Suez Canal Opens - Nov 17, 1869

On November 17, 1869, the Suez Canal, providing a water route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, opened for navigation.

Such a route was sought after by governments, monarchs, and businessmen since ancient times. In fact, according to the Greek historian Herodotus, the ancient Egyptians attempted to dig a canal to connect the Nile River to the Red Sea thousands of years ago.

This from Herodotus:

Psammetichus left a son called Necos, who succeeded him upon the throne. This prince was the first to attempt the construction of the canal to the Red Sea—a work completed afterwards by Darius the Persian—the length of which is four days’ journey, and the width such as to admit of two triremes being rowed along it abreast. The water is derived from the Nile, which the canal leaves a little above the city of Bubastis, near Patumus, the Arabian town, being continued thence until it joins the Red Sea. At first it is carried along the Arabian side of the Egyptian plain, as far as the chain of hills opposite Memphis, whereby the plain is bounded, and in which lie the great stone quarries; here it skirts the base of the hills running in a direction from west to east, after which it turns and enters a narrow pass, trending southwards from this point until it enters the Arabian Gulf. From the northern sea to that which is called the southern or Erythraean, the shortest and quickest passage, which is from Mount Casius, the boundary between Egypt and Syria, to the Gulf of
Arabia, is a distance of exactly one thousand furlongs. But the way by the canal is very much longer on account of the crookedness of its course. A hundred and twenty thousand of the Egyptians, employed upon the work in the reign of Necos, lost their lives in making the excavation. He at length desisted from his undertaking, in consequence of an oracle which warned him “that he was labouring for the barbarian.” The Egyptians call by the name of barbarians all such as speak a language different from their own.

Necos, when he gave up the construction of the canal, turned all his thoughts to war, and set to work to build a fleet of triremes, some intended for service in the northern sea, and some for the navigation of the Erythraean. These last were built in the Arabian Gulf where the dry docks in which they lay are still visible. These fleets he employed wherever he had occasion, while he also made war by land upon the Syrians and defeated them in a pitched battle at Magdolus, after which he made himself master of Cadytis, a large city of Syria. The dress which he wore on these occasions he sent to Branchidae in Milesia, as an offering to Apollo. After having reigned in all sixteen years, Necos died, and at his death bequeathed the throne to his son Psammis.