Limenoscope - Ancient Hellenic Ports
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Corinth - Lechaeon
 
Lechaeon was the western harbour of Corinth while Kenchreae was the eastern one. The two harbours were serving the navigation of the fertile Corinthian plateau and the wider area of Peloponnesus to the western Mediterranean and central Greece, as well as the Aegean Sea respectively. During the Classical times, the area of the Lechaeon harbour and the city of Corinth were connected with long walls, which are recorded in written sources and they have been partly excavated.
The first harbour works are attributed to the tyrant of Corinth Periandros. Furthermore, the relics of the harbour, the written testimony and the pottery scattered around the area testify formations dating possibly from the Hellenistic period and definitely from the Roman times.
The inner, dug out basins of Lechaeon consist the earliest example of the "cothon" type harbour in the Aegean and the one of the only two such examples in the same area, along with the one of Phalassarna.
The harbour was in use from the early 6th c. B.C. to at least the 6th c. A.D. During the middle of the 6th c. A.D. the basilica of Martyr Leonidis, which had been built near the western basin, was destroyed by an earthquake. After that, the "suburb" of the harbour was quite likely decline; although that does not necessary confirm the complete final abandonment of the harbour infrastructure.  
 

Figures

 
Main features
Region Corinthian Gulf  
Use Not defined  
Prosperity period (centuries) 6th B.C. - 6th A.D.  
Existence of contemporary port No  
Findings on site Yes, moles, wharves, basins, canals, possibly piers  
General description
Two moles are located at the beach, north of the inner basins. Their northern ends are still visible at the surface of the sea. They are constructed with headers bind together with clamps, as it is evident from the relevant cuttings. The formation also of the western mole's end suggests the existence of a tower or a lighthouse on it. The area between the two moles, which was perhaps communicating with the inner west basin with a second channel, is considered as a "pro-limen" by some researchers (Georgiades 1907, Paris 1915). An aerial view of 1960 (Theodoulou 2002) proves the existence of the so called "pro-limen" but not the channel.
East of the two moles, a row of un-worked medium size stones is visible underwater. It could have been constructed there in order to prevent the main entrance channel or the "pro-limen" from silting or even as a border of a second "pro-limen" basin (Georgiades 1907, Paris 1915). At the broader area of the harbour relics of walls can be identified as remains of the city walls, ship-sheds, temples, villas etc that are referred in the written sources, or even as other buildings necessary for the harbour's operation. Eastern of the entrance channel some conglomerated formations are considered as remains of Roman caissons. The main remnants of the Lechaeon harbour consist of three or four inner dugout basins, which were formed where a marsh once was situated. The sand and pebbles of the prime and the following dredging of the harbour formed two hills, which hided the harbour from north. Among the two hills a channel at the northeastern of the basins was leading to the sea. Both its sides were constructed by ashlars. Another channel was also connecting the western with the eastern basins. In several areas of the banks, remains of rows of headers of a not defined construction are noticed (quays?). At the northern side of the eastern basin, on a certain area of the structure, projecting perpendicular pillars can be found, probably used for mooring or berthing. Such a construction, situated at the southern side of the same basin, could be not its limit to the south, but a pier between this and another basin further south. In the western basin, there is a rectangular construction of ashlars, possibly a base for a statue or a lighthouse (?).  
Technical features
Construction period (centuries) 6th B.C. - 4th A.D., The first harbour configurations are dated probably to 6th c. BC. Based on pottery and located remains it seems that more harbour works took place around 45 AD. Finally some more repairs can be dated to the period around 335 AD after epigraphic witnesses.  
Port configuration Artificial Harbour, Outer Harbour, Inner Harbour  
Port basin size 1500 m2 
Main wind direction NE
Port land area km2 
Port entrance A channel at the norheast leading to the eastern inner basin. Possibly a second channel leading from the pro-limen to the inner western basin  
Change of sea surface elevation 0.7 m 
Sedimentation Yes  
Outer port structures Moles, Breakwaters
Inner port structures Quays, Piers, Canals, Basins  
Land facilities Temples, Defence Structures, Lighthouses, Other  
Construction method Ashlars and possibly caissons  
Neotectonic history Lift  
Shore line displacement Silting  
Function and operations
The harbour of Lechaeon transacted the expansion of the Corinthian colonies to the west during the Archaic period and was used as the most important port for the navigation towards Central Greece, the Ionian Sea and Italy during its operation period, from the Archaic to Byzantine times. Furthermore, the existence of ship sheds at the harbour is witnessed in the ancient sources (Xenophon). Thus, it is also certain that at least a part of the continent of the Corinthian fleet dealing with the west was housed in one of the harbour's protected basins.  
Sources
References in ancient literature
  • Thucidides, History of the Pelonesian War Ι.XIII.2
  • Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library ΧΙV, 86, 2-4
  • Xenophon, Hellenica IV.4.7-13,
  • Plutarch, Moralia 2
  • Strabo, Geography VΙΙΙ.20
  • Pausanias, Description of Greece ΙΙ.2.3
  • Polybius, The Histories V.18.9, 24.12, 25.5, 26.16, 28.4  
  • Related researches  
    Findings in museums No  
    Other references
  • Babbit F.C., 1928, Plutarch's Moralia. The Dinner of the seven Seven Wise Men, LOEB Classical Library, London, William Heinemann Ltd, New York, G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • Blegen, C.W., 1921, Korakou, a prehistoric settlement nerar Corinth, Boston-New York, ASCS
  • Bon A., 1932, "The Medieval Fortifications of Acrocorinth and Vecinity", Corinth, Cambridge, Mass, v. III, pt. II
  • Brownson C.L., 1947, Xenophon Hellenica, LOEB Classical Library, Cambridge-Massachusetts, Harvard University Press
  • Bursian C., 1862-72, Geography von Griechnland, Leipzig, B.G. Teubneer, v. II
  • Flemming N.C. - Czartoryska N.M.G. - Hunter P.M., 1973, "Eustatic and Tectonic Components of Relative Sea Level Change", pp. 4-5 in Blackman D.(ed.), 1973, Marine Archaeology: Proceedings of the Twenty Third Symposium of the Colston Research Society, held in the University of Bristol, April 4th to 8th, 1971 (Colston Papers 23), Londres, 4-5
  • Fowler H.N., 1932, "Corinth and the Corinthia" Corinth, Introduction - Topography - Architecture, Cambridge, Mass, v. I, pp. 95-96
  • Geer M.R., 1954, Diodorus of Sicily, LOEB Classical Library, Cambridge-Massachusetts, Harvard University Press
  • Georgiades A. S., 1907, Les Ports de la Grece dans l' Antiquite qui Subsistent Encore Aujoyrd' Hui, Athenes
  • Jones H.L., 1961, The Geography of Strabo, LOEB Classical Library, Cambridge-Massachusetts, Harvard University Press,
  • Kent J.H., 1966, Corinth. The Inscriptions 1926-1950, v. VIII pt. II, Princeton, ASCS, 164, pl. 42
  • Leake W.M., 1830, Travels in the Morea, London, John Murray
  • Lehman-Hardleben K., 1923, "Die Antiken Hafenanlagen des Mittelmeeres", Klio, Beiheft XIV, Leipzig, Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchandlung, 148-152
  • Marchant E.C., 1946, Xenophon Agesilaus, LOEB Classical Library, Cambridge-Massachusetts, Harvard University Press
  • Mazarakis-Ainian P., 1992, Les Structures Portuaires en Grece Antique, Memoire presente en vue de l'obtention du titre de Licencie, Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Faculte de Philosophie et Lettres, Histoire de l'Art et Archeologie, v. II, 50-54
  • Paris J., 1915, "Contributions a l' Εdute des Ports Antiques du Monde Grec", Bullentin de Correspondance Hellenic 39 (1915), 5-16
  • Parsons A.W., 1932, "The Long Walls to the Culf", Corinth v. III, pt. II, Cambridge, Mass, 84-125
  • Rothaus R., 1995, "Lechaeon, western port of Corinth", Oxford Journal of Arcaeology 14 (1995), Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, pp. 293-306
  • Shaw J.W., 1969, "A Foundation in the Inner Harbor at Lechaeum" in American Journal of Archaeology 73, Boston, Archaeological Institute of America, 370-372
  • Smith C.F., 1956, Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, LOEB Classical Library, London-Cambridge-Massachusetts, Harvard University Press
  • Spon J.- Wheler G., 1678, Voyage d' Italie de Dalmatie, de Grece et de Levant; fait aux annees 1675 et 1676 par Jacob Spon et George Wheler, Lyon, A. Cellier
  • Stiros, S. et.al., 1998. " On the date of construction of Lechaion, western harbor of ancient Corinth, Greece", Geoarchaeology 11.3 , 251 - 263
  • Tavernier J.B., 1680-82, Les six voyages de Jean-Babtiste Tavernier qu' il a fait en Turqie, en Perse, et aux Indes, pentant l' espace de quarante ans, Paris, G. Clouzier
  • Theodoulou T. 2002, "Lechaeon; the west port of Corinth", [http://www.rgzm.de/navis2/home/FramesGR.cfm]
  • Williams C.K., 1993, "Roman Corinth as a commercial center", The Corinthia in the Roman Period, (Gregory T.E, (ed) JRA Supplement 8), pp.31-36
  • Θεοδούλου Θ. 2002, "Λέχαιο, το δυτικό τεχνητό λιμάνι της αρχαίας Κορίνθου", Ενάλια VI, Αθήνα, IENAE, σσ. 83-99+
  • Πάλλας I. Δ. 1961, "Ανασκαφή βασιλικής εν Λεχαίω", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1956, Αθήναι, 164-178
  • Πάλλας I. Δ. 1962, "Ανασκαφή της Bασιλικής του Λεχαίου", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1957, Αθήναι, 95-104
  • Πάλλας I. Δ. 1965 (α), "Ανασκαφή της Παλαιοχριστιανικής Bασιλικής του Λεχαίου", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1958, Αθήναι, 119-134
  • Πάλλας I. Δ., 1963, "Ανασκαφαί Λεχαίου", Aρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 17 (1961/2): Χρονικά, Αθήναι, 69-78
  • Πάλλας I. Δ., 1965 (β), "Ανασκαφή Bασιλικής Λεχαίου", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1959, Αθήναι, 126-140
  • Πάλλας I. Δ., 1967
  • Πάλλας I. Δ., 1969, "Αγρός Α. Tίντηρη - Π. Γεωργίου εν αρχα?ω Λεχαίω", Aρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 23 (1968): Χρονικά, τ. Β1, Αθήναι, 200-202
  • Παπαχατζής N., 1976, Παυσανίου Ελλάδος Περιήγησις - Κορινθιακά-Λακωνικά, Aθήνα, Eκδοτική Aθηνών, σσ. 42-22
  • Σκιάς A.N., 1895, "Ανασκαφαί εν Kορίνθω", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1892, Αθήναι, 111-136
  • Σκιάς A.N., 1907, "Ανασκαφή εν Kορίνθω", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1906, Αθήναι, 145-166
  • Στίκας Ε., 1962, "Ανασκαφικαί έρευναι εν Λεχαίω", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1957, Αθήναι, 89-94
  • Φιλαδελφεύς A., 1921, "Aρχαία έπαυλις μετά Nυμφαίου εν Λεχαίω της Kορινθίας", Aρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 4 (1918), Αθήναι, 125-135 "Ανασκαφικαί έρευναι εν Λεχαίω", Πρακτικά Aρχαιολογικής Eταιρείας 1965, Αθήναι, 136-166  
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    Author Theotokis Theodoulou  
    Editor Theotokis Theodoulou  
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