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Information about the place (5)
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
City of the Thracian Chersonese on the Hellespont shore, opposite
(due N of) Abydos and having the advantage over that harbor in wind and current.
Mentioned in Homer's Trojan catalogue (Il. 2.836). It was claimed by Athens against
Persia and Sparta, often successfully, from ca. 550 B.C. to the mid 4th c., for
the protection of her grain shipments. The city was relatively unimportant in
the Hellenistic and Roman periods, but later Justinian refortified it (the modern
Choiridion castle). The ancient site apparently lay on a plateau ca. 100 m above
sea level on the S side of a good bay. (Ak Bas limani). Sherds, coins, and some
inscriptions have been found.
T. S. Mackay, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Perseus Project index
Total results on 11/7/2001: 159 for Sestos, 72 for Sestus.
Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
Now Ialova; a town in Thrace, situated at the narrowest part
of the Hellespont, opposite Abydos in Asia, from which it was only seven stadia
distant. It was founded by the Aeolians. It was celebrated in Grecian poetry on
account of the loves of Leander and Hero, and in history on account of the bridge
of boats which Xerxes here built across the Hellespont. It was taken by the Romans
in B.C. 190.
This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)
Sestus (Sestos: Eth. Sestios), the principal town of the Thracian
Chersonesus, and opposite to Abydus, its distance from which is variously stated
by ancient writers, probably because their measurements were made in different
ways; some speaking of the mere breadth of the Hellespont where it is narrowest;
others of the distance from one city to the other; which, again, might be reckoned
either as an imaginary straight line, or as the space traversed by a vessel in
crossing from either side to the other, and this, owing to the current, depended
to some extent upon which shore was the starting point. Strabo (xiii. p. 591)
states that the strait is 7 stadia across near Abydus; but that from the harbour
of Abydus to that of Sestus, the distance is 30 stadia.1 (On
this point the following references may be consulted: Herod. vii. 34; Xen. Hell.
iv. 8. 5; Polyb. xvi. 29; Scyl. p. 28; Plin. iv. 11. s. 18. Ukert (iii. 2. § 137,
note 41) has collected the various statements made by the moderns respecting this
Owing to its position, Sestus was for a long period the usual point
of departure for those crossing over from Europe to Asia; but subsequently the
Romans selected Callipolis as the harbour for that purpose, and thus, no doubt,
hastened the decay of Sestus, which, though never a very large town, was in earlier
times a place of great importance. According to Theopompus (ap. Strab. l. c.),
it was a well-fortified town, and connected with its port by a wall 200 feet in
length (skelei diplethroi). Dercyllidas, also, in a speech attributed to him by
Xenophon (Hell. iv. 8. § 5), describes it as extremely strong.
Sestus derives its chief celebrity from two circumstances,- the one
poetical the other historical. The former is its connection with the romantic
story of Hero and Leander, too well known to render it necessary to do more than
merely refer to it in this place (Ov. Her. xviii. 127; Stat. Silv. i. 3. 27, &c.);
the latter is the formation (B.C. 480) of the bridge of boats across the Hellespont,
for the passage of the army of Xerxes into Europe; the western end of which bridge
was a little to the south of Sestus (Herod. vii. 33). After the battle of Mycale,
the Athenians seized the opportunity of recovering the Chersonesus, and with that
object laid siege to Sestus, into which a great many Persians had hastily retired
on their approach, and which was very insufficiently prepared for defence. Notwithstanding
this, the garrison held out bravely during many months; and it was not till the
spring of B.C. 478 that it was so much reduced by famine as to have become mutinous.
The governor, Artayctes, and other Persians, then fled from the town in the night;
and on this being discovered, the inhabitants opened their gates to the Athenians.
(Herod. ix. 115, seq.; Thuc. i. 89.) It remained in their possession till after
the battle of Aegospotami, and used to be called by them the corn-chest of the
Piraeeus, from its giving them the command of the trade of the Euxine. (Arist.
Rhet. iii. 10. § 7.) At the close of the Peloponnesian War (B.C. 404), Sestus,
with most of the other possessions of Athens in the same quarter, fell into the
hands of the Lacedaemonians and their Persian allies. During the war which soon
afterwards broke out between Sparta and Persia, Sestus adhered to the former,
and refused to obey the command of Pharnabazus to expel the Lacedaemonian garrison;
in consequence of which it was blockaded by Conon (B.C. 394), but without much
result, as it appears. (Xen. Hell. iv. 8. 6) Some time after this, probably in
consequence of the peace of Antalcidas (B.C. 387), Sestus regained its independence,
though only for a time, and perhaps in name merely; for on the next occasion when
it is mentioned, it is as belonging to the Persian satrap, Ariobarzanes, from
whom Cotys, a Thracian king, was endeavouring to take it by arms (B.C. 362?).
He was, however, compelled to raise the siege, probably by the united forces of
Timotheus and Agesilaus (Xen. Ages. ii. 26; Nep. Timoth. 1); the latter authority
states that Ariobarzanes, in return for the services of Timotheus in this war,
gave Sestus and another town to the Athenians2 , from whom it is said to have
soon afterwards revolted, when it submitted to Cotys. But his successor, Cersobleptes,
surrendered the whole Chersonesus, including Sestus, to the Athenians (B.C. 357),
who, on the continued refusal of Sestus to yield to them, sent Chares, in B.C.
353, to reduce it to obedience. After a short resistance it was taken by assault,
and all the male inhabitants capable of bearing arms were, by Chares' orders,
barbarously massacred. (Diod. xvi. 34.)
After this time we have little information respecting Sestus. It appears
to have fallen under the power of the Macedonians, and the army of Alexander the
Great assembled there (B.C. 334), to be conveyed from its harbour in a Grecian
fleet, from Europe to the shores of Asia. By the terms of the peace concluded
(B.C. 197) between the Romans and Philip, the latter was required to withdraw
his garrisons from many places both in Europe and in Asia; and on the demand of
the Rhodians, actuated no doubt by a desire for free trade with the Euxine, Sestus
was included in the number. (Liv. xxxii. 33.) During the war with Antiochus, the
Romans were about to lay siege to the town (B.C. 190); but it at once surrendered.
(Liv. xxxvii. 9.) Strabo mentions Sestus as a place of some commercial importance
in his time; but history is silent respecting its subsequent destinies. According
to D'Anville its site is occupied by a ruined place called Zemenic; but more recent
authorities name it Jalowa (Mannert, vii. p. 193). (Herod. iv. 143; Thuc. viii.
62; Polyb. iv. 44; Diod. xi. 37; Arrian, Anab. i. 11. § § 5, 6; Ptol. iii. 12.
§ 4, viii. 11. § 10; Steph. B. s. v.; Scymn. 708; Lucan ii.674.)
1 Lord Byron, in a note referring to his feat of
swimming across from Sestus to Abydus, says:--The whole distance from the place
whence we started to our landing on the other side, including the length we were
carried by the current, was computed by those on board the frigate at upwards
of 4 English miles, though the actual breadth is barely one. This corresponds
remarkably well with the measurements given by Strabo, as above.
2 There is much obscurity in this part of Grecian history, and
the statement of Nepos has been considered inconsistent with several passages
in Greek authorities, who are undoubtedly of incomparably greater weight than
the unknown compiler of the biographical notices which pass under the name of
Nepos. (See Diet. Biogr. Vol. III. p. 1146, a.)
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)