The Bosphorus and its Mystical Story

istanbul bopshorus

The Bosphorus Strait is a 32 km long north-south strait separating the continents of Europe and Asia, connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea at Istanbul.

The Bosphorus is not only a natural wonder connecting two continents, it is also home to countless legends and mystical stories. In each wave of this fascinating waterway, echoes of extraordinary events throughout history are hidden.

The Bosphorus, which has been at the center of many civilizations since ancient times, is full of secrets and legends. From the sad love story of the Maiden’s Tower to the mysterious cities that lie beneath the waters, every corner tells a different story.

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About Bosphorus

The Bosphorus is also known as the Bosphorus Strait, perhaps to distinguish it from the Dardanelles. The width of the Bosphorus varies between 500 meters and 3 kilometers, depending on the narrowing and widening zones, while the depth is between 50 and 120 meters, with an average depth of 60 meters.

The Bosphorus passes through the heart of Istanbul and important places along its shores include the Maiden’s Tower, Çırağan Palace, Dolmabahçe Palace, Ortaköy Mosque, Rumeli Hisarı and Anadolu Hisarı, Galatasaray Island, Kuleli Military High School, Küçüksu Pavilion and Beylerbeyi Palace. These places attract attention with their historical and cultural richness. For example, the romantic legends of the Maiden’s Tower and the magnificent architecture of Çırağan Palace dating back to the Ottoman Empire shed light on Istanbul’s rich past.

Three bridges and a tunnel connect the continents of Asia and Europe in Istanbul. These are the Bosphorus Bridge in the south, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge in the center and the Yavuz Selim Bridge at the northern end, where it meets the Black Sea. In addition, the Marmaray Tunnel connects the two continents underground. These structures are both engineering marvels and symbols of Istanbul’s modernization process.

The Bosphorus is one of the busiest commercial shipping channels in the world. Approximately 140 cargo ships pass through it daily, with an average transit time of 90 minutes. It is a legal requirement to have two local pilots on board each ship during the passage and giant radar towers monitor all sea movements in the strait. Despite this, accidents occasionally occur due to heavy traffic and navigational difficulties.

The Mythological Story of the Bosphorus

The English name of the Bosphorus, ‘Bosphorus’, is based on a Greek myth. This myth tells of Zeus’ love for a woman named Io and the jealousy of his wife Hera. When Hera discovered Zeus’ infidelity, she transformed Io into an ox and created a horsefly to pester her. According to the legend, Io jumps across the Bosphorus while fleeing from this fly. This event derives the name ‘Bosphorus’ from the combination of the words ‘bous’ (ox) and ‘poros’ (passage), meaning ‘ox passage’.

Recent marine archaeological work in the cold and deep waters of the Black Sea has revealed the existence of submerged ancient cities along Turkey’s coastline. These finds illuminate the rich history and mysterious past of the region.

Geological evidence shows that in ancient times, the northern end of the Bosphorus was blocked with soil and rock. This blockage prevented the Black Sea from connecting with the outside world and the water level was below that of the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

According to one theory, a major earthquake would break through this blockage in the Bosphorus and start a violent flood of water from the Black Sea into the Bosphorus. This event raised water levels and flooded coastal communities. Some scientists believe that this event may have inspired the famous legend of Noah’s Flood.

Bosphorus in History

The Bosphorus has been of great strategic and commercial importance since ancient times. The area was chosen as the perfect settlement for the Byzantine Empire (later Constantinople and today Istanbul) and has attracted many civilizations throughout history.

In 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror made an important move to besiege the Byzantine capital Constantinople and take control of the Bosphorus. He had the Rumeli Fortress (Fortress of Europe) and the Anatolian Fortress (Fortress of Anatolia) built. By establishing control over the Bosphorus, these fortresses prevented reinforcements from reaching the besieged Constantinople and paved the way for the conquest of the city.

For the Ottoman Empire, the Bosphorus played an important role as both a strategic gateway and an obstacle. Every spring, the Empire would set out from Constantinople with its huge armies for military campaigns in Anatolia, Syria and Persia. This process required the passage of armies across the Bosphorus, which created logistical and strategic challenges.

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