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Hellespont (हेलीस्पोंत) was the place of Classical Antiquity mentioned by Arrian, literally "Sea of Helle"), is a narrow, natural strait and internationally-significant waterway in northwestern Turkey that forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, and separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey. It is modern Dardanelles.

Origin of name

It was so called from Helle, the daughter of Athamas, who was drowned here in the mythology of the Golden Fleece.

Variants of name


One of the world's narrowest straits used for international navigation, the Dardanelles connects the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, while also allowing passage to the Black Sea by extension via the Bosphorus.


The contemporary Turkish name Çanakkale Boğazı, meaning "Çanakkale Strait", is derived from the eponymous midsize city that adjoins the strait, itself meaning "Pottery Fort"—from Çanak (pottery) + Kale (Fortress)—in reference to the area's famous pottery and ceramic wares, and the landmark Ottoman fortress of Sultaniye.

The English name Dardanelles derives from the older name Strait of the Dardanelles. In Ottoman times there used to be a castle on each side of the strait. These castles together were called the Dardanelles,[1][2] probably named after Dardanus, an ancient city on the Asian shore of the strait which in turn takes its name from Dardanus, the mythical son of Zeus and Electra.

The ancient Greek name Ἑλλήσποντος (Hellespontos) means "Sea of Helle", and was the ancient name of the narrow strait. It was variously named in classical literature Hellespontium Pelagus, Rectum Hellesponticum, and Fretum Hellesponticum. It was so called from Helle, the daughter of Athamas, who was drowned here in the mythology of the Golden Fleece.

As part of the only passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Dardanelles has always been of great importance from a commercial and military point of view, and remains strategically important today. It is a major sea access route for numerous countries, including Russia and Ukraine. Control over it has been an objective of a number of hostilities in modern history, notably the attack of the Allied Powers on the Dardanelles during the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli in the course of World War I.

Greek and Persian history: The ancient city of Troy was located near the western entrance of the strait, and the strait's Asiatic shore was the focus of the Trojan War. Troy was able to control the marine traffic entering this vital waterway. The Persian army of Xerxes I of Persia and later the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great crossed the Dardanelles in opposite directions to invade each other's lands, in 480 BC and 334 BC respectively.

Herodotus tells us that, circa 482 BC, Xerxes I (the son of Darius) had two pontoon bridges built across the width of the Hellespont at Abydos, in order that his huge army could cross from Persia into Greece. This crossing was named by Aeschylus in his tragedy The Persians as the cause of divine intervention against Xerxes.[1]

According to Herodotus (vv.34), both bridges were destroyed by a storm and Xerxes had those responsible for building the bridges beheaded and the strait itself whipped. The Histories of Herodotus vii.33–37 and vii.54–58 give details of building and crossing of Xerxes' Pontoon Bridges. Xerxes is then said to have thrown fetters into the strait, given it three hundred lashes and branded it with red-hot irons as the soldiers shouted at the water.Green, Peter The Greco-Persian Wars (London 1996) 75.

Herodotus commented that this was a "highly presumptuous way to address the Hellespont" but in no way atypical of Xerxes. (vii.35)

Harpalus the engineer eventually helped the invading armies to cross by lashing the ships together with their bows facing the current and, so it is said, two additional anchors.

From the perspective of ancient Greek mythology, it was said that Helle, the daughter of Athamas, was drowned at the Dardanelles in the legend of the Golden Fleece. Likewise, the strait was the scene of the legend of Hero and Leander, wherein the lovesick Leander swam the strait nightly in order to tryst with his beloved, the priestess Hero, and was drowned in a storm.

Arrian[2] writes....In B.C. 334. at the beginning of the spring Alexander the Great marched towards the Hellespont, entrusting the affairs of Macedonia and Greece to Antipater.....The prevailing account is, that Alexander started from Elaeus and put into the Port of Achaeans, that with his own hand he steered the general's ship across, and that when he was about the middle of the channel of the Hellespont he sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and the Nereids, and poured forth a libation to them into the sea from a golden goblet.

Jat History

H. W. Bellew[3] writes....The Paioni on the river Strymon, not far from the Hellespont, were a branch of the Panni, or Pannoni, who gave their name to the country called Pannonia. Dr S.M. Yunus Jaffery[4] writes that people of Panni clan in Afghanistan are Jats in their origin.

Bhim Singh Dahiya[5]writes ....Herodotus (V. 12-27.) mentions a people, Paeonia, a colony of Teucarians. The Paeonias were transferred from Hellespont to Asia, under the orders of Darius the Great.

Ch. 11 Alexander crosses the Hellespont and visits Troy

Having settled these affairs, he returned into Macedonia. He then offered to the Olympian Zeus the sacrifice which had been instituted by Archelaus,[1] and had been customary up to that time; and he celebrated the public contest of the Olympic games at Aegae.[2] It is said that he also held a public contest in honour of the Muses. At this time it was reported that the statue of Orpheus, son of Oeagrus the Thracian, which was in Pieris,[3] sweated incessantly.[4] Various were the explanations of this prodigy given by the soothsayers; but Aristander,[5] a man of Telmissus, a soothsayer, bade Alexander take courage; for he said it was evident from this that there would be much labour for the epic and lyric poets, and for the writers of odes, to compose and sing about Alexander and his achievements.

(B.C. 334.) At the beginning of the spring he marched towards the Hellespont, entrusting the affairs of Macedonia and Greece to Antipater. He led not much above 30,000 infantry together with light-armed troops and archers, and more than 5,000 cavalry. [6] His march was past the lake Cercinitis,[7] towards Amphipolis and the mouths of the river Strymon. Having crossed this river he passed by the Pangaean mountain,[8] along the road leading to Abdera and Maronea, Grecian cities built on the coast. Thence he arrived at the river Hebrus,[9] and easily crossed it. Thence he proceeded through Paetica to the river Melas, having crossed which he arrived at Sestus, in twenty days altogether from the time of his starting from home. When he came to Elaēus he offered sacrifice to Protesilaus upon the tomb of that hero, both for other reasons and because Protesilaus seemed to have been the first of the Greeks who took part with Agamemnon in the expedition to Ilium to disembark in Asia. The design of this sacrifice was, that his disembarking in Asia might be more fortunate than that of Protesilaus had been.[10] He then committed to Parmenio the duty of conveying the cavalry and the greater part of the infantry from Sestus to Abydus; and they were transported in 160 triremes, besides many trading vessels.[11] The prevailing account is, that Alexander started from Elaeus and put into the Port of Achaeans,[12] that with his own hand he steered the general's ship across, and that when he was about the middle of the channel of the Hellespont he sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and the Nereids, and poured forth a libation to them into the sea from a golden goblet. They say also that he was the first man to step out of the ship in full armour on the land of Asia,[13] and that he erected altars to Zeus, the protector of people landing, to Athena, and to Heracles, at the place in Europe whence he started, and at the place in Asia where he disembarked. It is also said that he went up to Ilium and offered sacrifice to the Trojan Athena; that he setup his own panoply in the temple as a votive offering, and in exchange for it took away some of the consecrated arms which had been preserved from the time of the Trojan war. These arms were said to have been carried in front of him into the battles by the shield-bearing guards. A report also prevails that he offered sacrifice to Priam upon the altar of Zeus the household god, deprecating the wrath of Priam against the progeny of Neoptolemus, from whom Alexander himself derived his origin.

1. Archelaus was king of Macedonia from B.C. 413-399. He improved the internal arrangements of his kingdom, and patronised art and literature. He induced the tragic poets, Euripides and Agathon, as well as the epic poet Choerilus, to visit him; and treated Euripides especially with favour. He also invited Socrates, who declined the invitation.

2. Aegae, or Edessa, was the earlier capital of Macedonia, and the burial place of its kings. Philip was murdered here, B.C. 336.

3. A narrow strip of land in Macedonia, between the mouths of the Haliaomon and Penēus, the reputed home of Orpheus and the Muses.

4. Cf. Apollonius Rhodius, iv. 1284; Livy, xxii. i.

5. This man was the most noted soothsayer of his time. Telmissus was a city of Caria, celebrated for the skill of its inhabitants in divination. Cf. Arrian (Anab. i. 25, ii. 18, iii. 2, iii. 7, iii. 15, iv. 4, iv. 15); Herodotus, i. 78; and Cicero (De Divinatione, i. 41)

6. Diodorus (xvii. 17) says that there were 30,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry. He gives the numbers in the different brigades as well as the names of the commanders. Plutarch (Life of Alexander, 15) says that the lowest numbers recorded were 30,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry; and the highest, 34,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry.

7. This lake is near the mouth of the Strymon. It is called Prasias by Herodotus (v. 16). Its present name is Tak-hyno.

8. This mountain is now called Pirnari. Xerxes took the same route when marching into Greece. See Herodotus, v. 16, vii; 112; Aeschylus (Persae, 494); Euripides (Rhesus, 922, 972).

9. Now called Maritza. See Theocritus, vii. 110.

10. Cf. Homer (Iliad, ii. 701); Ovid (Epistolae Heroidum, xiii. 93); Herodotus (ix. 116).

11. The Athenians supplied twenty ships of war. See Diodorus, xvii. 22.

12. A landing-place in the north-west of Troas, near Cape Sigaeum.

13. Cf. Diodorus, xvii. 17; Justin, xi. 5.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 November 2003. Retrieved 26 September 2003.; the play.
  2. The Anabasis of Alexander/1a, ch.11
  3. An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan,p.53-54
  4. Dr S.M. Yunus Jaffery:The Jats - Their Role and Contribution to the Socio-Economic Life and Polity of North and North West India, Vol.I, 2004. Page 38, Ed. by Dr Vir Singh, Publisher - M/S Originals (an imprint of low priced publications), A-6, Nimri commercial Centre, Near Ashok Vihar, Phase-IV, Delhi-110052.
  5. Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study)/Jat Clan in India,p.267-268