Seventeen kilometres along the Kalkan-Fethiye road there is a road that leads through Kınık following the bank of the Eşen Stream, leading to the ancient city of Xanthos. It is believed the history of Xanthos, the capital of Lycian Union, goes as far back as 1,200 BC. It was written that in those times the Lycians fought in the Trojan War, under the command of an officer from Xanthos. It is said that the people of Xanthos were courageous and great warriors.
The historian Herodotus, in reference to war in 545 BC against the invading Persians, wrote, “When the Persian army came onto the Xanthos plain under the rule of their commander, although they were very few in numbers against the unending large numbers of the Persians, the people of Xanthos kept fighting. They gained a reputation for their heroism but they have lost the war against them. They placed all the women, children, treasures and slaves into the castle. Then they set it on fire. Such was the fire that has destroyed everything. It was after that they took a binding oath and began fighting the enemy. All died in the fighting.”
Although Xanthos was frequently destroyed by fires or wars every time it was rebuilt. The city was destroyed completely in the Roman era by Brutus and but was reconstructed by another Roman commander, Marc Antonius. In the Byzantine era Xanthos was a centre of a bishopric, though it was finally abandoned after a series of Arab attacks.
If you go to Xanthos through Kınık the first remains you encounter is a part of the Hellenistic gate on your right. To the left of the road there is an arch dedicated to the Roman emperor Vespasian, a gift in thanks for his great contributions to the city. The ruins you will see a bit further up on your right are what is left of the magnificent Nereids Monument, the most impressive pieces of which were taken to England by ship in 1841-1842. Today these pieces have been restored and the monument is on display in the 7th hall of the British Museum.
If you head to the left towards the acropolis past the walls you come to the theatre. After this you will see the Lycian tombs that have become the symbol of Xanthos and the Harpies Monument above the tombs.
Since the statues of the monument were taken to England, what you see today are plaster copies of the originals. The original Harpies Monument is also on exhibit in the British Museum.
At the Lycian acropolis there are also the remains of the agora and a Byzantine basilica. Once you get to the acropolis take in the view. The hill that overlooks the plain is the site of the ruins of the ancient Lycian palace.
On the right of the road in Xanthos and opposite the acropolis there is a Roman acropolis, where you can see a Byzantine basilica, rock tombs, the Pillar Monument and the ruins of a tomb with lion reliefs.
Xanthos Inscription: (Xanthos yazıtı)
One of the inscriptions from a tablet unearthed at Xanthos was translated by Azra Arat. This symbolises how the Xanthos people devoted themselves to their independence and their endless fight against invaders and looters.
“We have made our homes graves;
Our homes graves
Our homes were destroyed
Our graves looted
We climbed to the peak of the mountains
We entered under the ground
We were stuck under the water
They came and found us
They burned down, destroyed
We that for our mothers,
And the sake of our dead people
And the sake of our honour
Have chosen mass deaths instead
We the people of this land
We have left a fire behind
It always burns
And will never die