19 December 2010

A beautiful part of the world

Well, I've just seen some of the most beautiful coast-line and a stunning little port called Nafplion, which my dear friend Arabella recommended for a wee driving trip with the folks-in-law.  What a spot.  It seems influenced by so many other European cultures (Venetian, Turkish) and is such a lovely little arty place.  I did so enjoy wandering around there and peeking in lots of beautifully lit doorways at gallery designed jewellery and all sorts of gorgeous things made of olive tree wood and other ingenious finds.  It painted a completely different picture of the Greece I had expected.

En route, via Epidavros, Mycenae and Corinth, I was astonished by the ruins still standing and in some cases, still operating. The incredible ampitheatre at Epidavros, and the forgotten city of Mycenae which was in its prime between 1900 and 1200 BC when it began to decline.  And the Canal of Corinth.    You'll see some of the history below  - which is fascinating as to how long it was considered before actually being completed.

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.   

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.

(After much consideration and study)  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 and was completed in 1893 -(by the Greeks in the end).  

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.

A little interesting bit of history for your morning!
(Oh, and the most DIVINE limoncello and gelati in Nafplio!)

Bookie bird

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How very, very interesting Bookie Bird... thanks for sharing! I can't wait to go exploring there too (one day). Read your articles over my granola and yoghurt. Not as yummy as limoncello or gelati, but a good start to the day :)

Makes one wonder who / what inspired Nero... our fore-fathers were really, rather bright.