A Book about the Diolkos

I first discovered Apostolos Papafotiou’s Ο δίολκος στον ισθμό της Κορίνθου (=”The Diolkos on the Isthmus of Corinth”), Corinth 2007 (ISBN 960-87108-9-8), while browsing Corinthian history books at bookstore in New Corinth.  Because I don’t like to pay over $100 for a book, I delayed until the following summer to convince myself that it was worth the price.  The truth of the matter is that this book is hard to find outside Greece—in the US, at least, only the university libraries at Yale, Harvard, and Notre Dame own a copy—and so there is  little hope of acquiring a copy via Interlibrary Loan.  The high cost of the book points to its principal value: at 325 pages, the book provides a compendium of 176 color illustrations, plans, photographs, and maps related to the Isthmus of Corinth, the site of Isthmia, and the diolkos.  There are some original observations about the Isthmus and the diolkos along the way, but the book’s main value in my view lies in its compilation of visual and textual material relevant to Corinthian territory: 17th-20th century maps, modern plans of archaeological sites, photographs of the canal and Isthmus, centuriation plans, reconstructed buildings, literary testimony to ship carting in antiquity, etc…  I’ve already used some of the images for teaching purposes, and have consulted it for its thorough (but not exhaustive) citation of texts. 


Papafotiou_Front Cover Papafotiou_Back Cover

The book is explicitly (from the title) about the diolkos, but it is really the Isthmus. A summary outline of the book:

1.The Isthmus, including discussion and full quotations of relevant texts, coins, Isthmia, geology

2. The Diolkos and the Canal, including discussion and full quotations and relevant ancient texts to the canal cuts

3. The Isthmian Games, including full quotations of ancient texts relevant to the Isthmian games and victors, as well as references to the Isthmus

4. The Diolkos and the Fortification Wall

5. The Diolkos and the Temple of Poseidon

6. The Diolkos as a Road, including discussions of the roads of the Peloponnese, the schematics of the canal, and the harbors of the Corinthia

7. The Diolkos and the Roman destruction of Corinth and the interim period

8. The Roads of the Isthmus

9. Ancient Texts about the Diolkos and the transfer of boats, arranged chronologically

10. Sectors of the Diolkos

11. Letters and characters on the Diolkos Road

12. Transportation of Cargoes: over the Isthmus and in the ancient world generally

13. Ancient Texts about canalizing isthmuses

14. Diolkoi and ship carting elsewhere

15. Mechanics of carting ships

16. The meaning and mechanisms of “holkoi”

17. Cranes and Lifting Devices

18. Boats in Antiquity

19. Transfer of Cargoes and Ships over the Diolkos

20. Venetian Period and the Isthmus

21. Geomorphological Discussions

22. Character of the Path of the Diolkos Across the Isthmus

23. Technical discussion of the canal in respect to gradient and topography

24. Topography of the Isthmus

25. Discussion of the Potential Paths of the Diolkos

26. Conclusions Brief biographical summaries of the ancient authors mentioned in the text Bibliography

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