Maiden’s Tower

The Maiden’s Tower, one of the more popular symbols of Istanbul, is located on a small islet at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus. It was once a Byzantine tollbooth, and then an Ottoman lighthouse. There are many legends associated with the construction of the tower, the most popular of which is that the tower was built by an emperor when an oracle prophesied that his daughter would die of a snake bite on her 18th birthday. To protect her, the emperor placed his daughter in a tower on an island, making it impossible for any snakes to reach her. On the 18th birthday of the princess, the emperor brought his daughter a basket of fruit, but when she reached into the basket, a wasp bit her and she died in her father’s arms, just as the oracle had prophesied. Hence the tower was called Maiden’s Tower.

Prior to being called Maiden’s Tower, the tower was called Leander’s Tower, in the medieval Byzantine period. This name is based on the ancient Greek myth of Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite who lived in a tower on an island, and Leander, a young man who fell in love with her and would swim across the strait every day to meet her. One day, Leander lost his way and drowned. Upon hearing this news, Hero threw herself off the tower and died as well. The tower of Hero and Leander however, is located at Sestos, in the Dardanelles strait. The story was probably mistakenly attributed to the Maiden’s Tower because of the proximity and similarity of the Bosphorus to the Dardanelles strait.


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