21 May 2019
Ancient Corinth was next but our guidebook told us not to miss out on Acrocorinth which, it said, sits on the mass of rock rising up above Ancient Corinth. We put in the co-ordinates and followed the directions up one of those steep, narrow things that some people call a road with no barrier, crumbly edges, and a sheer drop. Although the views were beautiful and broom lined the road in gorgeous yellow masses, the main concern was whether we would meet anything coming in the opposite direction. For the mile and a half up we were lucky, and even thought the place might be deserted but the small carpark had a scattering of cars and 2 small campervans. We were the biggest thing to have made the journey up though – no coaches here!
We started climb up on shiny, uneven cobbles through an arch in the first of 3 lines of defence. Acrocorinth was a fortress and most of it’s 2km of wall built to encircle the top of the hill are still present in various states of repair.
Within them is a jumble of multi-cultural ruins – Greeks, Romans, Byzanrtines, Frankish Crusaders, Venetians and Turks have all made their mark.
It is a beautiful ruin in a beautiful setting and we had certainly picked the right time of year to visit – tall grasses and a proliferation of wildflowers made the site magical, and the hum of bees gorging on nectar was a constant (when not drowned out by the sound of a strimmer). Blue Rock Thrush have made this place their own, and the scratchy song of Sardinian Warblers contrasted with their sweet song.
We visited the highest points – the Frankish Keep which remarkably last saw action as late as 1828, and the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite with amazing views of Modern Corinth below on the narrow neck of land between the Gulf of Corinth & the Saronic Gulf. The entrance to the 6km Corinth Canal joining the two was clearly visible.
We found the critical spring, a pool some meters down inside the rock that has never run dry.
We loved Acrocorinth and spent a happy couple of hours exploring. The descent was slow though to preserve Danny’s knee- – his preferred technique seems to work well but got us some odd looks.
Sadly we had to move on and descended to Ancient Corinth nearly 2000ft below. Whatever we were expecting, it wasn’t this. The site is a real jumble, with very little reconstruction and dated signage which really does stretch the imagination. It was nowhere near as atmospheric as Acrocorinth but worth seeing nevertheless and we spent almost 2 hours there.
Ancient Corinth was once key in controlling the trade between Rome and the Peleponnese. It suffered from rivalry with the Athenians and was flattened by the Romans then rebuilt by them 100 years later, but was never to return to it’s former glories. Although there were still people living in some of the buildings to the mid 19th century it feels like it was deserted millenia ago. Seven columns of the Greek Temple of Apollo have been re-erected and are the most photogenic part of the site, but the bit that draws most interest is the bema, a marble platform where St Paul defended himself against his accusers and won. So it was right that another person who liked a good ‘debate’ had his photo taken atop it!
We liked the remains of the Roman Agora where all the shops were – you could actually imagine it – but a lot of the site contains the shattered remains of who-knows-what, with column-tops scattered on the floor amongst inscribed pediments and huge blocks of limestone or marble.We visited the musem which had some nice local pieces, a lot of headless statues, and a fascinating tale about a robbery of nearly 300 pieces and all the staff wages in 1990, followed by the recovery of most of the haul in New York some 10 years later (worth a Google).
By the end of our explorations we had both caught the sun and retreated for a cold beer at a Taverna with a view over the ruins. We reviewed our plan to stay nearby and instead made for Ancient Mycenae hoping to stay on the carpark overnight but the signs were very clear – no camping! We found a secluded spot spot less than a mile away, hidden from view, opened all the windows – it was 30 degrees – and watched the sun turn the sky behind the mountains red serenaded by the dogs barking in the village below.