Corinth Arrival

“Not everyone is able to go to Corinth.” That was the saying around the Aegean Sea. The bustling commercial city, known officially as Colonia laus Iulia Corinthiensis, overlooked the shipping lanes between east and west. The Romans had destroyed the Greek city two centuries earlier, but Julius Caesar rebuilt it and repopulated it with a mixture of Romans, Greeks, Jews and émigrés from around the Empire. A polyglot harbor proletariat of dockyard workers and ship’s crews added to the overall heady mix of the city.

With the foreigners came their deities. Isis was there from Egypt with Osiris, her consort. Demeter and Persephone had not traveled far from their homeland near Athens, Cybele and Attis had come down from Galatia, and Mithras from Tarsos. Dionysus brought along his wine flasks for his bacchanals. Aphrodite was gone, but her temple prostitutes lingered—now less religious and more commercial.

“Not everyone is able to go to Corinth.” Too opulent. Too decadent. Too extravagant.

Paulos and Silvanos accepted employment in the seaport village of Cenchreae, a few miles outside the main city of Corinth. Paulos repaired sails, toiling in a small stall on the docks that faced the harbor to the west.

His employers were twin sisters, Chloe and Phoebe, who managed the shipping business they had inherited from their father. The women lived in a wood frame building at harbor’s edge, the same home they had known since the days they were harbor urchins, about three decades ago, but Paulos was not a good judge of age, nor could he tell the hulking twins apart—big-boned, hippy, and broad-shouldered. Deeply etched frowns garnished their sun-ripened faces. They seldom covered their tangled reddish-brown hair, and they sported trousers—unheard of for Roman men much less for a woman—influenced by who knows what odd foreigner that weltered through their harbor. They swore like sailors and accepted no guff from any man. Only in Corinth.

Silvanos also toiled for the unmarried sisters as a dockworker. Often, Silvanos did not return to his sleeping mat in the stall on the docks—Paulos was uncertain which of the twins favored Silvanos—maybe both.

“Shun fornication!” Paulos warned Silvanos one day as their work on the docks ended and Silvanos headed toward the home of the women.

“Is the pious virgin envious?”

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