The legend of Kızkalesi (The Fortress of the Girl)
A king had a daughter, who as she grew up became the darling of her father and of her father’s subjects,
thanks to her beauty and goodness of heart.
It happened so that a passing fortune-teller should offer to tell the girl’s fortune after having told the king’s.
As soon as she held the girl’s hands she began to tremble. The king got extremely worried and asked the
fortune-teller what it was that she had seen?
At first the fortune-teller did not want to answer, but the king insisted that she should tell whatever it was
that she had seen.
The fortune-teller could not avoid answering: This beautiful and kind-hearted girl will one day be bitten by a
venomous snake and will die when still young.
The king got extremely worried and tried to find a solution to avoid this tragic destiny. True enough, he
did find some kind of a solution. He had a fortress built on the sea and had his daughter live there. Since
snakes would not be able to reach the fortress, his daughter would be saved from her tragic destiny.
The days passed until one day a snake that had hidden in a basket of grapes, which had been brought to
the girl on the fortress, bit and poisoned her.
Both the king and his subjects reflected on the matter and came to the conclusion that nobody, not even
the daughter of a king, can escape their own destinies.
Nowadays Kızkalesi is one of the area’s most important tourist attractions. The nature embellishing history
is also very promising. With its long beach that has a very fine sand, its unpolluted sea and its climate that
makes it possible to bathe in the sea at least until the end of October, Kızkalesi attracts more and more
One day they woke at sunrise. They thought that they had gone to sleep the day before, but actually 309
years had elapsed.
One of them, Yemliha, went to Tarsus to buy food. As soon as he reached the town he went to a baker and
got some bread; when he tried to pay the baker was astonished. The coin given by the young man had
long not been in use for a very long tme.
He told Yemliha that his money was not valid any more and asked him where he had found it. Yemliha was
even more astonished.
During the long years when the seven young people had been sleeping, the emperors had changed and
Christianity had become the official religion of the empire.
Yemliha was astonished since being of the idea that he had gone to sleep the day before he could not
understand what was happening.
He immediately went back to the grotto and told his friends what had happened.
The seven did not know what to do and went back to sleep. This turned out to be their eternal sleep and
they never again woke up.
Catholics celebrate the Seven Sleepers on the 7 July.
According to the Orthodox on the other hand, the Seven Sleepers entered the grotto on 4 August, and the
day when they woke up centuries after,was a 22 October.
Muslims do not have a particular date.
Hades god of darkness and Cerberus guardian of hell
According to mythology the war between the gods residing on Mount Olympus and the titans (giants) was
won by the gods. Zeus, the king of the gods, decreed that the captured titans be imprisoned deep
underground. However mother earth Gaia gave birth to a dragon to avenge the titans, who were her
This dragon’s name was Typhon; it was a hundred headed giant with a body covered with scales, who
breathed flames and who burned all that was along its path. Typhon got into an epic struggle with Zeus.
The struggle was long and arduous, but Zeus won, and before imprisoning Typhon in the Etna volcano on
the Isle of Sicily, he momentarily imprisoned him in the above-mentioned Hell depression.
In the meantime Typhon copulated with Echinda, who was half maiden and half snake and from this
intercourse many monsters were spawned. One of these monsters was Cerberus, the dog guardian of hell.
It had the body of a dog, a tail in the shape of a snake, three heads of dogs and his teeth were venomous;
he guarded the border between earth and hell, which consisted of the river Styx, by patrolling the hell side
of the river. He did not permit anybody but the dead, to enter into the kingdom of Hades.
The Tale of Şahmeran
According to this folk myth, Şahmeran is a half-human, half-snake ruler. He lives in an underground cave in
the bowels of the earth and rules over the snakes. But Şahmeran and his subjects are not sinister as the
symbolism in the myth might suggest. They represent solidarity, help, good humor and sacrifice for the
sake of others. The people of Tarsus have owned this myth so much that they erected a statue of
Şahmeran in their town. However, the myth has been also told for centuries beyond the borders of Turkey
from India, Egypt to Greece.
As the myth puts it, humans kill Şahmeran to extract his healing water and the snakes are still unaware of
this. If they learn about the death of their ruler in the hands of human beings they will all emerge on earth
and create havoc in their vengeance. And again according to the myth, all these snakes are living
underground in Tarsus. This explains why there are so many snake figures on the carpets, walls,
embroideries, ceramic objects, in woodwork and on mirrors and glasses in Tarsus.
As the tale goes, a man one day enters a cave full of thousands of snakes that seize him and take him to
their ruler, Şahmeran. Şahmeran tells the man that he would grant him clemency, but that the man would
have to be the guest of the snakes for eternity. They cannot let him go because the man has learned their
place. If the humans find the cave, they would kill the ruler of the snakes, Şahmeran tells the man.
The guest of the snakes lives a comfortable life in the cave. He is well looked after. He passes his days
chatting with Şahmeran. But one day, he gets bored and asks leave from Şahmeran. The ruler of the snakes
grant the visitor his request and lets him return to the earth, because during their long chats, an
atmosphere of trust has been built between the two. Şahmeran says that he believes that the visitor won’t
tell anybody the place of his kingdom. However, the man should not let anybody see his skin because it will
turn scaly like a snake’s.
The visitor returns to his normal life and keeps his lips sealed about his adventure in the cave.
As it happens in most of the folk tales, the ruler of the land has a sick daughter. He has mobilized the
country to find a cure for her. Meanwhile, his vizier or chief minister is a bad guy. He is secretly making plans
to marry the ruler’s daughter and become king. The vizier gathers all the magicians of the land demanding
from them to find a cure for the girl’s disease. One of the magicians says that Şahmeran holds the cure of
this disease. The king of the snakes should be found, killed and boiled. The daughter of the king will be
cured when she drinks the water in which the king of snakes is boiled. And in order to find Şahmeran, they
should look for a man with a scaly skin like that of a snake’s. The vizier takes everybody in the country to
the bath and finds the guest of Şahmeran in this way. The man promises to kill Şahmeran and goes back to
the cave of snakes. He tells Şahmeran what happened on the surface of the earth and asks his advice.
Şahmeran says that he already knew that his death would come from his guest. The ruler of the snakes
then tells his guest to kill him but keep this secret. If the snakes learn about it, they would come out of the
earth and seek their ruler’s vengeance. Then Şahmeran tells the man to boil his tail and make the vizier
drink its water that would kill him in no time. “Boil my body and make the ruler’s daughter drink it, this will
cure her, and boil my head and drink its water yourself that will turn you into Doctor Lokman.” With this,
the two leave the cave. The man cuts Şahmeran in front of the bath and carries out the advice of the ruler
of snakes. The vizier dies, the girl is healed and he becomes Doctor Lokman. Now this Doctor Lokman is the
Anatolian version of Hippocratus, a physician who cures all sorts of diseases.