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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Co´rinth, a Grecian city, placed on the isthmus which joins Peloponnesus (now called the Morea) to the continent of Greece. A lofty rock rises above it, on which was the citadel, or the Acrocorinthus. It had two harbors: Cenchrea, on the eastern side, about 70 stadia distant; and Lechaeum, on the modern Gulf of Lepanto, only 12 stadia from the city. Its earliest name, as given by Homer, is Ephyre. Owing to the great difficulty of weathering Malea, the southern promontory of Greece, merchandise passed through Corinth from sea to sea; the city becoming an entrepôt for the goods of Asia and Italy (Strabo, viii. 6). At the same time it commanded the traffic by land from north to south. An attempt made to dig through the isthmus was frustrated by the rocky nature of the soil; at one period, however, they had an invention for drawing galleys across from sea to sea on trucks. With such advantages of position, Corinth was very early renowned for riches, and seems to have been made by nature for the capital of Greece. The numerous colonies which she sent forth, chiefly to the west and to Sicily, gave her points of attachment in many parts; and the good will, which, as a mercantile state, she carefully maintained, made her a valuable link between the various Greek tribes. The public and foreign policy of Corinth appears to have been generally remarkable for honor and justice; and the Isthmian games, which were celebrated there every other year, might have been converted into a national congress, if the Corinthians had been less peaceful and more ambitious.

When the Achæan league was rallying the chief powers of southern Greece, Corinth became its military center; and as the spirit of freedom was active in that confederacy, they were certain, sooner or later, to give the Romans a pretence for attacking them. The fatal blow fell on Corinth (B.C. 146), when L. Mummius, by order of the Roman Senate, barbarously destroyed that beautiful town, eminent even in Greece for painting, sculpture, and all working in metal and pottery; and as the territory was given over to the Sicyonians, we must infer that the whole population was sold into slavery.

The Corinth of which we read in the New Testament was quite a new city, having been rebuilt and established as a Roman colony, and peopled with freedmen from Rome by the dictator Caesar, a little before his assassination. Although the soil was too rocky to be fertile, and the territory very limited, Corinth again became a great and wealthy city in a short time, especially as the Roman proconsuls made it the seat of government (Acts 18) for southern Greece, which was now called the province of Achaia. In earlier times Corinth had been celebrated for the great wealth of its Temple of Venus, which had a gainful traffic of a most dishonorable kind with the numerous merchants resident there. The same phenomena, no doubt, reappeared in the later and Christian age. The little which is said in the New Testament seems to indicate a wealthy and luxurious community, prone to impurity of morals; nevertheless, all Greece was so contaminated, that we may easily overcharge the accusation against Corinth.

The Corinthian Church is remarkable in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul by the variety of its spiritual gifts, which seem for the time to have eclipsed or superseded the office of the elder or bishop, which in most churches became from the beginning so prominent. Very soon, however, this peculiarity was lost, and the bishops of Corinth take a place co-ordinate to those of other capital cities. One of them, Dionysius, appears to have exercised a great influence over many and distant churches, in the latter part of the second century.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Corinth'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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