Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 8.6.19 Str. 8.6.21 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 8.6.24


Corinth is said to be opulent from its mart. It is situated upon the isthmus. It commands two harbours, one near Asia, the other near Italy, and facilitates, by reason of so short a distance between them, an exchange of commodities on each side.

As the Sicilian strait, so formerly these seas were of difficult navigation, and particularly the sea above Maleæ, on account of the prevalence of contrary winds; whence the common proverb, When you double Maleæ forget your home.
It was a desirable thing for the merchants coming from Asia, and from Italy, to discharge their lading at Corinth without being obliged to double Cape Maleæ. For goods exported from Peloponnesus, or imported by land, a toll was paid to those who had the keys of the country. This continued after- terwards for ever. In after-times they enjoyed even additional advantages, for the Isthmian games, which were celebrated there, brought thither great multitudes of people. The Bacchiadæ, a rich and numerous family, and of illustrious descent, were their rulers, governed the state for nearly two hundred years, and peaceably enjoyed the profits of the mart. Their power was destroyed by Cypselus, who became king himself,

-- 61 --

and his descendants continued to exist for three generations. A proof of the wealth of this family is the offering which Cypselus dedicated at Olympia, a statue of Jupiter of beaten gold.

Demaratus, one of those who had been tyrant at Corinth, flying from the seditions which prevailed there, carried with him from his home to Tyrrhenia so much wealth, that he became sovereign of the city which had received him, and his son became even king of the Romans.

The temple of Venus at Corinth was so rich, that it had more than a thousand women consecrated to the service of the goddess, courtesans, whom both men and women had dedi- cated as offerings to the goddess. The city was frequented and enriched by the multitudes who resorted thither on ac- count of these women. Masters of ships freely squandered all their money, and hence the proverb, It is not in every man's power to go to Corinth. [Note]
The answer is related of a courtesan to a woman who was reproaching her with disliking work, and not employing herself in spinning; Although I am what you see, yet, in this short time, I have already finished three distaffs. [Note] 8.6.21

The position of the city as it is described by Hieronymus, and Eudoxus, and others, and from our own observation, since its restoration by the Romans, is as follows.

That which is called the Acrocorinthus is a lofty mountain, perpendicular, and about three stadia and a half in height. There is an ascent of 30 stadia, and it terminates in a sharp point. The steepest part is towards the north. Below it lies the city in a plain of the form of a trapezium, at the very foot of the Acrocorinthus. The compass of the city itself was 40 stadia, and all that part which was not protected by the mountain was fortified by a wall. Even the mountain itself, the Acrocorinthus, was comprehended within this wall, wherever it would admit of fortification. As I ascended it, the ruins of the circuit of the foundation were apparent, which gave a circumference of about 85 stadia. The other sides of the mountain are less steep; hence, however, it stretches on-

-- 62 --

wards, and is visible everywhere. The summit has upon it a small temple of Venus, and below it is the fountain Peirene, which has no efflux, but is continually full of water, which is transparent, and fit for drinking. They say, that from the compression of this, and of some other small under-ground veins, originates that spring at the foot of the mountain, which runs into the city, and furnishes the inhabitants with a sufficient supply of water. There is a large number of wells in the city, and it is said in the Acrocorinthus also, but this I did not see. When Euripides says, I come from the Acrocorinthus, well-watered on all sides, the sacred hill and habitation of Venus, the epithet well-watered on all sides, must be understood to refer to depth; pure springs and under-ground rills are dispersed through the mountain; or we must suppose, that, anciently, the Peirene overflowed, and irrigated the mountain. There, it is said, Pegasus was taken by Bellerophon, while drinking; this was a winged horse, which sprung from the neck of Medusa when the head of the Gorgon was severed from the body. This was the horse, it is said, which caused the Hippocrene, or Horse's Fountain, to spring up in Helicon by striking the rock with its hoof.

Below Peirene is the Sisypheium, which preserves a large portion of the ruins of a temple, or palace, built of white marble. From the summit towards the north are seen Parnassus and Helicon, lofty mountains covered with snow; then the Crissæan Gulf, [Note] lying below both, and surrounded by Phocis, Bœotia, Megaris, by the Corinthian district opposite to Phocis, and by Sicyonia on the west. * * * *

Above all these are situated the Oneia [Note] mountains, as they are called, extending as far as Bœotia and Cithæron, from the Sceironides rocks, where the road leads along them to Attica. 8.6.22

Lechæum is the commencement of the coast on one side; and on the other, Cenchreæ, a village with a harbour, distant from the city about 70 stadia. The latter serves for the trade with Asia, and Lechæum for that with Italy.

Lechæum is situated below the city, and is not well in-

-- 63 --

habited. There are long walls of about 12 stadia in length, stretching on each side of the road towards Lechæum. The sea-shore, extending hence to Pagæ in Megaris, is washed by the Corinthian Gulf. It is curved, and forms the Diolcus, or the passage along which vessels are drawn over the Isthmus to the opposite coast at Schœnus near Cenchreæ.

Between Lechæum and Pagæ, anciently, there was the oracle of the Acræan Juno, and Olmiæ, the promontory that forms the gulf, on which are situated Œnoe, and Page; the former is a fortress of the Megarians; and Œnoe is a fortress of the Corinthians.

Next to Cenchreæ [Note] is Schoenus, where is the narrow part of the Diolcus, then Crommyonia. In front of this coast lies the Saronic Gulf, and the Eleusiniac, which is almost the same, and continuous with the Hermionic. Upon the Isthmus is the temple of the Isthmian Neptune, shaded above with a grove of pine trees, where the Corinthians celebrated the Isthmian games.

Crommyon [Note] is a village of the Corinthian district, and formerly belonging to that of Megaris, where is laid the scene of the fable of the Crommyonian sow, which, it is said, was the dam of the Calydonian boar, and, according to tradition, the: destruction of this sow was one of the labours of Theseus.

Tenea is a village of the Corinthian territory, where there was a temple of Apollo Teneates. It is said that Archias, who equipped a colony for Syracuse, was accompanied by a great number of settlers from this place; and that this settlement afterwards flourished more than any others, and at length had an independent form of government of its own. When they revolted from the Corinthians, they attached themselves to the Romans, and continued to subsist when Corinth was destroyed.

An answer of an oracle is circulated, which was returned to an Asiatic, who inquired whether it was better to migrate to Corinth; Corinth is prosperous, but I would belong to Tenea;

-- 64 --

which last word was perverted by some through ignorance, and altered to Tegea. Here, it is said, Polybus brought up Œdipus.

There seems to be some affinity between the Tenedii and these people, through Tennus, the son of Cycnus, according to Aristotle; the similarity, too, of the divine honours paid by both to Apollo affords no slight proof of this relationship. [Note]

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 8.6.19 Str. 8.6.21 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 8.6.24

Powered by PhiloLogic