Xanthos Ancient City

Xanthos Entrance

Date of Admission to UNESCO World Heritage List: 1988

List Sequence No: 484

Category: Cultural Heritage

It is located within the boundaries of the Kınık district, 65 km southeast of Fethiye, and 35 km northwest of Kaş. The ruins of the city are on a high hill, some parts of which go down to the Esen (Xanthos) stream in the West. The source of the stream comes from the Taurus Mountains, and the alluviums it carried made the region productive. More than one ancient city was established for this fertile valley. The valley, which is called the Xanthos valley today, is one of the most fertile valleys of the country today and greenhouse cultivation is carried out.

The historical sources are mentions the city of Xanthos and their names are mentioned even in the Trojan war. According to Strabo, it is the largest city of the Lycian Union and its political center, also known as the capital of Lycian Union. The word meaning of Xanthos means “yellow” In the Lycian period, the city was called Arrna.

The city was discovered by Sir Charles Fellows in 1838. After the discovery, important reliefs and graves were brought to the British Museum by sea.


The oldest written sources about the city belong to the Hittites. The Hittites wrote about their relationship with the union they named Lukka (Lycia) and the cities they knew included Pttar (Patara), Arnna (Xanthos), Tlawa (Tlos) and Wanawanda (Oenoanda). Other interesting early information about the city is found during the Anatolian occupation of Persians.

The Persian Emperor Cyrus General appointed Harpagos to conquer the Asian Minor. After capturing Sardes, the Lydian capital, he went to war with the Lycians. The Persian army advanced to the Xanthos valley in Caria. The Xanthos people were a warrior society and they resisted as well as possible, even though their numbers were few. In 540 B.C Xanthos was surrounded by Persians, there was nothing they could do, and the Xanthos people gathered their valuable belongings, women and children to the acropolis and set them all on fire, and the men swore they would die fighting.

It is said that the people of Xanthos lived like nomads, during the war some Xanthos people were on the Taurus Mountain and rebuilt the city when they returned after the war.

During the Persian rule, they were affiliated with Sardis Satrap. For 200 years they were ruled by a dynasty who called themselves Sons of Harpagos. Xanthos regained its former wealth under Satrap and even printed money. They fought alongside the Persians with 50 ships during the second Greco-Persian wars.

Later, the city came under the control of the Romans and then Byzantine Empire and remained under Byzantine rule until the Arab raids in the 7th century. Every civilization who inhabited here built their own structures and in every structure, you can see Lycian traditions, Hellenistic and Roman era effects, and this city was taken to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.

Harpy Monument:

The Harpyler Grave Monument of the 5th century BC is 7.30 m and the monolithic base is 5.43 m high. The monument is in the form of a thick column sitting on a solid base. The top marble tomb chamber is decorated with reliefs. In Greek mythology, the harpy is one of the winged spirits. The famous bard Hesiodos, known as the father of the Greek didactic poem, believed to have lived in the 750-650 BC by the scientists, mentions the harpies as two very beautiful-haired creatures. Over time, they were also envisioned as ugly winged women. It is believed that the creatures in the relief of the grave monument were first harpsies, and then they were the sirens, which were believed to have lived on an island, carrying souls to death and the dead to the gods.

Xanthos Harpy

In these reliefs, isocephaly application is seen. This is the practice of depicting the heads of all figures in the table, sitting or standing, at the same level. It is an application frequently encountered in Greek reliefs. It prevents unwanted gaps in the description. Rich and parallel folds in women’s dresses, long braided hair has the characteristics of the archaic period. However, when the embossments are looked carefully, it is seen that some folds are made to express the fold and wrinkle of the fabric. These details are new in art and reveal that the work belongs to the beginning of the Classical Period.

While the British Museum dated the work to 470-460 BC, Professor. Dr. Ekrem Akurgal goes back a little bit, his work dates back to 480 BC.
The reliefs were once thought to be painted red and blue.

Inside the monument is a burial chamber covered with a stone cover.

It can be said that there are underground gods on the panels in the east and west, and grave owners in the south and north. In summary, in the reliefs of this monument, it shows that soul of the deceased is carried to the afterlife by the sirens and sacrificed to the underground gods for the sake of the deceased. The spirits of the dead are depicted as babies. Reliefs show Archaic style features.

Nereid Monument:

Perhaps the most beautiful thing that Charles Fellows took away from Xanthos is the Nereid Monument. This rather large and ornate Lycian tomb is dated to 390-380 BC.

Xanthos Nereid

This tomb monument is a mixture of Greek and Persian styles, it is said. It is a tradition from Persians that the tombs of Lycian nobles were built on a high podium. The general view of the Nereid Monument is in the form of a Greek temple.

In Greek mythology, Nereus, a virtuous water god who was called the “old man of the sea”, and Doris, the goddess of the sea, had daughters called Nereids. These girls were also grandchildren of Okeanus. The number of these girls was variable; some had a more prominent personality, such as Akhilleus’ mother Thetis; what they had in common was that they were all very beautiful.

The Nereid Monument is named after the Nereid statues rising between the columns. Some say Arbinas built this magnificent monument to close the power gap because he realized he was losing power during his reign.

Inscribed Pillar of Xanthos

Xanthos Obelisk

The Xanthos Written Pillar, dating back to 400 BC, is a 4m tall pillar tomb monument with 250 lines of Greek and Lycian inscriptions. This inscription is the longest inscription we received from Lycia. It is understood that the surroundings of the grave chamber are decorated with reliefs, there are battle scenes on the 1.5 m high plates, and the heroic acts of the grave owner are described. On the grave chamber, Xanthos’s leader Kherei was sitting on his throne. Therefore, this pillar is both the tomb of the King and the monument of his glory. The inscription above describes war and religious ceremonies.