Gallipoli Before Gallipoli

Ottoman Tower and Museum at Gelibolu.

The iconic name of Gallipoli is derived from the Gallipoli Peninsula the chief city of which is Gallipoli a port-city controlling the northern entrance and exit to the Dardanelles. The name itself is Franco-Italian but is derived from the original Greek name of the city Kallipolis (Latin Callipolis) which means 'a beautiful city' and from which the modern Turkish name of the port-city Gelibolu is also derived. The Thracian Chersonnese was a popular region for colonization during the Fifth Century and it is probable that the city was founded during the Classical Period as it was a convenient crossing place from Europe to the important city of Lampsakos on the Asian shore. The existence of Kallipolis is well documented in the Roman period and the city has also yielded a handful of interesting inscriptions, including a unique one detailing a fishermen¹s guild. It was in the Crusading period that the port-city shot into prominence as a convenient cross-place for Crusading armies heading for Syria and Palestine and the most famous Crusading leader who crossed at Gallipoli was Frederick Barbarossa (1190). The city fell temporarily under Venetian rule after the disastrous Fourth Crusade (1204) which led to the Frankish occupation of Constantinople.

The material in the local (Piri Reis) Museum at Gelibolu features a number of interesting pieces from late Classical and Byzantine periods.

Kallipolis was recaptured by the Byzantines (c. 1237) but shot to fame and notoriety as the base of the Catalan Grand Company under the mercenary captain Roger de Flor (Rutger von Blum). After his murder instigated by a jealous Byzantine Emperor in 1305, the Byzantines with the aid of the Genoese and of the Alans tried without success to retake the peninsula. The Catalans eventually moved on to capture substantial parts of mainland Greece including Athens. The city played a vital role in the expansion of the Ottoman Emirate, especially when its troops took advantage of a massive earthquake (2 March 1354) to occupy the city which became the base for Ottoman expansion in Europe in the following centuries. The city changed hands several times and was briefly occupied by Count Amadeo of Savoy (1366). The difficulty in controlling the Straits through Gallipoli led the Ottomans to build fortresses like Rumeli Hissar on the Bosporus which contributed directly to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 in which siege the Turkish fleet from the new province (sanjak) of Gelibolu played a major part. The most famous son of the city was the Grand Admiral Piri Ries whose post-Columbus maps of the Atlantic were far advanced than any other similar work in the West.

The city continued to host a large Greek population through out the Ottoman Empire and the Hellenic Harbour-Control long dominated the waterfront until 1922. The modern port-city of Gelibolu is a thriving fishing port and popular holiday resort famed for its fish (balik) restaurants. Sadly, because of the completion of an express way from Istanbul International Airport to the War Graves at Cannakale, it is no longer the obvious stopping place for 'pilgrims' on their way to ANZAC Cove.

Abstract from the NEAF AGM Lecture: 27th November, 2008

Title: Gallipoli Before Gallipoli Kallipolis (Gelibolu) 434 (?) BCE - 1453 CE

Lecturer: Professor Samuel N.C. Lieu, FRAS, FRHistS, FSA, FAHA (Professor of Ancient History, Macquarie University)

Water-colour of Gelibolu by the Hungarian artist Kelemens (1717)

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