Friday, May 21, 2010

Corinth

Corinth! What a day it was. We hired a car, effectively tossed a coin as to who would drive (neither of us were keen), and headed out of Athens about 90 mins or so to Corinth. The drive went without incident thankfully; although I have to say that driving on the right hand side of the road in a manual with right hand gear changes challenged me greatly. Here’s hoping we can continue to do so safely.

Before coming to Corinth we stopped at Isthmia to view the canal. Unbelievable! Fantastic! I recalled that Nero had wanted to build this. When I saw the dug out sides of the Canal which were hundreds of feet high, I could see why it was beyond him! Amazing! I reflected on what it was like for the slaves and animals to drag ships across the isthmus back in the day! Crazy!

We passed through modern Corinth proper, a lovely little town. Then we arrived at ancient Corinth. What a lovely little place. The day was gloriously fine as the photos on facebook testify. We wandered the ancient site. The temple of Apollo, although incomplete, is amazing. We saw the range of shops, one of which no doubt was that of Priscilla and Aquila, where Paul sewed tents and talked religion with shoppers. We saw the Bema in the Agora where Paul was taken before the philosopher Seneca’s brother Gallio sometime in 51-52AD. We imagined him there, the case being dismissed. We wondered too whether here Paul preached the gospel to the Corinthians in the open air, with fear and trembling, preaching Christ crucified. We noted the powerful impact of the Imperial cult in the Julian Basilica and the amazing array of busts and be-headed statues of emperors Augustus, Julius Caesar, and Nero. We saw the inscriptions which mentioned Caesar regularly. Clearly, the imperial cult was big in Corinth at the time of Paul. We saw some of the remains of the Asceplius cult, stone female breasts and men’s genitals. This recalls the sexuality of Corinth with its great interest in female goddesses especially Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena. There are a great number of temples confined in this small site and the museum has as wide a range of idols as did Athens. Corinth was clearly a deeply idolatrous place.

The Odeon and theatre were amazing. One of the highlights of the visit was the Erastus inscription. In Latin it reads ‘Erastus, commissioner of public works, bore the expense of this pavement.’ Is this the Erastus of Rom 16:23? It certainly fits with Rom 16:23 saying of Erastus, ‘Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works.’ I was interested in the site of the inscription, beside the theatre. It would suggest Erastus was a lover of the great dramatic tradition of Greece. Now he followed the great story of Jesus.

It was exciting to see the inscription and fresco that reflected the Synagogue of Corinth in which Luke recalls that Paul ‘every Sabbath, reasoned … trying to persuade Jews and Greeks’ that Jesus is Messiah (Acts 18:4). Luke then goes on to say that these Jews reacted strongly against Paul and drove him out of the Synagogue so that he moved to the home of Titius Justus and that Crispus and his household and many others came to faith through his ministry from this home (Acts 18:6-8). I asked where this had been found and was told along the North Western Shops almost directly opposite the Bema across the Agora. I went and looked at these shops and in one an arch is still standing amidst walls that clearly marked the various homes/shops from one another. I pondered the possibility that one of these was Paul’s base? Was one of these the Synagogue? If so, it sat directly under the temple of Apollo; as such, it was sandwiched between this dominant temple and the Bema. I considered the bravery of both Jew and Christian in an environment like this! We have no idea what it was like and what courage they had.

We wandered the site including the ancient road that runs through it, the latrines, the fountains; at least what was left of it all. Corinth must have been a wonderful little city, a mini-Rome, after all, it was a very wealthy spot.

After exploring the site we headed up the Acrocorinth. It is dominates the landscape towering over Corinth. We drove up as far as we could go and then walked the rest. It was breath-taking on a cloudless day to see the Greek coast, ancient Corinth, modern Corinth and the area to the south. We explored the area on which once stood a huge temple to Aphrodite with a thousand temple prostitutes and a fort. I pondered how it worked to have thousands of soldiers and prostitutes together 24/7 on this hill! The history of this hill is amazing with the Romans invading it, it later falling to Ottaman Turks etc. Fascinating. The view from the top was worth the trip to Europe!

I imagined that Paul climbed this rock regularly during his 18 months in Corinth. He would no doubt have looked out across Corinth and Greece and prayed for the people of this nation. He would have pleaded with God for the Corinthians who, from the start, gave him a hard time, immersed as they were in the Greek and Roman world to such a strong degree (see 1 Cor 3:1-5). What a great place to pray!

I loved Corinth! I write this as we are domiciled in Tolo, south of Corinth, on the coast. We are having a couple of days r n r. It is lovely. I swam today, and sunbathed. Sorry if you are feeling the cold in NZ! We are slumming it. The hotel is lovely except that a party of American classics students were here last night partying. It was more like Parachute than a hotel. We are informed that it will be quieter tonight. What a blessing this is. Hopefully, the photos will be up on Emma or my facebook page sometime in the next days. Check them out. The undoubted highlight was G-string man on the beach... a rather slim and bronzed guy with a G-string. It was so tight, I think it was in tune! From paradise, this is Keown, out.

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