65: Corinth's Early History

Corinth's Early History

The polis of Corinth has remained in the background of events as we have travelled through the narrative of the series so far. Now though, we have reached a point, the years leading to the break out of the Peloponnesian War, where Corinth starts to feature in the ancient sources on a more regular basis. This would be through diplomatic dealings, both within the Peloponnesian league and on larger Greek matters involving Athens.

For this reason, we are going to take a short break in the narrative to properly acquaint ourselves with this city state that would become more important in affaires going on within Greece. We will look back to the earliest times where human activity was taking place on the Corinthian isthmus. This will see us look at developments through the Palaeolithic and into the Bronze Age.

The Bronze Age collapse would see population levels drop on the Isthmus like with other areas within Greece. However, the region in and around Corinth would recover as the Archaic age drew closer. A series of kings would govern the city before an aristocratic revolution took place which would see a powerful clan known as the Bacchiadae take control. The Bacchiadae would dominate Corinthian politics for the next 100 years. Though, their dominance would come to an end with the rise of a new political development.

The figure of the tyrant would first develop on the Greek mainland at the city of Corinth. The first tyrant Cypselus, who overthrow the Bacchiadae, would install the first tyranny with the support of the people of Corinth. There would be mixed feelings of his rule, depending which social class was being asked. The tyranny would continue with his son Periander, who would be included as amongst the seven sages of Greece. However, the tyranny would come to an end in the third generation through the assassination of Periander’s nephew.

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