From the archaeological zone, it was a short drive around the other side of the mountain that was the background to our morning stroll around ancient Corinth. It is basically a huge monolithic rock that has been used as the acropolis for Corinth since at least the 8th century BCE. As a natural fortress it has a number of advantages, one being there was really only one way up the rock so fortifications had only one path to block before canons were invented. The other advantage is that it had a continuous spring on the mountain, water that was eventually piped by the Romans to run the Priene fountain within Roman Corinth. The Acropolis is associated with Sisyphus of the Greek myth where, for his hubris, he is forced to push a boulder up hill for eternity, only to have it roll back over him, at the end of the day. It is a myth that has stood the test of time to encapsulate the struggles of humanity
On the very top of the Acrocorinth was built a Temple to Aphrodite in the 5th century BCE. It was destroyed by the Romans but rebuilt and according to our travelling eyewitness of the time, Pausanius, it contained a statue of Aphrodite, armed, in armour and holding a shield in front of herself as a mirror. The remains of this building were incorporated into a Christian Church in the 5th century, a mosque during the rule of the Ottomans and on the day we visited, it had reverted to Greek Orthodoxy.
It was a beautiful clear sky on the day we visited and the views from below the Acrocorinth and from above after our walk up the mountain were worth the effort.
The map to the right illustrates how the only easy access to the acropolis is from the other side of the Rock from old Corinth. The fortifications we saw on our visit were generally the defences built by local overlords from the last two millennia. They needed to maintain control over the isthmus that was the only way into the Peloponnese from Greece for those intent on becoming the next in line as conquerors of Eastern Europe. Fortifications were built or repaired by the Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians and the Ottomans. The first three gates as can be seen on this map (Gates 1 and 2 in the photos above) show how defenders tried to stop invaders early in the climb before they got to the upper levels of the keep. The path we took on our visit was presumably the path that most previous invaders of the Acrocorinth wished to take.
As mentioned earlier, the views from the Acrocorinth were beautiful. The image below was taken even before we reached the first gate.
The image below is of the upper fortifications once we made our way through the third gate.
It is probably worth copying here a summary from an onsite poster of what the interior of the ‘castle’ consisted of, once the visitor is past the three gates. “The medieval and post-medieval settlement inside the castle developed in the more level western area and included houses, churches, mosques, military buildings, fountains, cisterns and baths. On the southwest side, a sturdy tower protected by a separate enclosure controlled the Castle’s interior and the entire valley to its south.”
We continued our climb to the top of the Acrocorinth and visited the small orthodox church on top of the fortress which was the descendant of the original temple of Aphrodite. The internal walls were covered with icons and paintings and the one of the ‘Last Supper’ below caught my attention. As can be seen from the image above right, the trek was worth the effort.
It is basically a one way path up though the fortress of the Acrocorinth, so it was back the same way down through the fortified gates that protected the path up the hill. By now it was getting towards the middle of the afternoon and our day trip to Corinth was beginning to be wearing our feet. It was time to hit the road back down to Naplio and the coast for a well earned late afternoon rest.