A 7th century BC tyrant, Periander, is reputed to have first had the idea. The neck of land connecting the Peloponnese to mainland Greece is indeed absurdly narrow – just six kilometres, with the sea clearly visible in both directions. But the project was beyond Periander’s means and so he invented an alternative, with boats being dragged laboriously across a paved slipway on rollers rather than braving the long sail around the peninsula, including the stormy cape Matapan (antiquity’s equivalent of the Cape of Good Hope or the Cape Horn). Julius Caesar and Caligula were among those who revisited the idea and under Nero’s command a massive slave workforce even managed to dig out about a tenth of the length of the canal before he died and the project was abandoned. Then, in the nineteenth century, following Greek independence, the project was once again got underway. Inspired by the Suez Canal, and despite financial and geological problems, the canal was in 1893 at last completed, connecting the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf and, technically, turning the Peloponnese peninsula into an island. The canal was never really a success. It was too narrow (just 23 metres), it could only be used one way at a time, its high walls channelled strong winds, the different tides created strong currents, its steep walls and the friability of the rock led to repeated rock falls and closures, ships rapidly got too big, the First World War led to a heavy decline in local traffic and the canal was badly damaged in the Second World War. Now, a few pleasure vessels aside, the Canal’s primary function is probably as a tourist attraction (you can bungee jump off the underside of the road bridge). And yet… All traces of Nero’s aborted, though considerable, efforts were blotted out by the nineteenth century works (which followed exactly the same course and even used some of the shafts drilled by the Romans). What a stupendous achievement it would have been! Nero’s Corinth Canal – the eighth wonder of the ancient world!