Only the Xanthians who happened to be in other places at the time were spared and it was they who returned at a later date to resurrect the city.
After reading this passage from Herodotus of Halicarnassus, we learn that Xanthos existed during the 6th century B.C. They fight as allies of the Trojans, coming :from distant Lycia and the eddying Xanthos”; their commander Sarpedon was among the minor heroes during the battles that took place in the 12th century B.C. This indicates to us that there was a Xanthos around 1200 B.C., as well. However, this hapless though magnificent city was completely burnt down between 475 and 450 B.C. During excavations, this was confirmed by a thick layer of ash covering the site. In 429 B.C., all of Lycia united against their Athenian satrap Melasandros, who wanted to impose new taxes on them. Melasandros died in this war and relations with Athens fizzled out. Xanthos was captured by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. The Xanthians’ dealings with him are a matter of uncertainty. The historian Appian, writing in the 2nd century A.D., records that ‘they are said to have been unwilling to submit to him, and to have suffered as one the previous occasion, destroying themselves in the name of freedom.’ This is not, however, confmned by any other evidence, and Arrian, our most respectable authority for Alexander’s campaign, also writing in the 2nd century , observes merely that Xanthos was surrendered to Alexander along with Pinara, Patara, and other places. Appian’s hearsay account therefore should no doubt be rejected.
While Alexander was in the region, a prophecy is said to have occurred. A fountain near Xanthos suddenly welled up of its own accord and threw out a bronze tablet inscribed with archaic letters announcing the overthrow of the Persian Empire by the Greeks.
In the confused period following Alexander’s death, Xanthos came into the hands of Antigonus. Lycia was, however, claimed by the Egyptian king, and Ptolemy I came in 309 B.C. with a fleet and took it from him by force. Subsequently, we hear of the fortunes of Xanthos, which comes from an inscription, later erased but still just legible, on a jamb of the city’s southern gate. This informs us that ‘King Antiochus the Great dedicated the city to Leto, Apollo, and Artemis.’ From this unusual text it is inferred that Antiochus in engaged in 197 B.C. in taking Lycia from the Ptolemies, finding himself unable to occupyXanthos by force, made an agreement with the citizens, who were no doubt tired of being besieged, that they should make a nominal surrender of the city to hin1, on condition that he should consecrate it to the national deities of Lycia, that is in effect that he should declare it free and inviolable.
This benefit, however, was not of long duration. After Antiochus’ defeat at Magnesia, Xanthos along with the rest of Lycia was given to Rhodes. An attempted tyranny at Xanthos in the 2nd century , which may have had Rhodian support, is mentioned above.
During the Roman civil wars of the 1st century B.C., the Xanthians staged their second (if it was not their third) melodramatic holocaust In 42 B.C., Brutus, who was engaged in raising forces and money for the forthcoming showdown with Octavian and Antony, came to Lycia. The Lycian League resisted him, but was defeated, and Brutus proceeded to besiege Xanthos. He demolished the Lycian acropolis and slaughtered its inhabitants. Plutarch recorded that after the fall of the city, a woman was seen hanging from a noose with her dead child slung from her neck, setting fire to the house with a burning torch. Hearing this, Brutus was moved to tears and proclaimed a reward for any of his soldiers who saved a Lycian from death. A bare 150 Xanthians fell alive into Roman hands.
The following year, Marc Antony, hoping to heal the scars left by Brotus, extended the hand of peace to the Xanthians by having their city rebuilt. Emperor Vespasian seemed to have treated the city with care, for a monumental arch in his name was erected in Xanthos. In Byzantine times the city-walls were renovated and a monastery built on top of the hill. The city had its bishop, though he ranked rather low under the metropolitan of Myra. It was deserted once the Arab raids started.
Xanthos was discovered in 1838 by Sir Charles Fellows, who had all the reliefs and archaeological finds of any significance transported to London on a warship that anchored in Patara. Many works of art from this site are now on display in the Lycian rooms of the British Museum. Excavations which have been ongoing since 1950 were undertaken by the French, then by Dr. Pierre Dernarque, later taken over by Prof. Henri Metzger. The diggings are currently under the direction of Prof. Le Roy.
Xanthos is on the border of the Mugla and Antalya provinces, a natural boundary created by the Esen Stream. It is situated near the village of Kinik, 55 kilometers from Fethiye. On the left as one ascends,the slope near the village is the gateway to the city that was built during the Hellenistic Period. A little further on are the ruins of the Vespasian Arch.
On the right are the remains of the base of the Nereids Monument, which was carted off in sections and shipped to London. This Ionic-order structure, which dates back to 400 B.C., was in the form of a temple. Placed on a high pedestal measuring 10.15 meters x 68 meters x 5.15 meters high, it has two series of reliefs depicting battle scenes. Above the reliefs ran architectural ornamentation and an architrave supported on four columns. Friezes with scenes from everyday life decorate this architrave.
Between the columns were situated statues of sea fairies or ‘Nereids’ for which the temple was named. The Hellenistic walls encircle the city of Xanthos and are reinforced by towers added at various periods, whereas the eastern flank of the battlements dates from the 4th century B.C.
In place of the present theater stood the Lycian acropolis, whereas the acropolis is surrounded by a wall dating back to the 5th century B.C., with polygonal stones worked into it Directly across from this is the Roman acropolis. Let’s wander around the Lycian acropolis, the site where the Roman theater stands, which we encounter as soon as we enter. As it stands this was built in the mid-second century A.D.; a handsome donation of 30,000 denars by Opramoas of Rhodiapolis was earmarked specifically ‘for the construction of the theater’. Located nearbyare three splendid monuments, one of which is a Lycian pillar – tomb. Standing 4.35 meters high, this monument was built during the 4th century B.C., but was carried to its present site during the erection of the theater in the Roman period. Water from the village of Cay, which is located 15 kilometers from Xanthos, was brought here via an aqueduct, the cistern of which is found on the Lycian acropolis.
On the western flank of the theater, which is remarkably preserved and carries the characteristics of the Roman Age, are three rather flashy monuments. The first one of these dates from the 1st century A.D. and is a Roman pillar -tomb; the second monument is a Lycian pillar-tomb, which sits on a high base, has a total height of 8.59 meters and was constructed in the 4th century B.C. The third monument is that of the famous Harpies Tomb, thusly called since Fellow’s time through a dubious interpretation of its reliefs. The whole monument, measuring 8.87 meters high, has a base 5.43 meters in height. Large square lifting- bosses have been left projecting on three sides. The chamber at the top was of marble and decorated with reliefs; they were removed by Fellows and the covering stones propped up with wooden struts and a pile of stones. The tomb remained in this mutilated condition until 1957, when Turkish authorities installed the cement casts which have done much to restore the beauty of the monument. The reliefs are interesting, but, as often, not easy to understand. On all four sides are seated figures receiving gifts, on the south and east sides a bird, on the north a helmet; on the west side are two seated females, that on the right approached by three standing figures, the other receiving an indistinct object. On the east side are three other female figures, that on the right apparently accompanied by a dog. The figures which have given the tomb its name are on the north and south sides on either side of the seated figures; they represent bird- women with female heads, wings and tails, carrying children in their arms. When the tomb was first discovered, these were recognized as Harpies carrying off the daughters of Pandareos, as described by Homer: the children were left orphaned and were befriended by Hera, Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite; when Aphrodite went to Olympos to arrange a suitable marriage for them, leaving them unprotected, the Harpies came and snatched them away to be servants of the Furies. That Pandarus was a Lycian hero seemed to give support to this interpretation. But there are difficulties. Pandarus and Pandareos are two different heroes; the latter had two daughters, not four; and the children on the relief are obviously not of marriageable age. More recently scholars have preferred to see in the winged females the other bird- women of mythology, the Sirens, carrying the souls of the dead, in the form of children, to the Isles of the Blessed. The seated figures are then members of the dynastic family; formerly Hera and Aphrodite were recognized on the west side, and Artemis with her hound on the east. All the reliefs were originally colored, chiefly in red and blue, traces of which were visible at the time of the discovery. On the back of the relief -slabs were painted crosses and other symbols, suggesting that at some time the grave-chamber was used as a refuge by some Christian anchorite.
To the rear of these monuments is an agora dating from the Roman Period. On the comer facing the tombs is a Byzantine basilica. Behind the 2nd century A.D. agora at a northeast angle is the famous Xanthian Obelisk. ‘Obelisk’ is not in fact a good name for it, as it is simply a pillar -tomb of perfectly normal type. The upper type has suffered a good deal of damage, but many of the fragments have been recovered by the excavators; they show that the tomb possessed the usual grave-chamber, enclosed like the Harpy Tomb by slabs with reliefs showing the dead man, surely one of the dynasts, victorious over his enemies. The topmost block of the roof bears marks of the feet of a statue, no doubt the dynast himself. But the fame of the monument derives from the inscription which covers all four faces of the stone; it is the longest Lycian inscription known, running to over 250 lines. Linguistically it falls into three parts; beginning on the south side it continues on the east and part of the north side in the normal Lycian language; then follows a poem of twelve lines in Greek; but the rest of the north side and whole of the west is couched in that strange form of Lycian which appears elsewhere only on a tomb in Antiphellos.
As was said above, the Lycian language is little understood apart from the frequently repeated epitaph formulae; the present inscription, on the other hand, evidently gives a narrative account of the dead hero’s exploits, and is stilI undeciphered. It does, however, contain a number of recognizable proper names, from which the approximate date and some idea of the contents may be gathered. The hero in question is called, in the Lycian and in the Greek, son of Harpagus (not of course the Persian general of the 6th century) ; his own name is lost in both places, but he appears to be the Xanthian dynast, known from the The Belly-Dancer’s Sarcophagus -coins, who appears several times elsewhere in the It’s name is derived from the inscription in the Lycian form Kerei. In the Greek epigram, he is said to have been a champion wrestler in his youth, to have sacked many cities, slain seven Arcadian Hoplites in a day, set up more trophies than any other man, and added glory to the family of Karikas. This Karikas appears as Keriga seven times in the Lycian; he too is known from the coins as a Xanthian dynast. Both he and Kerei are dated to the latter part of the fifth century B.C. And to this same period belong the historical name recognizable in the Lycian. In addition to Athenians and Spartans, Darius and Artaxerxes, we have more especially a mention of the Athenian Melasandros, who was sent to Lycia in 430-429 B.C. to collect tribute and prevent the Spartans from intercepting the Athenian corn ships. He failed and was killed in battle. It is likely that his defeat was among the exploits of Kerei.
In the southeast corner of the Lycian acropolis are the foundations of a square building comprising several rooms which is thought to have been the palace of the dynasts in the earliest times, destroyed at the time of the capture by Harpagus. It was replaced by another building of which the basement survives; the upper parts were apparently of wood. This was destroyed by fire in 470 B.C. and was not replaced. Higher up to the west is a small sanctuary with three parallel chambers, and the scanty remains of a temple of the Lycian equivalent of the Greek Artemis. At the west extremity stood a building which must originally have been very handsome; its architecture seems to have imitated the wooden houses whose features appear also in the tombs of house-type, and was decorated with a sculptured frieze; the blocks of this frieze were re-used by the Byzantines for repair of the acropolis wall, and were later removed to London by Fellows. Just to the northwest of this building is a rectangular foundation on which stood a pillar with a pediment on two sides; this too has gone into the Byzantine wall.
Most of the northeastern part of the acropolis is occupied byan extensive monastery. This includes a church set against the east acropolis wall, and to the west of this an open courtyard with wash-basins along one side. There are several mosaics in the Lycian acropolis. One of these mosaics has the famous scenes of the Calydon hunt as well as Thetis drowning Achilles in the river styx. Today, they are on displayat the Antalya Museum. However, remains of the mosaic can be seen on the floor. For example, one can see the Leda and swan scene on the exterior of the southeast corner of the city walls.
Directly across from the Lycian acropolis is the Roman acropolis. Let’s examine the artifacts here by walking in an eastern direction. We first encounter a Byzantine basilica. This incredible structure of which Lycian Age stones were used, is a basilica with three aisles. Some of the steps where the choir would stand in the apse can still be seen. In the apse’s northern section is a polygonal-shaped room with marble plates of geometric motifs on the floor, whereas one encounters a fountain in the middle of the room. The entire floor of the basilica is covered entirely in mosaics, whereas there is a cistern under the middle aisle.
After seeing the wall remains of the agora across from the basilica, and walk towards the east one shall see the Belly-Dancer’s Sarcophagus. War is depicted on one of the lid’s long faces, while a hunting scene is seen on the other. As for the lid’s two narrow faces, they depict two belly dancers turning towards each other. For this reason, this mid-4th century B.C. sarcophagus has been called the .’Belly-Dancer Sarcophagus”. From here, if we walk along the length of the north wall, we shall encounter of the pedestal of the Lion Pillar amongst the bushes at the corner where the wall turns. The upper portion is in the British Museum. In corning into the clearing, one comes across the necropolis where numerous sarcophagus can be seen.
The house-type tombs amongst the rocks are rather interesting. The Lion’s Tomb and the Merihi Monument are the most striking tombs here. The Lion’s Tomb, which depicts reliefs show lions attacking a bull, dates back to 480-450 B.C. The sarcophagus lid, which is not in its place, depicts a wild boar hunt on one face and a feast scene on the other face. Just beyond this is the overturned pedestal of the Merihi Sarcophagus, which dates to 390 B.C. The sarcophagus lid was transported to the British Museum in the year 1840 by Sir Charles Fellows. One sees chariots pulled by four horses in a struggle against the Chimaera monster on both sides of the lid, which has the word “Merihi” inscribed on it.
Looking at the rock tombs next to the Sarcophagus, let’s go inside the wall. There are four monument tombs next to each other. The striking of the four is the Lycian pillar tomb which built from dressed stone during the 4th century 1 has three steps leading to the burial chamber, the of which is faced with marble. The facade, conS1 in the Ionic order, measures 6.39 meters high. , further on is the site of the Payava tomb, which from 370-360 B.C. It was transported in its state to London by Sir Charles Fellows in whereas there remains a very small part of the pedestal in a rather dismal State. On one face of the monment one can find a Lycian inscription of two sentenced which mentions the name of the Persian Satrap Autophradates. The other face has a relief of a war scene and a one-sentence Lycian inscription on the top part which states that the tomb was a work of Payava. On the long carved sides of the sarcophagus lids are reliefs with four horses pulling a chariot.
South of the Payava Sarcophagus lies another 4th century sarcophagus which is plainer than the others. There is a magnificent Lycian sarcophagus, known as the Ahqqadi Sarcophagus, which stands to the west of these tombs. After seeing these, we can pass by a Byzantine basilica at the top of the acropolis which was built over an ancient Roman temple. From here we can return to the parking lot.