In early June, I spent two days in the Corinthia at the diolkos, the excavated limestone portage road. The first of those days I spent with Sophia Loverdou. If you follow Corinthian archaeology and don’t know Sophia’s name, you should. Sophia is the person who has been campaigning for several years to save the diolkos road from destruction and expose the institutions and people responsible for ruining it.
Sophia drove down from Athens to meet with me on the first day of June. We spent half the day walking and talking about the diolkos. I gained many new views of the monument that day about the politics of archaeology which I’ll share in another post. As Sophia knows a great deal about the diolkos, it was great to see the monument with a fresh pair of eyes.
Now, anyone who has stopped at the submersible bridge at Poseidonia near the Corinthian Gulf will be familiar with this sign and segment of the road:
This, of course, is only a single small section (Sector G) of a kilometer of road excavated by N. Verdelis in the 1950s. The following figure shows the sectors of the road that Werner (1997) came up with to discuss the monument. Everything on the eastern side of the canal (in blue) is enclosed in the Greek Military Engineering school, and you have to request permission ahead of time to access it. But all the Sectors (A-G) on the western Peloponnesian side of the canal are easily accessible.
Sophia and I toured the different sections of the road as we talked. There was Sector A, the platform along the modern canal, which Fowler long ago (1932) thought was the beginning of the road, but which the road’s excavator, Verdelis, demonstrated was disconnected from the road by a span of about 10 meters (see plan above). Note the thick layers of sandy / pebbly sheets that have capped the pavement. Sector A has been reasonably interpreted as an ancient landing platform or quay that presumably relates to the diolkos.
Then there’s Sector B, visible in the photo below as the sand-covered area to the right of the low wall on the left. Sector B marks the true terminus of the road on the Corinthian Gulf. The pavements are now covered over by layers of sand but the western, southern, and northern walls are still visible.
Sectors C and D have survived poorly because of continual exposure to the waves of ships passing through the canal. They are now mostly underwater.
Then, there is Sector E, which is one of the best preserved sections of the road but has eroded significantly over the last half century.
The section that I saw for the first time was the well-preserved Sector K, the part on the Ionian side of the canal. Sophia requested permission for us ahead of time and an officer accompanied us as we visited the remains. It was fairly overgrown with weeds but some parts were clear. I shot some good photos of the deep cut grooves which scholars believe indicate the use for transporting heavy loads over the Isthmus. I was pretty surprised how little curvature there is to the road in Sector K – much less than implied in Verdelis’ discussion of the winding character of the road.
Sometime this summer, I’ll post these images in the diolkos section of this website. I will also post permanent links to a couple of videos of the best preserved sections on the Ionian Side of the canal:
A walking video tour of Sectors E-G. The video starts out facing Sectors B-D.
Walking tour of Sector G .