Isthmus of Corinth facts for kids

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Corinth Isthmus
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 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. 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, road bridges and one submergeable bridge on the East Aegeanic side connect the mainland side of the isthmus with the Peloponnese side.

Submerge bridge Corinth
The submergeable bridge at the Aegean side of canal

The idea for a short cut 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 or Periandros in the 7th century BC. He abandoned the project due 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 Roman republic (later The Roman Empire) took control of Greece, a number of different solutions were tried. Julius Caesar foresaw the advantages of such a venture for his newly built Colonia Laus Iulia Corinthiensis. By the reign of Tiberius, engineers had tried to dig a canal, but because of a lack of modern equipment were reduced to using an Ancient Egyptian invention of rolling the boats on logs as the Egyptians rolled blocks of granite to make their pyramids, which was in use by AD 32. In AD 67, the philhellene Roman emperor Nero ordered 6,000 slaves to dig a canal with spades. The following year Nero died, and his successor Galba abandoned the project, since it appeared too expensive to him.

Modern preservation

Near the canal runs an ancient stone path, once used for dragging ships over land. 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.

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