letoon, antalya

The Ancient City of Letoon

The Ancient city of Letoon was built where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean. The ancient city is located near Kumluova Village in Mugla’s Seydikemer County. Found on the 65th kilometer of the main road between Fethiye and Kas, this city is an ancient Lycian settlement.

The Lycian Civilization that you will hear of often while traveling around Kas left deep imprints in Anatolia. It is one of the most important civilizations. Lycia controlled the region between Antalya and Fethiye. It was made up of many city-states. It’s known as the ancient world’s most democratic union. The ancient city of Letoon is one of the Lycian League’s most important settlements.

This historic site was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list together with Xanthos in 1988. Thanks to the historic heritage found in the ancient cities of Xanthos and Letoon, they hold an important place in terms of world heritage. The fact that the longest and most important texts found in the Lycian language were unearthed here confirms this importance.

The Ancient City of Letoon

Based on the artifacts recovered during 30 years of excavations, the city of Letoon was first settled in the 7th century BCE. As a city dedicated to the gods, it’s known as the religious center of Lycia. The artifacts and epitaphs discovered here prove that Letoon was a center of politics and religion during the era of the Lycian League.

The ancient city was built for the goddess Leto and her twins Artemis and Apollo. Letoon gets its name from the goddess Leto. There are three temples in the city center. The temples of these three gods are located next to each other. The westernmost of these is Ionian style and is dedicated to the goddess Leto.

The easternmost of these is the Doric style temple of Apollo. It’s not in as good of a condition as the temple of Leto. The temple of Artemis, found in between, is the smallest of the three. The smaller and centrally located temple, found to the east of the temple of Artemis, was built in honor of the god Apollo. There is a fountain to the southwest of these three temples and a church to their east. There is also a large ancient theatre perched on a hillside towards the back of the ancient city of Letoon.

In the ancient city, you’ll also see a semi-circle shaped pool from the Roman period, Byzantine churches, and a necropolis above the theatre. One part of the sanctuary has yet to be excavated.

Before Hellenization in the 4th century BCE, this region was home to temples honoring local gods. This was transformed into cultic worship of Greek Leto and her children during the rule of King Arbinas. Water and rocks were worshiped in the city until the 1st century. Fountains in particular were built for water nymphs.

The city was controlled by the Persians, Carians, and Greeks throughout its history. Finally, Roman emperor Hadrian turned it into a cultural center of the empire. The settlement was abandoned after the Roman period and was introduced to Christianity with the construction of a church in the 5th century CE. Thusly, the citizens renounced polytheism. The sanctuary was completely abandoned in the 7th century.

The best-preserved of the ruins of Letoon is the ancient theatre, built in the 2nd century BCE for holy ceremonies. The theatre was built on the road between Xanthos and Letoon so those traveling on this road could pass through the theatre and thusly enter the holy sanctuary.

There was an inscription thought to belong to the 4th century BCE and written in three languages (Greek, Aramaic, and Lycian) found near these temples. The mosaic found in the center of the temple of Apollo and known as the Apollo mosaic was removed by the excavation team and transferred to the management of the Fethiye Museum because it was unprotected.

The founding of Letoon is explained in this myth. According to a legend told by poet Ovidius, Leto, impregnated by Zeus, gives birth to her twins Artemis and Apollo in Delos. She then comes to the Xanthos River and walks until she gets to the spring where the temple of Leto now sits. The goddess tries to wash her children in the spring, but the locals prevent her from doing this. She turns the locals into frogs as revenge. 

The city is located on the Lycian Way hiking route. It was discovered by English Navy Lieutenant Rd. Hoskyn who worked on the ship the Beacon. It is located 4 km from the UNESCO heritage site of Xanthos.

How to get to the ancient city of Letoon

Located 400-500 meters from the center of Kumluova in Mugla’s Seydikemer County, the ancient city of Letoon is found on the main road between Kas and Fethiye, 50 km from Kas. Letoon, located in the village of Bozoluk, is accessible via a four-kilometer road that turns off the main Kas-Fethiye road near Kinik.

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