The Maiden's Tower is subjected to many stories and legends. It is a small islet on which the tower is built, and located 200 m from the shore of Uskudar which is a district on the Asian side of Istanbul. While standing in front of the tower, you will be impressed of the astonishing silhouette where you can see the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Golden Horn at the European side. The present Tower dates back to the 12th century, where the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Komnenos I had built two defensive towers on both side of the Bosphorus enterance coming from the Marmara Sea side. One at "Sarayburnu" at he European side and the other one "Uskudar" at the Asian side. According to the records, a chain was extended between these towers in order to prevent smuggling by the sea. The tower was used several times as a base, during the conquest of Constantinople a garrison was based on the islet commanded by Venetian Squads, Gabriele Trevisano.
During centuries the Maiden's Tower has become several restoration. The comprehensive one was during Mahmud II (1808-1839) time which lasted one year starting in 1832. This restoration was a type of upgrading and gave the tower its shape of today.
Legends of the Maiden's Tower Leandra’s Love
The most popular legend is an ancient Greek myth of "Hero and Leander". Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite who lived in a tower at Sestos. City Sestos or also known as Sestus was an ancient Greek town of the Thracian Chersonese, the modern Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey.
Leander (Leandros), a young man from Abydos on the other side of the strait, fell in love with her. He swum every night crossing the Hellespont to see her. Hero lit a lamp every night at tower to guide his way safely. But on a stormy night, breezes blew out Hero's light, and Leander lost his way, and was drowned. Hero threw herself from the tower and died as well.
The name Maiden's Tower might also have its origins in this ancient story.
The Oracle and the Snake
The second popular legend comes from the Byzantine era. Fortune tellers inform the Byzantine Emperor that the death of his beloved daughter will be caused by a snakebite. In order to prevent such a misfortune the King has let built a tower on the islet. The princess was placed in the tower, where she was frequently visited only by her father the King.
On her 18th birthday, the emperor brought her a basket of fruits as a birthday gift. Upon reaching into the basket, however, an snake that had been hiding among the fruits bit the princess and she died in her father's arms, just as the oracle had predicted.
How to reach :
The Maiden's Tower als knonw as the Leander's Tower (Tower of Leandros) is very easy to reach. By taking the ferries from Eminonu Ferry Port the European Side directly to Uskudar Ferry Port which takes 20-30 minutes depending on the season. After getting off the ferry a 15 minute walk along the splendid Bospohrus and view to the stunning European Peninsula you will reach the Tower.
It is possible to get to the islet, during the day there is a cafe within the Tower which is used as a restaurant during evening hours.