It’s All Lycian To Me

It’s All Lycian To Me

Lycia is a Greco-Roman geopolitical region that encompasses the modern day Fethiye to Antalya regions of Turkey. Their history dates all the way back to the 15-14th century BC. So obviously, we’ll be visiting a lot of Lycian ruins while staying in the area.

Both ruins we visited today, Xanthos and Letoon are examples of a Lycian city and religious center, respectively, and both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


There are several versions of the mythology of the nymph Leto. One is that she escaped with the twins – Apollo and Artemis, and hid here from Zeus’ jealous wife, Hera. When she tried to drink from the springs to quench her thirst, the shepherds chased her away, so she turned them into frogs in retaliation (you see turtles and frogs in the natural springs on the site).

From left to right, the foundations of the Temples of Apollo, Artemis, and Leto
Built in the 2nd century BC, the Temple of Leto, dedicated to Leto, is the best preserved out of the three.
There is a copy of the mosaic found in the temple of Apollo. Not sure where the original is.
Bow and arrow (symbol of Artemis) and the sun and lyre (symbol of Apollo)

Other significant findings include the trilingual stele that is currently housed in the Fethiye Museum, which we’re going to check out later this week.

Some stone carvings around the site…


Xanthos was unfortunately plundered by the British in the 1800s, and the best pieces are on display in the British Museum. Joe and I both agreed that the Brits most likely inadvertently rescued and preserved the pieces for the Turks. However, it’s time that they return these treasures back to their native countries (I say countries because it wasn’t just Turkey that they took treasures from) where they belong, and allow their own people to celebrate their history and culture. Plus it’s harder to appreciate something out of context (i.e., in a cold museum).

Of the things that are left in Xanthos include the pillar tombs, one of which is the Harpy Tomb.

Harpy Tomb on the right, and a Lycian tomb with its ogival lid on the left
So named because of the depiction of female winged figures. The belief is that the harpies would carry the souls to the other world. Notice the color of the relief is different than the rest of the pillar. Reason is because this is a copy. The original is in the British Museum.
The requisite theater any city must have
The Nereid Monument is gone. It is in the British Museum. Here’s where things get funny, if it weren’t so sad. The Nereid Monument inspired the building of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum in Bodrum, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Mausoleum was stripped by the Knights of St. John, to build the Bodrum Castle, reducing it to rubbles, but the Mausoleum was also plundered by the Brits later on.

Lycian written inscriptions in stone date back to the Iron Age. The language unfortunately became extinct in the early 1st century BC, and was replaced by the Ancient Greek language.

Yesterday we were introduced to the Lycian written language by Ibrahim, the stone sculptor at Tlos, but the inscriptions we saw were very faint. Today we got to see a better example of the Lycian writing.

Southern side of the Xanthos stele
The Xanthos stele

Apparently this is a Trilingual stele – Ancient Greek, Lycian, and Milyan. I can’t tell you what is what as I stood under the obelisk, circling around it, for a long time trying to tell the difference. At one point I thought I saw Chinese, (王) as in King. It’s all Lycian to me.

Upon further research online, this side is Lycian.
This side is Milyan

There are 12 lines on the North side of the stele that are written in Ancient Greek. Unfortunately, it is the only side of the stele I didn’t take a picture of.

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