Peirene Fountain

History of Construction and Use

Restored plan of the Peirene in Corinth, A.D. 150. Figure 1. Restored plan of the Peirene in Corinth, A.D. 150.

The Peirene fountain was established during the Greek period, when tunnels were dug into the clay beneath the Upper Lechaion Road Valley. The clay was cut back from the face of the terrace, and the resulting overhanging conglomerate ledge was supported by a series of poros limestone cross-walls, which created six chambers. The fountain was situated east of the later Lechaion road, and southwest of the Hexastyle Stoa and the Cyclopean Fountain.

After a period of neglect between 146 B.C. and 44 B.C., the fountain was developed and renovated during a series of seven Roman periods.

During the First Roman Period, minor repairs were made to the fountain, and walls were added to the east and west of the fountain façade.

The Second Roman Period was a period of dramatic change for the fountain. The Greek façade of Peirene was covered by a poros façade, which was pierced by six arched windows that provided views of the interior of the chambers. The first story of the façade was adorned with Doric columns, and the second story was adorned with Ionic columns.

During the Third Roman Period, the courtyard in front of the façade was enclosed with three walls. The resulting nearly-rectangular space was open to the sky, and the adornment of the walls followed the orders of the fountain façade. The north wall of the courtyard had a semicircular niche in the middle, and visitors to Peirene entered the fountain through doors that flanked this niche. There were also niches on the east and west walls of the courtyard, close to the façade.

A rectangular basin, supplied with water from chambers II and IV, was constructed in the middle of the courtyard during the Fourth Roman Period. The basin, called a “Hypaithros Krene” by Pausanias (2.3.3), was accessed by stairways on its northeast and northwest corners.

During the Fifth Roman Period, also known as the First Marble Period, the surfaces of the façade and the courtyard were cut back and revetted with marble. A rectangular concrete platform was constructed at the south end of the Hypaithros Krene.

The Sixth Roman Period is also known as the Second Marble Period, and the renovations of this period may be attributable to Herodes Atticus. New courtyard walls, with three large semicircular exedrae, replaced the previous courtyard walls, so that the courtyard was made more rectangular. The exedrae were each pierced with three niches. During this period, the fountain was accessed through vaulted tunnels that flanked the north exedra.

The fountain fell into disrepair during the Seventh Roman Period. Nearly half of the spouts in the Hypaithros Krene ceased to supply water during this period, and toward the end of this phase, the Hypaithros Krene was converted into a circular dipping basin.

Building summary written by Marcie Handler.

Pictures from the Peirene

Testimonia

Pindar, Olympian XIII 61, 63-66
Herodotus, Histories V, 92, 2
Euripides, Medea 68-69
Euripides, Trojan Women 205-206
Euripides, Electra 475
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.3.2-2.3.3
Strabo, Geography VIII, 6, 21
Cicero, Epistularum ad Atticum Book XII, V
Plautus, Aulularia 557-559
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae II, 43b
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae IV, 156e
Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae XIII, 588c
Ovid, Ex Ponto I, III, 75
Ovid, Metamorphoses II, 331-335
Ovid, Metamorphoses VII, 628-632
Alciphron, Epistolai Parasiton III, 15, 1 (Laemocyclops to Creolobes)
Alexander Aetulius in Parthenios, Narrationum Amatoriarum XIV, 1-13

Bibliography

Hill, Burt Hodge. Corinth I, vi; The Springs: Peirene, Sacred Spring, Glauke. Princeton, 1964.
Richardson, Rufus B., “Pirene [sic],” American Journal of Archaeology IV (1900) 204-239.
Richardson, Rufus B., “Report of the Director: 1898-99,” American Journal of Archaeology III (1899) 679-686.
Richardson, Rufus B., “The Excavations at Corinth in 1898: Preliminary Report,” American Journal of Archaeology II (1898) 233-236.
Richardson, Rufus B., “The UPAITHROS KRHNH of Pirene,” American Journal of Archaeology VI (1902) 321-326.
Tobin, Jennifer. The Monuments of Herodes Atticus. Dissertation in Classical Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania, 1991.
Wiseman, James, “Corinth and Rome I: 228 B.C.-A.D. 267,” ANRW II.7.1, 1979, 438-548.