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European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean

 

Corinth / Ephyra (Mycenaeans)

The Mycenaeans were part of a great expansion and migration of Indo-Europeans, a vast and multilayered grouping which originated on the northern shores of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The western section of this grouping migrated into Eastern Europe in the period between about 3300-2600 BC.

One of the last stages of this process involved the ancestors of the Mycenaeans. They descended from the steppe into Greece between 1900-1650 BC. Once there, they intermingled with and dominated the locals (who included the Pelasgians) to create a new, unique Greek culture. The first city states emerged by about 1600 BC, but the Mycenaeans did not form a single nation or kingdom. Instead they banded together the forces from each of their independent city states, placing them under one leader in times of trouble.

The city state of Corinth was located on the Isthmus of Corinth. The site was first occupied in the seventh millennium BC (about 6500 BC). Early settlement was sporadic but the settlement eventually 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 but a fresh city grew from the ashes which was named Korinthos in the Pelasgian language.

Ancient Corinth was positioned about five kilometres to the south-west of 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). Mycenae was a short distance to the south while Corinth's rival, Athens, was about ninety kilometres to the north-east.

During the heyday of what has sometimes been termed Graecia Magna, Corinth founded many colonies along the Mediterranean coasts. Of these, the most famous and most powerful was Syracuse on the island of Sicily.

Before the period in which Corinth itself achieved Classical greatness from the seventh century BC onwards, it had a Mycenaean aristocracy which probably held a fortress there (with the city originally being known to them as Ephyra). That aristocracy took part in the Mycenaean war against Troy. Most of the names are mythical at best, although they probably reflect real people, however dimly. Dates are highly approximate, based on counting backwards or forwards from the Trojan War.

Ancient Greek frieze

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from History of Humanity - Scientific and Cultural Development: From the Third Millennium to the Seventh Century BC (Vol II), Ahmad Hasan Dani, Jean-Pierre Mohen, J L Lorenzo, & V M Masson (Unesco 1996), from The Iliad, Homer (Translated by E V Rieu, Penguin Books, 1963), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith (Ed), from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Ancient History, Vol 2, Charles Rollin (Ninth Edition, M Ogle, 1800), and from External Links: DNA clue to origins of early Greek civilization (BBC News), and The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals (Science).)

fl c.1240s BC

Aeites / Aeëtes / Æëtes

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

c.1240s BC

Some versions of Greek myth state that Aeëtes 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.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece 1900-1650 BC
The proto-Mycenaeans seem to have been amongst the last of the western Indo-European centum-speakers to take to the road, following a path which had been trodden by related tribes for the past thousand years (click or tap on map to view full sized)

fl c.1240s BC

Bonos / Bunus / Bounos

Son of Hermes & Alkidameia. Died.

fl c.1240s BC

Epopeus

Nephew of Aeëtes. Ruler of  Corinth & Sicyon.

c.1240s BC

Greek myth has Zeus impregnating Antiope, daughter of Nycteus, regent of Thebes. She flees in shame Epopeus, seventeenth king of Sicyon, simultaneously abandoning her children, Amphion and Zethus.

Unable to retrieve his daughter, Nycteus launches a war against Epopeus but is wounded by the latter and is carried back to Thebes. Prior to his death he sends his brother, Lycus, to take Antiope. This time Epopeus is either killed in battle by Lycus or dies of his wounds. Then the dispossessed Lamedon regains Sicyon.

fl c.1230s BC

Marathon / Marathos / Marathus

Son. Ruled Corinth.

fl c.1230s BC

Corinthus

Son. City founder according to Greek myth.

Corinthus is the founder of Corinth in Greek myth, giving his name to the city. As the settlement has long 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). Alternatively the city undergoes a major rebuild which can often be classed as a 'founding' moment.

Corinth canal
Construction of the Corinth canal was started during the Classical period before being abandoned, while the modern version seen here was only completed in 1883

Local tradition proclaims Corinthus to be a son of Zeus, a normal claim for some of the more extraordinary Greek kings, but this is a claim which is not repeated elsewhere. His bother, Sicyon, rules the city of the same name.

fl c.1220s BC

Polybos / Polybus

Husband of Merope or Periboea.

Polybos raises Oedipus as his adopted son after the boy's parents, Laius and Jocasta of Thebes, abandon him. When the boy hears the prophesy that he will kill his parents, he exiles himself. Instead he manages to kill his birth father and become king of Thebes.

fl c.1220s BC

Creon

Son of Lycaethus. Killed by Medea.

fl c.1220s 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.

Jason and the Golden Fleece
Jason, rightful heir to the throne of Iolkos, returned home to claim his kingdom to the surprise of the usurper Pelias, who had promised to abdicate only if Jason came back (from Kolkis) with the golden fleece of a winged ram which originally belonged to the god Hermes

fl c.1210s BC

Hippotes

Son of Creon.

fl c.1210s BC

Sisyphus / Sisyphos

Founder of the ancient kings of Corinth according to myth.

Sisyphus, king of Thessaly and Corinth, 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.

fl c.1200s BC

Glaucus 'Potnieus'

Son.

fl c.1200s BC

Bellerophon / Chrysaor

Son. Also king of Lycia.

c.1200 BC

The Dorian invasion of Greece from the north takes place between about 1200-1140 BC, with the Mycenaean city states to the north of Corinth falling between those dates, and with domination being achieved by about 1140 BC.

All Mycenaean palaces and fortified sites are destroyed and a major proportion of other sites are abandoned. The population of the Peloponnese appears to decline by about seventy-five percent. Mycenae itself remains occupied, but is burned twice in succession and survives in a much-reduced state and size, never again to hold the reins of power.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece 1200 BC
Climate-induced drought in the thirteenth century BC created great instability in the entire eastern Mediterranean region, resulting in mass migration in the Balkans, as well as the fall of city states and kingdoms further east (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Once the Hittites had been destroyed around 1200 BC, and the Mycenaeans had themselves (probably) smashed Troy, the colonisation of the western coast of Anatolia could begin (the possibility that the earlier Ahhiyawa may also be a Mycenaean colony notwithstanding).

This would seem to be the most likely - and popular - avenue of Mycenaean escape from the mainland. Once there they form or take over states or regions such as Caria, Lycia, and Maeonia, and perhaps Pamphylia, between about 1100 to 900 BC. Those states themselves usually survive until they are conquered by the later great empires.

However, in common with much of the Near East, this general instability which has been driven by a major regional drought causes a dark age to fall throughout the remainder of Greece, until about 750 BC, when early Classical Greece begins to emerge.

Overseas trade ceases in the Mediterranean, people are no longer buried with lavish grave goods, and the fortress of Minyan Orchomenus is one of those to be broken by the Dorians, while others are substantially reduced in size or are abandoned altogether. The only state to buck the trend is that of Alashiya, which prospers.

Artist's impression of Troy
This illustration is another artist's impression of an unspecified version of Troy, although it is believed to be based on the city which existed around the time of the Trojan War, shortly before its defeat and destruction

fl c.1190s BC

Ornytion

Brother of Glaucus.

fl c.1190s BC

Thoas

Son.

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.

fl c.1180s BC

Oinopion

Son of Ariadne and Theseus.

fl c.1170s BC

Damophon

Son of Thoas.

fl c.1170s BC

Propodas

Brother.

fl c.1160s BC

Doridas

Son.

fl c.1160s BC

Ianthidas / Hyanthidas

Brother. Co-ruler? Last Mycenaean rulers of Corinth.

c.1160s? BC

Doridas and Ianthidas appear to be the last Mycenaean rulers of Corinth, which is now subjugated by the invading Dorians. Greece has already entered a dark age which lasts for about four hundred years out of which Corinth emerges as a backwater city which remains dominated by Dorians.

Hittite pottery of an Ahhiyawan?
Shown here is a representation on Hittite pottery of an Anatolian warrior of about 1350 BC, possibly representing an Ahhiyawan

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. The city appears to become abandoned for a time, before being refounded as a Dorian-controlled Corinth around 900 BC.

Corinth (Greeks)

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.

(Additional information from External Link: Encyclopædia Britannica.)

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. The elements of the Bacchiades that wish to continue to rule reputedly find refuge in the hills of Upper Macedonia where they eventually lead the Lyncestae tribe of Molossians.

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.

733 BC

Chersicrates, a member of the Bacchiades clan, establishes a trading settlement on Corcyra, off the Illyrian coast of the Adriatic. This island is either home now to the Corcyreni tribe or will become its home, possibly after the Corinthian expansion into Epidamnus around 600 BC. The Corinthians find a good deal of prosperity in their new trading arrangements.

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.

c.600 BC

Although long since forced out of the Dyrrah region and, specifically, the port of Epidamnus, the Taulantii tribe of Illyrians retain a great deal of influence within the port. Corinthian colonists arrive around this time and begin to make themselves at home - although they never quite manage to turn it into a fully Greek port in the face of strong Illyrian influences. Soon they are thrown out by the Liburnians and have to call on the support of the Taulantii to help them return. Having previously dominated the entire Dalmatian coast, the Liburnians appear to be expelled from the immediate territory around the port close to this point in time, allowing the Corcyreni to aid the Greeks in fully establishing a trading port.

585 - 582 BC

Psammitichos / Psammetichus

Nephew. Named after the pro-Hellenic Egyptian pharaoh.

582 - 392 BC

Psammitichos is assassinated by Sparta, 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. (These events are depicted somewhat colourfully - but no less impressively for that - in the 2007 film, 300.)

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 (with the naval battle, and the preceding one at Artemisium, being shown to superb graphic effect in the 2014 sequel film, 300: Rise of an Empire, although it does contain a great many historical inaccuracies). 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
This rather indistinct photo shows two sides of a Corinthian coin which was minted in the fifth century BC, a time of momentous events for Greece

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 Antigonids have grown too powerful in the eyes of the other generals, so Antigonus is attacked by Ptolemy (of Egypt), Lysimachus (of Phrygia and Thrace), Cassander (of Macedonia), and Seleucus (hoping to recover Babylonia). The latter does indeed secure Babylon 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 claims made by Pergamon and Rhodes of a secret treaty between Macedonia and the Seleucid empire that is designed to carve up Egypt's possessions. 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.

 
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