The history of Letoon  





The Letoon was the ancient sanctuary of the nearby city of Xanthos and the Lycian League. Leto, Artemis and Apollon were venerated here for over eight centuries until the Roman Empire. The ruins of the temples and magnificent buildings, together with the remains of Xanthos, have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1988. The two sites in Lycia are located about 65 km southeast of Fethiye.

On a small rocky ridge between two swamps lie the foundations of three temples arranged in parallel. The middle building from the 4th century BC is the smallest and oldest and was consecrated to Artemis. In its former cella, it includes a sacred boulder that was apparently venerated in archaic times. To the east, in the 2nd century BC, the Temple of Apollo was built over a predecessor building that was about 200 years older. In the west, around 160 BC, a peripteral temple dedicated to Leto was erected as the largest complex. All three buildings were heavily destroyed.

Ceramic finds from the 8th century B.C. document the early history of this place. Here, at a spring, the place of Greek mythology where Leto, fleeing from Hera, washed her children Artemis and Apollo in Lycia in holy water was revered. The history of the sanctuary is closely linked to that of Xanthos, who led the Lycian League for a long time.

All common cultic celebrations, theatre performances and competitions of the Lycian cities took place here, in Letoon. A Stoa and a small theatre have been enlarged several times. Still in the time of Hadrian, the holy spring was set in a new, splendid Nymphaion (well building). The stadium has not yet been found. A monastery was built in early Christian times, but with the onslaught of the Arabs in the 7th century the settlement of the village ended. Excavations have been taking place since 1962.

Photo: @chim    

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