The Canal of Corinth near the site of Isthmia

The ancient site of Isthmia was a religious sanctuary dedicated to the mythical god Poseidon. The site is estimated to be fortified around 1200 BC with festivities beginning sometime around the middle of the 11th century BC (Isthmia). In ancient times, there were four Panhellenic Sanctuaries. These sites are Olympia, Delphi, Nemea and, of course, Isthmia. The ceremonies held in Isthmia were second only to Olympia (OSU Excavations of Isthmia).

Studies show that the Olympic Games were founded between 700 BC and 582 BC in honor of Poseidon and the Isthmian Games took place every two years. The games were held in the Sanctuary of Poseidon. Not only did these games include the traditional sporting events, there were also competitions of drama and poetry. The games drew important visitors ranging from Alexander the Great to Paul the Apostle and the Roman emperor Nero (Steinhaus).

Two major fortifications in Isthmia are the Byzantine Fortress and the Hexamillion Wall. Both of these structures were built along the Canal of Corinth in the 5th century to protect locals from invasion by the Goths. The fortress included a Roman monumental arch, which was used as the northeast gate of the fortress and the grand entrance led to the Sanctuary of Poseidon. The main features of the sanctuary include a temple and altar of Poseidon. Beyond these walls are a stadium, theater, Roman Palaimonion shrine and Roman baths (University of Chicago). Today, little remains of the Sanctuary of Poseidon. The Hexamillion Wall is six miles and stretches along the entire Isthmus of Greece. Much of the stone used to make the wall was taken from nearby temples that were torn down to its foundations. There were 153 towers spread throughout the entire wall. Some of its parts are still stand to this day (Bowman & Marker).

Today the site of the ancient Isthmian Games is a popular tourist destination. Isthmia, along with the other ancient Olympic sites, is sure to be a popular area of travel for visitors during the Summer 2004 Olympic Games. Its museums and tours cater to the needs of visitors as well as Greek locals.

Bowman, J. & Marker, S. Frommer's Greece. Wiley Publishing. Indianapolis.

Isthmia. Hellenic Ministry of Culture. http://www.culture.gr.

OSU Excavations in Isthmia. Ohio State University. http://isthmia.osu.edu/.

Steinhaus, J. Let's Go Greece. St. Martin's Press. New York.

University of Chicago. Isthmia. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/siteindex?lookup=Isthmia.

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