Pillar tombsAt Kinik, some 80km/50mi southeast of Fethiye, an ancient road leads up to the ruins of Xanthos, rediscovered in the 19th century by Sir Charles Fellows. Once the capital of the kingdom of Lycia, the city lies in the valley of the River Xanthos (now Esen Cay), which separates the mountains (Ak Dag, 3,024m/9,922ft) from the upland region which falls away towards the coast. Lycia has been called "the oldest republic in the world" - a league of 20 cities governed by a popular assembly and a president. The most notable monuments of Xanthos, its pillar tombs, have no parallel either in Greek or in Oriental art. They first appear in the sixth century B.C. and disappear from the scene in the middle of the fourth century.In the seventh century B.C. Xanthos came under the control of the kings of Lydia. In 545 B.C. it was destroyed by the Persians led by Harpagos, and Lycia remained under Persian domination until the end of the fifth century. From the second century B.C. Xanthos enjoyed a period of renewed prosperity under the Romans.Visiting the siteThe road bisects the site from north to south. To the right, inside the walled area, is an inscribed 5.75m/19ft-high pillar which recent investigation has shown to be a pillar tomb, originally 9m/30ft high. Round the top was a frieze of warriors, which is now in the Archeological Museum in Istanbul. The Lycian inscription has not yet been completely deciphered; the Greek inscription extols the exploits of the dead man in Oriental fashion.
Although now almost completely abandoned, in the 19th century Levissi (Kaya), 8km/5mi south of Fethiye, was a town of more than 3,000 inhabitants. No more than 200 to 300 years old, it stands on the site of ancient Carmylessus. There was also a settlement here in the Middle Ages (1106), known for its good harbor. In the 19th century, after neighboring Makri (Fethiye) had been devastated, first by the earthquake of 1856 and then by a disastrous fire in 1885, its predominantly Greek inhabitants moved to Levissi where many of them had summer homes. At the beginning of this century most returned to Makri. Of those who remained, some left Levissi in 1922 during the population exchanges and the rest after the 1957 earthquake. The terraces of large, stone-built, turn-of-the-century European-style houses on the hillside have a sorry, abandoned air.
Of the many charming bathing-places in the surrounding area the sheltered coastal lagoon of Ölüdeniz (Dead Sea) in Belcegiz Bay (15km/9mi south of Fethiye as the crow flies) is undoubtedly the finest, with beaches of fine sand in an idyllic setting of coastal hills (conservation area). The growth in tourism has seen this part of the coast become somewhat overdeveloped in places.
Pinara, in the hills above the Esen Ovasi southeast of Fethiye, is the site of an exceptionally interesting Lycian necropolis, a honeycomb of more than 900 rock tombs and monolithic house tombs. So inaccessible was the site that the tomb-builders had to be lowered on stages secured with ropes. The monolithic Royal Tomb (with an urban scene in relief inside) is particularly noteworthy, this type of tomb being rare in Lycia.
Interesting tombs are found at ancient Sidyma (lower city at 500m/1,641ft, acropolis, with small theater, at 820m/2,690ft). The site is about 15km/9mi southwest of Esen, near the village of Hisar (gravel road).
The ruins of the ancient city of Tlos are situated in the hills above the Esen Ovasi, about 36km/22mi east of Fethiye (via Kemer and Yakaköy). Crowning the rounded acropolis hill are the ruins of a Turkish castle, erected over a Lycian fortress. On the east side of the acropolis are remnants of Lycian and Roman walls, with a gate dating from the second century B.C. Beyond lie the remains of a number of houses, public buildings and other structures from the Lycian, Roman and Byzantine periods. They include cisterns, a stadium, a hall-like edifice (possibly an indoor market), two large baths, an agora, churches, a theater and a necropolis (Lycian). The Roman town center (second century B.C.) testifies to the considerable importance of the city in Imperial times. Being tucked away in the mountains the Turkish castle was the stronghold of various "valley princes" (derebeys) and brigands, of whom Kanli Ali, known as "Bloodthirsty Ali", was the most notorious.
Xanthos - Harpy Tomb
Immediately south of the pillar tomb in Xanthos are the Roman agora and two tall pillar tombs. The more northerly of the two is the so-called Harpy Tomb (480 B.C.), a tower-like monolith 5m/16.5ft high on a rectangular base. The grave-chamber, with room for a number of urns, was decorated with reliefs (now replaced by casts) depicting two seated figures of women and three standing figures of men being honored by their relatives, while their souls are being carried off by harpies. This belief in bird-demons which carry the dead up to heaven may be the explanation of the pillar tombs. The pillar tomb to the south is topped by a house-shaped sarcophagus with a pitched roof (probably fourth century B.C.).
Xanthos - Nereid Monument (City walls)
Beyond the Roman theater and Lycian acropolis in Xanthos, to the left of the road, can be seen the so-called Nereid Monument, an Ionic temple which had rich sculptural decoration (now in the British Museum in London). To the right of the road is the Hellenistic city gate. The city walls, considerable stretches of which are still visible, probably date originally from the third century B.C.; they were later renewed, incorporating the Roman acropolis, and were again rebuilt in Byzantine times.
Xanthos - Roman acropolis
To the north of the Nereid Monument in Xanthos are the ruins of a Byzantine church, and beyond this, to the east of the north end of the road, the Roman acropolis. On the summit of the hill are the ruins of a large Byzantine monastery. On a spur of rock on the northeast side of the hill is the well-preserved Acropolis Pillar (mid-fourth century B.C.), a limestone monolith 4.75m/16ft high with a three-stage top section. On the top is a band of marble 1.13m/44in high enclosing the 2.28m/7.5ft grave-chamber, which is partly hewn from the interior of the pillar. Below the pillar are three rock tombs with splayed window-like facades.There are also a number of small rock tombs outside the city (Lycian sarcophagi, with high-pitched lids often decorated with reliefs).
Five km/3mi south of Xanthos, reached by a side road branching off 1km/0.75mi northwest of Kinik, is the Letoon, an important Lycian sanctuary excavated from 1962 onwards. The remains include temples of Leto, Artemis and Apollo and a theater. A trilingual inscription found here made an important contribution to the decipherment of the Lycian language.
About 15km/9mi south of Kinik lie the remains of ancient Patara, once an important city in the Lycian League and later, according to legend, the birthplace of St Nicholas of Myra. There was still a port here in Byzantine times. Outside the area of the city are a Roman and a Lycian necropolis. The city itself is entered through a triple-arched gate of about A.D. 100. The theater (A.D. second century) is excellently preserved.Patara has very good sandy beaches, also hotels and a National Park.