Built on the rocks of the asian shore at the mouth of the Bosphorus Strait, hundereds of ships, ferries and motor boats sail past the Maiden's Tower every day.For centuries its light has illuminated the darkness, giving sailors a landmark by which to navigate.That light has become part of a story or perhaps real in the distant past.A young man fell in love with a girl who was living in the tower and swam from Galata on the Europian shore each night to keep tryst with her.But one stormy night he is drowned and his body washed up on the rocks at the foot of the towerThis story is one of several based on that of Hero and Leander.
Having set the record straight, here is the original version of Hero and Leander.A young man named Leander living in the city of Abydos on the southern shore of Canakkale Strait fell in love with the beautiful priestess Hero, and she was with him.Since she was forbidden to marry, Leander visited her secretely every night, swimming across the strait from Abydos to Sestos where Hero lived.So that Leander could find his way in the darkness, Hero carried a torch up to the top of the tower where she lived each night and waited until he arrived. But one stormy night torrential rain extinguished the torch in Hero's hand, and unable to find the right direction, Leander was eventually exhausted by the waves and drowned.At down the next morning Hero saw Leander's ragged shirt in the sea and threw herself into the water.So the two lovers were united at last in death.Many myths and legends bear a similiar resemblance to others, the location changing while the story remain the same.
Another story concerning the tower, according to which a Byzantine fortune teller predicted that the beautiful daughter of the Emperor Constantine would be killed by a snake bite.Her father first concealed his daughter ina coffin at Hagia Sofia, and then had this tower built for her to live in.However, a poisonous snake concealed in a basket of grapes sent to her caused the girl's death.In some versions of the story the emperor becomes a sultan, and the 17th century Turkish writer Evliya Celebi relates a version whose heroes are Battal Gazi and the Byzantine emperor.
Now let us turn from legend to fact.The Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnene(1143-1180)had two towers built, one on the shore near where Topkapi Palace was later constructed, and the other where the Maiden's Tower stands today.Chains were drawn across the mouth of the strait between these two towers when Istanbul was atttacted by enemy fleets.
The original tower was rebuilt after Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul in 1453.This structure undervent various changes over the centuries as a result of repairs and fires, and was extensively renovated during the reign of Mahmud II when it took the form we see today.