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Corinth (Ephyra)

The Greek city state of Corinth was located on the Isthmus of Corinth. The site was first occupied in the fifth millennium BC. The early settlement grew into a town which according to Greek legend was named Ephyra, after the goddess of the same name who supposedly founded it. This town may have been destroyed by an earthquake around 2000 BC. The city that grew from the ashes was named Korinthos in the Pelasgian language of the pre-Hellenic peoples of Greece.

Ancient Corinth was positioned about five kilometres south-west from the modern town of the same name, and is now inland from the Gulf of Corinth by about the same distance (the coastline was formerly close to the city and its two important harbours). Ancient Mycenae was a short distance to the south while Corinth's rival, Athens, was about ninety kilometres (fifty-five miles) to the north-east.

Corinth founded many colonies along the Mediterranean of which the most famous and most powerful was Syracuse on the island of Sicily. Before the period of its greatness from the seventh century onwards, there was a Mycenaean aristocracy which probably had a fortress at Corinth (which was known to them as Ephyra) and which took part in the Trojan War. Most of the names are mythical at best, although they probably reflect real people, however dimly.

fl c.1230s BC

Aeites / AeŽtes / ∆Žtes

Father of Medea. Gave Corinth to Bonos and took Kolkis.

c.1230s BC

Some versions of Greek myth state that AeŽtes of Corinth (Ephyra) gives his kingdom to Bonos and takes the land of Kolkis as his birthright, founding a new colony there by building Aea near the mouth of the River Phasis.

Bonos / Bunus / Bounos

Son of Hermes & Alkidameia.

Epopeus

Nephew of AeŽtes. Ruler of Sicyon.

Marathon

Corinthus

City founder according to Greek myth.

In Greek myth, Corinthus is the founder of Corinth, giving his name to the city. As the settlement long pre-predated the appearance of Corinthus, it is more likely that the city is simply renamed, with its old name of Ephyra falling out of favour or fashion (although it apparently remains in use for Glaucus, below). Local tradition proclaims Corinthus to be a son of Zeus, a normal claim for some of the more extraordinary Greek kings, but one that is not repeated elsewhere.

Corinth canal
Construction of the Corinth canal was started during the Classical period, but abandoned, while the modern version was only completed in 1883

Polybos

Husband of Merope or Periboea.

Polybos raises Oedipus as his adopted son after the boy's parents, Laius and Jocasta of Thebes, abandon him.

Creon

Killed by Medea.

fl c.1220 BC

Medea

Wife of Jason of Iolkos. Abandoned in Corinth by him.

After his return to Iolkos, Jason's new wife, Medea, kills Pelias and the couple flee to Corinth. There, Jason leaves her after Creon offers his own daughter, Glauce. Euripides' play Medea describes how she gains her revenge by sending a dress and golden coronet laced with poison to Glauce which not only kills her but her father too. Rumoured also to be responsible for the death of her own two children by Jason (accidental or otherwise), Medea flees to Thebes and then Athens.

Hippotes

Son of Creon.

Sisyphus

Founder of the ancient kings of Corinth according to myth.

Sisyphus, king of Thessaly, is condemned to roll a giant bolder uphill, watch it roll down, and then roll it up again, to be repeated for all eternity. This is in punishment for his avariciousness and for the regular killing of guests to allow him to remain dominant. He also seduces his niece and takes his brother's throne in the kingdom of Elis.

Glaucus

Son.

Bellerophon / Chrysaor

Son. Also king of Lycia.

Ornytion

Thoas

c.1193 - 1183 BC

Agamemnon of Mycenae calls to arms the forces of his allied Achaean kingdoms, including Corinth, to take part in the Trojan War. Bellerophon's grandsons, Sarpedon and Glaucus take part, but on the side of Troy, as Sarpedon is king of Lycia, a traditional Trojan ally.

Oinopion

Damophon

Propodas

c.1100 BC

The Dorian invasion of Greece from the north takes place between about 1200-1140 BC, with the Mycenaean city states north of Corinth falling between those dates, and with domination being achieved by about 1140 BC. Greece enters a Dark Age lasting about four hundred years out of which Corinth emerges as a backwater city dominated by Dorians. The list of names shown here does not guarantee an unbroken line of rulers. Indeed, there almost certainly is a break when the Mycenaean nobility is swept away. Rulers who are certainly Doric emerge in the tenth century BC.

Doridas

Ianthidas

Co-ruler?

c.1000 BC

Doridas and Ianthidas appear to be the last Mycenaean rulers of Corinth, which is subjugated by the invading Dorians.

Corinth

After the initial Dorian attempt to settle the Corinthian Gulf failed, the Dorian leader, Aletes followed a different path to enter the region and secured it from Mycenaean rule. It is not clear how many of the names before this event were his Dorian predecessors, but Aletes was claimed as the one who expelled the descendants of Sisyphus, suggesting that Aletes himself heralded the start of the Dorian rule of the city. He is sometimes claimed as the son of Hippotes, clearly an attempt to establish the legitimacy of his rule. With the invasion, Corinth entered a Dark Age along with much of Greece at this time.

Aletes

fl c.975 BC

Ixion

fl c.950 BC

Agelas I

fl c.925 BC

Promnes / Prymnes

c.900 BC

The rise to power of the Doric Bacchiades clan sees Corinth begin a slow climb from obscurity.

fl c.900 BC

Bacchus / Bacches

Founder of the Bacchiades, a Doric clan.

889 - 859 BC

Agelas II

859 - 834 BC

Eudemos / Eudaemus

834 - 799 BC

Aristomedos / Aristomedes

799 - 783 BC

Agemon

783 - 758 BC

Alexander

758 - 747 BC

Telestis / Telestes

747 BC

Automenes

747 - 657 BC

The year 747 BC is the traditional date for the aristocratic revolution which ousts the last Bacchiad king. It is the Bacchiades clan itself which achieves this, establishing in its place a republic which they govern. Each year a prytanis, essentially a governor, is elected by the clan to fulfil the kingly duties. During this period Corinth becomes stronger and is fully unified, and large public buildings are erected.

743 - 734 BC

The colony of Syracuse is founded by Corinth on the island of Sicily. Traditionally this is done by the exiled Bacchiades. Like Corinth itself, the colony is governed by a select number of the most powerful Greeks, but as an oligarchy. Another colony at Corcyra is also founded.

657 or 656 BC

Kypselos, the former head of the army, seizes power to rule Corinth as tyrant. The Bacchiades are forced out and flee the city. One of these is Demaratus, who flees to Italy and becomes the father of the Etruscan king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus. Kypselos rules for three decades and builds temples to Apollo and Poseidon. This period is a golden age for the city which sees it reach the heights of wealth and power, with colonies being founded all along the northern Mediterranean coast.

657/56 - 627 BC

Kypselos / Cypselus

Former head of the army. First tyrant of Corinth.

627 - 585 BC

Periandros / Periander

Son. Struck the first Corinthian coins.

585 - 582 BC

Psammitichos / Psammetichus

Nephew. Named after the pro-Hellenic Egyptian pharaoh.

582 - 392 BC

Psammitichos is assassinated, bringing the period of the tyrants to an end. An oligarchic republic is formed which sees a few powerful families rule the city. By now, Corinth is trading extensively, not only with Greek and eastern Mediterranean cities, but also with the settlements of Magna Graecia and the Etruscans.

480 BC

The colony of Syracuse is plunged into a war with Carthage when the latter lands a huge army in Sicily.

480 - 479 BC

FeatureLeonidas of Sparta achieves everlasting fame as a result of the events in the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persians in 480 BC. The 300 Spartans of Leonidas' personal guard leads a force totalling no more than 7,000 Greeks which includes Corinthians, Thebans, Helots, Athenians, and Thespians. The Persian army is held up long enough for the Athenians to prepare their navy for a seaborne engagement with the Persian fleet. Greek victory at the Battle of Salamis leaves much of the Persian navy destroyed and Xerxes is forced to retreat to Asia, leaving his army in Greece. The following year, the Spartans, now at full strength, lead a pan-Greek army at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC which decisively defeats the Persians and ends the Greco-Persian War.

431 - 404 BC

The Second Peloponnesian War pitches Sparta against Athens in all-out war. Fortunes swing either way, but Athens' failure to take the Corinthian colony of Syracuse and the subsequent loss of thousands of troops almost brings the city and its empire to its knees. Sparta is soon established as the greatest Greek power.

Corinthian coins

Corinthian coins minted in the fifth century BC

395 - 387 BC

The Corinthian War erupts, with Sparta facing a coalition of four allied states; Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos; all initially backed by Persia. During the war, Corinth's oligarchic republic is replaced by a democratic republic, in 392 BC.

386 - 338 BC

Corinth's experiment in democracy is brought to an end just one year after the end of the Corinthian War, with the oligarchic republic being reformed in 386 BC.

c.383 - 367 BC

Carthage renews the bitter war against Syracuse, something which only comes to an end with the death of the Greek ruler, Dionysius.

c.365 BC

Timophanes

Seized Corinth and was put to death.

c.365 BC

When Timophanes seizes control of the city, his brother Timoleon protests against the act, although not forcefully. Timoleon's comrades put Timophanes to death, much to the acclaim of the city's populace. Timoleon fares well in public opinion for the act, but his mother curses him and he retires for a period of twenty years.

345 - 340 BC

Syracuse is no longer the supreme power it had once been in the Mediterranean. Many small powers, war bands and tribal princes seek to control their part of the island. The Carthaginians launch their own military campaign on Sicily, but Corinth assists its daughter city, sending troops under the able commander Timoleon who drives out the invaders and assumes command of the city.

338 - 309 BC

Philip of Macedonia defeats the Greek states at the Battle of Chaeronea and gains overlordship over all of Greece, including Athens, Corinth and Sparta. Athens and other city states join the Corinthian League (or Hellenic League) which is formed by Phillip to unify the military forces at his command so that he can pressure Persia.

314 - 311 BC

The Third War of the Diadochi results because the Empire of Antigonus has grown too powerful in the eyes of the other generals, so Antigonus is attacked by Ptolemy (Egypt), Lysimachus (Thrace), Cassander (Macedonia), and Seleucus (Babylonia). The latter secures Babylon itself and the others conclude peace terms with Antigonus in 311 BC.

314 - 309 BC

Kratisipolis

Female ruler who also controlled Sicyon.

309 - 200 BC

The Fourth War of the Diadochi breaks out, with Ptolemy of Hellenic Egypt initially claiming Corinth among his territories. It switches hands in 303 BC, with Cassander of Macedonia securing Greece for himself. The war ends in the death of Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. Macedonia retains control of Corinth until 200 BC.

200 - 196 BC

The Second Macedonian War is triggered by apparently falsified claims by Pergamum and Rhodes of a secret treaty between Macedonia and the Seleucid empire. Rome launches an attack and after a spell of indecisive conflict, Philip V of Macedonia is defeated at the Battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC, while his general, Androsthenes, is defeated near Corinth.

200 - 197 BC

Androsthenes

A general under Philip V of Macedonia.

197 - 146 BC

Corinth becomes the capital of the Achaean League of Greek states in 197 BC. In 148 BC the league rises up to prevent the Romans establishing a permanent presence in Greece and is swiftly destroyed. Roman General L Mummius also destroys Corinth as an object lesson, leveling the city (in the same year that Rome is responsible for destroying another of the greatest cities of the age, Carthage). Greece and Macedonia are annexed to Rome, being incorporated into the province of Macedonia. Corinth remains uninhabited for a century before being refounded as a Roman colony in 46 BC by Julius Caesar.