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HELLESPONTUS ( Ἑλλήσποντος, Hom. Il. 2.845, Odyss. 24.82; Ἕλλης πόντος,--ὕδωρ,--πορθυός, Aesch. Pers. 722; Hellespontus, Pontus Helles, Hellespontum Pelagus, Fretum Hellesponticum: Eth.Ἑλλησπόντιος, Eth.Ἑλλησποντιάς, Eth. Ἑλλησποντίς, Steph. B. sub voce: The Dardanelles; Golfo di Galippoli; Stambul Denghiz), the strait which divides Europe from Asia and unites the Propontis with the Aegaean sea.

The Greeks explained the origin of the name by the well-known legend of Phryxus and Helle, and in the later poets (Ovid, Ov. Ep. 18.117, 137; Prop. 1.20. 19; Lucan 5.56; Avien. 692) frequent allusion is made to this tradition.

The “broad Hellespont” of the Homeric poems (Il. 7.86)--for the interpretation of Mr. Walpole and Dr. Clarke (Trav. vol. iii. p. 91) of πλάτυς Ἑλλήσποντος by “salt Hellespont” is too unpicturesque to be adopted--was probably conceived to [p. 1.1039]be a wide river. flowing through thickly wooded banks into the sea. (Comp. Hdt. 7.35; Walpole, Turkey and Greece, vol. i. p. 101; Schlichthorst, Geogr. Homer. p. 127.)

Herodotus (4.85), Strabo (xiii. p.591), and Pliny (4.12, 6.1) give 7 stadia as the bread of the Hellespont in its narrowest part. Tournefort (vol. ii. lett. iv.) and Hobhouse (Albania, vol. ii. p. 805) allow about a mile. Some modern French admeasurements give the distance as much greater. The Due de Raguse (Voyage en Turquie, vol. ii. p. 164) nearly coincides with Herodotus.

The bridge, or rather two separate bridges, which Xerxes threw across the Hellespont, stretched from the neighbourhood of Abydos, on the Asiatic coast, to the coast between Sestus and Madytus, on the European side; and consisted of 360 vessels in the bridge higher up the stream, and 314 in the lower one. If the breadth be estimated at a mile or 5280 feet, 360 vessels, at an average of 14 2/3 feet each, would exactly fill up the space. (Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. v. p. 26; comp. Rennell, Geog. of Herod. vol. i. p. 158; Kruse, Uber die Schiffbrücken der Perser, Breslau, 1820; Choiseul-Gouffier, Voyage Pittoresque, vol. ii. p. 449; Bähr, ad Herod. 7.36.) The length of the strait was estimated by Herodotus (4.85) at 400 stadia. This admeasurement of course depends upon the point assigned by the ancients to the extremity of the Hellespont, a point which is discussed by Hoblouse (Albania, vol. ii. p. 791). In the later years of the Peloponnesian War the Hellespont was the scene of the memorable battles of CYNOSSEMA and AEGOSPOTAMI

In B.C. 334 the Hellespont was crossed by Alexander, with an army of about 35,000 men. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 1.11; Diod. 17.1.)

The Hellespont issues from the Propontis near Gallipoli [CALLIPOLIS], the road of which is the anchorage for the Ottoman fleet. A little lower, on the Asiatic side, is Lampsaki [LAMPSACUS], close to which the current sweeps as before, nearly SW. to the bay of Sestos, a distance of about 20 miles, with an ordinary width of from 2 1/2 to 3 miles. At SESTOS the stream becomes narrower, and takes a SSE. direction as it passes ABYDOS, and proceeds to the town of Charnák Kal'eh-S&;acute; from the last point it flows SW. for 3 miles to Point Berber, and from thence onward in the same direction, but rather increasing in width, for a distance of 9 3/4 miles to the Aegaean sea.

About 1 1/2 miles below the W. point of the bay of MADYTUS are the famous castles of the Dardanelles, which give their name to the straits; or th castles of Anatóli and Rúm-ílí: Tchannak-Ka'leh-Sí, on the Asiatic side, and Kilídu-l-Bahr, on the European. (Chesney, Exped. Euphrat. vol. i. p. 318.)


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.1
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.85
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.35
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.845
    • Homer, Iliad, 7.86
    • Lucan, Civil War, 5.56
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.1
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 1.11
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