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Xanthos Letoon
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

Letoon temple axb01.jpg
Leto, Artemis and Apollo temples (from top to bottom)
National territory: TurkeyTurkey Turkey
Type: Culture
Criteria : ii, iii
Surface: 126.4 ha
Reference No .: 484
UNESCO region : Europe and North America
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1988  (session 12)

The Letoon ( ancient Greek : Λητώον - Lētōon) 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 and into late antiquity . The ruins of the temples and other buildings, together with the remains of Xanthos, have been a World Heritage Site since 1988 ( World Heritage , UNESCO ). The two sites in Lycia ( Asia Minor , Turkey ) are around 35 km southeast of Fethiye in the Kaş district of the Antalya province .


Ceramic finds from the 8th century BC BC document the early history of this place. Here, by a spring, the place of Greek mythology was worshiped where Leto, fleeing from Hera , washed her children Artemis and Apollo in Lycia in holy water. The history of the sanctuary is closely linked to that of Xanthos, who for a long time led the Lycian Covenant. All common cultic celebrations, theatrical performances and competitions of the Lycian cities took place here, in Letoon. A stoa that has been expanded several times and a small theater testify to this. In the time of Hadrian the holy spring was set in a new, magnificent nymphaion (well building). The stadium has not yet been found. A monastery was built in early Christian times, but with the onslaught of Arabs in the 7th century , the settlement of the place ended. French excavations have been taking place here since 1962 .

A little digression: Ovid then and now

Ovid knows one more detail to add to the Leto saga in his Metamorphoses (VI, 340-380): As a punishment, the goddess transformed those peasants who stood in her way on the way to the spring into frogs. So apparently nothing has changed in the swampy location of the Letoons since ancient times. The place of the spring is now under water again, the excavations are partly taking place under the water surface. Even the farmers are still around. Today, however, only their goats and dried vegetables block the way through the world heritage here and there.

The temples and structures of Letoon

Letoon's plan

The foundations of three temples lie parallel on a small rock ridge between two swamps. The middle building from the 4th century BC BC is the smallest and at the same time oldest and was consecrated to Artemis. In its former cella it includes a sacred boulder that was evidently venerated in archaic times. To the east was in the 2nd century BC. The Temple of Apollo was built over a previous building about 200 years older. In the west around 160 BC. A peripteral temple dedicated to Leto was built as the largest complex. All three structures are badly damaged.

Exedra of the Nymphaion, which included the sacred source of mythological lore

The sacred spring was located in the swamp area immediately to the south. Foundations have shown that there was a place of worship here in archaic times. Today the remains of a magnificent nymphaion from the Roman Empire can be seen here. The semicircular paved basin with a diameter of 27 meters connects to a rectangular, recessed well house. In the early Christian period, the monastery was built precisely here, in the center of the cult site, and covered parts of the Roman building.

Hellenistic stoa
Hellenistic theater

A third building complex is located in the swamp meadow north of the temple. The stoa was also laid out in archaic times and expanded several times up to the 2nd century AD. The Hellenistic theater, which is only a short distance away and whose stage has no longer been preserved, is larger than a semicircle and divides the rows of seats into an upper and lower tier with a diazoma (intermediate aisle ).

The inscription stele

Main article Trilingue vom Letoon

In 1973 an inscribed stele was found near the Temple of Apollo, which fascinated both linguists and historians and is now in the Museum of Fethiye. In terms of content, it is a decree that ordered the introduction of a Carian gods cult in Xanthos. The decree was drafted in three languages, Aramaic (the lingua franca in the Achaemenid Empire), Lycian and Greek . Pixodaros , the satrap of Caria (and Lycia) , appears as the author of the inscription .


  • Lars Heinze: Modernized casings? The Letoon at Xanthos and the use of temples as a medium of remembrance culture in Hellenistic sanctuaries. In: Urban Culture in Hellenism , ed. Albrecht Matthaei / Martin Zimmermann, Heidelberg 2014, 76–96.      
  • Jacques Des Courtils: Guide de Xantos et du Létôon. Ege Yayınları, Istanbul 2003, ISBN 975-8070-54-1 (Also as: A guide to Xanthos and Letoon. Ege Yayınları, Istanbul 2003, ISBN 975-8070-55-X ).
  • Fouilles de Xanthos. Klincksieck, Paris
    • Volume 6: Henri Metzger : La stèle trilingue du Létôon. 1979, ISBN 2-252-02109-8 ;
    • Volume 7: André Balland: Inscriptions d'époque impériale du Létôon. 1981, ISBN 2-252-02344-9 ;
    • Volume 9: André Bourgarel, Henri Metzger, Gérard Siebert: La région nord du Létôon. 2 volumes. 1992, ISBN 2-252-02850-5 .
    • Volume 11: Erik Hansen, Christian Le Roy: Le temple de Léto au Létoon de Xanthos. Étude architecturale , Aarhus / Paris 2012
  • Erik Hansen: Le temple de Létô au Létôon de Xanthos. In: Revue archéologique . 1991, ISSN  0035-0737 , pp. 323-340.
  • Christian Le Roy: Le Développement Monumental du Létôon des Xanthos. In: RA 2, 1991, 341-351.      

Coordinates: 36 ° 20 '  N , 29 ° 17'  E

Web links

Commons : Letoon  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files