MAIDEN’S TOWER


27/11/2016





“Once upon a time a seer told the king of the city that his daughter would die of a serpent’s bite. The king, who loved his daughter, had a tower built on the rocks off the coast of Salacak to keep her safe. Thus, no serpent would be able to reach the king’s daughter. But one day, a serpent emerged from a basket of fruit sent form the city to the tower, bit the king’s daughter and the princess died.”This is an often repeated legend to explain the origins of the Maiden’s Tower in Istanbul. Another legend tells of a youth called Leandros, who was in love with a priestess of Aphrodite called Hero who lived at the tower and swam over the strait every night to reach her. One night the youth loses his way in the cold waters of the Bosporus and drowns. Hero, who cannot bear the loss of her forbidden love commits suicide. There was a time when the Maiden’s Tower was called Tower of Leandros in keeping with the legend. European historians still call it Leander’s Tower.The tower, which is as though the symbol of the district of Üsküdar is the only Byzantine era building in the area. While it once housed a tomb, additions were made to the building to take advantage of its position and it was used as a customs house to tax ships passing through the Bosporus. Its main use is to guide ships sailing at night as a lighthouse which it still serves. Of course, at a time in which panoramic 360 degree views are popular, it contains a restaurant. The tower’s history goes back to the year 24 BCE, but its important parts were built during the reign of Mehmet II in the 15th century. Its current form was given to it under the rule of Mahmud II in the 19th century. This is why the seal of Mahmud II on a marble slate hangs in easy view. Back in the day, small ships were only allowed to traverse the Bosporus between the tower and Anatolia ad a chain hang between Europe and the tower. In time the tower could not bear the load and toppled towards Europe. The remains can be seen in the water on the Europe facing side of the island. Although it is not as popular as it once was, the Maiden’s Tower still attracts thousands of tourists every year. A place also known as the rendezvous point of secret lovers, the Maiden’s Tower can be easily seen from the ferry between Beşiktaş and Kadıköy and offers one of the most beautiful views in Istanbul.
By Petek Şah

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