Isthmus of Corinth

Last updated
Isthmus of Corinth
Kanal-Korinth-2011.jpg
Aerial photograph of the isthmus of Corinth
Greece location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Coordinates 37°56′29″N22°59′16″E / 37.94139°N 22.98778°E / 37.94139; 22.98778 Coordinates: 37°56′29″N22°59′16″E / 37.94139°N 22.98778°E / 37.94139; 22.98778
Offshore water bodies Gulf of Corinth and Saronic Gulf
Width6.3 km
Sailing through the isthmus of Corinth, using the Corinth Canal Corinth Isthmus.jpg
Sailing through the isthmus of Corinth, using the Corinth Canal

The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "neck" and refers to the narrowness of the land. [1] The Isthmus was known in the ancient world as the landmark separating the Peloponnese from mainland Greece. In the first century AD the geographer Strabo [2] noted a stele on the Isthmus of Corinth, which bore two inscriptions. One towards the East, i.e. towards Megara, reading: "Here is not Peloponnesus, but Ionia " (τάδ᾽ οὐχὶ Πελοπόννησος, ἀλλ᾽ Ἰωνία) and the one towards the West, i.e. towards the Peloponnese: "Here is Peloponnesus, not Ionia" (τάδ᾽ ἐστὶ Πελοπόννησος, οὐκ Ἰωνία); Plutarch ascribed the erection of the stele to the Attic hero Theseus, on his way to Athens. [3]

Contents

To the west of the Isthmus is the Gulf of Corinth, to the east the Saronic Gulf. Since 1893 the Corinth Canal has run through the 6.3 km wide isthmus, effectively making the Peloponnese an island. Today, two road bridges, two railway bridges and two submersible bridges at both ends of the canal connect the mainland side of the isthmus with the Peloponnese side. Also a military emergency bridge is located at the west end of the canal.

The submersible bridge at the Aegean side of canal Submerge bridge Corinth.JPG
The submersible bridge at the Aegean side of canal

History of the canal

The idea for a shortcut to save boats sailing all round the Peloponnese was long considered by the Ancient Greeks. The first attempt to build a canal there was carried out by the tyrant Periander in the 7th century BC. He abandoned the project owing to technical difficulties, and instead constructed a simpler and less costly overland stone ramp, named Diolkos, as a portage road. Remnants of Diolkos still exist today next to the modern canal. When the Romans took control of Greece, a number of different solutions were tried. Julius Caesar foresaw the advantages of a link for his newly built Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis. By the reign of Tiberius, engineers tried to dig a canal, but were defeated by lack of modern equipment. Instead they built an Ancient Egyptian device: boats were rolled across the isthmus on logs, as the Egyptians had rolled blocks of granite to make their pyramids. This was in use by AD 32. In AD 67, the philhellene Roman emperor Nero ordered 6,000 slaves to dig a canal with spades. Historian Flavius Josephus writes that the 6,000 slaves were Jewish pirates, taken captive by Vespasian during the Jewish wars. [4] According to Pliny the Elder, the work advanced four stadia (about 0.8 kilometers). [5] The following year Nero died, and his successor Galba abandoned the project as being too expensive.

In the modern era, the idea was first seriously proposed in 1830, soon after Greece's independence from the Ottoman Empire, and was brought to completion in 1893 after eleven years' work.

Preservation efforts

Near the canal runs an ancient stone trackway, the Diolkos, once used for dragging ships overland. There are major concerns about preservation of this path. Greek campaigners are calling for greater effort by the Greek government to protect this archaeological site. [6]

Hexamilion wall

The Hexamilion wall is a Roman defensive wall constructed across the Isthmus of Corinth guarding the only land route into the Peloponnese peninsula from mainland Greece.

Related Research Articles

Corinth ancient city in Greece

Corinth (; Modern Greek: Κόρινθος, Kórinthos, pronounced [ˈkorinθos] is the successor to an ancient city, and is a former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, which is located in south-central Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality of Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It is the capital of Corinthia.

Peloponnese Traditional region of Greece

Peloponnese or Peloponnisos is a peninsula and geographic region in southern Greece. It is connected to the central part of the country by the Isthmus of Corinth land bridge which separates the Gulf of Corinth from the Saronic Gulf. During the late Middle Ages and the Ottoman era, the peninsula was known as the Morea, a name still in colloquial use in its demotic form.

In Greek mythology, Pittheus was the king of Troezen, city in Argolis, which he had named after his brother Troezen.

Portage carrying water craft or cargo over land

Portage or portaging is the practice of carrying water craft or cargo over land, either around an obstacle in a river, or between two bodies of water. A path where items are regularly carried between bodies of water is also called a portage.

Sciron mythical character

In Greek mythology, Sciron, also Sceiron, Skeirôn and Scyron, was one of the malefactors killed by Theseus on the way from Troezen to Athens. He was a famous Corinthian bandit who haunted the frontier between Attica and Megaris.

Petronia gens families from Ancient Rome who shared the Petronius nomen

The gens Petronia was a plebeian family at ancient Rome. This gens claimed an ancient lineage, as a Petronius Sabinus is mentioned in the time of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last of the Roman kings, but few Petronii are mentioned in the time of the Republic. They are frequently encountered under the Empire, holding numerous consulships, and eventually obtaining the Empire itself during the brief reign of Petronius Maximus in AD 455.

Corinth Canal canal in Greece

The Corinth Canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland, arguably making the peninsula an island. The canal was dug through the Isthmus at sea level and has no locks. It is 6.4 kilometres (4 mi) in length and only 21.4 metres (70 ft) wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships. Nowadays it has little economic importance and is mainly a tourist attraction.

Isthmian Games or Isthmia were one of the Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were named after the Isthmus of Corinth, where they were held. As with the Nemean Games, the Isthmian Games were held both the year before and the year after the Olympic Games, while the Pythian Games were held in the third year of the Olympiad cycle.

Attica historical region of Greece, including the city of Athens

Attica, or the Attic peninsula, is a historical region that encompasses the city of Athens, the capital of Greece. It is a peninsula projecting into the Aegean Sea, bordering on Boeotia to the north and Megaris to the west. The southern tip of the peninsula, known as Laurion, was an important mining region.

Cape Maleas cape

Cape Maleas, anciently Malea and Maleae or Maleai (Μαλέαι), is a peninsula and cape in the southeast of the Peloponnese in Greece. To distinguish it from the cape, the peninsula is sometimes referred to as "Epidavros Limira" peninsula, after the most prominent ancient city located on it. It separates the Laconian Gulf in the west from the Aegean Sea in the east. It is the second most southerly point of mainland Greece and once featured one of the largest light-houses in the Mediterranean. The seas around the cape are notoriously treacherous and difficult to navigate, featuring variable weather and occasionally very powerful storms.

Greece in the Roman era

Greece in the Roman era describes the period of Greek history when Ancient Greece was dominated by the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. The Roman era of Greek history began with the Corinthian defeat in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC. However, before the Achaean War, the Roman Republic had been steadily gaining control of mainland Greece by defeating the Kingdom of Macedon in a series of conflicts known as the Macedonian Wars. The Fourth Macedonian War ended at the Battle of Pydna in 148 BC and defeat of the Macedonian royal pretender Andriscus.

Diolkos paved trackway in Ancient Greece which enabled boats to be moved overland across the Isthmus of Corinth

The Diolkos was a paved trackway near Corinth in Ancient Greece which enabled boats to be moved overland across the Isthmus of Corinth. The shortcut allowed ancient vessels to avoid the long and dangerous circumnavigation of the Peloponnese peninsula. The phrase "as fast as a Corinthian", penned by the comic playwright Aristophanes, indicates that the trackway was common knowledge and had acquired a reputation for swiftness.

Doris (Greece) Region of Ancient Greece

Doris is a small mountainous district in ancient Greece, bounded by Aetolia, southern Thessaly, the Ozolian Locris, and Phocis; the original homeland of the Dorian Greeks. It lies between Mounts Oeta and Parnassus, and consists of the valley of the river Pindus (Πίνδος), a tributary of the Cephissus, into which it flows not far from the sources of the latter. The Pindus is now called the Apostoliá. This valley is open towards Phocis; but it lies higher than the valley of the Cephissus, rising above the towns of Drymaea, Tithronium, and Amphicaea, which are the last towns in Phocis.

The Myrtoan Sea, also written as the Mirtoan Sea, is a subdivision of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between the Cyclades and Peloponnese. It is described as the part of the Aegean Sea south of Euboea, Attica, and Argolis. Some of the water mass of the Black Sea reaches the Myrtoan Sea, via transport through the Aegean Sea.

Hexamilion wall ancient defensive wall in Greece

The Hexamilion wall was a defensive wall constructed across the Isthmus of Corinth, guarding the only land route onto the Peloponnese peninsula from mainland Greece.

Ancient Corinth city-state in ancient Greece

Corinth was a city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnese to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern city of Corinth is located approximately 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northeast of the ancient ruins. Since 1896, systematic archaeological investigations of the Corinth Excavations by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens have revealed large parts of the ancient city, and recent excavations conducted by the Greek Ministry of Culture have brought to light important new facets of antiquity.

Kythira Strait

Kythira Strait is a waterway off Kythira in southern Greece. The Kythira–Antikythira Strait is situated within the Western Hellenic arc. It measures approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) in length and is situated between the Peloponnese and the island of Crete.

The gens Pedania was a minor plebeian family at Rome. Members of this gens are first mentioned at the time of the Second Punic War, but they achieved little prominence until imperial times, when the ill-starred Lucius Pedanius Secundus attained the consulship under Nero.

Crommyon or Krommyon, or Cromyon or Kromyon (Κρομυών), or Cremmyon or Kremmyon (Κρεμμυών), was a small town of ancient Corinthia on the Saronic Gulf, but originally the last town of Megaris. It was the chief place between the isthmus, properly so called, and Megara; whence the whole of this coast was called the Crommyonia. Crommyon was distant 120 stadia from Corinth, and therefore occupied the site of the ruins near the chapel of Ag. Theodori. Crommyon is said by Pausanias to have derived its name from Crommus, the son of Poseidon. It is celebrated in mythology as the haunt of the Crommyonian Sow destroyed by Theseus. It was taken by the Lacedaemonians in the Corinthian War, but was recovered by Iphicrates.

Bybassus or Bybassos or Bubassus or Bubassos was a town in ancient Caria. Ephorus, according to Stephanus of Byzantium, wrote Bybasstum or Bybasston (Βύβασστον) and Bybastium or Bybastion (Βυβάστιον); and Diodorus means the same place, when he calls it Bubastus of the Chersonesus. Pliny the Elder has a "regio Bubassus;" and he adds, "there was a town Acanthus, otherwise called Dulopolis." He places the "regio Bubassus" next to Triopia, the district of Triopium. Finally, Pomponius Mela mentions a Bubassius Sinus. The Bubassia Chersonesus is mentioned by Herodotus. Herodotus tells a story of the Cnidians attempting to cut a canal through a narrow neck of land for the purpose of insulating their peninsula, and protecting themselves against the Persians; they were at the work while Harpagus was conquering Ionia. The isthmus where they made the attempt was five stadia wide, and rocky. This place cannot be the isthmus which connects the mainland with the high peninsula, once called Cape Krio (now Cape Deveboynu, for it is sandy, and Strabo says that Cape Krio was once an island, but in his time was connected with the land by a causeway. Besides this, the chief part of the city of Cnidus was on the mainland; though we cannot be sure that this was so in the time of Harpagus. The passage in Herodotus is somewhat obscure, but mainly because it is ill pointed. His description is in his usually diffuse, hardly grammatical, form. Herodotus says, "Both other Hellenes inhabit this country and Lacedaemonian colonists, Cnidians, their territory being turned to the sea, and commencing from the Chersonesus Bubassiae, and all the Cnidia being surrounded by the sea, except a small part (for on the north it is bounded by the Gulf Ceramicus, and on the south by the sea in the direction of Syme and Rhodus; now at this small part, being about five stadia, the Cnidians were working to dig a canal." It is clear, then, that he means a narrow neck some distance east of the town of Cnidus.

References