The city of Corinth and the forthcoming novel Onesimus
Onesimus had never been to the city of Corinth, though he had heard about it, as everyone had. It was famous—or rather, infamous. What he would find there would be a pleasant surprise, but it would also send him on a journey that made him question much of what he believed about the world
Corinth was an ancient city, though it had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, and only rebuilt about twenty years before Onesimus arrived. The city was named after a grape known as a ‘current,’ which was abundant in the region. This Greek polis sat on a narrow isthmus of land between the main part of Greece and the lower region of land that included ancient Sparta. The sun-drenched flatland upon which the city sat was just north of the 2,000-foot Acrocorinth, a steep mountain crag rising up from the surrounding land.
The isthmus separated the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf, and Corinth had two port cities to serve each body of water: Cenchrae, on the Saronic waters in the east, and Lechaeum on the west gulf, which looked east to Italy and Rome. Because of its location between the two, Corinth was an important trading center for the ports of Asia Minor and Palestine in the west and the Roman and Macedonian harbors in the east. As such, Corinth had become one of the largest in the Roman Empire. It had a larger population than the Greek capital of Athens, forty miles to the east. Harbor cities became melting pots of humanity, and any and all vices and virtues could be found therein: art, science, architecture, philosophy, and religion—but also crime and every form of decadence a Roman, Greek, or Egyptian mind could devise.
Corinth was a wealthy city. It possessed a large forum at its center boasting numerous fountains, public shops, toilets, and courts. To the north of the forum sat a large amphitheater surrounded by many other city buildings and paved roads. The amphitheater held 4,000 people and had been renovated only about ten years ago. Temples dedicated various deities were located all around the forum and elsewhere: to Asklepius, the god of healing; Athena, the goddess of fertility; and the renovated ruins of the sanctuaries of Demeter and Persephone up on the top of Acrocorinth. The latter included popular dining halls for the public. In addition, there was a temple to Emperor Tiberius, numerous other small temples, and four Jewish synagogues. Also located on the peak of Acrocorinth was the temple to Aphrodite, with its well-known fertility rites and temple prostitutes. It was for no insignificant reason that many Greek speakers used the slang term “corinthianizing” to refer to wild and licentious behavior.
Every few years, athletic games were held at nearby Isthmia, second only to the great Olympic Games held at Athens. Corinth profited greatly from these games, which brought in even more people than the normal trade activity between Asia and Europe.
Corinth was a huge, teeming, busy, happy, dirty, cosmopolitan city—one of the most famous and infamous in the entire Roman Empire. And Onesimus was about to meet an important citizen who would be remembered throughout history: Gaius Titius Justus.
Onesimus: A Novel of Ancient Christianity
Coming first quarter 2018.