What Is Bosporus in Ancient Greece?

Bosporus, also known as the Bosphorus, was a significant waterway in ancient Greece that connected the Aegean and Black Seas. It is located in modern-day Turkey and has played a vital role in the history and development of many civilizations.

Geography and Location

The Bosporus Strait is approximately 31 km long, with a maximum width of 3,329 meters at the northern entrance. The southern entrance is narrower, measuring 700 meters across. The strait separates Europe from Asia and divides Istanbul into two parts – European Istanbul to the west and Asian Istanbul to the east.


The Bosporus Strait was an important trade route for ancient Greeks, who established colonies along its shores. The Greeks called it Bosporus, meaning “ox ford,” because of its shallow waters that could be crossed by oxen.

During the Roman Empire era, the Bosporus was a vital link between Rome’s eastern and western territories. The Roman Emperors built several fortresses along its shores to protect their empire from invaders.

In Medieval times, the Bosporus became an essential part of the Byzantine Empire’s defense system against Arab attacks. Fortresses were built on both sides of the strait to protect Constantinople.


In Greek mythology, Helle and Phrixus were siblings who escaped their evil stepmother on a flying ram with golden fleece. However, during their flight, Helle fell off the ram into the sea and drowned in what is now known as Hellespont (today’s Dardanelles). Phrixus arrived safely in Colchis (modern-day Georgia), where he sacrificed the ram to Zeus and gave its golden fleece to King Aeetes.


Today, Bosporus is not only an essential waterway but also a popular tourist destination. Visitors can take a boat tour along the strait, admiring the beautiful scenery of Istanbul’s skyline, Ottoman-era palaces, and ancient fortresses. Many famous landmarks can be seen from the Bosporus, such as the Maiden’s Tower, Rumeli Fortress, and Dolmabahce Palace.


In conclusion, the Bosporus Strait is a fascinating part of ancient Greek history that has played a crucial role in many civilizations’ development. It continues to be an important waterway for transportation and tourism, offering visitors a glimpse into Istanbul’s rich history and culture.