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the strait that connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara
The Dardanelles is part of a larger waterway which leads from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The word Dardanelles comes from the ancient Greek city of Dardanus, which once sat on Asia's side of the strait. The ancient Greeks called the strait the Hellespont.
The average width of the Dardanelles is 3 to 4 miles, with its narrowest point being barely 1 mile across. It is about 37 miles long, and has an average depth of 200 feet. Although there is a strong surface current running toward the Aegean Sea, there is also an equally strong undercurrent that flows into the strait and carries salt water through the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus into the Black Sea; it is this undercurrent that keeps the Black Sea from becoming a freshwater body.
About 480 B.C., Xerxes led a Persian army across the Dardanelles near Abydos and invaded Europe. In 334 B.C., Alexander invaded Persia by leading his army over a bridge of boats across the Dardanelles. Hundreds of years later, the strait was important to the defense of the Byzantine Empire, which was subsequently defeated by the Ottoman Empire.
In 1841, the great powers of Europe -- Great Britain, France, Prussia, and Austria -- agreed to give Turkey the right to control ship traffic through the Dardanelles. This agreement was renewed in 1856, 1871, and 1878. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) opened the Dardanelles to all nations, but the Montreux Convention of 1936 returned control to Turkey. Early in World War II, Turkey closed the strait to all ships except those with special permission. After the war, the Soviet Union tried to gain control of the strait so its Black Sea fleet could sail through to the Mediterranean without having to get Turkish permission, but Turkey successfully retained control, and it has had the right to control access through the strait since.
This page was last updated on February 20, 2017.