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The Mecca of Lycia

Being in a belt of fine ancient Lycian settlements, Letoon may appear as superfluous. But what makes a difference, is Letoon being a religious centre more than a city. The place was named after the goddess Leto, the national head deity of Lycia. She was the second wife of Zeus and mother of the twin gods, Apollon and Artemis. Zeus' first wife, Hera forced her to wander from country to country, so that she came to spend a great deal of her time in Lycia. One theory goes that Leto was a continuation of the Mother Goddess, Cybele, reinterpreted as part of a larger Greek religious universe.

Letoon, Turkey

Three temples for the this strange triad, mother and two sons, stand side by side in central Letoon. Of some reason, Artemis' is the one standing in the middle of them, and it has not been established which belonged to Leto and which to Apollon. The temple to the left has fine mosaics.
Inscriptions here give interesting details about Lycian religion. Dress code was strict, only simple clothes and few adornments were permitted.
In Christian times, a church was consecrated here, and cults continued until the 8th century CE.
Letoon has other structures too, more secular in nature. A nymphaeum faces the three temples; nymphaeums are among the strangest and most evocative parts of the Roman city layout, being a mix of an amusement park and unpublic pools. The structure here is permanently flooded.
Letoon even has a fine Hellenistic theatre, that leans onto a hill.
Alexander the Great is told to have received a prophecy here that he Persian Empire would be destroyed by the Greeks, which encouraged his expeditions into the east.
Letoon is together with Xanthos a World Heritage site.

Opening hours are 8.30-17.00, admission fee 3 lira. The area is unfenced, and often there is nobody to sell tickets.
There is a small kiosk here, apart from that no services. For decent food and accommodation, Kalkan 25 km southeast or Fethiye 70 km northwest.
It can be a challenge to get here, whether it is by public transport or your own vehicle. Infrequent minibuses from Fethiye pass the area very close (destination indicated is Kumluova). Whether by public or privat transport, ask often for directions as there are many unsignposted junctions.

By Tore Kjeilen