Xanthos and Letoon: Cities of brave… People of honor…

The archaeological values of Xanthos and Letoon make them very important parts of world heritage. The sites are about 4 kilometers apart and they include the stone inscriptions on which the longest and the most important scripts in Lycian language are written.
Xanthos is the place where Sarpedon lived. Sarpedon encouraged Prince Hector during the Trojan War by writing a poem to him. The site is on the provincial border between Mugla and Antalya provinces separated by Esen Stream, near Kinik town.
Dipylon, built between 68 and 70 AD and braided out of polygonal cut stones, forms the south entrance of the site. The Theatre of Xanthos with 2200 person capacity was built in the Hellenistic Period and renovated in the Roman Period. The stage building, which constitutes an entirety with its vault entrances, semicircle orchestra and the theatron, bears the qualities of the Roman Period. The square open area surrounded with porches on all sides to the north of the theatre is the Roman Agora.
The sanctuary of Letoon was discovered in 1840. There are a 36 row theatre, a basilica, inscription tablets, three temples, a round portico attached to the cult building of the empire and an L shaped stoa. Letoon’s twins, Apollo and Artemis, were deities, and were honored, like their mother, with a temple each.

The largest temple is the Leto Temple built on the west side in peripteros style. On the east side is the Apollo Temple in the Doric style. Apollo Temple looks exactly like the houses depicted in the Lycian tombs. The foundation remains are noteworthy since they have a timber structure.
Artemis Temple is situated between the other two temples. As water levels have risen since antiquity, the lower parts of the buildings are now under the water.
Xanthos was the capital of Lycians dating back to 3000s BC, is known to be the largest administrative centre of Lycia during antiquity. Letoon was inscribed on the World Heritage List together with Xanthos in 1988, was one of the most prominent religious centres in antiquity.
The history of Xanthos is quite a violent – the Xanthosians twice demonstrated the fierce independence of the Lycian people when they chose to commit mass suicide rather than submit to invading forces.  The Xanthosian men set fire to their women, children, slaves and treasure upon the acropolis before making their final doomed attack upon the invading Persians. Xanthos was later repopulated but the same gruesome story repeated itself in 42 BC when Brutus attacked the city during the Roman civil wars in order to recruit troops and raise money.  Brutus was shocked by the Lycians’ suicide and offered his soldiers a reward for each Xanthosian saved. Only 150 citizens were rescued.
Poem found on a tablet during Xanthos excavations, translated by Prof. Azra Erhat.
We made our houses graves
And our graves are homes to us
Our houses burned down
And our graves were looted
We climbed to the summits
We went deep into the earth
We were drenched in water
They came and got us
They burned and destroyed us
They plundered us
And we,
For the sake of our mothers,
Our women,
And for the sake of our dead,
And we,
In the name of our honor,
And our freedom,
We, the people of this land,
Who sought mass suicide
We left a fire behind us,
Never to die out…