THE MAIDEN’S TOWER
The Maiden’s Tower is a building on a small island located in the Salacak offshores near the Marmara Sea of the Bosphorus, subject to legends, which narrate various stories about the Tower.
The tower, which became the symbol of Uskudar and city of Istanbul, is the only work remaining from the Byzantine era in Uskudar. The tower, which dates back to 24 BC, is built on a small island where the Black Sea is linked with the Marmara Sea. Some European historians call it the Leander Tower.
Today, the most important visible parts of the structure and the lower floors are from the era of Sultan Mehmed II. The land around the tower is covered widely. A marble plate in the form of a medallion on the top is from the era of Sultan II Mahmud and the seal of the sultan on the brick tower is dated 1832, out of the pen of Calligrapher Rasim. There is also a cistern in the wider Eminonu side.
It was first used as a customs station with an extra building built during the Byzantine period, which was the home of a landscape in the Greek period. During the Ottoman period, many functions were carried out here; from the demonstration platform to the defense fortress, from the exile station to the quarantine room.
The Maiden’s Tower was restored in 2000 and has now been transformed into a space where cutlery sounds are heard. The transportation to the Maiden’s Tower is possible with boats from Salacak and Ortakoy.
The Maiden’s Tower, which is a very old and historical, was once used with the purpose of obtaining taxes from ships passing by the Straits. A large chain was pulled along the European side of the tower and the vessels were allowed to pass between the Anatolian side and the Maiden’s Tower as because the ships were small at that time. After a while, the tower did not carry a chain and was destroyed on the European side. When you look into the water from the sea, you can see ruins.
The tower, which is known with the name Arkla (small castle) and Damialis (calf) in ancient Greek, has made a reputation for “Tour de Leandros” (the Leandros’ Tower) at a time. Now it is integrated with the name of the Maiden Tower and is known by this name.
THE LEGENDS ABOT THE TOWER
Hero and Leandros Myth
Hero was one of Aphrodite’s nuns, who was described as the god of love and beauty in Greek mythology, and served in the Maiden’s Tower. Because of being a nun, she was forbidden and had no relationship with men.
One day she passed to the mainland, for the first time in years, to attend a ceremony for the staff. There she met a priest named Leandros and fell in love with him for the first time. Priest Leandros got the same feeling. The only way they could see each other was to let Leandros swim through the cold, drizzly waters of the Bosphorus at night. The story of the couple ended in a stormy night when the torch Hero was holding to lead her lover at night died out. Leandros drowned and died, losing his way in the dark. According to the legend, Sister Hero, who witnessed this situation with her own eyes, could not withstand the pain she was suffering and she puts an end to her life by jumping in the waters of the Bosphorus.
Based on this legend, the Romans called it the Leandros Tower.
Legend of the Poisonous Snake in the Basket
Another Maiden’s Tower legend tells the poisoned serpent from the tower with the basket. However, this legend has both Greek – Roman and Turkish derivations:
In ancient times, the Roman emperor was told that his spouse would die because of a curse spelled on her. With the fear of losing his queen, he placed her in the Maiden’s Tower to protect her. He did not allow anyone else but himself and his special servants to enter. Nevertheless, he could not escape fate, and the snake that comes out of the food basket sent to the queen stung the queen and killed her.
According to this story, one of the Seljuk Sultans had a dream in which his daughter, whom he liked very much, is bitten by a snake and dies. So, the sultan placed her daughter in the tower. He did not allow anyone, including himself, to enter the tower. Even water and milk were poured through special pipes to the tower. Then years later, the lady sultan got sick. She barely recovered even though she was treated by the best doctor known to that day. On top of this, many gifts were sent from many different places for the Lady Sultan. Among the gifts, there was a basket of grapes. The snake, hidden in the grape basket, poisoned the lady that night and killed her.