We arrive at the museum at 10am, by which point the heat is blistering and the museum rooms offer much needed air con. The first sight are these headless statues, still awaiting their aristocratic faces. The first room I enter contains the finds that once lived inside the temple to Asclepius. These terracota replica of body parts date to the Roman period – post 44BCE which bring two interesting facts to the study of Corinth history. The first fact is that the Romans at Corinth were somewhat engaged in the Greek cult of Asclepius, the Greek God of healing and medicine. To what extent their engagement was is unclear, but we know that both Roman men and women partook in the cultic practice, we know that both genders were involved because there were female and male genitalia replicas inside the temple. :
The second interesting fact found in this room is the body parts were predominantly of men’s genitalia. Although there were a usual number of feet, hands and legs found, proving the importance of these body parts to the daily manual work of the Romans at Corinth, the higher than usual male members prove something quite different.
Recently it had been proven by scholars (Murphy O’Connor for example) that rumours of Corinth being famed for the level of sexual promiscuity were nothing but propaganda or even only referring to the Greek era – pre 146BCE and not fitting for St Paul’s context. However, Arisophanes may not of been too far from the truth. Perhaps these Roman terracotta genitalia prove that sexual activity was still of central importance to Roman men.
Nevertheless, we can conclude from the contents of Corinth museum pertaining to the Roman era, that the human body (it’s form and functions) dominated Corinth culture. This is not surprising given that Corinth was the centre for the Isthmian games at this time in which wrestling, boxing and chariot racing was held. Winners would be hailed as God’s and would be celebrated and in the Greek era right through to the Roman era, worshipped.
Triumphant fighters of the games were hailed as heroes and depictions of their victories were delicately hand painted onto pottery which has remained stunningly in tact:
Visitors to Corinth will find numerous small Katastima which sell remakes of such pottery. If you are as lucky as we were you will get to watch one of the locals hand painting these pots outside the Ancient site exit with exactly the same materials as the ancient artists did with spectacular results.