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Hellespont (i.e. "Sea of Helle"), was the ancient name of the Dardanelles. It was so-called from Helle, the daughter of Athamas, who was drowned here.

Herodotus tells us that c. 482 BC, Xerxes, king of Persia and son of Darius, had two bridges built across the width of the Hellespont at Abydos in order that his huge army, ostensibly made of 5 million men, could cross from Persia into Greece. These bridges were both destroyed by a storm (vii.34), but after the sea was punished by receiving 300 lashes and a pair of fetters thrown into it, engineers finished them. In addition to punishing the Hellespont, Xerxes had the heads of those responsible for building the bridges cut off. The Histories of Herodotus vii.33-37 and vii.54-58 gives details of Xerxes' building and crossing of the bridges.

The Hellespont was also the body of water which Leander would cross in order to tryst with his beloved, the priestess Hero. More recently, the Hellespont was famously swum by Lord Byron.

At the opening of the straights a sea battle was fought in the First Balkan War, between the Greek and Ottoman navies with the Greeks defeating the Turks. A few years later, the Turks successfully repelled a British naval invasion force inside the Hellespont at the Battle of Canakale.

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