The Diolkos, a paved road constructed around 600 BC and used to transport ships by land over the Isthmus of Corinth, is unique in its kind but it has never been protected since the time of excavation (~1960), progressively crumbling into the water at its western end..
In an effort to save and restore the structure, we have created an international petition at
I have received your message and have signed the petition. I have also passed the petition on to one of the largest forums on Greek issues and have asked for their assistance as well. With the one site alone you may obtain the desired signatures and more. Thank you for bringing the Diolkos to my attention. I have known about the Diolkos but assumed it was protected just as most of the other Ancient Greek treasures. If you need any more assistance in the matter let me know. I also have an aunt who is an Archaeologist in Athens who works for the 2nd Ephoria(Classical)
thanks for your support. No, Diolkos has never been protected. It has been shocking for me too, to gradually find out about its long "modern history" of neglect. Knowing I am addressing people who love our country and who, like you, assume its treasures are adequately kept, does not make it easy on me to say what I will say, but I think that looking straight at the truth is the only way out.
The decay of Diolkos has not only been allowed by the Ministry of Culture but it has also been favored.
Very briefly, some information (and anybody is welcome to ask me for the relevant documentation at [email protected]).
1960 - c.1985; the relevant documents are missing from the ephorate's files!
1985 - after an "understanding" of the Canal Company and the Ministry of Culture, a term calling for a restoration study is "forgotten"
1989 - a ludicrous "study" to embellish Diolkos is produced. It leaves completely out a large part of the monument which has been cut out from the rest by the erosion. After more than a decade it is actually suspended by KAS. SIX weeks after the KAS decision, the (then) ephor, Mrs Spathari, writes to the Corinth Court of Law that the study would soon be approved!
1992 - an antiquities guard notifies the ephorate that the erosion approaches the smaller part of Diolkos on the Peloponnese side. No action is taken, although the morphology of the ground at that point was favorable to practically ANY rescue approach.
1999 - Mr Papaligouras and Mr Dimas (then at the oppostition) present written questions about Diolkos. The official answer of the Minister, Mrs. Papazoi, is that a "study of the currents" had been asked to the Canal Company in order for measures to be proposed. The answer is ridiculous in itself but there is more: appallingly, as clearly denounced in the local post, NO SUCH STUDY HAD EVER BEEN ASKED.
.... in 2005, when I first met Mr Mantis (ephor between the summer of 2001 and november 2006) he told me that he was proposing to restore Diolkos. As I found out, however, the ephorate had NO documentation on how the monument looked initially....Mr Mantis was not only totally unprepared for any submission regarding funds, etc., but he also vehemently denied any rescue operations. In a meeting held at the Ministry on February 13th, 2006, the Direction for the Restoration of Ancient Monuments (DAAM) wasn't even invited to participate! The local ephorate (and Mr Mantis) kept for themselves the role of gathering "restoration standards" within 20 days... Mr. Mantis left the ephorate nine months later without having presented anything...
... to cut a VERY long story short, by now DAAM has the call to the Diolkos operations (from what I gather, at least). A few stones of the long erosion front have been supported last March, while the erosion keeps eating away the substrate underneath them. The already fallen part of Diolkos is suffering terribly from the waves and the wakes of passing vessels.
However, a first "master plan" approved by the KAS on september 4th can be falsely reassuring: no rescue action has yet been taken (and the Ephorate for Underwater Antiquities, instead of doing everything to ensure rescue operations, which call for no approval, WAITED for the plan to be approved BEFORE sending a reconnaissance diving team...
As can be easily deduced, the Services of the Ministry have completely overlooked their obligations towards our heritage for long decades.
The things I have pointed out are only SOME peaks in a sea of illegality, neglect and this outrageous "assisted demolition" of the defenseless monument.
Presumably "responsible" people are STILL ignorant of basic facts about Diolkos - but this doesn't deter them from signing documents, placing "decisions" etc...
As the terrible condition of Diolkos brings out, there has been no control mechanism for either the monument's condition or the responsibilities involved. Only covering-up mechanisms are always alert.
Last October, notified about my intention to open up the petition, the Prime Minister's Office asked the Ministry of Culture about the monument. Although two Justice Authorities and the Public Administration Control Body were ALREADY investigating the Diolkos case, the General Secretary of the Ministry, Mr, Zachopoulos (presumably copying Mr Mantis), "informed" Mr. Caramanlis' Office that the waves "have by now begun to erode the monument's substrate", actually, that is, hiding even the condition of Diolkos!
More damage for Diolkos as one more block has recently fallen... Although the Archeological Service knew that this particular block - a big one, too - was standing half on air, the stone was not secured.
This part of the monument, which one can see at their right before crossing the moving bridge on the Corinth-Loutraki road, is the smaller part of Diolkos found on the Peloponnese side of the Canal. At the time of the excavation (around 1960) a span of about 15 meters with no vestiges of Diolkos was between this part and the Canal (actually Verdelis, who directed the excavation, reported that the ancient vestiges once more could be seen AFTER 15 meters by the (then) side of the Canal...
The erosion reached this part of the monument around 1992; there is a report by an antiquities guard about this - BUT no action was undertaken. This part (section G according to Walter Werner) was left at the mercy of the erosion although rescue operations - at least temporary ones - would have been rather childish...
As the long sufferings of the excavated Diolkos come to light, various internet portals have presented the problem.
In one of these, there is also an image of the 2006 report by the General Secretary of the Ministry "informing" the Prime Minister (!!!) that the waves "have by now begun to erode the monument's substrate"...
Although the Greek Ministry of Culture has been forced to some movimentation for Diolkos, no substantial rescue operations have taken place as yet, other than supporting a few stones of the long erosion front..
Recently, the italian archaeology magazine SALTERNUM presented an article (signed by me) in which I mention the distorted information about the state of the monunent, given to the Prime Minister's Office by the General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Mr. Zahopoulos in october 2006.
The information was clearly coming from the Corinth Ephorate, headed at the time by Mr. Alexandros Mantis, today head of the first ephorate (Acropolis). Although Mr Mantis was responsible for Diolkos from the summer of 2001 to November 2006, the Diolkos remained totally unprotected during all this time; Mr. Mantis was also vehemently denying rescue actions.
One more piece of "information" included in the october 2006 letter to the Prime Minister is that restoration standards had been given to the Loutraki Municipality Enterprise that was supposed to go on with the "restoration study". However, no standards HAD been given to them; no standards were even READY and Mr. Mantis, who is also a member of the Central Archaeological Council should have been unquestionably aware of that, since standards were supposed to undergo the KAS evaluation.
Appallingly, all the distorted information included in Mr. Zahopoulos' letter to the Prime Minister was written while the local ephorate KNEW that Justice Authorities as well as the Public Administration Control Body (SEEDD) were investigating the Diolkos case; it seems that whoever passed this information on to Mr. Zahopoulos thought that he or she would not be asked to respond for it!!!
Articles about the dramatic decay of Diolkos have been also presented in the british edition of the TIMES. You can see the first article (scanned by me) here, and the second here
Although the TIMES archaeology correspondent, Norman Hammond, (Prof. of archaeology at the Boston University) mentions that rescue operations would be forthcoming (an information included in MY reports, too), the only thing done was to support some stones, letting the erosion go on beneath them!
As you know, two more ancient blocks have fallen since the last article hit the press; the deterioration of the already fallen parts of Diolkos is also constant...
Relevant services keep saying that something good is in store for Diolkos. Regardless of whatever happens in the future, it seems that DELIBERATE STALLING has been going on EVEN in the last few months. The Underwater Antiquities Ephorate refrained from sending for a reconnaisance dive during the whole summer, althought they had been asked to by the new head of the Corinth Ephorate. They sent a diver only AFTER the KAS had approved the Master Plan for Diolkos but, even then, it seems that he or she performed only a superficial survey, which has no relevance in view of the work that actually needs to be done.