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Edward
September 23rd, 2005, 11:31 PM
Text from http://www.corinthcanal.com/

Ancient writers relate that, in 602 B.C., Periander, Tyrant of Corinth and one of the Seven Sages of Antiquity, was the first man to seriously consider the possibility of opening a canal through the Isthmus. Periander is said to have given up on his plans fearing the wrath of the gods. Pythia, the priestess of the Delphic Oracle, warned him not to proceed. It is possible that this negative oracle was provoked by the multitudes of priests in temples around the region who were concerned about not relinquishing their status of prominence or the influx of gifts and dedications by god - tearing merchants and seafarers who thronged lavish Corinth.

In 307 B.C., about three centuries after Periander, Demetrios Poliorketes made up his mind to cut a naval passage through the Isthmus. He actually began excavations before he was talked out of continuing with it by Egyptian engineers, who predicted that the different sea levels between the Corinthian and the Saronic Gulfs would inundate Aegina and nearby islands with the sea.

In Roman times -- which is to say two and a half centuries after Poliorketes - Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and Caligula, in 37 B.C. again courted with the idea. In 66 A.D., Nero reconsidered earlier plans and, a year later, he set teams of war prisoners from the Aegean islands and six thousand slave Jews to work on the canal. They dug out a ditch 3300 meters in length and 40 meters wide, before Nero had to rush back to Rome to quell the Galva mutiny. Once there, Nero was arrested on charges of treason and was sentenced to death in 68 A.D. The unfinished canal fell to oblivion and was overtaken by tales of superstition and supernatural lore.

The next historic personality to be associated with the canal of Corinth was Herod of Atticus. He tried, as also did the Byzantines - but to no avail.

The Venetians were next in line. They commenced digging from the shore on the Corinthian Gulf but the enormity of the task made them give up overnight.

Thus one attempt after another failed to reverse the inscrutable will of gods to retain the Isthmus sealed forever. There were many others, whose names do not survive, who were bewitched by the spell to link their name with such a superhuman feat.

In the eighteenth century, the Hellenic State having won independence (in 1830) after nearly four hundred years of Ottoman rule, was missing in material resources and financial strength to undertake such a costly task. Capodistrias, contemporary Governor of State, commissioned a special study on the canal project. The conclusions of that study made Capodistrias abandon further consideration. Subsequent studies and proposals submitted to the government were likewise evaluated as unrealistic and unrealizable and met with the same fate.

However, a final push of sufficient threshold energy came to rescue: Another mammoth-scale canal project, the Suez Canal opened its gates to naval traffic in 1869. In view of that event, in November 1869 the Zaimis Administration enacted a law entitled "Opening of the Isthmos of Corinth". Following that legislation, the government proceeded to assign the project to E. Piat and M. Chollet, French contractors.

Nevertheless, the pace of events again hearkened to another tune. The French contract remained only an agreement on paper. Twelve years later, in 1881, another contractor, a Hungarian general by the name of Stefan Tyrr and aide de camp to Victor Emmanuel established "The International Company of the Canal of Corinth" and took over the project. Construction of the canal -- a work which was destined to alter all existing sea routes in Greece, the Adriatic, Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea -- began on April 23, 1882. King George I of Greece was present at the official ground breaking.

It is quite surprising (and a historic irony) that modern engineering plans followed almost to the point the plans Nero himself has used long ago. In other words, the 6300 meters of canal length which Nero had mapped out still proved to be the most feasible economic alternative.

The Corinth Canal was completed in 1893. By then, the initial contractor had run dry of funds and was replaced by a Greek Company under Andreas Singros.

Naval traffic in the Corinth Canal was inaugurated in a brilliant ceremony held on July 25th, 1893. It was indeed a vindication of a dream first conceived some 2495 years ago.

Edward
September 23rd, 2005, 11:35 PM
Corinth Canal.

http://www.wirednewyork.com/photo/greece/corinth_canal.jpg

NYatKNIGHT
September 27th, 2005, 10:24 AM
I always wondered what that looked like - impressive! No wonder it took so long.

TLOZ Link5
September 27th, 2005, 02:02 PM
Been there. It's an amazing view from the bridges.