In Paul’s time, Corinth was the 2nd most important city in the Roman empire. Corinth was an exceptionally wealthy and important city in Greece.
Corinth was the capital of Achaia and located 40 miles west of Athens on the narrow isthmus connecting Peloponnese (on the south) with northern mainland of Greece. Corinth was located between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas and was a port city about five miles in circumference just south of the sharply rising 2000 foot Acrocorinth (see picture and see map “G”) from which Athens could be seen on a clear day.
At one time the city was home to at least 12 pagan temples. The Temple of Aphrodite (Roman = Venus) was located on the Acrocorinth and housed the 1000 “priestesses” employed who served as temple prostitutes to facilitate idolatrous “worship” (cf “sacred prostitution“). Worship at the temple involved sexual encounters with these “priestesses” and this attracted “worshipers” from all across the Roman world. The immoral condition of Corinth was so well-known the Greek term (coined by Aristophanes) Korinthiazomai (lit., to act the Corinthian) came to mean “to practice fornication.”
“Ships wanting to avoid the dangerous trip around the southern tip of Greece were dragged across that isthmus. The city boasted an outdoor theater that accommodated 20,000 people (See reconstruction of Corinth circa A D 100), athletic games second only to the Olympics, a Greek, Roman, and Oriental population….There were taverns on the south side of the marketplace, and many drinking vessels have been dug up from those liquor lockers. Corinth was noted for everything sinful.” (Charles Ryrie) Every shop in the city had a deep, spring-fed well in which to cool containers of wine. Strabo wrote that “All the people of Corinth gorge themselves.” It was even customary in stage plays for actors to come on stage drunk.
The agora was the city’s marketplace and the Bema was the judgment seat. Corinth boasted extensive commerce, like all the large towns on the Mediterranean Sea, and became celebrated for its wealth, magnificence, and learning. The Corinthians were captivated by Greek philosophy, disciplined training and athletic events held at the Isthmian Games. Corinth’s pottery, brass and marble for building columns were famous throughout the world. The city is now desolate with just a little village near the ancient Corinth. There is, however, a modern city of Corinth, a few miles away, with about twenty thousand inhabitants. Archaeologists have also discovered a broken lintel (part of a door) bearing the Greek description “synagogue of Hebrews.”
Series: 1 Corinthians
Study Resources: 1 Corinthians; and/or 2 Corinthians
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