On Monday morning, January 20, we traveled outside of Athens for an excursion to the ancient city of Corinth, driving over the Isthmus of Corinth from mainland Greece onto the Peloponnesian Peninsula. This isthmus has great historical significance since it was the only way for folks to go from northern Greece to the southern cities overland; it also was the place that several historical figures attempted to construct a canal so ships could avoid the long sail around the peninsula. The present canal is four miles long and involves no sea level change, but as you can see, a huge cut through the earth was required to make a path. We were able to watch canal activity while eating lunch, so saw the cross-bridge descend (no drawbridge here) below the surface so a freighter could pass through:
the mechically-minded among us thought this was way cool : ) .
The ancient Corinthian ruins are located on the slopes of the Acrocorinth (high Corinth, a different name than other cities’ standard acropolis, since it is remarkably high and covers about ten square miles) where no contemporary city exists. Thus, excavation has been able to move forward efficiently. Gerry noted that the columns and building ruins (including the speaker’s platform where no doubt Paul spoke so powerfully to the Corinthians) were made from the local limestone, not from a marble that would have had to be imported:
From our Biblical reading, we know that the Corinthians worshiped many pagan gods, one being Asclepius, the god of healing/medicine. In a museum of Corinthian artifacts, we visited a room of relics from the temple to this god; included were models of body parts that worshipers would bring with them, indicating where they needed healing. It was quite a sight to see arms, legs, eyes, heads and other more personal models displayed:
After spending a good bit of time in the Corinthian agora, site of the longest ancient stoa we saw on our entire trip, we headed up to the summit of the Acrocorinth.
It was a good hike and provided several wonderful vistas as well as a visit to a cistern high on the hill; seems there was lots of subsurface water/springs which the Romans effectively tapped for water supply to the summit and slopes.
Once at the top, we sat on the ruins of a temple to Aphrodite and heard more from Jeff about the area in Biblical times and the challenge Paul had in aiding the new believers in this multi-god city.
Once back from the heights, we stopped at the ancient port city of Cenchraea’s breakwaters, where we imagined Paul landing and sailing away. The day was sunny, the temps warm, and many a rock was skipped across the harbor. After appreciating and enjoying our final site visit of the trip at Corinth, we boarded our bus and headed back to Athens. We departed Athens early on Tuesday, traveled through Istanbul, and landed in Chicago at around 5:30 p.m.; many of us headed immediately to GR, arriving before midnight Tuesday, a full 24 hours of being in transit. We are safely and happily home.