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The Canal of Corinth-Isthmus

Isthmus is a strategic spot for Greece and one of the most important for the East Mediterranean. Its construction constituted a major issue during ancient times, since it would solve a lot of problems for commerce and navigation.

Periandros, the tyrant of Corinth, was the first one to conceive the idea of the construction, around 602 B.C., but was content with just Diolkos. Dimitrios the Besieger, Julius Caesar, Caligula and Nero, all studied and attempted to construct the canal, with no success. Herod Atticus, the Byzantines and the Venetians, successor of Periandros’ vision, all gave it up for different reasons. Finally, after the Turkish Occupation, the newly established Greek state, after many attempts, completed the construction of Isthmus

When the Greek State was established and the Turkish Rule was finally over, in 1852, L. Lygounis, who was head director of the operations in the Nile River, created a cross section plans for the canal and submitted his proposal to the Greek Government. Ten years later the French engineer Grimant De Caux also submitted his proposals to the Greek Parliament. Both were considered unrealistic. However, in 1869, when the Suez Canal was constructed, the government and its leader Th. Zaimis decided to construct the Canal of Corinth-Isthmus and one year later this public work was allocated to french engineers and an agreement signed. Unfortunately, in 1881, the agreement got neglected and the work was awarded to General István Türr along with the right to exploit the bridge for 99 years.

The construction started on the 5th of May 1882 with great formality, in presence of the king and queen, and Nero’s 6.300 meters-long marking was considered the most accurate and economic. On the 7th of August 1893, and after the work had already become a responsibility of the Greek company “Greek Corinth Canal Company” under the coordination of A. Syggros, Queen Olga officially inaugurated the Canal, sailing across it accompanied by cannonades.

2.500 workers were needed for its construction and the best and most modern machinery of the time was used. It has a total length of 6.343 m, it is 24.6 m wide on the sea surface and 21.3 m at the bottom and a useable depth of 7.5-8 m. During the construction, 12 million qm of soil was mined, while along the canal quay walls two meters high above sea surface were constructed. The “Greek Corinth Canal Company” exploited the Canal until 1906, when it passed under the direction and supervision of the National Bank of Greece through the “New Company of the Corinth canal”. On the 1st of November 1980 the rights of the canal exploitation were transferred to the Greek State and the “New Company of the Corinth canal”.

It has been operating for more than a century and it has been closed from time to time, but only due to landslides, because of the special geological composition of the area. Until 1940, it was shut down for 4 years in total, and the longest that it stayed inactive was in 1923, for two years. In 1944, when the Germans left, they provoked the falling of 60.000 qm of soil and the unblocking work lasted 5 whole years.

Every year, approximately 15.000 ships and crafts of different nationalities visit and cross this beautiful Greek canal. It is without a doubt the center and the masterpiece of the Western and Eastern Mediterranean sea.


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