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Xanthos

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Xanthos - Lycia - Turkey At less than 2 km beyond Letoon, close to the village of Kınık, is the ruined city of Xanthos, once the capital and grandest city of Lycia. During the 19th century, the site was discovered by Sir Charles Fellows, a British traveler, and as it was the custom at that time, the site was stripped of many of its monuments which were taken to the British Museum. The most beautiful work which was transported to London was undoubtedly the famous Nereid monument. It was a large Lycian tomb in the form of a temple, dating from about 400 BC displaying a mix of Greek and Lycian styles.

Homer mentions the Xanthians as being allies of the Trojans. In mythology, Xanthos was connected with the story of Bellerophon and the winged horse Pegasus. During history on many occasions, the Xanthians demonstrated the fierce independence of the Lycian people. Rather than committing to invading forces they destroyed their acropolis and cities, killed their wives, children, and slaves in the fires and finally proceeded on a suicidal attack against the invader.

We started our visit at the famous Xanthian Obelisk, labeled as Inscribed Pillar. This is one of the most important remains at Xanthos. The Xanthian Obelisk is like the Rosetta stone was for our understanding of the ancient Egyptian. It is a pillar tomb which derives its fame from the inscription in Lycian and Greek which covers all four faces of the stone.  Our understanding of the difficult Lycian language is based on these inscriptions. 

South of the Xanthian Obelisk, there is the remarkably preserved Roman theater with next to it the famous Harpy monument flanked by a Lycian tower tomb. The Harpies monument or Harpy tomb was once topped with a marble chamber which was also taken to the British Museum by Charles Fellows in 1842. The marbles have now been replaced by clay copies of the originals thus restoring part of the beauty of the originals. The plates are decorated with interesting reliefs showing figures from mythology such as the harpies bird-women. Beside the Harpy Tomb is a Lycian sarcophagus which stands on a pillar. More to the south are the remains of the Lycian acropolis with the ruins of a square building, believed to be the palace of the early kings of Xanthos.

To the east, there is the Roman acropolis with the remains of a Byzantine basilica. It is a three-aisled basilica, with its floor covered with mosaics. Further to the east, there is the Belly-Dancer's sarcophagus dating from the 4th century BC. The long faces of the sarcophagus' lid are decorated with battle and hunting scenes, while the lid's two narrow faces show two belly dancers turning towards each other. This is the reason why this sarcophagus is called the Belly Dancers' Sarcophagus.

More on Xanthos and its history is available on the Lycian Turkey site.

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