January 4th, 2012
Maiden’s Tower, Istanbul, Turkey
Built in 408 BC by the ancient Athenian general Alcibiades, the Maiden’s Tower’s purpose was to control the movments of the Persion ships in the Bosphorus. For centuries it was used as a lighthouse, until the interior of the tower was transformed into a café and restaurant with view overlooking the former Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman capital.
The history of the Maiden’s Tower is steeped in sad legend. According to the most popular, a sultan built the tower in the middle of the Bosphorus to protect his daughter from a prophesized death by venomous snakes on her 18th birthday.
It is said that on the day of the princess’s birthday, the sultan, delighted he had been able to prevent the prophecy, brought her a basket of exotic fruit. When she reached into the basket, however, an asp that had been hiding inside bit her and she died in her father’s arms, as the oracle had predicted. Hence the name, Maiden’s Tower.
The tower is also known as Leander’s Tower, and this stems from the ancient Greek myth Hero and Leander. Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite who lived in a tower of Sestos. Leander, a young man from Abydos on the other side of the strait fell in love with her and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the to pof her tower to guide his way.
Hero, succumbing to Leander’s soft words and argument that Aprhodite, as goddess of love, would scorn the worship of a virgin, allowed him to make love to her. This routine lasted through the summer until one stormy winter night the waves tossed Leander in the sea and the wind blew out Hero’s light. Leander lost his way and drowned, and Hero threw herself from the tower in grief.
Want to learn more about the culture and history of Turkey? Check out our article, Turkey: 28,632,204 can’t be wrong!
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