This is an illustration I’ve done to BÜMED’s monthly magazine’s special “Istanbul” issue. They requested that I draw several legends surrounding this small islet, which is located at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus.
Even though it’s not known exactly when the tower was built, the architectural style is synonymous with the era around 340 BCE. The landmark was previously known as Leandros and Damalis – named after the wife of Kharis, the king of Athens. During the Byzantine era, it was also known as “arcla,” which means “little castle”. After the Ottoman Army conquered İstanbul, the tower was pulled down and replaced with a wooden structure, which was then destroyed by a fire in 1719.
Apart from its history, the famous tower has also been the subject of a few legends. According to hearsay, a young man known as Leandros fell in love with a nun named Hero, who lived in the tower. Every night, Hero built a fire to guide her lover to the islet. However, one night, the fire was put out by a storm and Leandros lost his way and drowned in the Bosphorus. Hero was so overwhelmed by grief and loss, she committed suicide.
Another story goes that a soothsayer told the king his daughter would die of a snakebite. To protect her, the king constructed a castle out at sea where she could live safely; however, a snake hiding in a fruit basket made it onto the islet and the princess died after the reptile bit her.
Last but not least, the Battalgazi legend follows the tale of a man by that name, who was said to fall for the daughter of the tekfur (Christian ruler). The tekfur forbade their union and isolated his daughter at the tower, after which Battalgazi stormed the islet and abducted his love, riding away with her into the sunset.