Corinth was transferred to a new site in 1858 after a severe earthquake and rebuilt after a further earthquake in 1928 and a great fire in 1933.
The city of ancient Corinth grew up 7 km (4 miles) SW in a beautiful setting on the northern slopes at the foot of the hill of Acrocorinth (Akrokorinthos), which acted as the fortified citadel of the ancient and medieval cities.
The site was occupied continuously from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages. There are extensive remains, mostly dating from the Roman period, dominated by the imposing ruins of the Archaic Temple of Apollo.
Corinth owed its great importance in ancient times to its situation. The hill of Akrocorinth provided a strong acropolis and the town controlled the 6km (4 miles) wide Isthmus, the only land route into the Peloponnese, and with its two harbors, Lechaion in the Gulf of Corinth and Kenchreai in the Saronic Gulf, also controlled the movement of goods between the two gulfs. The city was governed by a local oligarchy or by tyrants, such as the cruel Periander, who was yet considered one of the Seven Sages of Greece, and imposed considerable taxes on the passage of goods across the Isthmus.
The warehouses were filled with wheat from Sicily, papyrus from Egypt, ivory from Libya, leather from Cyrenaica, incense from Arabia, dates from Phoenicia, apples and pears from Euboia, carpets from Carthage and slaves from Phrygia. The Corinthians also used the coastal clay to make the ceramic vases, they still do (Time for shopping if you wish, there is a market with handicrafts at the entrance of the old city.), often very tiny (perfume flasks), they developed the production of bronze (cuirasses, statues), glass and purple-dyed cloth, their naval shipyards launched the first triremes. The economic and artistic acme of Corinth began in the 8th c. BC and is connected with the rule of the Bakkhiadai family and the foundation of two important colonies, Corcyra (Corfu) and Syracuse.
In the 5th c. BC Corinth was one of the three major powers in Greece, and took part in all the battles against the Persians. The Corinthian capital is thought to have been invented in the 5c BC by the sculptor Kallimachos. After the Persians ceased to be a danger to Greece, her intense rivalry with Athens reduced Corinth to a secondary position.
In the 146 BC the Consul Mummius captured the city which was then pillaged and burned by his legions: the bronze, as well as the gold and silver, on the statues was removed to be used for the roof of the Pantheon in Rome whence it was later removed by Pope Alexander VII to make the palanquin in St. Peter's. In 44 BC Julius Caesar founded a new town, Colonia Julia Corinthiensis, on the ruins of Ancient Corinth. It became the capital of Roman Greece and was mainly populated by freedmen and Jews, who were Latin speakers. Emperor Nero visited Corinth in AD67 to announce the independence of the Greek cities and to take part in the Isthmian games. Emperor Hadrian's in his turn erected many buildings, refurbished the baths and built an aqueduct to bring water from Lake Stymphalos. Under the combined effect of barbarian invasions and earthquakes Corinth was brought low, only Akrocorinth retained a certain importance as a military stronghold.
The archaeological site is dominated by the Archaic temple of Apollo (photo), built on a rocky hill. It is a Doric peripteral temple with monolithic columns (6x15). First the Naos Oktavias: a Roman building from which three Corinthian capitals found. Left the Museum: The collections consist of most of the pieces produced by the excavations. Left round Naos Iras: an old sanctuary to Hera, to reach the adjoining Glafki Krini: fountain Glauke, cut into the natural rock. Naos Apollona, Iera Krini: a wall surmounted by tripods and statues. Agora: sanctuaries and temples, fountains and public buildings, flanked by a series of shops and stoas. In the middle of a row of shops which stood along the south edge of the agora's central section, is the bema (tribunal) from which St .Paul spoke to the Corinthians in AD 52. South Stoa, Propilea: only the base of the monumental entrance to the agora remains. In the Roman era it was surmounted by two great gold Chariots belonging to Helios and his son Phaeton.
A paved street, the Lechaion way, led from the agora, through Propylaea to the port. Pirini Krini: The Peirene fountain dates from the 6cBC but has been remodeled many times. Odeon: Excavations have revealed a small Roman theatre dating from the AD 1. The banks of seats, most of which are hewn out of the rock, could accommodate about 3000 spectators. Theatre: Begun in the 5c BC it was remodeled several times particularly in the AD 3 when the stage was enlarged to accommodate gladiatorial combats and nautical spectacles. It held about 18000 people.
After a moat (alt. 380 m -1247 ft) constructed by the Venetians there follow the first gate, built in the Frankish period (14th,c.) and the first wall 15th c. then come the second and third walls (Byzantine: on the the right, in front of the third gate, a hellenistic tower). Within the fortress we follow a path running NE to the remains of a mosque (16th c.) and then turn S until we join a path leading up to the eastern summit, on which there once stood the famous Temple of Aphrodite, worshipped here after the Eastern fashion (views of the hills of the Pelloponnese and of Isthmos).
During the Middle Ages, the Acrocorinth was of prime importance for the defense of the entire Peloponnese, and held out against the attacks of the barbarians. The Byzantines sporadically repaired the walls, especially after hostile raids (by the Slavs, Normans and others), and added new fortifications on the west side of the fortress. In 1210, after a five-year siege, the Acrocorinth was captured by Otto de la Roche and Geoffroy I Villehardouin, and was incorporated in the Frankish principate of Achaea.In the middle of this century, William Villehardouin extended the fortifications of the fortress, to be followed in this by the Angevin prince John Gravinaat the beginning of the 14th c.
In 1358 the Acrocorinth passed to the Florentine banker Niccolo Acciajuoli, and in 1394 to Theodoros I Palaiologos despot of Mystras. Apart from a brief occupation by the Knights of Rhodes from 1400-1404, the fortress remained in Byzantine hands until 1458, when it was captured by the Ottoman Turks. The Venetians made themselves masters of the Acrocornth from 1687 to 1715, after which it reverted once more to the Turks, until the Greek Uprising of 1821. The approach to the fortress is from the west side. The walls have an irregular shape, which was dictated by the form of the terrain and remained the same in general terms from the Classical period to modern times. Three successive zones of fortifications, with three imposing gateways, lead to the interior of the fortress. The fact that the same material was used for extensions or repairs to the walls frequently makes it difficult to distinguish the building phases or assign a date to them.
The Isthmos of Corinth is cut by the Corinth Canal, constructed between 1882 and 1893. Involving an excavation of up to 80 m (262 ft) in depth , the canal is 6,3km (4 miles) long, 23m (75 ft) wide and 8m (26 ft) deep , and can take ships of up to 10,000 tons.
The ancient Greeks also sought to cut a channel through the Isthmus to avoid ships having to circumnavigate the Peloponnesus or be hauled over the Diolkos.
Both Periander and Alexander the Great had considered the question but it was Nero who inaugurated the digging in AD 67 with a golden shovel: 6.000 prisoners were employed on the work. the site was abandoned after about 3 or 4 months when Nero returned to Rome.
The canal was begun in 1882 by a French company, the Society International du Canal Maritime de Corinth, inspired by a proposal made in 1829 by Virlet d' Aoust, a member of the Morean Commission. Work stopped in 1889 when the company went bankrupt but the canal was competed by the Greeks in 1893. The best view of the canal is from the bridge whish carries the road over it.