Built on the rocks of the Asian shore at the mouth of the Bosphorus Strait, thousands of people pass by ships, ferries and motor boats the Maiden's Tower every day. For centuries its light has illuminated the darkness. There are many legends about Maiden's Tower, one of the prominent symbols of Istanbul, that reflect the traces of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations. The earliest original building constructed on the rock by Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus I. The romance of the tower finds its root in an ancient myth along the lines of Romeo and Juliet: boy (Leander) falls in love with girl (the Aphrodite Priestess Hero); boy drowns swimming to meet girl; girl finds lover's corpse; girl commits suicide. The story originated around the Dardanelles, but was not really attach to this solitary tower. Legend also has it that the tower was connected to the mainland by way of an underwater tunnel, and that there used to be a wall between the tower and the shore--a rumor not altogether implausible considering that according to a 19th- century historian, the remains of a wall could be seen in calm water of Bosphorus.
Maiden's Tower or Leander's Tower on an islet at the mouth of the Istanbul Strait is one of the landmarks of Istanbul. The tower was first built here by Alkibiades in the 6th century BC, and around 350 BC a Macedonian admiral built a splendid mausoleum for his dead wife here. The Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnenus (1143-1180) had towers built both here and at the headland south of the Golden Horn, and chains fixed between the two which prevented ships entering the Istanbul Strait without permission. Diplomatic talks between the Ottoman Sultan Orhan Gazi (1326-1360) and the Byzantine Emperor Cantakuzenus (1347-1354) are known to have taken place in this tower.
Following the Turkish conquest of Istanbul, the tower was used to imprison those being sent into exile. When the wooden tower built in 1726 was destroyed by fire, it was replaced by a masonry tower with a lead dome. The present baroque form of this tower dates from repairs carried out in 1830. In the past it served variously as lighthouse, quarantine station, prison and artillery emplacement. It now serves as a restarant.