In May 2010, I swam the Hellespont from Europe to Asia on the bicentenary of Lord Byron’s crossing.

I swam with a group organised by SwimTrek. The strait is where Leander foundered on his way to woo Hero. Byron wrote about his swim in a poem:

Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos

If, in the month of dark December,

Leander, who was nightly wont

(What maid will not the tale remember?)

To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont!

 

If, when the wintry tempest roared,

He sped to Hero, nothing loath,

And thus of old thy current poured,

Fair Venus! how I pity both!

 

For me, degenerate modern wretch,

Though in the genial month of May,

My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,

And think I’ve done a feat today.

 

But since he crossed the rapid tide,

According to the doubtful story,

To woo -and -Lord knows what beside,

And swam for Love, as I for Glory;

 

‘Twere hard to say who fared the best:

Sad mortals! thus the gods still plague you!

He lost his labour, I my jest;

For he was drowned, and I’ve the ague.