The sad love story of Hero and Leander is an oral tradition that stretches back millennia. According to mythology, Hero, a virgin priestess of Aphrodite in Sestos at the edge of the Hellespont (Dardanelles) was seen by Leander of Abydos during a festival, and the two fell in love.
Although love was forbidden for Hero, the two met each other every evening.
Leander would swim across the Hellespont to be with her and Hero would light a lamp every night at the top of her tower to guide his way. They would remain together until the break of dawn. This routine lasted through the summer. Towards the end of the season, the waves became bigger and stronger. Though fearful that her beloved might be hurt, Hero did not want to stop seeing Leander. Then on one stormy night, as Leader swam across the strait fighting against the strong waves, the breeze blew out the light in Hero’s hand. Leander lost his way, and was drowned. Hero threw herself from the tower in grief and died as well.
When friends received news of their death, they honored the two lovers at a funeral ceremony. They buried Hero and Leander next to each other and dropped flower petals in the strait.
Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University Science-literature Faculty Archaeology Department Professor Nurettin Aslan said, “Hero and Leander inspired the feat commemorated in the poem ‘The Bride of Abydos’ by Lord Byron.”
The mythological story of Hero and Leander is played out by foreign tourists each year. In 2005, 10 amateur swimmers from England re-created the love story of Hero and Leander by swimming across the Dardanelles to Nagara Point.