The Canal of Xerxes was a great work of antiquity, constructed on the Athos peninsula, in Chalkidiki, by the Persian king Xerxes during the Persian Wars.
The canal was built in 480 BC during another Persian campaign. Xerxes wanted to avoid the circumnavigation of Athos peninsula because the last time he attempted it, Mardonius’ fleet sunk. The description of the canal was originally written by Herodotus and Thucydides, but later historians disputed it, writing that the Persian king built a diolkos (a specially constructed paved road that connected the two ends of the Isthmus and on which the ships were dragged by slaves in ancient times) and not a canal. However, today’s research shows that it was indeed a canal.
According to Herodotus’ description, Xerxes assigned the work to Artachaeus and Bouvarus. However, Artachaeus fell seriously ill and died shortly before the canal was finished, which was considered a great calamity and a bad omen by Xerxes. Artahais was buried with great honors in Akanthos.
Today the canal is buried and has been located between the villages of Nea Roda and Tripiti. In 2008, researches were conducted by British and Greek engineers that showed its exact location and dimensions. The canal is two kilometers long and 30 meters wide, and its maximum depth is estimated at 15 meters. It is visible from a great height, since the location has undergone subsidence. Archaeological researches have shown that, after it was used by Xerxes, it was immediately abandoned.