Corinth & False Promises of Love

About Corinth I shall tell no lies. Rather, I shall tell of Sisyphus, deceptive as a god, and of Medea who married much against her father’s wish. [And of Bellerophon] who here in Corinth held the sceptre and the palace and the royal estates. He once endured great hardships, trying to harness [the winged horse] Pegasus, the offspring of the snake-haired Gorgon, until Athene, maiden-goddess, brought him the bridle with the golden brow-band. And dream became reality.

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As he lay asleep in darkness, Bellerophon believed the maiden goddess of the dusky aegis spoke to him. Seizing the magic bridle, he scrambled to his feet, and in delight ran to find Corinth’s royal prophet and he told him everything.. The prophet ordered him at once to heed the dream’s advice: to sacrifice a strong-shanked bull to Poseidon, Shaker of the Earth; without delay to raise an altar to Athene of the Horses. Gods’ power can lightly overturn man’s expectations and his oaths. So great Bellerophon seized the winged horse excitedly and slipped the taming bit between his jaws. Then, armoured all in bronze, he mounted. Pindar, Olympian Ode, 13.72ff.

In the lull before the town awakes and tourist buses grind and lumber through the narrow streets, the sun rises over ancient Corinth. Shadows stretch languidly. The Temple of Apollo luxuriates in golden light. The paved road leading from the sea seems pristine, while beside the Fountain of Peirene broad steps lead invitingly into the honeyed Market Place. Behind the ruins, Acrocorinth, a wall of glistening grey cliffs, rises sheer from the lush plain, its summit ringed with jagged walls, a medieval bastion encircling a plateau once sacred to the sun-god Helios. But even in antiquity his supremacy was eclipsed, and now – high on this tall acropolis, the tumbled masonry already warming to the touch – the foundations of his rival’s temple sprawl in the stirring undergrowth. It is the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love, sex and temptation.

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