The Corinth of this period owed the beginning of its prosperity to Julius Caesar, who, a hundred years after its destruction by Mummius (b.c. 146), rebuilt and peopled it with a colony of veterans and freedmen. It was situated on the isthmus which divided Northern Greece from the Peloponnesus. It had three harbors, Cenchreae and Schoenus on the east, and Lechaeumn on the west. The isthmus, forming the only line of march for an invading or retreating army, was of the greatest military importance. It was known as “the eye of Greece.” By Pindar it was called “the bridge of the sea;” by Xenophon, “the gate of the Peloponnesus;” and by Strabo, “the acropolis of Greece.” In more modern times it was known as “the Gibraltar of Greece.” Hence, at least as early as the march of Xerxes into Greece, it was crossed by a wall, which, in later times, became a massive and important fortification, especially in the decline of the Roman Empire. Justinian fortified it with an hundred and fifty towers. The citadel rose two thousand feet above the sea-level, on a rock with precipitous sides. In the days of the Achaean league it was called one of the “fetters” of Greece. “It runs out boldly from the surging mountain chains of the Peninsula, like an outpost or sentry, guarding the approach from the North. In days when news was transmitted by fire-signals, we can imagine how all the southern country must have depended on the watch upon the rock of Corinth” (Mahaffy, “Rambles and Studies in Greece”).
At its narrowest part the isthmus was crossed by a level track called the diolcus
over which vessels were dragged on rollers from one port to the other. This was in constant use, because seamen were thus enabled to avoid sailing round the dangerous promontory of Malea, the southern extremity of the Peloponnesus. A canal was projected and by Nero, but was abandoned. The common title of the city in the poets was bimaris
, “the city of the two seas
The commercial position of Corinth was, therefore, most important, communicating with the eastern and the western world, with the north and the south. The isthmus was one of the four principal points for the celebration of the Grecian games; and in Paul's day great numbers flocked to these contests from all parts of the Mediterranean.
On the restoration of the city by Julius Caesar, both Greek and Jewish merchants settled in Corinth in such numbers as probably to outnumber the Romans. In Paul's time it was distinctively a commercial center, marked by wealth and luxury. “It was the 'Vanity Fair' of the Roman Empire, at once the London and the Paris of the first century after Christ” (Farrar). It was conspicuous for its immorality. To “corinthianize” was the term for reckless debauchery. Juvenal sarcastically alludes to it as “perfumed Corinth;” and Martial pictures an effeminate fellow boasting of being a Corinthian citizen. The temple of Aphrodite (Venus) employed a thousand ministers. Drunkenness rivaled licentiousness, and Corinthians, when introduced on the stage, were commonly represented as drunk. Paul's impression of its profligacy may be seen in his description of heathenism in the first of Romans, and in his stern words concerning sensual sin in the two Corinthian Epistles. “Politically Roman, socially Greek, religiously it was Roman, Greek, Oriental, all in one. When, therefore, the apostle preached to the Corinthians, the Gospel spoke to the whole world and to the living present” (Edwards).
Called to be saints
See on Romans 1:7.
Call upon the name ( ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα )
Compare Romans 10:12; Acts 2:21. The formula is from the Septuagint. See Zechariah 13:9; Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4; Psalms 115:17. It is used of worship, and here implies prayer to Christ. The first christian prayer recorded as heard by Saul of Tarsus, was Stephen's prayer to Christ, Acts 7:59. The name of Christ occurs nine times in the first nine verses of this epistle.
Theirs and ours
A.V. and Rev. connect with Jesus Christ our Lord. Better with in every place. Every place in the province where Christians are is our place also. The expression emphasizes the position of Paul as the founder and apostolic head of Christianity in Corinth and in all Achaia.