The Maiden’s Tower of Istanbul
Istanbul is the meeting point of Europe and Asia. It is the 34th largest city in the world. Istanbul is the most populous city in Europe. Since its foundation, Istanbul has been the capital of three different empires: the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.
Istanbul is a city with a settlement date of 300 thousand years and an urban history of approximately 3 thousand years. It was the capital of three different empires for 1600 years. For centuries the city has been the center of culture, art, architecture, and politics.
Istanbul, which is one of the most important and largest metropolises of the world, has valuable artifacts and structures. These artifacts, which have witnessed many events throughout history and are among the masterpieces of architecture and art, are in the European and Asian parts of the city.
One of the most important symbols of Istanbul is the Maiden’s tower. The Maiden’s Tower is on the Bosphorus, one of the two straits separating the two continents: Asia and Europe.
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When was the Maiden’s Tower built?
The Maiden’s Tower, one of the oldest buildings in Istanbul, is located off the Salacak Coast of Üsküdar. The building was first built as a defense area in the Ancient Roman period and was used for different purposes during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. It provides a 360-degree panoramic view of Istanbul. The Maiden’s tower, which has defied the years, has been serving as a museum-restaurant since 1995.
The Maiden’s Tower was founded by the Greeks in the 5th century BC near the Uskudar Salacak coast of the Bosphorus. It is the only architectural monument from the Roman Empire in Üsküdar. Throughout history, it has been used for different purposes, and many rumors have been produced about it.
According to historians based on official sources, the Maiden's Tower was first mentioned in the 400s BC. It was established as a customs point for maritime trade. The Maiden's Tower was built by an Athenian commander. Athens was a Greek city-state that was important at that time and dominated the region. This small rock, on which the Maiden's Tower was built, has served as a checkpoint for centuries. There is also a legend about this.
Among the architectural works in Istanbul, it is the top artifact that has most rumors and legends. However, very little information is available about the tower. For example, there are historians who claim it was built as a wave breaker. The most accepted information is that it used as a custom point.
Legends About the Maiden's Tower
Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans told different myths about the tower and according to these stories they gave different names to the tower. For example, the Greeks called it the Damalis Tower. King Hares of Athens had a beautiful wife. Because this woman loved Salacak beach so much, he had her buried here when she died. For this reason, the Greeks called here as Damalis beach or Damalis tower. It was also said that Queen Damalis had a statue on these rocks at that time.
According to another story, one of the Seljuk Sultans had a dream that his beloved daughter would be bitten to death by a snake. Sultan placed his daughter in the tower. He didn’t let anyone, including himself, go to the tower. Even water and milk were sent to the island with special pipes. Then years later, the girl became ill. She was barely cured by the best physician known to date. Then, gifts were sent to the girl from many places. Among them was a basket of grapes. A snake, hidden in a basket of grapes, bit the girl and caused her death.
Maiden's Tower in the Roman Period
According to Roman historians, the tower was first built by the Emperor Manuel Komnenos of the Komnenos dynasty, a famous dynasty in Roman history. There were two reasons Emperor Manuel had this tower built: to take control of the Bosphorus and to charge taxes on merchant ships. To achieve this goal, sources indicate that a thick chain was drawn between the tower and the European coast and dozens of raft used to prevent the chain from sinking. In one narrative, it is said that the first tower could not bear the weight of the chain and collapsed despite all efforts.
During the Roman period, the tower used as a place of exile and isolation from time to time, just like during the Ottoman period. The Romans who lived in the city told many stories about the tower and produced legends.
Maiden's Tower in the Ottoman Empire
Neither Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror nor the other sultans used it for defensive purposes. Because Rumelia Fortress and Anatolian Fortress existed, and it was not needed.
The tower was damaged in the 1509 earthquake. It was repaired by Hayrettin, the famous architect of the period, who improved many works. About 200 years later, it was a lighthouse. This time, a fire broke out because of a indoor oil lamp. The new tower was built as a masonry.
The Maiden's Tower was also used for cannonry for various religious and diplomatic ceremonies. Some Sultans used it as an excursion spot or a recreation area. The most interesting mission of the Maiden's Tower in history is its use for the isolation of patients during a plague epidemic in Istanbul in the 19th century.
Maiden's Tower in Republic Period
The tower began to be used again as a lighthouse immediately before the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. In the 1940s, the ground was reinforced. In the early 1980s, it served as a military radar station. It is currently operated by a private company as an excursion spot and a restaurant. Travel to the island where the tower is located is subject to a fee nowadays. You can choose our Maiden’s Tower tour and experience the beauty. Visiting hours are between 9:00 am and 6:45 pm every day from Salacak coast. Also you can taste the delicious meals of Maiden Tower’s restaurant.
If you enjoy sea trips and islands we have a very nice suggestion. You can visit another wonderful corners of Istanbul with our Prince’s Islands Boat Trip tour. Or you can watch Istanbul from above with Sapphire Observation Deck Tour. If you are interested that different visual images of Istanbul, try the SkyRide 4D Simulation tour.
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