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Sestos and the Hellespont
Sestos is located in Turkey
Shown within Turkey
Location Bigalı, Çanakkale Province, Turkey
Region Thracian Chersonese
Type Settlement

Sestos (Greek: Σηστός) or Sestus was an ancient Greek town of the Thracian Chersonese,[1] the modern Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey. Situated on the Hellespont opposite Abydos, it was the home of Hero in the legend of Hero and Leander, where according to legend she lived in a tower overlooking the sea. Sestos was an Aeolian colony, as it was founded by settlers from Lesbos. The ruins of the town are near to the modern settlement of Eceabat.

In 480 BC, Xerxes' army crossed at this point on two temporary pontoon bridges later known as Xerxes' Pontoon Bridges, and most of Alexander the Great's forces went the other way here by boat in 334 BC.

In 1810 Lord Byron swam from Sestos to Abydos in four hours, recreating Leander's feat, and wrote a poem thereafter.[2] This event is commemorated every year with an annual swim event that recreates the crossing.[3]

Little now remains of the ancient town of Sestos.

Marble decree from Sestos in the British Museum

Hero and Leander

Sestos is central to Christopher Marlowe's poem Hero and Leander, and is referred to in its opening lines:

On Hellespont, guilty of true love's blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoin'd by Neptune's might:
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
Whom young Apollo courted for her hair.

(hight means 'was called')

The Siege of Sestos

In 479BC-478BC, after the Greek victories (against Persia) at Plataea and Mycale, Greek forces under the command of Xanthippus besieged the Persian forces. The Athenians attacked the Persian forces, and defeated the Persians. Since the Persians were defeated, the Persian garrison at Sestos allowed the Greeks to conquer the city. As a result, Persian influence along the Hellespont was significantly reduced. This served the dual goal of denying Persian land forces access to the Greek mainland, while restoring Athenian trade to Black Sea ports such as Byzantium.


  1. ^ Pseudo-Skylax, The 'Periplous' (Circumnavigation): a provisional translation, paragraphs 66, 67
  2. ^ s:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Written after swimming from Sestos to Abydos
  3. ^

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