Today’s Rumeli Feneri (the Rumeli Lighthouse), situated at the point farthest north along the European side of the Bosphorus, was built in the 19th century, but there had been lighthouses in the same place during previous centuries. The Ali Macar Reis Atlas (16th century) gives the coordinates of a lighthouse on exactly the same spot. According to records from the 17th century, the top of Rumeli Feneri was reached by 110 stone steps, and eight “okka” (10264 grammes) of dolphin fat were burned there from dusk to dawn. In the 18th century, it was believed that if the oil lamp of the mystic Sary Saltyk went out, the lighthouse light would also be extinguished. Rumeli Feneri, a village on the promontory where the Bosphorus unwinds into the Black Sea, is a fishermen’s hamlet with a harbour hewn out of solid rock, dominated by the lighthouse.
This spot was known as Panium in ancient times. The great rocks offshore from Rumeli Feneri, known as the Kyanae or the Symplegadae, are celebrated in mythology. When the Argonauts were seeking the Golden Fleece they let a wine-coloured (oinas) dove fly between these magic rocks that used to approach and strike one another with thunderous sound and then draw apart again. They followed the bird on its route, led by the goddess Athena. Drawing strength from the sound of the Thracian Orpheus’ lyre and chorusing songs that drowned out those of the sirens trying to lead them to their doom, they were able to reach the Black Sea. (According to myth, wine-coloured doves fed the infant Zeus in a Cretan Cave and offered him ambrosia, the elixir of immortality.) Certain mythographers claim that Triton, a sea-god rising from the depths of the Bosphorus, held the gigantic rocks apart as the Argo sailed through and that the Symplegadae never moved again. The boat Argo (Swift), bearing the name of its legendary builder, Argus, boasted mythological heroes as oarsmen, among them Hercules the Invincible. The Argo’s figurehead was a bough from Zeus’ Prophetic Oak. Antique sources and mythographers such as Apollonius, Apollodorus, Valerius Placcus and Hygnius offer often contradicting information as far as the names and number of the Argonants are concerned.
With those who leave the Argo “en route” and yet others who join the expedition at various points, the list reaches impressive proportions. Among the most celebrated are Argus the Boat-builder, Asclepius the Healer, Atalanta the Huntress, Glaucus the Fisherman, Phineus the Soothsayer, Orpheus the Minstrel and Tiphys the Helmsman. The “Argonautica” of Apollonius of Rhodes (Apollonius Rhodius, 3rd century BC) and the “Bibliotheca” of Apollodorus (2nd century BC) relate the myth of the Golden Fleece in detail. Jason, the Captain of the Argonauts, was the grandson of Cretheus, the son of Aeson (King of Iolcus) and student of the Learned Centaur Chiron. Living in the Thessalian woodlands, Chiron was skilled in the art of medicine, and it is written that he gave the Prince of Iolcus his name, Jason (“Healer”).
The Golden Fleece, hidden in the Sacred Wood of Ares in the Kingdom of Colchis, somewhere along the shore of the Black Sea, had come from a flying ram sacrificed to Zeus. Born of Poseidon the Sea God and Theophane the Thracian, the ram had been sent by the goddess Hera and brought over by Hermes, Messenger of the Gods. Its pure gold fleece was guarded by Phrixus, son of Athamas (King of Boetia) and of Nephele (Goddess of the Clouds). With the assistance of Phineus the Soothsayer and Medea, High Priestess of the Temple of Hecate, the Argonauts reach Colchis and bring home the Golden Fleece. Classical mythology relates that Helle, Princess of Boeotia, fell into the deep waters of the gulf separating the bulks of Europe and Asia while riding the flying Golden Ram, thus giving the strait its name, the Hellespont (Helle’s Sea). Today it is known as the Dardanelles. The Temple of Apollo that stood on top of the rock near Rumeli Feneri is mentioned in the legends. It is also said that Apollo would transform himself into a dolphin and guide Tiphys the Helmsman In Byzantine times, a high column named the Pompeius Column was erected on this rock to prevent shipwrecks. The Ottomans gave the name Mavi Kayalar (the Blue Rocks), A?layan Kayalar (the Weeping Rocks) or Kanly Kayalar (the Bloody Rocks) to these great stones protruding from the sea. Later, they came to be known as Kocata? (the Great Stone) and Körta? (the Blind Stone).