Long Section of the Diolkos located on a Greek Army Base north of the Corinthian Canal
On one of our visits to the area of Corinth we had a chance to explore a seldom-visited portion of the ancient diolkos that is located on the isthmus that connects the Greek mainland with the Peloponnese. This portion has been excavated and is very well preserved.
Map of the Peloponnese and Location of Corinth and the Diolkos
The Diolkos [Greek meaning “haul across”] was a paved “road” that connected the Corinthian and Saronic Gulfs before the Corinthian Canal was dug. It was built because sailing around the southern tip of the Peloponnese was very treacherous. Strabo, for example, writes ‘But when you sail around Cape Malea, forget your home” (= “you’ll never return!”; viii 6, 20). The ancients offloaded their cargo, dragged it on wheeled carts across the isthmus from one gulf to the other to the other side of the isthmus, and then loaded it on to another ship. Small to medium size ships could be transported from gulf to gulf by this method also.
Detail of the Tracks/Ruts that guided the path of the wheels of the vehicles that carried ships and cargo from one gulf to another.
The Diolkos was constructed during the sixth century B.C. and was in use for over 1,000 years! It was made of large paving stones and was about 11 to 20 ft. [3.4 to 6 m.] wide. It followed a circuitous route, avoiding high ground if possible, from one side of the isthmus to another.
It is probable that some of the wealth of the nearby Corinth was derived from tolls, tariffs, and servicing the personnel associated with the shipping industry and servicing and maintaining the “road.”
To view additional photos of the diolkos plus additional commentary and a detailed map of its route — Click Here.
The folk over at The Ancient Near East Today, ASOR, newsletter have published a link to a new FREE SBL book Invention of the First–Century Synagogue by Lidia D. Matassa, SBL, 2018. It is a 289 page book in pdf format and is a fee Download HERE. I have not yet had time to read it but the Table of Contents indicates a treatment of the synagogues at Delos, Jericho, Masada, Herodium, and Gamla. Please see the comment below as to why other first century synagogues, such as those at Magdala and Umm el–’Umdan were not included. (Thank you to Gene Dahmes [below] for drawing this to my attention).
Ancient Corinth: Site Guide (7th edition), 2018, multiple authors. This is the first official guidebook to the site of ancient Corinth published by the ASCSA in over 50 years, and it comes fully updated with the most current information, color photos, maps, and plans. It is an indispensable resource for the casual tourist or professional archaeologist new to the site.
The moral problems among the “saints” of the church of Corinth are well-known. Writing of days prior to Paul, Strabo said that the Temple of Aphrodite owned one thousand temple–slaves and prostitutes!
Foundational Remains of the Temple of Aphrodite on the Summit of the Acrocorinth
Thus the reputation of Corinth was well–known. It is not probable that interested persons would climb 1700 feet to the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love) to visit a prostitute, but her temple was located there.
The “Fountain House” of the Upper Peirene Spring on the Summit of the Acrocorinth
Besides the several springs (Peirene Fountain, Glauke Fountain, Lerna Spring by the Asclepion) that were located near the site of Corinth itself, there actually was a powerful, not too frequently visited, spring on the top of the Acrocorinth call the “Upper Peirene Spring.” The basic remains visible in the image above date to the Hellenistic Period (third to first century BC).
For additional views of the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite Click Here.
For additional views of the Upper Peirene Spring Click Here.
See the full size image below!
At the time of Paul’s visits to Corinth it was a thriving commercial city of over 200,000 people.
Corinth was situated in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnese — very near the narrow land bridge (isthmus) that connected the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece. Its strategic location was enhanced due to its proximity to the diolkos — the stone-paved roadway that connected the Saronic Gulf with the Gulf of Corinth. By using this overland passageway, passengers and cargo avoided the difficult and time-consuming trip around the southern end of the Peloponnese.
The Isthmus of Corinth from the air. For comments on this image, see above. To Enlarge and/or Download Click on Image.
The Greek city of Corinth had been (partly) destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C., but the rebuilding process, as a Roman city, had begun by 44 B.C. For a long time it had been famous for its immorality (think prostitutes associated with the Temple of Aphrodite) and its commercial character. Its two harbors were Lechaion (Gulf of Corinth) and Cenchreae (Saronic Gulf). Every two years important games were held at nearby Isthmia.
Paul spent 18 months here on his second journey and maybe three months on his third. The letters of first and second Corinthians were written to the church here, and Paul probably wrote first and second Thessalonians and Romans while in Corinth.
To view important artifacts from Corinth, including the Erastus inscription, a menorah, and others, Click Here.
Excavations have been conducted at Corinth for over 100 years. Major finds have helped us understand the history and culture of the city that Paul spent so long ministering in. See the images included in this section and John McRay’s Archaeology and the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991. To view for purchase Click Here.
Suggestion: You may also be interested in the images of the Corinth Canal, the diolkos, the port of Cenchreae, and the Acrocorinth.
In a recent blog post Ferrell Jenkins wondered if anyone had photos of the rebuilt bema at Corinth. Since he covered the data and the significance of the bema I will just post the images here.
View looking southwest at the bema (May 2014) and the Acrocorinth — Click on image to enlarge and/or download
In looking south at the north side of the bema—little has changed. However, around the back, on the south side, there is a metal ramp that leads up to the top of the bema.
Top of the bema looking east — Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download
Above are the remains of a double apse Byzantine Church that was built on top of the bema. The two apses of the church face east—as is typical.
So indeed, it is possible to stand on the top of the bema — on which Gallio the proconsul sat in judgment of the apostle Paul (Acts 18:12–17).
View toward the Acrocorinth
The “Acrocorinth” is the acropolis (citadel) of Corinth. It is situated to the southwest of the ancient city and rises to an elevation of 1883 ft. Today it is surrounded by walls that are about 1.8 mi. long.
The Three Gates Guarding the Entrance to the Acrocorinth
The foundations of the fortifications are ancient—going back to the Hellenistic Period. The current walls were built and rebuilt by the Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, and Ottoman Turks.
To view additional images of the Acrocorinth Click Here.
Most visitors to Corinth stop at the small, but significant, museum located on the site.
Terra Cotta Body Parts Found in/near the Temple of Asclepius at Corinth
There they have assemble a large number of terra cotta body parts that were Continue reading