The Bosporus Strait
By Marco Stojanovik
The narrow natural strait of the Bosporus, also known as the Strait of Istanbul, is considered as the continental boundary between Europe and Asia and divides Turkey by separating Anatolia from Thrace. Although only 30km long and with a maximum width of 3,700 metres, it has for millennia been of upmost strategic importance connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara (connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea, and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea). Indeed, as the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, control over it has been an objective of a number of hostilities through history. This article explores the history and sites of the Bosporus to assist your Bosphorus cruise and Black Sea cruise.
Odyssey Traveller conducts a day trip tour of the Bosporus and the Black Sea as part of our Discover Turkey escorted small group history private tour. We take a river cruise along the Bosporus to view both the European and Asian shores of modern-day Istanbul and the many beautiful waterfront houses along the coast, most of which were built during the Ottoman period.
The Bosporus: Strategic Location Throughout History
As the only point of passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Bosporus has for millennia been of great commercial and strategic importance. In the 5th century BCE the Greek city-state of Athens maintained critical alliances with cities which controlled the straits as it was dependent on grain imports from the Black Sea ports of Scythia.
Centuries later in 330 CE, largely due to the strategic significance of the Bosporus strait, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great then founded there the new capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, Constantinople. During the era of the Byzantine Empire, many beautiful Byzantine monasteries were built on the banks of the Bosporus, which obtained great fame. The expressions “swim the Bosporus” and “cross the Bosporus” were and are still used to indicate religious conversion to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In 1452 Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror embarked on a lengthy campaign to capture the city. In preparation for not only the primary battle but also to assert long-term control over the Bosporus and the surrounding waterways, he ordered the construction of mighty fortifications on each side of the strait: Anadoluhisarı (1393) on the Asian shore and Rumelihisarı (1451) on the European. In doing so he prevented reinforcement from reaching the besieged city and, on 29 May 1453, his armies burst through the city walls establishing Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul) as capital of the Ottoman Empire.
From Istanbul the Ottomans were able to expand their empire in the centuries that followed. At its peak between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Ottoman Empire capitalized on the strategic location of the Bosporus to expand their regional ambitions and gain control of the entire Black Sea area. Regarding it as the “Ottoman Lake” Russian warships were prohibited to access it.
Control over the Bosphorus Strait has been an objective of a number of conflicts In modern history due to tis strategic importance. Notable examples are the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) and the attack of the Allies Powers on the Dardanelles in 1915 during World War One.
Modern times has also seen a number of international treaties to govern the vessels using the waters. The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Turkish Straits, formalised in July 1936 and still in practical force, treats the straits as an international shipping lane but gives Turkey the right to restrict the naval traffic of non-Black Sea nations.
Sightseeing on the Bosphorus
The Bosphorus has 620 waterfront houses (yalı) built during the Ottoman period along the strait’s European and Asian shorelines. Numerous Ottoman places such as the Topkapı Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace and more also within view – as are famous buildings and landmarks including the Hagia Sophia, Hagia Irene, Sultan Ahmed Mosque and much more!
Odyssey Traveller conducts a day trip tour of the Bosporus and the Black Sea via river cruise as part of our Discover Turkey escorted small group history private tour during which we visit some of the most spectacular, varied, and historically important sites in the ancient world. This small group Turkey holiday tour begins and ends in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and seaport, and the place where east meets the west on the Bosphorus strait. Discover Turkey with Odyssey on this amazing guided tour through the ancient world linking the Black Sea, Egypt, Syria and Europe together on this history tour. Our tour packages are especially designed to be suitable for mature-aged and senior travellers, whether joining as a couple or as solo travellers.
Odyssey Traveller has been serving global travellers since 1983 with educational tours of the history, culture, and architecture of our destinations. We specialise in offering small group tours partnering with a local tour guide at each destination to provide a relaxed and comfortable pace and atmosphere that sets us apart from larger tour groups. Tours consist of small groups of between 6 and 12 people and are cost inclusive of all entrances, tipping and majority of meals including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For more information, click here, and head to this page to make a booking.
Articles about Turkey published by Odyssey Traveller.
- Treasures of the Ottoman Empire
- Turkey: From Anatolia to the Ottoman Empire
- Ten Unimaginable Destinations
- Ten Books for Travellers to Turkey
- Ten Things to See in Turkey
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Turkey.
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Ancient Turkey escorted small group history tour
As a travel company we seek to keep guests off the beaten path. Trips that are remembered for authentic experiences. Our small group journeys in Turkey are fully escorted by an experienced local guide and an Odyssey guide to give this type of experience whether at one of the many UNESCO World heritage sites explored or local bazaars. It is always about the adventure and memories that we will create.
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