Perched on a rocky outcrop overhanging the River Xanthe (the modern day Esen Çay), the ancient city of Xanthos dominated the river plain all the way to the sea, some seven kilometres as the crow flies. Today, these remains lie side by side with the village of Kınık, in this region on the southwest coast of Turkey at the foot of the south-eastern highlands of Kragos and Antikragos 80 kilometres east of Fethiye by national highway. Xanthos was undoubtedly one of the largest cities of ancient Lycia and was long its capital, or the “metropolis” as described in many epigraphic documents of the Imperial period. The first traces of habitation go back to the 7th century B.C., from which point the site was occupied continuously until its
during the Byzantine era (12th century).
It was inhabited once again
in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The city had a sanctuary, the Letoon, found four kilometres southwest of Xanthos and dedicated to the goddess Leto and her two children Apollo and Artemis. The primary place of worship in ancient Lycia, the Letoon became a federal sanctuary for all Lycians in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. Up until the Roman Empire, it received visitors of all origins, some of whom left a special mark : the Emperor Hadrian presented a superb nymphaeum found by the French archaeological mission.
Xanthos and its sanctuary offer visitors spectacular archaeological remains: the Lycian necropolis and its cliff-tombs found on the east and north sides of the high “Roman” acropolis, the inscribed pillar, and the pillar tombs surrounding the Roman agora, the Byzantine basilica and its mosaics; and, in Letoon, the Temple of Leto now in anastylosis, the theatre and nymphaeum are all worth mentioning. We must also mention the Nereid Monument and “Payava’s tomb,” the sarcophagus with an ogive lid that are now shown in the rooms dedicated to Lycian artefacts in London’s British Museum. Archaeologists’ findings at Xanthos and Letoon have been so important these places have been included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.