On the far northwest coast of Turkey, the 60-kilometer-long (37-mile-long) Dardanelles divides the continents of Europe and Asia, and is the sole waterway between the Aegean and Marmara seas and beyond to the Black Sea. For this reason, the Dardanelles has, for millennia, been a strategic gateway for both the shipping trade and military campaigns to Istanbul and the Black Sea region. Cutting off trade and supplies through the Dardanelles has been a winning strategy for many civilizations—the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, British, Russians and the Turks—all of whom have fought to gain power and control over this narrow strait.
The Dardanelles used to be called Hellespont, after Greek mythology’s mortal princess, Helle, who drowned in these treacherous waters after falling off the back of the flying golden ram. In another Greek myth, Leander swam across the strait, which was famously emulated in 1810 by the Romantic poet Lord Byron. These days the scenery is less dramatic than in those tales, but there are notable landmarks along the shores to see and photograph. Australians, New Zealanders and history buffs will take the most interest in the Gallipoli Peninsula on the northern shore at the mouth of the Dardanelles. For it was on this peninsula during the brutal Gallipoli Campaign, fought for eight months in 1915, that the legend of the Anzac spirit of courage, loyalty and friendship was born.