The Isthmos, with the famous shrine of Poseidon on it, was one of the more famous shrines in ancient times. With the Olympic Games, the Delphic Games and the Nemean Games, the Isthmians, the Isthmos games in honor of Poseidon, were the heart of sporting-religious celebrations in Greece, and many athletes therefore tried in every 4-year period in each visit this cycle of 4 games in addition to other minor ones. At each of the aforementioned games, the victor was given a wreath (in addition to eternal fame). The lucky one who managed to win in all 4 games was called periodonikos “circuit winner”, as Lucius Cornelius Pythaules on the left.
The large Doric temple of Poseidon, with 6 x 13 columns, was built in the early 5th century BC, after an older wooden temple from the 7th century BC. burned down. Only a few roof tiles and a marble basin for ritual handwashes (perirranterion) remain of the older temple. The 5th century temple was built in 390 BC. also destroyed by fire, and later rebuilt, until 146 BC. (the destruction of Corinth by Mummius) to remain in use. The sanctuary was plundered by the troops of Mummius and lay deserted (despite Pausanias claim to the contrary) until it was rebuilt again under Tiberius. After the abolition of the Isthmian Games by Theodosius, the temple fell into disrepair until the stone blocks were used under Iustinian to construct a defensive wall over the Isthmos. That is why only the foundations of the temple itself are visible, with a few columnar drums, and also the colonnade that surrounded the temple in Roman times are no longer recognizable.
The more than life-sized remains of the sculpture group consisting of Poseidon and his wife Amphitrite, and some remains of the pedestal can be found in the small but extremely interesting museum of the site. Only pieces of Amphitrite have been preserved, and fragments of the pedestal.
The original running track (stadium) had its starting point at a very short distance from the large temple of Poseidon, while in the Roman period a new stadium was constructed at 250 meters from the temple and the temple itself was surrounded by colonnades. Of particular interest in the old stadium is that remains of the starting mechanism have been preserved so well that it is possible to reconstruct the mechanism itself.
The Palaimonion, where the god-heros Palaimon was worshiped, was built on top of the remains of the starting mechanism of the old stadium in the Roman period. The temple, under which the tomb of Palaimon is said to have been, was a circular structure that seems to have served primarily as protection for an image of a lying (dead) Palaimon-Melikertes on a dolphin. Of this temple (which is depicted on various coins of the Roman period), only the base remains, with visible access to the tomb of Palaimon on the east side. This base was no less than 1.80 m high. The discovery of many dozens of oil lamps in the Garden of Palaimon makes it clear that the worship of Palaimon will at least have had a nocturnal ritual, as is also indicated by Ploutarchos. In previous periods, the Palaimonion was at most a (fenced) holy court. The cult has also been very popular, especially in the Roman period.
Bath and theatre
The remains of a Roman bathhouse north of the temple complete the spaces used for athletes. As often, the remains of the old floor heating are particularly interesting to see. The beautiful floor mosaic is unfortunately (for protection) covered.
I and XII – entry rooms VIII – function unknown
II – multi-purpose room IX-X – hot water baths
III – V – cold baths XI, XIII – hot water baths
VI – large hall XIV – service areas
VII – changing rooms
The small theater, just north-east of the temple of Poseidon, has fallen victim to intensive demolition work for the late Roman fortifications. The foundations of the skènè are still clearly visible, but the stone stands have largely disappeared.
Very interesting are the many finds that are kept in the museum of the site, among which especially the (only very limited exhibited) remains of a glass mosaic have to be mentioned. This mosaic, originally intended for the Isis temple in Kenchreai, with landscape scenes, but also images of famous philosophers and purely decorative motifs was thrown into the water after being damaged in an earthquake still packed in crates in the port of Kenchreai. The countless other finds have been made accessible through text and explanation. Below left: the archaic perirrhanterion.