The city of Letoon was founded according to legend by Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus (who, in one of his amorous escapedes, had fathered the children) had Leto pursued to prevent her from giving birth. The children were born nevertheless on Oelos (according to one account, in Pataral and Leto then fled to Lycia to escape Hera’s wrath.
The cult of Apollo was based on that of an Anatolian god and was initiated at Patara. As the cult spread, many places were adopted as his birthplace, among them the most widely accepted being Delos. It has often been said that many of the Greek gods were imported to Greece from Anatolia and were developed from the religious culture of the Hittites. This idea was popularised by the Turkish poet, the fisherman of Halicarnassos. Similarly Artemis was considered a continuation of the Kybele cult, under a new name, and the clearest evidence of this is the Arternis temple at Ephesus. Letoon was the sacred cult center of Lycia.
We can trace settlement at Letoon as far back as the 7th century. After 1962, excavations were carried out by Dr. H. Metzger, and are now under the direction of c. Le Roy. As can be seen, the excavation site covers an area containing three temples placed side by side. The first of these, of the Ionic order, is dedicated to Leto.
This has six columns on the front and rear facades and eleven on each side. To either side of this temple are two small temples dedicated to Apollo and Artemis. However, as the inscriptions from both temples have been confused, it is now not clear which temple . belonged to whom, although mosaics discovered flanking the main temple to show the bow and quiver of Artemis and the lyre of Apollo. An inscription which came to light near a flight of steps cut into the rock north of the temples refers to Artemis in the Lycian script as Ertemi, which suggests that the central temple belonged to Apollon, and the third temple to Artemis.
In recent excavations, an area designed for the display of statues and the remains of a fountain were discovered to the west of the temples. The temple was apparenly built during the reign of the emperor Hadrian and was constructed over an older building. Excavation has been largely obstructed by the fact that these remains now lie under several feet of water.
Letoon also had a stoa and a theater, and the existance of a stadium, although as yet untraced, is known, proving that it was not only a cult center, but also a living city.
The theater lies opposite the temples, resting on the slope behind, with an entrance visible to one side. This theater belongs to the Hellenistic period. The portals to the east and west were decorated with Doric friezes and the auditorium was in good condition when excavation began although the skene building was completely destroyed. Among the foundations of the temples at Letoon, many inscriptions were found during excavation. Of these, the most important is an inscription referring to a visit by Alexander to Letoon, and another inscription, near this, which is multi-lingual and contains texts in Aramaic, Greek and Lycian. This is very important in that it helped experts to decypher the Lycian script. It refers to a decree made by the satrap of Caria and Lycia, Pixodares.
Letoon was a center of cult activity and a living setdement until the 7th century, after which it was abandoned. After looking at the works of art in the museum there we will leave Letoon for Patara. Portico ruins, Letoon.