Date of Inscription to the World Heritage List: 9.12.1988
List Reference: 484 Criteria: Cultural
LANDS OF EPOPES
Xanthos, which was the capital of Lycia between 700 and 300 BC, is known as the largest administrative centre of Lycia during antiquity. Letoon, which was Inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List together with Xanthos in 1988, was one of the most prominent religious centres of antiquity.
Xanthos (Arrina) is where Serpedon lived. Sarpedon encouraged Prince Hector during the Trojan War by writing a poem to him. The site is on the road between Fethiye and Kas, 46 km from Fethiye. It Is part of present-day Kinik village, on the Esen, a stream separating the provinces of Mugla and Antalya.
The archaeological value of Xanthos and Letoon make them very important parts of world heritage. The sites are about 4 km apart.
The original Lycian sarcophagi once situated just above the amphitheatre, and the original Harpy Tomb are In the British Museum.
The sanctuary of Leto was discovered in 1840. There are a six-row theatre, a basilica, Inscription tablets, three temples, a round portico attached to the cult building of the empire and an L shaped stoa. In the ancient city, there are three temples devoted to Leto and her twin sons. Leto’s twins, Apollo and Artemis, were deities, and were honoured, like their mother, with a temple each.
The largest temple, devoted to the mother of Artemis and Apollo, is the Leto Temple built on the west side In perÃ¬pteros style. It Is 30.25m by 15.75m. On the east side the Apollo Temple is in the Doric style and it is 27.90m by 15.07m.
The Apollo Temple looks exactly like the houses depicted In the Lycian tombs. The foundation remains are noteworthy since they have a timber structure. The lesser Artemis Temple Is situated between the other two temples. It Is 18.20m by 8.70m.
As water levels have risen since antiquity, the lower parts of the buildings are now under water.
Xantos with its spectacular theatre, structural ruins, mosaics, and the underground ruins waiting to be uncovered and Leton with its Leto, Apollon and Artemis temples, monastery, fountain, and Roman theatre ruins are waiting for their visitors to tell their tales.
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This site, which was the capital of Lycia, illustrates the blending of Lycian traditions and Hellenic influence, especially in its funerary art. The epigraphic inscriptions are crucial for our understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.
Outstanding Universal Value
Made up of two neighboring settlements located in the southwestern part of Anatolia, respectively within the boundaries of Antalya and Muğla Provinces, Xanthos-Letoon is a remarkable archaeological complex. It represents the most unique extant architectural example of the ancient Lycian Civilization, which was one of the most important cultures of the Iron Age in Anatolia. The two sites strikingly illustrate the continuity and unique combination of the Anatolian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine civilizations. It is also in Xanthos-Letoon that the most important texts in Lycian language were found. The inscriptions engraved in rock or on huge stone pillars on the site are crucial for a better understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.
Xanthos, which was the capital of ancient Lycia, illustrates the blending of Lycian traditions with the Hellenic influence, especially in its funerary art. The rock-cut tombs, pillar tombs and pillar-mounted sarcophagi in Xanthos are unique examples of ancient funerary architecture. Their value was already recognized in Antiquity and they influenced the art of neighboring provinces: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is for instance directly influenced by the Xanthos Nereid Monument. The fact that some architectural and sculptural pieces of the sites were taken to England in the 19th century, including the Monument of Harpy, the Tomb of Payava and the Nereid Monument, led to their word-wide recognition, and consequently the Xanthos marbles became an important part of the history of ancient art and architecture.
East of the Xanthos River (Eşen Çayı), the first monumental zone includes the old Lycian Acropolis, which was remodeled during the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. At that time, a church was built at the northeast corner, while an advanced defensive structure fortified the western side of the citadel along the river. Directly north of the Acropolis stands a very beautiful theatre that dominates the Roman agora. This area also features great Lycian funerary monuments imitating woodwork, which are characteristic of the archaeological landscape of Xanthos and rise up spectacularly from the ruins. There is a second, more complex archaeological zone that extends between the Vespasian Arch to the south and the Hellenistic Acropolis to the north. The lower part of the town, which includes the Hellenistic Agora and Byzantine churches, was located in this part of the site.
Letoon, on the other hand, was the cult center of Xanthos, the ancient federal sanctuary of the Lycian province and Lycian League of Cities. As many inscriptions found at the site demonstrate, the federal sanctuary was the place where all religious and political decisions of the ruling powers were declared to the public. The famous trilingual inscription, dating back to 337 B.C., features a text inLycian and Greek as well as an Aramaic summary and was discovered near the temple of Apollo. In the sanctuary of Letoon, three temples are dedicated to Leto, Artemis and Apollo. In addition, the site includes the ruins of a nymphaeum dating back to Hadrian, built on a water source that was considered sacred.
Criterion (ii): Xanthos-Letoon directly influenced the architecture of the principal ancient cities of Lycia such as Patara, Pınara, and Myra, as well as the neighboring provinces. The Halicarnassus Mausoleum, which was ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is directly influenced by Xanthos’ Nereid Monument.
Criterion (iii): Xanthos-Letoon bears exceptional testimony to the Lycian civilization, both through the many inscriptions found at the two sites and through the remarkable funerary monuments preserved within the property. The longest and most important texts in the Lycian language were found in Xanthos-Letoon. The inscriptions, most of which were carved in rock or on huge monoliths, are considered exceptional evidence of this unique and long-forgotten Indo-European language. The rock art tombs, pillar tombs and pillar-mounted sarcophagi represent a novel type of funerary architecture. The rich series of Lycian tombs in Xanthos and Letoon enable us to fully understand the successive acculturation phenomena that took place in Lycia from the 6th century onwards.
The inscribed property includes all the necessary attributes, mainly original monuments and archaeological remains, which convey its Outstanding Universal Value. All components remain largely intact and are not affected by the negative effects of tourism or modern settlements.
Today, the only factor threatening the integrity of the property is the paved road that has crossed the antique city for many years. Within the framework of the revised Conservation Legislation put into force in 2004, the Regional Council for Conservation of Cultural Heritage decided to close this road in 2010. In addition, wire fence was used to surround the area. However, as these measures could not be implemented efficiently, further action is necessary to ensure that the integrity of the property is no longer impacted. These include the rerouting of the road according to suggestions made in the Conservation Plan.
Xanthos-Letoon has retained the authenticity of its features, largely due to the property’s distance from any modern settlement.
The monuments revealed during archaeological excavations have gone through important restoration and conservations works, which have not impacted their authenticity in terms of design and layout. The most important project was the reconstruction of the temple of Leto in its original setting between 2000 and 2007. The architectural pieces that belonged to the temple of Leto, which were found during excavations carried out since 1950s, enabled the successful completion of this project. Some important restoration, conservation and consolidation works were also carried out on the Early Christian Church and monumental nymphaeum.
Protection and management requirements
The Antique City of Xanthos and Letoon was registered as a 1st degree archaeological site and is subject to National Conservation Legislation. The inscribed property is also within the boundaries of “Environment Protection Zone”, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. The Regional Conservation Council and Special Environmental Protection Agency approved the conservation plan for Xantos in 2001 and the related Regional Conservation Council approved the Conservation Plan for Letoon in 2006. Both planning tools have been implemented and require systematic monitoring and review to ensure their efficiency for the management of the property.
The monuments and archaeological remains within the sanctuary of Letoon are threatened by seasonal rising of the ground water table. Mitigation efforts were made in 2006 with the construction of water channels to lessen the level of water during excavation works. Another issue for Letoon is the visual pollution created by many greenhouses in the fertile alluvial lands of the site. As for Xanthos, the presence of the paved road cutting through the site requires additional measures to be fully addressed.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has started works for the preparation of a Landscaping Project for Xanthos and Letoon that will address the issues of the property, including environmental control and the preservation of the monuments. Within the framework of this project, the site of Letoon will be equipped with recreation and promenade areas. This project will also address questions of visitor management, develop awareness-raising policies, and aim to actively involve both the local communities and the visitors.
Xanthos directly influenced Lycia throughout antiquity, as demonstrated by the many epigraphic texts found on the two sites as well as by the remarkable funerary monuments preserved there or originating from the area, and also the neighbouring provinces. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a direct descendant of the Nereid Monument at Xanthos.
Xanthos, the capital of ancient Lycia, and the neighbouring and indissociable site of Letoon located 8km away form a famous archaeological complex. The excavations were carried out from 1838 to 1844 by the Englishman Charles Fellows.
The Lycians were one of the ‘Sea Peoples’ who invaded the Hittite Empire around 1200 BC. Herodotus relates that they came from Crete to take part in the Trojan War. Throughout its long history, this ethnic group displayed two apparently contradictory characteristics. In the first place they were extremely loyal to their traditions: the Lycian language was preserved over a very long period. Even today the farmers of the region build wooden houses and barns whose structure is comparable to the monuments found in the Lycian rock art tombs. Their second characteristic is their capacity to assimilate the cultural contributions of Hellenism and those of Rome. The town was still inhabited in the Byzantine period when several basilicas were built; it was only in the 7th century that the Arab raids left the town in ruins.
A long and complex history has left many splendid but at times hard to distinguish remains on the two neighbouring sites of Xanthos and Letoon.
East of the Xanthe River, a first monumental zone includes the old Lycian Acropolis, which was remodelled during the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. At that time a church was built at the north-east corner, while an advanced defensive structure fortified the western side of the citadel along the river. Directly north of the Acropolis stands a very beautiful theatre that dominates the Roman agora. This entire area is marked with great Lycian funerary monuments, which are characteristic of the archaeological landscape of Xanthos and rise up spectacularly from the ruins. There is a second, more confused, archaeological zone that extends between the Vespasian Arch to the south and the Hellenistic Acropolis to the north. This is where the lower part of the town was located.
The archaeological site of Letoon, dedicated to Leto, Artemis and Apollo, includes the ruins of a nymphaeum dating back to Hadrian, built on the site of the sacred source that was at the origin of the creation of the sanctuary.
The famous trilingual inscription in Lycian, Aramaic and Greek dating back to 358 BC (Year I in the reign of Artaxerxes III Okhos) was discovered near the temple of Artemis in Letoon. It is in Xanthos and Letoon that are to be found the longest and most important texts in the Lycian language: most of them are carved in rock or on huge monoliths. They cannot be moved and are the major monuments of a unique Indo-European language that disappeared long ago. The rock-art tombs, pillar tombs, and pillar-mounted sarcophagi represent a novel type of funerary architecture. The rich series of Lycian tombs in Xanthos and Letoon make it possible to understand the successive acculturation phenomena that took place in Lycia from the 6th century BC.