The Maiden’s Tower stands today as a testimonial to the beauty of many legends that abound here in Turkey. Though we at Hotel Büyük Keban pride ourselves on our deep knowledge of most things Istanbul, we can’t be sure which legend stands for the truth, but we present them here for you to decide which one you choose to believe.
The Maiden and the Snake
One legend has it that a prophecy was made that stated the beautiful daughter of a Turkish emperor would be killed by a deadly snake on her 18th birthday. The emperor determined to keep her from touching land to avoid any contact with snakes and so placed her in a tower that he built in the middle of the Bosphorus until she turned eighteen. On the day of her birthday, her father brought her a basket filled with exotic fruits to celebrate. As she reached in she was bitten by an asp hiding within and died in her father’s arms.
Also called Leander’s Tower, this legend connects with the famous Greek myth of Hero and Leander. Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite’s order who lived in a tower in the Dardanelles. Leander, also called Leandros, who lived on the other side of the strait, fell in love with her, swimming each night across the Hellespont to be by her side. Hero would light a lamp from the top of her tower to light his way so that he could make love to her, having convinced her that Aphrodite, the goddess of love, would approve. The two were lovers all summer long, but when winter came, Leander lost his way as he swam to the tower, unable to see Hero’s lamp in a storm. The tumultuous waves finally drowned him, and when Hero discovered this, she threw herself off the tower and also died.
Some Local History
Built by Emperor Alexius Comnenus, the tower was originally made of wood and protected by a stone wall, the remains of which can still be seen underwater. As extra protection against invaders, a huge iron chain was placed at the top, connecting to another tower on the European shore to block ships from entering the area.
In 1453, the tower was used as a Byzantine garrison, and in 1509 it was destroyed during an earthquake. After it was rebuilt, it burned down in 1721, and was subsequently resurrected in stone to be used as a lighthouse and then a quarantine station. After the conquest of Istanbul, it became a watchtower under Sultan Mehmet II. In 1945, the Maiden’s Tower underwent one full restoration by the harbor authority and then another one where steel supports were added after an earthquake in 1999.
Today you can visit the Maiden’s Tower on the southern tip of the Bosphorus, just 200 meters from the coast of Uskudar in Istanbul. Here you can enjoy the tower’s popular cafe and restaurant with exceptional food and drink, along with an exciting view of the city.
If you’re ready to travel to Istanbul and explore the rich history of our city, contact Hotel Büyük Keban today!