 10th centuries. Roger ii, the Norman king of Sicily, brought Jewish dyers from Corinth to Sicily in 1147, thereby founding the Sicilian silk industry. The 12th-century traveler Benjamin of Tudela found 300 Jews there; they were silk-weavers. The Corinth community existed during the 13th and 14th centuries, but it seems to have disappeared in later years. In 1923 the Jewish community of Corinth again consisted of 400 persons, but ended during World War ii.
Schuerer, Gesch, 3 (1909), 55–56.
From the proverbial luxury and licentiousness of Corinth, Corinthian was used from the late 16th century for a wealthy (and profligate) man. In the early 19th century the term was extended to mean a man of fashion, and finally, a wealthy amateur of sport.
Corinthian also means relating to or denoting the lightest and most ornate of the classical orders of architecture (used especially by the Romans), characterized by flared capitals with rows of acanthus leaves.
Corinthian brass an alloy produced at Corinth, said to be of gold, silver, and copper, and much prized in ancient times as the material of costly ornaments.
Epistle to the Corinthians either of two books of the New Testament, epistles of St Paul to the Church at Corinth.