Only two of Turkey's provinces have territory both in Europe and Asia, and one of them is Canakkale, home to the Dardanelles Strait port. Separated by the Dardanelles Strait (also called the Canakkale Straits), the waters of two great seas meet here, where Mediterranean waters flow up, and Sea of Marmara (connecting the Black Sea) waters flow down.
The Dardanelles Strait is 65 kilometers long and varies from one to six kilometers in width with a depth of 100 meters. The port of Dardanelles Strait is about 122 nautical miles southwest of Istanbul's Port of Haydarpasa across the Sea of Marmara and about 250 nautical miles northwest of the Port of Piraeus in Greece across the Aegean Sea.
The earliest inhabitants of the Dardanelles Strait lived in the Besiktepe and Kumtepe, Chalcolithic sites from the 4th millennium BC. Trojans followed, populating the area from 3000 to 1200 BC. The word Dardanelles is based on a mythical survivor of Troy, Dardanos. Canakkale's other historic name is Hellespont, coming from the mythology of the Golden Fleece, used much by the ancients in describing the region.
Canakkale and the Dardanelles Strait make a natural crossing point between Europe and Asia. The Roman Empire used it, and the Eastern Roman Empire was established in what is today Turkey, becoming later the Byzantine Empire. Being the only outlet for the Black Sea, the Dardanelles Strait has also been important throughout history for Russia and Eastern Europe.
While no archeological evidence has been found in the immediate area of Canakkale and the Dardanelles Strait, scholars believe the area's history goes back further than that of Troy. Early settlements in the region go back more than 5000 years.
Many civilizations have ruled Canakkale and the Dardanelles Strait region. In 500 BC, the Persians controlled the area, and when they made peace with the Spartans in 386 BC, Persian authority was strengthened. Persia's King Xerxes built a bridge of buoys and ships across the Strait while making war on Greece and Macedonia.
Alexander the Great ended Persian rule when he defeated them in the Battle of Granicas in 334 BC. After Alexander died, Macedonian generals struggled for control of the area. The Pergamum Kingdom renamed the region Galat. The Ottomans took later control of the region, but the city of Canakkale has long been a magnet for many peoples.
Today's Dardanelles Strait city grew up around the 1462 AD Ottoman Cimenlik Castle, serving today as a well-preserved Naval Museum, manned by Muslim military and public servants. Castle personnel created a residential district around the Cami-I Kebir Mosque. While this area was developing, Romanians who helped build the Dardanelles Strait fortress settled the Cay district. Attracted by trade and settlement, the Greeks established the Rum district north of Cami-I Kabir. Armenians also settled the area around the Zafer Meydani church.
The marketplace for the city was established to the north of the fortress on the Dardanelles Strait. As small industries developed on the bank of the Sarıçay, artisans settled to the south of the Armenian district and to the east of the Çay district. At this time, the town was known as Kale-i-Sultaniye.
As Ottoman power declined in the 19th Century, Muslims migrated from the Aegean islands, the Balkans, and the Crimean Peninsula, many settling near the Dardanelles Strait in Canakkale and establishing the Tartar district.
As the Dardanelles Strait became more economically important, the city of Canakkale became more prosperous as a port. Older districts grew together, and foreign governments started establishing consulates, forming trade missions at the waterfront. Its strategic location at the Dardanelles Strait has made Canakkale an international melting pot for millennia.