Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Canal at Corinth

Corinth---pronounced with the accent on the second syllable.   I've been pronouncing it wrong all of these years.

Corinth lies on the northern most region of the Peloponnese.  In modern times, Corinth is considered a suburb of Athens; a train ride from the center of Corinth to the center of Athen will take 59 minutes.  If you look at a map, you will notice that Corinth lies right next to the isthmus that connects the Peloponnese to mainland Greece.

As far back as the 6th century B.C., the tyrant of Corinth wanted to cut a canal across the isthmus.  This 4.5 mile wide piece of land was the barrier between the Ionian Sea on the west and the Aegean Sea on the east.  Because of this piece of land, that rose to 200 feet above sea level, sailors and merchants who wanted to reach Athens from the Ionian Sea had to sail all the way around the Peloponnese--a journey that took an entire day.  Not only that, navitating around the Peloponnese was extremely dangerous.  One of the two deadly capes on its south tip was considered to be a gateway to Hades (the underworld), so you know what that means!

6th century B.C. engineers weren't quite up to the task to cut a canal across the isthmus.  The tyrant of Corinth did order a slipway to be built.  The slipway allowed slaves to drag boats from one sea to another, in much less time than it would take to sail around the Peloponnese.  Oh yeah, this was a fabulous opportunity for the tyrant of Corinth to collect duties from all ships making this passage.  Little wonder Corinth had a booming economy during ancinet times.  It sat smack in the midst of a trade route, and was a perfect stopping point.  Think of all the secondary businesses that cropped up supporting the trade industry (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and it's not hard to imagine why the Apostle Paul wrote to the young, struggling Christian church to encourage them in their faith!

Back to the canal:  Finally, in the late 19th century, engineering techniques (already used in Panama and the Suez) allowed a canal to be cut in Corinth.  Greeks, French, and Hungarians built the canal that was inauguarted in 1893.  The canal is an impressive view.  Straight walls plunge  vertically down on either side of its narrow valley; a glistening blue streak of water creates a line as straight as a boulevard of a city.  a boat wider than 80 feet will not fit through the canal.

Check out Corinth on a map!  I have had such fun explaining the geography and facts of the slipway to my sixth graders at Douglas as well as to my Sunday school students at church (who are high school age).  Both audiences are astounded....as am I!

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