(Photo: cdn.touropia.com/gfx/b/2015/07/ancient_corinth.jpg) Remains of the ancient temple of Apollo in Corinth, a city that originates long before the Archaic Period (750 – 480 BC). It was the center for the worship of Apollo. In the time when St. Paul visited Corinth around 49 or 51 AD, Corinth was a city of temples representing many deities, and featured a temple of Aphrodite. It was a major port city with two harbours on each side of a four mile wide isthmus, and critical to those in power for trade, but also for the movement of soldiers, and therfore it was pivotal for Rome.
Corinth was one of the main city states of ancient Greece, it was allied with and against Sparta during the many Greek wars at different points in its early history. It formed part of emerging Greek democracy, was important to Rome when later occupied, and has been a major player in modern European history. Corinth was equally part of Greece’s cultural development as other cities were, it developed art and pottery, contributed to philosophy, and the solidifying of religion and culture.
Corinth has been a robust, tenacious, and adventurous city, it has been host to great events in history, and has seen the long trajectory of cultural development. It has weathered many wars and has been occupied and reoccupied time and again, yet it still seemed to find within itself a particular strength in its own cultural and historical identity. It has been a survivor. Of course, Corinth is not unique in this, but it has had one of the longest experiences. Cities don’t do this in and of themselves, bricks and mortar, stone and glass are to a great degree inanimate. It takes a people, flesh and blood, to do that, to define identity, to build, grow, and develop, to accumulate meaning and culture.
I think we are in the midst of a great shift in culture now, we are seeing the fearlful and resentful cling to older, archaic ways in order to retain power and control, even if only in their own minds. We can see the ruling powers trying to come to grips with the mercury-like behaviour of markets, internet, politics, alliances, and the real events of climate change. Governments must be very conscious that high tech policing cannot hold people together permanently and thus the world is in a new place of flux with governments trying to guide populations towards manageable political goals. In the end compromise and friction will dictate otherwise, and the pasaage of time will make much of today’s anxieties redundant tomorrow.
As the world shifts and weaves, the Corinthians of old have something to offer, something archaic, to read the times and discern which way to go. Whether to fight with Sparta or against it, to adapt to Roman ways and cultural influence (ironically infusing Roman culture instead), to weather war and occupation, to be part of new ventures and cultural developments, and in the end – to simly be. They didn’t sit down and plan it, they were themselves just living into the experiences of push and pull, just as we should be, but in a global sense. The Corinthians weren’t Archaic in the midst of their great cultural leaps, they were themselves. To be archaic is to remain in the past. Make like the Corinthians is hardly a catch-phrase, but it is a great ideal, live in the moment, let go the past, adapt, weather, learn, and move on, together.
“The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vansished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes untill they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also inteligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking” Martin Luther King Jnr.