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Letoon - Where Leto Hid Zeus' Kids Artemis and Apollo

Join us for a visit to Letoon, a sanctuary next to Xanthos where Leto brough her and Zeus' kids to hide them from the wrath of Hera.

Letoon was Leto's sanctuary some four kilometres south of Xanthos in Muğla, Turkey. It was probably the most important religious centre of the Lycian League in the region. Interestingly, although Letoon was never a full city on its own right, many inscriptions found at the site indicate that all religious and political decisions of the ruling powers were declared to the public there.

It was continuously occupied from the 8th century BC till the end of the Roman period, dedicated to the worship of Leto, mistress of Zeus and their twin children Artemis and Apollo. Leto gave birth to Artemis and Apollo after Zeus' eye accidentally caught her hidden beauty. A myth has it that pregnant with Zeus' children, Leto left Delos to escape from the wrath of Goddess Hera. Subsequently, she took refuge in Lycia with her now newborn babies Artemis and Apollo but was expelled by the villagers from the water source where she wanted to bathe her children. Enraged, Leto turned the villagers into frogs. You will still see them in the nymphaeum that supplies fresh water!

The foundations of the three Hellenistic temples dedicated to Leto and her children have been excavated since the 1960’s and most of the ruins have now been uncovered. Leto’s temple was reconstructed in its original setting using original pieces that were found in the excavations.

In 1973 archaeologists found a stele with an inscription dated 337 BC featuring texts in Lycian, Ancient Greek and Aramaic. You can see it in the Fethiye Museum - a good idea after a hot day at the site. The stele's regulations for the establishment of a cult have helped scholars to better understand the long-lost Lycian language. Unlike most groups during this period, the Lycians were not barbaric. They were respected for having a stable democracy. Not only were they unusually harmonious internally, but they also managed to avoid major conflicts with their neighbours.

Probably, the city was abandoned with the start of the Arab raids. The highlight of the complex are three temples going back to the 4th and 5th centuries BC. The central temple was dedicated to Artemis. The other two temples were dedicated to at least one of the other Letoids. The site was eventually christianised with a basilica church built in the site in the 5th century.

Letoon was connected to Xanthos by a road that led up from Patara to the south. The remaining ruins remain largely intact and unaffected by tourism or modern construction. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site together with Xanthos in 1988 as they represent examples of “the most unique extant architectural example of the ancient Lycian civilisation”.d

Located some 500 metres from the centre of Kumluova in Muğla, Letoon lies on the main road between Kaş and Fethiye in the village of Bozoluk. It is accessible via a four-kilometre road that turns off the main Kaş-Fethiye road near Kınık.

Unfortunately, Letoon is not a place for the handicapped or persons with a pram. There is a loo but no shop or café - do not forget to take a bottle of water with you!


Kumluova, 48370 Seydikemer/Muğla, Türkiye


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