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Diolkos (wikipedia.org)
167 points by diodorus on Oct 22, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

I didn't know that this was unique to Greece, I always thought that it would have happened in other similar parts of the world.

fun fact (that I NEVER expected to explain in english! ): there is an expression in Greek which says "pussy can pull boats". Obviously there were prostitute services along the "diodos" as is commonly found in harbors and the "joke" behind this expression was that sailors preferred the hard work of pulling the boat on land and having a chance to meet women than sailing in the sea around peloponisos.

The paved trackway is unique and the scale is huge, especially for a pre-industrial society.

The general term for bringing a ship over land in English is "portage", but normally it's for things like canoes. Cambridge University has a set of "rollers" that are maybe 10m long and 2m high used for transferring punts between two sections of the river.

Bringing partially-dismantled ships over land led to one of history's stranger naval engagements on an entirely landlocked lake with no direct access to the sea: https://www.naval-encyclopedia.com/ww1/lake-tanganykas-naval...

This is great stuff ! When in Africa, Simson still went on with his eccentricities, wearing at all time a tiny skirt, and after his December victory, performing some sort of ritual bath twice a week in front of the locals that quickly saw in him a natural leader and went to revere him. Heavily tattooed, he was soon named “lord of the loincloth”.

It isn’t unique, but fairly rare (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portage)

I guess that’s because “similar parts of the world” are fairly rare. Requirements are that the shortcut is faster, safer, or cheaper (that Wikipedia page mentions an example where it was done to avoid taxes) than the detour over water, the land journey too steep (you’ll need beaches either side), and there’s a good reason to be at either side of the journey. I think that means you need population centers at either side.

The article you linked to is incomplete. There are five such ramps in operation on the Elbląg Canal in Northern Poland [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elbl%C4%85g_Canal#The_inclined...

The crest of Sollentuna (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sollentuna_Municipality?wprov=...) illustrates that the Vikings did this in the area.

I seem to remember that the Norse also had a few of those over land trackways on their "Traderoute from the Varangians to the Greeks" across the Russian river network to get from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.


“Don–Volga Portage (Russian: Волгодонская переволока, Volgodonskaya Perevoloka) refers to the ancient trade and military route located on the shortest distance (ca. 70 kilometers) between the major rivers Volga and Don, in today's Volgograd Oblast. The portage, where cargo and ships would be drawn over land either manually or by horse-drawn vehicles, was in use from the 1st millennium BCE to 1952 CE, when the Volga-Don Canal was opened.”

Fishermen crossed watersheds relatively often to enter pristine territory. Dragged their boats over.

They pulled their boats over land, but I have never heard about them building any paved trackways.


"Diodos" means "through-way" (and that's where "diode" comes from), so it's not really wrong in the context. Might still be a typo, though.

actually "diodos" is also a valid and widely used greek word: "δίοδος" ie diode :)

edit: i just saw that you are also Greek, so you already know that.

Also it was in my comment :P

LOL, I totally didn't see the part in the parenthesis! Και είσαι και απο το πί τσι κέι αν είδα καλά ;)

Τουκ ρεπρεζεντ!

During the Siege of Constantinople, the Ottomans constructed a similar path using logs.

Meanwhile, despite some probing attacks, the Ottoman fleet under Baltoghlu could not enter the Golden Horn due to the chain the Byzantines had previously stretched across the entrance.

Mehmed ordered the construction of a road of greased logs across Galata on the north side of the Golden Horn, and dragged his ships over the hill, directly into the Golden Horn on 22 April, bypassing the chain barrier.


This is a very good video explanation of the whole process [22 min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GtE0kfWDuU

This (https://www.filmfestival.gr/en/section-tdf/movie/1092/13048) was written and directed by Theodosis Tassios (https://www.ellines.com/en/achievements/39373-the-awarded-do...) who's a professor in NTUA (the most respected engineering school in Greece) and pretty knowledgeable in the area.

> the most respected engineering school in Greece

TUC begs to differ!

I assume that respect implies quality but does not, in any way, guarantee it.

Thanks for posting this!

The video is fascinating, it really looks like a railway.

Greece is a truly magical place - I would highly recommend a trip for anyone even vaguely interested in ancient history. There are little gems like this everywhere.

That is true and a good part of what is considered ancient Greece is nowadays part of Turkey. For little gems of ancient history don't forget the western coast of Anatolia. I personally can recommend Ephesus and Bergama.

Ephesus and Bergama are great, but a lot of what's left is Roman. Paestum and the temple valley in Agrigento in southern Italy are very well preserved and mostly Greek.

I agree. Lots of amazing sites all over modern day Turkey.

There could definitely be an "Atlas Obscura, Greece Edition" book.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerxes_Canal

"a navigable canal through the base of the Mount Athos peninsula in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, built by king Xerxes I of Persia in the 5th century BCE. [...] The total length of the canal was two km, its width was 30 meters, and it was three meters deep, enough for a trireme to pass."

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