Last updated
Reconstruction Nereid Monument BM.jpg
A partial reconstruction of the Nereid Monument from Xanthos in the British Museum.
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Shown within Turkey
Location Kınık, Antalya Province, Turkey
Region Lycia
Coordinates 36°21′22″N29°19′7″E / 36.35611°N 29.31861°E / 36.35611; 29.31861 Coordinates: 36°21′22″N29°19′7″E / 36.35611°N 29.31861°E / 36.35611; 29.31861
Area126 ha (310 acres)
Official nameXanthos-Letoon
Criteriaii, iii
Designated1988 (12th session)
Reference no. 484
Region Europe and North America

Xanthos (Lycian: 𐊀𐊕𐊑𐊏𐊀 Arñna, Greek : Ξάνθος, Latin: Xanthus, Turkish: Ksantos) was a city in ancient Lycia, the site of present-day Kınık, Antalya Province, Turkey, and of the river on which the city is situated. The ruins of Xanthus are on the south slopes of a hill, the ancient acropolis, located on the northern outskirts of the modern city, on the left bank of the Xanthus, which flows beneath the hill. A single road, Xantos yolu, encircles the hill and runs through the ruins.


Xanthos is the Greek appellation of Arñna, a city originally speaking the Lycian language. The Hittite and Luwian name of the city is given in inscriptions as Arinna (not to be confused with the Arinna near Hattusa). Xanthos is a Greek name, acquired during its Hellenization. The Romans called the city Xanthus, as all the Greek -os suffixes were changed to -us in Latin. Xanthos was a center of culture and commerce for the Lycians, and later for the Persians, Greeks and Romans who in turn conquered the city and occupied the adjacent territory. As Xanthus, the former Byzantine bishopric remains a Latin Catholic titular see. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century, the region became Turkish. The ancient city had long since been abandoned.


Xanthos city ruins Xanthos ruins.jpg
Xanthos city ruins

Trojan War heroes and Lycian leaders Glaucus and Sarpedon are described in the Iliad as coming from the land of the Xanthos River. In the same text, Achilles' immortal, talking horse is named Xanthos. Xanthus is mentioned by numerous ancient Greek and Roman writers. Strabo notes Xanthos as the largest city in Lycia.

Under the Persian Empire

Both Herodotus and Appian describe the conquest of the city by Harpagus on behalf of the Persian Empire, in approximately 540 BC. According to Herodotus, the Persians met and defeated a small Lycian army in the flatlands to the north of the city. After the encounter, the Lycians retreated into the city which was besieged by Harpagus. The Lycians destroyed their own Xanthian acropolis, killed their wives, children, and slaves, then proceeded on a suicidal attack against the superior Persian troops. Thus, the entire population of Xanthos perished but for 80 families who were absent during the fighting.

During the Persian occupation, a local leadership was installed at Xanthos, which by 520 BC was already minting its own coins. By 516 BC, Xanthos was included in the first nomos of Darius I in the tribute list.

Original podium of the Nereid Monument at Xanthos. Xanthus, tomb of the Nereids, podium.jpg
Original podium of the Nereid Monument at Xanthos.

Xanthos' fortunes were tied to Lycia's as Lycia changed sides during the Greco-Persian Wars. Archeological digs demonstrate that Xanthos was destroyed in approximately 475 BC-470 BC; whether this was done by the Athenian Kimon or by the Persians is open to debate. As we have no reference to this destruction in either Persian or Greek sources, some scholars attribute the destruction to natural or accidental causes. Xanthos was rebuilt after the destruction and in the final decades of the 5th century BC, Xanthos conquered nearby Telmessos and incorporated it into Lycia.

The prosperity of Lycia during the Persian occupation is demonstrated by the extensive architectural achievements in Xanthos, particularly the many tombs, culminating in the Nereid Monument.

Conquest by Alexander the Great

Reports on the city's surrender to Alexander the Great differ: Arrian reports a peaceful surrender, but Appian claims that the city was sacked. After Alexander's death, the city changed hands among his rival heirs; Diodorus notes the capture of Xanthos by Ptolemy I Soter from Antigonos.

Roman and Byzantine rule

Roman amphitheater in Xanthos. Xanthos Roman Amphitheatre 2019.jpg
Roman amphitheater in Xanthos.

Appian, Dio Cassius, and Plutarch each report that city was once again destroyed in the Roman Civil Wars, circa 42 BC, by Brutus, but Appian notes that it was rebuilt under Mark Antony. Remains of a Roman amphitheater remain on the site. Marinos reports that there was a school of grammarians at Xanthos in late antiquity. Xanthus was in the Roman province of Lycia, in the civil Diocese of Asia.

Ecclesiastical history


Xanthus was important enough in the Roman province of Lycia to become a suffragan of the Metropolitan Archbishopric of provincial capital Myra, in the sway of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Three of its bishops are historically documented :

Coat of arms of titular archbishop Bruno Heim Archbishop Bruno Heim.svg
Coat of arms of titular archbishop Bruno Heim

Titular see

The diocese was nominally restored in 1933 as Latin Titular bishopric of Xanthus (Latin) / Xanto (Curiate Italian) / Xanthien(sis) (Latin adjective). [1]

It is vacant, having had a single incumbent, not of the fitting Episcopal (lowest) rank but archiepiscopal :


As the center of ancient Lycia and the site of its most extensive antiquities, Xanthos has been a mecca for students of Anatolian civilization since the early 19th century. Many important artefacts were found at the city. Two tombs, the Nereid Monument and the Tomb of Payava, are now exhibited in the British Museum. The Harpy Tomb is still located in the ruins of the city. A sanctuary of Leto called the Letoon is located on the outskirts of the city to the southwest. The Xanthian Obelisk and the Letoon trilingual are two trilingual stelae which were found in the city and the Letoon. The site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.

The archeological excavations and surface investigations at Xanthos have yielded many texts in Lycian and Greek, including bilingual texts that are useful in the understanding of Lycian. One monument, the Xanthian Obelisk, is a trilingual recording an older Anatolian language conventionally called Milyan language.

The River Xanthos

Xanthos River (Esen Cayi) KinikRiver.JPG
Xanthos River (Eşen Çayı)
Xanthos River (Esen Cayi) Xanthos Fluss.JPG
Xanthos River (Eşen Çayı)

Strabo reports the original name of the river as Sibros or Sirbis. During the Persian invasion the river is called Sirbe, which means "yellow", like the Greek word "xanthos". The river usually has a yellow hue because of the soil in the alluvial base of the valley. Today the site of Xanthos overlooks the modern Turkish village of Kınık. Once over 500 m long, the Roman Kemer Bridge crossed the upper reaches of the river near the present-day village of Kemer. The modern Turkish name of the river is Eşen Çayı.

A Greek legend is that the river was created by the birth pangs of Leto, whose temple, at the Letoon, is on the west bank of the river a few kilometers south of Xanthos. The Letoon has been excavated in the 20th century, and has yielded numerous Lycian, Greek, and Aramaic texts. A notable trilingual text, known as the Letoon trilingual, in all three languages was found and has been found to contain a reference to King Artaxerxes. The Letoon has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other uses

In the literary Troy Series by author David Gemmell, the Xanthos is the largest ship ever built, belonging to the series' main character, Helikaon.

Related Research Articles

Lycia Geopolitical region in Anatolia

Lycia was a geopolitical region in Anatolia in what are now the provinces of Antalya and Muğla on the southern coast of Turkey, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and Burdur Province inland. Known to history since the records of ancient Egypt and the Hittite Empire in the Late Bronze Age, it was populated by speakers of the Luwian language group. Written records began to be inscribed in stone in the Lycian language after Lycia's involuntary incorporation into the Achaemenid Empire in the Iron Age. At that time (546 BCE) the Luwian speakers were decimated, and Lycia received an influx of Persian speakers. Ancient sources seem to indicate that an older name of the region was Alope.

Xanthus or Xanthos may refer to:

Lycian language language

The Lycian language was the language of the ancient Lycians who occupied the Anatolian region known during the Iron Age as Lycia. It is long extinct, having been replaced by the Ancient Greek language during the Hellenization of Anatolia.

Charles Fellows British archaeologist

Sir Charles Fellows was a British archaeologist and explorer, known for his numerous expeditions in what is present-day Turkey.

Patara (Lycia) human settlement

Patara, later renamed Arsinoe (Ἀρσινόη), was a flourishing maritime and commercial city on the south-west coast of Lycia on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey near the modern small town of Gelemiş, in Antalya Province. It is the birthplace of St. Nicholas, who lived most of his life in the nearby town of Myra (Demre).

Pixodarus Satrap of Caria

Pixodarus or Pixodaros, was a ruler of Caria, nominally the Achaemenid Empire Satrap, who enjoyed the status of king or dynast by virtue of the powerful position his predecessors of the House of Hecatomnus created when they succeeded the assassinated Persian Satrap Tissaphernes in the Carian satrapy. Lycia was also ruled by the Carian dynasts since the time of Mausolus, and the name of Pixodarus as ruler appears in the Xanthos trilingual inscription in Lycia.

Lycians people

The Lycians were an Anatolian people living in Lycia.

Letoon construction

The Letoon, sometimes Latinized as Letoum, was a sanctuary of Leto near the ancient city Xanthos in Lycia. It was one of the most important religious centres in the region. The site is located south of the village Kumluova in the Fethiye district of Antalya Province, Turkey. It lies approximately four kilometres south of Xanthos along the Xanthos River.

Pinara large ancient city of Lycia

Pinara was a large city of ancient Lycia at the foot of Mount Cragus, and not far from the western bank of the River Xanthos, homonymous with the ancient city of Xanthos.

Tlos human settlement

Tlos is an ancient ruined Lycian hilltop citadel near the resort town of Fethiye in the Mugla Province of southern Turkey, some 4 kilometres northwest of Saklikent Gorge. Tlos is believed to be one of the most important religious Lycian sites and settlement on the site is said to have begun more than 4,000 years ago.

Letoon trilingual

The Letoon trilingual, or Xanthos trilingual, is an inscription in three languages: standard Lycian or Lycian A, Greek and Aramaic covering the faces of a four-sided stone stele called the Letoon Trilingual Stele, discovered in 1973 during the archeological exploration of the Letoon temple complex, near Xanthos, ancient Lycia, in present-day Turkey. The inscription is a public record of a decree authorizing the establishment of a cult, with references to the deities, and provisions for officers in the new cult. The Lycian requires 41 lines; the Greek, 35 and the Aramaic, 27. They are not word-for-word translations, but each contains some information not present in the others. The Aramaic is somewhat condensed.

Antiphellus ancient Greek city

Antiphellus or Antiphellos was city that acted as the port of Phellus (Phellos) in Lycia. It was at the head of a bay on the south coast. Sir Francis Beaufort, the discoverer of this ancient site, gave the contemporary name of Vathy to the bay at the head of which Antiphellus stands.


Phellus is an town of ancient Lycia, now situated on the mountainous outskirts of the small town of Kaş in the Antalya Province of Turkey. The city was first referenced as early as 7 BC by Greek geographer and philosopher Strabo in Book XII of his Geographica, alongside the port town of Antiphellus; which served as the settlement's main trade front.

Nereid Monument

The Nereid Monument is a sculptured tomb from Xanthos in Lycia, close to present-day Fethiye in Mugla Province, Turkey. It took the form of a Greek temple on top of a base decorated with sculpted friezes, and is thought to have been built in the early fourth century BC as a tomb for Arbinas, the Xanthian dynast who ruled western Lycia under the Achaemenid Empire.

Harpy Tomb Tomb in Turkey

The Harpy Tomb is a marble chamber from a pillar tomb that stands in the abandoned city of Xanthos, capital of ancient Lycia, a region of southwestern Anatolia in what is now Turkey. Built in the Persian Achaemenid Empire, and dating to approximately 480–470 BC, the chamber topped a tall pillar and was decorated with marble panels carved in bas-relief. The tomb was built for an Iranian prince or governor of Xanthus, perhaps Kybernis.

Xanthian Obelisk

The Xanthian Obelisk, also known as the Xanthos or Xanthus Stele, the Xanthos or Xanthus Bilingual, the Inscribed Pillar of Xanthos or Xanthus, the Harpagus Stele, the Pillar of Kherei and the Columna Xanthiaca, is a stele bearing an inscription currently believed to be trilingual, found on the acropolis of the ancient Lycian city of Xanthos, or Xanthus, near the modern town of Kınık in southern Turkey. It was created when Lycia was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, and dates in all likelihood to ca. 400 BC. The pillar is seemingly a funerary marker of a dynastic satrap of Achaemenid Lycia. The dynast in question is mentioned of the stele, but his name had been mostly defaced in the several places where he is mentioned: he could be Kherei (Xerei) or more probably his predecessor Kheriga.


Arbinas, also Erbinas, Erbbina, was a Lycian Dynast who ruled circa 430/20-400 BCE. He is most famous for his tomb, the Nereid Monument, now on display in the British Museum. Coinage seems to indicate that he ruled in the western part of Lycia, around Telmessos, while his tomb was established in Xanthos. He was a subject of the Achaemenid Empire.


Kheriga was a Dynast of Lycia, who ruled circa 450-410 BCE. Kheriga is mentioned on the succession list of the Xanthian Obelisk, and is probably the owner of the sarcophagus that was standing on top of it.

Kherei dynast of Lycia, ruler of the area of Xanthos  (c. 433-410 BC, or circa 410-390 BC)

Kherei was dynast of Lycia, ruler of the area of Xanthos, at a time when this part of Anatolia was subject to the Persian, or Achaemenid, Empire.


Kuprilli was a dynast of Lycia, at a time when this part of Anatolia was subject to the Persian, or Achaemenid, Empire. Kuprilli ruled at the time of the Athenian alliance, the Delian League.


  1. Donovan, Ned. "The bishops who've never seen their dioceses". Catholic Herald.
  2. Le Petit Episcopologe, Issue 173, Necrology (back).
  3. "The Most Reverend Bruno Heim". The Telegraph. 24 March 2003.