The name Gallipoli is a western corruption of ‘Gelibolu’, a town on the peninsula on the north (European) side of the Dardanelles Straits, some 300 KM west of Istanbul in Turkey. Zoom in or out of the map above to get your bearings. (Note that there is also a Gallipoli in Southern Italy, which has nothing to do with the WW1 campaign).
The Dardanelles have a prominent place in myth and history. In Greek mythology Hero and Leander were lovers. Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, lived in Sestos and Leander lived in Abydos, on the other side of the Hellespont (The Dardanelles). Every night, guided by a lamp placed by Hero, Leander swam across the straits to be with her. One night a tempest arose, the lamp was extinguished and Leander drowned. When Hero saw her dead lover she took her own life. The story was the subject of Lord Byron’s work “The Bride of Abydos” and on May 3rd 1810 Byron himself swam across the straits in emulation of the mythical and tragic Leander. The straits have been of immense strategic significance for millennia. In the 5th century BC Xerxes the First of Persia brought his invading armies to the south side of this seaway and built a pontoon bridge to take his soliders across for their planned assault on Greece. When a storm washed the structure away, he ordered the waters to be flogged for their insubordination! It was also only a short distance from here that the Trojan wars took place. The Gallipoli Peninsula is now a national heritage park, and is quite unique in terms of battlefield preservation.
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