After the naval victory at Cyzicus, the Ancient Athenian general Alcibiades possibly built a custom station for ships coming from the Black Sea on a small rock in front of Chrysopolis (today’s Üsküdar). In 1110 Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus built a wooden tower protected by a stone wall. From the tower an iron chain stretched across to another tower erected on the European shore, at the quarter of Mangana in Constantinople.
The islet was then connected to the Asiatic shore through a defense wall, whose underwater remains are still visible. during the siege of Constantinople in 1453, the tower held a Byzantine Garrison commanded by the Venetian Gabriele Trevisano. After the conquest of the city, Sultan Mehmet II used the structure as a watch tower.
The tower, mistakenly known as Leander’s Tower after the legend of Hero and Leander (which took place in the Dardanelles), was destroyed during the earthquake of 1509, and burned in 1721. Since then it was used as a lighthouse, and the surrounding walls were repaired in 1731 and 1734, until in 1763 it was erected using stone.
From 1829 the tower was used as a quarantine station, and in 1832 was restored by Sultan Mahmud II. Restored again by the harbour authority in 1945, the most recent restoration began in 1998, and steel supports were added around the ancient tower as a precaution after the 17 August 1999 earthquake.
The interior of the tower has been transformed into a popular café and restaurant, with an excellent view of the former Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman capital. Private boats make trips to the tower several times a day.