With the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles strait (also known as Hellespont) to the east, the Gallipoli peninsula is located in Thrace, on the European side of Turkey. Between the Hellespont and the Gulf of Saros, the Peninsula stretches roughly 60 kilometers into the Aegean Sea. The Dardanelles, which is around 45 kilometers long and 1 to 2 kilometers wide, gets its name from Dardanus, an ancient city on the Asian side of the strait and the mythological son of Zeus. The strait is currently known as the Çanakkale Strait.
The region has a long and illustrious history, most of it ancient, that has been thoroughly chronicled in Greek texts over the ages. This area witnessed many military battles, from the Trojan Wars through King Xerxes, Alexander the Great, and more recently, when Attila the Hun destroyed the Roman Eastern Army. And at the beginning of the 20th century, the area witnessed the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI in 1915. It is unsurprising given the region's strategic importance as a crossroads between East and West.
The Gallipoli Peninsula battlefields are now protected by pine-forested landscapes bordered by beautiful beaches and coves. The deadly battles fought here in 1915 still get remembered, and they play a significant role in Turkey's, Australia's, and New Zealand's national history. Australians and New Zealanders regard the peninsula, which is now protected as the Gallipoli Campaign Historic Site, as a place for pilgrimage, and visit there each year. However, they can get
outnumbered by Turks, drawn to the peninsula, by the legend of the gallant 57th regiment and its commander, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
The name Troy refers both to a place in legend and a real-life archaeological site. Excavations at the ancient city of Troy, which is located in the northern province of Çanakkale and is regarded as one of the world's most important archaeological study areas, have shown that the region was also a popular tourist destination 2,500 years ago.
The story of Troy was originally mentioned in Homer's epic poem The Iliad, which was composed around 750 BC. Paris, Prince of Troy, claims Queen Helen of Sparta, who was already married to the King Menelaus of Sparta. The Greeks, commanded by the hero Achilles, launch 1000 ships and sail across the Aegean Sea to Troy, where they lay siege for ten years to retrieve Helen.
The conflict is finally brought to an end by a ruse in which Greek troops construct a wooden horse and hide within it while the rest of the army pretends to sail away. The Trojans are duped into believing the horse is a farewell gift and bring it inside the city. The Greeks leap out at night while everyone is drunk in the triumph and they allow the remainder of the army into the city, which eventually gets destroyed.
It's one of the most well-known stories ever recounted, but is it a fable or a true story?
Archaeologists have been looking for proof of Troy's existence for centuries. Heinrich Schliemann, a German archaeologist, discovered the ruins of a vast Bronze Age city buried behind a massive mound in northwest Turkey in 1870. He discovered a trove of gold treasure among the ruins, which he believed to be the gold of Priam, the King of Troy. The discovery made headlines around the world.
Today, the ruins of Troy are easily discoverable in a day and make for an ideal opportunity to combine a trip to the neighboring city of Çanakkale, the island of Bozcaada, the boutique village above the ancient site of Assos, or Mount Ida (Kaz) region. There are also several neighboring seaside villages close to Assos, that are a great start to explore the area.