The Maiden’s Tower also called Leander’s Tower (Tower of Leandros) since the medieval Byzantine era, is a tower located at the southern entrance to the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul, Turkey, 200 meters (220 yards) from the coast of Üsküdar.
It’s possible that the ancient Athenian general Alcibiades constructed a customs station for ships coming from the Black Sea on a small rock in front of Chrysopolis, which is now Üsküdar, following the naval victory at Cyzicus. The Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Alexius Comnenus, built a stone wall around a wooden tower during his rule. An iron chain connected the tower to another tower in the Mangana neighborhood of Constantinople on the continent’s other side of the water. A defensive wall that later linked the island to the Asian mainland can still be seen in the water today. A Byzantine garrison commanded by the Venetian Gabriele Trevisano was stationed in the tower in 1453, the year Constantinople (now Istanbul) was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. During the rule of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, the Ottoman Turks converted the building into a watchtower.
The tower, which was incorrectly referred to as Leander’s Tower about the Hero and Leander legend (which took place in the Dardanelles strait, also known as the Hellespont in antiquity), was destroyed as a result of the earthquake in 1509 and the ensuing fire in 1721. Since then, it has been used as a lighthouse. Before its stone construction in 1763, subsequent repairs to the surrounding walls were made in 1731 and 1734. The tower was used as a quarantine facility from 1829 until Sultan Mahmud II restored it in 1832. The most recent restoration started in 1998 for the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, and steel supports were added as a precaution following the August 17, 1999, earthquake.
The interior of the tower is now home to a well-liked café and restaurant, making the most of the structure’s prime location and breathtaking views of the city’s Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman incarnations. Private boats go to the tower all day long to pick up guests.
Numerous urban legends have been created about the tower and its beginning. The most famous Turkish legend describes an emperor who had a beloved daughter who, according to the oracle, would perish at the age of eighteen from a poisonous snake. To protect his daughter from harm until she turned eighteen, the emperor constructed the tower in the middle of the Bosphorus, hoping to avoid her untimely death by keeping her away from the land and its snakes. The princess was imprisoned in a tower, where she frequently saw her father.
The emperor brought the princess a basket of exotic, delectable fruits for her 18th birthday because he was so happy that he had been able to stop the prophecy. However, as the oracle had foretold, the princess was bitten by an asp that was concealed among the fruit when she reached into the basket, and she passed away in her father’s arms. The tower got its name because it was initially constructed for a maiden.
Leander’s Tower’s earlier name alludes to yet another mythological story involving a young woman, this one from ancient Greece. Hero was an Aphrodite priestess who lived in a tower at Sestos, on the Hellespont coast (Dardanelles). On the other side of the Hellespont, in Abydos, a young man by the name of Leander (Leandros) fell in love with her and would swim across every night to be with her. To assist the hero in returning home each night, she would light a lamp atop her tower.
After Leander argued that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, would frown upon the worship of a virgin, Hero yielded to his charms and agreed to let him have sex with her. Throughout the summer, the routine remained the same. But on one particularly stormy winter night, the winds put out Hero’s light, the waves threw Leander into the sea, and Leander lost his bearings and drowned. Hero jumped off the tower to end her life because of her loss. This fable from the past may be where “Maiden’s Tower” got its name.
The Dardanelles and the Bosphorus are close by and visually similar, which led to confusion regarding the tower and Leander’s tale.
Right now, the tower
Today, the café is located on the tower’s summit, while the restaurant is located on the ground floor.
The tower could be seen on Turkish 10 lira banknotes from 1966 to 1981.
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