The Bosphorus Strait


Points Covered:


History of Bosporus Strait
Formation of the Bosporus Strait
Significance of the Bosporus Strait to Turkey 
Sightseeing of the Bosphorus Strait 



The Bosphorus, which is popularly known as the strait of Istanbul is a natural strait that is located in the northwestern part of Turkey. This strait is internationally recognized as the narrowest strait used for navigation in the world and it forms part of the borders between Europe and Asia, thus it is one of the most important and significant straits in the world. The straits connect the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara.




History of Bosporus Strait


For many centuries, the Bosphorus straits have always held economic and political importance due to the fact that it connected the major seas of the region. Countries in the region strived to take control over the strait and their common lust for the straits often led to conflicts and war from time to time. Notable among these wars is the Russo-Turkish war (1877- 1878) as well as the attack of the allied powers on Dardanelles during the 1915 and the battle of Gallipoli in the course of the World War 1.


Various great and powerful civilizations of the past have carried out a lot of exploration campaigns in and around the Bosphorus strait, these exploration efforts lead to a lot of great events that shaped the history of the region. Below, we shall examine some of the exploration efforts of some of the greatest ancient communities such as The Greeks, The Romans, The Byzantines, and The Ottomans.


The Bosphorus Strait


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Exploration by Greeks

The activities of the Greeks on the Bosphorus dates far back to the 5th Century in the Greek city of Athens which depended mainly on the grain they imported from the Black sea ports of Scythia. Due to their dependence on the Bosporus for the transportation of these grains, they had to form alliances with the Megarian colony Byzantium who controlled the straits at that time.


Exploration by Persians 

Although throughout history, Persians have made use of the Strait from time to time, the most notable of Persian activity on the Bosphorus is credited to King Darius the Great who was the third Persian King. King Darius in an attempt to defect and conquer the Scythian Horsemen who raided all over the north of the Black Sea, crossed the Bosphorus Strait with his army using a large Bridge made from connecting Achaemenid boats. In doing so he achieved a great feat of connected the two of the furthest Geopolitical distances from Asia to Europe. 




Ottoman Influence 

On May 29, 1453, the emerging Ottoman Empire conquered the Capital city of Constantinople after a long campaign that lasted for 53 days. During the war, the Ottoman Military built fortifications on both sides of the Bosphorus not only for the war but also to gain control of the Bosphorus. The conquering of Constantinople is often described as one of the major events that led to the end of the Middle ages and started the Renaissance and the Age of discovery. It also led to the end of the Byzantine empire and the transfer of control of the Bosporus form the Byzantine hands into the Ottoman’s control. By the end of the 53-day war, the Ottoman Empire had conquered the city of Constantinople and initiated a new chapter in the history of the world. After the war, Christopher Columbus set his first voyage to the Americas in 1492 leading eventually to the discovery of America. 


At the peak of the power of the Ottoman Empire, the Bosphorus was strategically used by the ottomans to strengthen their influence over the entire black sea region which was regarded as the “Ottoman lake”. They achieved this by using their influence to prevent the activities of any ship belonging to the Russian empire in the lake.


Turkish Influence 

Over the years, Turkey has laid claim to the Bosphorus Strait and has signed a lot of treaties and deals to support and defend this claim. In 1923, Turkey signed the Treaty of Lausanne which restored all foreign warships and commercial shipping activities allowing them to traverse the straits freely. Later, Turkey pulled out of this Treaty as they realized that it did not favor their national interest. Later, after the Montreux Convention Regarding the legal situation of the straits, it was declared that the straits would be an international shipping lane, but Turkey was given the naval traffic of Non- Black states.


The Bosphorus Strait


Formation of the Bosporus Strait 


Although the formation of the Bosporus Strait is still a subject of debate among geologists, one major Hypothesis that tries to explain the formation of the Strait is the “Sea Deluge Hypothesis” which was initially lunched in 1977 by two scientists from Colombia University. This Hypothesis postulates that the Bosporus Strait was founded around 5600 BC when the rising water of the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Marmara breached through to the Black sea, which at that time according to the Hypothesis was a low-level body of freshwater. However, some other geologists believe that the strait is much older. 



Significance of the Bosporus Strait to Turkey 


The Bosphorus Strait serves the Republic of Turkey both from a military standpoint and an economic one. Since it is the only route for countries such as Russia, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine to access the Mediterranean Sea alongside the other seas in the region, it stimulates Turkey’s economic relationship with these countries since it is relatively very easy for Turkey to Trade with these countries, thereby boosting the economy of the country in general. Since the early 21st century, the Straits importance for the oil industry has grown significantly. Russian oil from ports such as Novorossyisk is exported by tankers primarily to Western Europe and the United States through the Bosphorus Straits. The Bosporus Strait also holds a great impact on the military activities of the country. According to the Montreux Convention, the Turkish government has the power to restrict the passage of particular vessels through the Strait. 

The Bosphorus Strait


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Sightseeing of the Bosphorus Strait 


During the Ottoman period, about 620 waterfront houses were built along the Straits European and Asian shorelines. The Ottoman Palaces, buildings and notable landmarks such as the Topkapi Palace, Yildiz Palace, Hatice Sultan Palace, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Hagia Sophia and many other fascinating places. Tourists can move around the Bosporus using the numerous private vessels that are available around the strait. The Catamaran sea buses also offer transportation services between the European and Asian shores of the Bosporus. 


The Bosphorus Strait
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