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Castles on the Bosphorus and Canakkale Straits
2002 / FEBRUARY

Since antiquity the Bosphorus and Canakkale Straits which link the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Marmara Sea have been of crucial strategic importance, and in Ottoman times four pairs of castles were built on these straits at the narrowest points. From these cannon could be fired from both the European and Asian shores, so preventing the passage of enemy warships. The castle at the southernmost point of the Gelibolu (Gallipoli) peninsular was called Seddülbahir, and facing it on the Asian shore, overlooking the Plain of Troy, was Kumkale. Both castles were built in 1656 by Grand Vezir Köprülü Mehmed Pasa after the Venetians blockaded Canakkale Strait and captured the islands of Bozcaada (Tenedos) and Limni (Lemnos) as a countermeasure in the tug of war for Crete. The Ottomans had been attempting to seize Crete from the Venetians since 1645, but only after the castles had been built was the Ottoman navy able to first raise the blockade and regain possession of Bozcaada and Limni, and then in 1669 conquer Crete.

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Castles on the Bosphorus and Canakkale Straits
2002 / FEBRUARY

Both castles can be seen in a painting by an Ottoman artist depicting a battle between the Ottoman and Venetian navies. The painting is in an album in the Correr Museum in Venice. The other two castles on Canakkale Strait are Kilitbahir on the European shore and Kale-i Sultaniye on the Asian shore, both built by Sultan Mehmed II (1451-1481) and later renovated by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in the 16th century. Kale-i Sultaniye has been known by several other names, including Bogaz, Cimenlik and Canakkale. The keep of Kilitbahir was in the form of a three-leaf clover, and the outer ramparts were also reminiscent of a clover leaf. The walls of the keep rose from the watr'si edge. Kale-i Sultaniye was quadrilateral in plan and encircled by moats. The castles of Anadolu Hisari and Rumeli Hisari on the Bosphorus are both still standing today. The former was built on the Asian shore at the narrowest point by Sultan Bayezid I (1389-1402) half a century before the conquest of Istanbul in 1453 as a means of controlling ships passing through the strait,

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Castles on the Bosphorus and Canakkale Straits
2002 / FEBRUARY
while Rumeli Hisari was built in 1452 by Sultan Mehmed II, who at the same time increased the strength of Anadolu Hisari by building additional towers and walls with battlements and loopholes.Anadolu Hisari originally contained a mosque and a prayer terrace. In the 19th century the sea along the shore in front of the castle was filled in and wooden houses built on the reclaimed land.
Rumeli Hisari, also known as Yeni Hisar or Güzel Hisar, was completed in just four months, and following the conquest of Istanbul additional towers with conical roofs were built on the landward side and used as a prison.
Executions were also carried out here, and the castle became known as the Black Tower. The 17th century writer Evliya Celebi records that inside the walls was a mosque named Fatih Mosque after Mehmet the Conqueror, 180 houses providing lodging for the soldiers of the garrison, two smaller mosques and two granaries. The village outside the walls on the seaward side consisted of 1060 houses, three mosques, eleven mescits, seven schools, one public bath and 200 shops.
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Castles on the Bosphorus and Canakkale Straits
2002 / FEBRUARY
The houses inside the walls have long since been swept away, but the mosque remains.
An 18th century miniature painting in Topkapi Palace depicts both of these Bosphorus castles, and another in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art depicts Rumeli Castle. In the British Museum in London there is a third miniature painting showing both castles, but the artist has relied rather on his imagination than observation, since the architecture is English in character and they are wrongly positioned. A fourth miniature showing both castles is in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.
Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640) built two more castles at the northern mouth of the Bosphorus where the strait flows into the Black Sea. Although no trace remains of that on the European shore, the extensive ruins of the other can still be seen at Anadolu Kavagi. The sole known picture of these two castles before they fell into ruins is in the abovementioned album in the Correr Museum in Venice.
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Castles on the Bosphorus and Canakkale Straits
2002 / FEBRUARY

Evliya Celebi tells us that the quadrilateral castle at Rumeli Kavagi measured 300 metres across and that there were sixty houses for the soldiers of the garrison and a hundred cannon inside its walls. The castle facing it on the opposite shore at Anadolu Kavagi was also quadrilateral, measuring 240 metres across and with walls 20 m in height. It contained eighty houses to accommodate the garrison and one hundred cannon.
The French artillery engineer Francois Baron de Tott, who arrived in Turkey in 1755, supervised some additions to the castles on the Bosphorus, and in 1770 strengthened two of the castles on Canakkale Strait. l


* Metin And is a member of the Turkish Academy of Sciences and author of numerous books on historical subjects.

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