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The largest island in the Sea of Marmara takes its name from its marble quarries that are still active. In antiquity it was called Prokonnesos, and Proconnesian marble was highly suitable for sculptures, a noted example being the 3rd-century AD Great Ludovisi sarcophagus now in the National Museum in Rome. It was also used to build Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, The island was a favoured retreat for Byzantine nobility, and Justinian I built a palace here. The island remained predominantly Greek until the 1923 exchange of populations.
Four villages and two towns cling to the edge of this mountainous, forrested island. The main town of Marmara is in the southwest, while Saraylar on the northeast coast has a fine marble beach (Mermer Plaj) and is the centre of marble quarrying. Works date back to Roman times can be seen, and the process is explored in an open-air museum. The nearby granite outcrop of Avşa is also popular with Istanbulites, as the island is relatively cool in high summer and has good beaches. It also has some interesting vineyards, as Christopher Ryan revealed in a recent Cornucopia blog.
Car ferries serve the island from Tekirdağ and Erdek, and in summer there are fast passenger ferries from Istanbul.
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