Maiden’s Tower is located off the coast of Salacak neighborhood in Üsküdar district, at the southern entrance of the Bosporus in Istanbul.
In the 5th century BC, it is built by the Athenian general Alcibiades on a rock at the entrance of the Bosphorus for the surveillance of the waterway. A chain was pulled from the land to the tower to make it checkpoint and customs area for the ships passing through. Moreover, in the 12th century AD, emperor Alexius Comneus built a strong defense tower after some restorations and called it Arcla, meaning ‘Small Tower’. The tower was also used as a light house and control tower during the Ottoman period.
There are many interesting legends about Maiden’s Tower. Besides, these legends are being told in lots of different ways. These are the legends mentioned a lot.
I guess the most known one is princess’ legend. The name of the tower also come from this legend: The Byzantine emperor heard a prophecy about his beloved daughter. It says that the daughter would die by a snake when she becomes eighteen years old. That is why, the emperor decided to put in this tower. He thought that this tower could protect his daughter, because it was built on a rock on Bosporus and isolated from the land. In this way, she couldn’t be killed by any snakes. However, the prophecy inevitably came true. A snake hiding in a fruit basket was brought to the tower, bit the princess and killed her.
The second one is called as the legend of Leander. The older name Leander’s Tower comes from this story. A young man named Leandra fell in love with a girl here. Every night, he was swimming all the way from the other side to see the girl. In order to show him the way, the girl was lighting a fire over the rocks. One night was stormy and the fire the girl lighted for Leandra faded. He couldn’t find his way to the rocks, got lost and drowned in the cold and dark water. After that, the girl didn’t bear to lose her lover and she killed herself, too.
The other legend is called Battalgazi. A man named Battalgazi fell in love with the daughter of Christian ruler of a town. He didn’t want to bestow his daughter to Battalgazi and he put her in the tower. After that, Battalgazi attacked the tower and abducted the girl. He took the girl, rode his horse and run away quickly. There is a belief that the famous expression ‘Ati alan Uskudar’i gecti’ (he who takes the horse got by Üsküdar) with meaning that it is too late to do something about an issue, because there is nothing to do anymore, comes from this legend.
The last legend is the one of the oldest stories about the tower. The story takes place in the period when Istanbul was under the sovereignty of Athens. In accordance with this story, the Kingdom of Athens sent 40 ships under the command of Admiral Hares to protect Istanbul against the possibility of an attack by the King of Macedonia, Philip. When Hares’ beloved wife Damalys did, he had her buried in a grave that was carved on his order within the rocks here.
Today, the tower is a very popular and classy restaurant and cafeteria-bar. It offers 360 degree views of the Bosphorus and the old city, especially at night. There are several shuttle boats going to the tower at certain times from Kabatas neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul and from Salacak neighborhood on the Asian side.