This manmade waterway has been serving Greeks for over a century, but there is a much longer history associated with the Corinth Canal. This isthmus has long been an important navigation route, with the Ancient Greek tyrant Periander first conceiving the idea of crossing the strip of land in around 600BCE. Before this was made possible, sailors would have to circumnavigate the Peloponnese, adding an extra 185 nautical miles to their voyages.
Periander is thought to be the first Greek ruler to consider digging a canal through the land, but this was made difficult given the tools and technology available at the time. Instead, he ordered the building of the Diolkos, a stone-paved track which allowed boats to be transported over the isthmus.
Throughout the next six centuries, many Greek rulers had ambitions of digging a canal through the isthmus. But the likes of Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Caligula all abandoned these hopes after warnings that connecting the two seas would cause the Adriatic to flood the Aegean. In 67AD, Emperor Nero overcame these fears, ordering 6,000 slaves to begin constructing the canal – but construction was once again abandoned the next year after Nero’s downfall.
Only in the 1800s did plans for the canal resurface, but large costs associated with digging the canal ruled construction out for decades. That was until 1882, when work on the canal officially began. Construction was completed some 11 years later after many delays to the work. The creation of the canal turned the Peloponnese into an island, and boats first began sailing the waterway in late 1893.
In the years that followed, the canal brought great economic benefits to the nearby ports of Posidonia at the northwest of the canal and Isthmia at its southeast end. But with the size of ships and boats growing throughout the decades, most modern-day cargo ships are now too large to pass through the narrow canal. These days, you’ll mainly find smaller boats in the Corinth Canal touring this epic corridor.