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The Peloponnesus, which was formerly called Apia1 and Pelasgia, is a peninsula, inferior in fame to no land upon the face of the earth. Situate between the two seas, the Ægæan and the Ionian, it is in shape like the leaf of a plane-tree, in consequence of the angular indentations made in its shores. According to Isidorus, it is 563 miles in circumference; and nearly as much again, allowing for the sea-line on the margin of its gulfs. The narrow pass at which it commences is know by the name of the Isthmus. At this spot the two seas, which we have previously mentioned, running from the north and the east, invade the land from opposite sides2, and swallow up its entire breadth, the result being that through these inroads in opposite directions of such vast bodies of water, the sides of the land are eaten away to such an extent, that Hellas3 only holds on to the Peloponnesus by the narrow neck, five miles in width, which intervenes. The Gulfs thus formed, the one on this side, the other on that, are known as the Corinthian4 and the Saronic Gulfs. The ports of Lecheæ5, on the one side, and of Cenchreæ on the other, form the frontiers of this narrow passage, which thus compels to a tedious and perilous circumnavigation such vessels as from their magnitude cannot be carried across by land on vehicles. For this reason it is that both King Demetrius6, Cæsar the Dictator, the prince Caius7, and Domitius Nero8, have at different times made the attempt to cut through this neck by forming a navigable canal; a profane design, as may be clearly seen by the result9 in every one of these instances.

Upon the middle of this intervening neck which we have called the Isthmus, stands the colony of Corinth, formerly known by the name of Ephyre10, situate upon the brow of a hill, at a distance of sixty stadia from the shore of either sea. From the heights of its citadel, which is called Acrocorinthos, or the "Heights of Corinth," and in which is the Fountain of Pirene, it looks down upon the two seas which lie in the opposite directions. From Leucas to Patræ upon the Corinthian gulf is a distance of eighty-eight miles. The colony of Patræ11 is founded upon the most extensive promontory of the Peloponnesus, facing Ætolia and the river Evenus, the Corinthian Gulf being, as we have previously12 stated, less than a mile in width at the entrance there, though extending in length as far as the isthmus, a distance of eighty-five miles.

1 From Apis, the son of Phoroneus, or Telchines, according to Pausanias. After the arrival of Pelops, it took from him its name of Peloponnesus, or the "Island of Pelops."

2 The Ionian from the north, and the Ægean, or rather, Myrtoan, Sea from the east.

3 That part of Greece proper which lies to the north of the Isthmus.

4 Now the Gulfs of Lepanto and Egina.

5 Lecheæ was the harbour of Corinth on the Corinthian, and Cenchreæ on the Saronic Gulf. The name of the latter is still preserved in the modern appellation Kechries, which is given to its ruins.

6 Demetrius Poliorcetes, king of Macedonia, son of Antigonus, king of Asia.

7 Caius Caligula, the Emperor.

8 The Emperor Nero actually commenced the work, having opened the undertaking with great pomp, and cut away a portion of the earth with his own hands. He had advanced four stadia, when the work was interrupted by the insurrection of Julius Vindex in Gaul.

9 We cannot agree with Hardouin that "exitus" here means "death," in allusion to the unfortunate end of all those who had made the attempt. The opinion of Spanheim seems rather deserving of support (though censured by Hardouin), that it merely means "the result" in each case; it being the fact, that in all the instances the contemplated undertaking was interrupted by some unforeseen event. Periander and Herodes Atticus also contemplated the formation of this channel.

10 It is not known when it exchanged this name for that of Corinth; being called by both names in Homer. Scarcely any remains of it are now to be seen. The small town on its site is called Gortho, a corruption of its ancient name. The water of the famed spring of Pirene is now only used for washing clothes.

11 Now Patras. There are few remains of the ancient city, which was one of the twelve cities of Achaia. It was made a Roman colony by Augustus.

12 See C. 3 of the present Book, p. 275.

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