The Maiden’s Tower is probably one of most legendary artworks of Istanbul. The Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans described legends separately, and according to these stories, they gave names to the tower.
For example, the Greeks called the Damalis Tower because the Athenian’s had the territory at that time as İt is mentioned at the beginning. King Hares of Athens had a very beautiful wife. When she died, he buried her there because she loved that place so much. For this reason, Greeks called the beach as Damalis and they named the tower as Damalis. Additionally, it may be true that there was also a statue of Queen Damalis on the rocks
Hero and Leandros Myth
The hero is one of the priests of Aphrodite, who is described as the goddess of love and beauty in Greek mythology, and she works in the Maiden’s Tower. Because of being a nun, love is forbidden for her and there is no connection with men.
One day she crosses from the slave she has stayed for years for a ceremony. She meets another priest named Leandros and at first sight, she falls in love with him for the first time there. Priest Leandros also gets the same feeling. The only way they can see each other that it is to let Leandros swim through the cold, swampy waters of the Bosphorus at night. The story of a couple who loves each other for a while ends with going off the flashlight that Hero lights up to lead Hero’s love. Leandros drowns and dies, losing his way in the dark. According to legend, Nun Hero, who witnessed this situation, cannot withstand the pain she has suffered and she ends her life by leaving herself in the waters of the Bosphorus.
Based on this legend, the Romans called there the Leandros Tower.
The Legend of Poisonous Snake in the Basket
Another Maiden’s Tower legend narrates the poisonous snake that came to the tower with the basket. However, this legend has both Greek – Roman and Turkish derivations. They will be explained chronologically.
The King’s Wife
In ancient times, a Roman emperor was told that his wife would die by a fortune-teller. He takes his wife to the Maiden’s Tower to protect her. Except for himself and special servants, he does not allow anyone to enter her room. However, the fate is inevitable to escape, and the snake from the food basket which was sent to the queen poisons her and kills her there.
According to this story, one of the Seljuk Sultans sees in his dream that the daughter he loves most will be bitten by a snake and dies. The sultan who was frightened places her daughter in the tower. He does not allow anybody including himself to come in and out of the tower. Even water and milk are poured with special pipes to the island. Then years later the lady sultan gets sick. The young girl is barely healed by the best-known doctor that day. Because of the Lady Sultan’s illness, a lot of gifts are sent from many different places for her and there is a basket of grapes among them. The poisoned snake, hidden in the grape basket, bites the lady and killed her that night.
Battal Gazi Legend
Another Maiden’s Tower legend is about Sayyid Battal Gazi (a famous Turkish soldier). Battal Gazi participates in the siege of Istanbul under the command of Harun Rashid who is the Caliph of the Islamic army. Battal Gazi continues to stay in Üsküdar, while the Islamic army which cannot get results from surrounding draws back because he is in love with “Tekfur’s” daughter.(“Tekfur” is name of the lords ruling over cities in Byzantium era). However, the Tekfur of Üsküdar confines her daughter to the tower with the permission of the emperor and tries to keep her away from Battal. Hence, Seyyid Battal breaks into the tower and escapes with both the daughter of Tekfur and the treasures in the house.