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Xanthos - Arnña  

The ruins of Xanthos is located by the village of Kınık in the Seydikemer district of Muğla. Xanthos was the most important and most powerful city of the dynastic period in Lycia. Its Lycian name is Arnña. Findings date the city back to the 7th century BCE. The Eşen River that flows by the city is called Siyanta in Hittite and Xanthos in Greek. The city was first identified by Charles Fellows in 1838. Many artifacts transported from Xanthos by the efforts of Fellows are exhibited in the British Museum today. This discovery of Fellows has also been instrumental in the world recognition of the Lycian civilization. The first scientific excavations began in 1950 and continued intermittently to the present day. Along with its religios center Letoon, Xanthos is so far the only Lycian city included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The city was built on a slope on the eastern side of the Xanthos (Eşen) River, at the widest part of the Xanthos Valley. The coastline is approximately 7.5 km to the south. Considering the alluvium carried by the Xanthos River, it is believed that the distance was closer to the shore when the city was first established. However, it was certainly not a port city. The city is spread over an area of about 30 hectares. Although there are the remains of three separate temples dating to the 5th century BCE, none of them survived to the Roman period, and no temple from the Roman period was found in the city. This is probably because the city of Letoon, which is the religious cult center of all Lycia and is under the administration of Xanthos, is only a few kilometers away. Today there are almost no remains that predate the great destruction caused by the Persian invasion in the middle of the 6th century BCE. The monumental tombs and city walls are at the forefront of the few works that date to the dynastic period. There is hardly any structure from the Hellenistic period. Most of the buildings seen today belong to the Roman period and later. The lion and bull reliefs found during excavations carried out by Jacques des Courtils between 1996 and 2011 are thought to be examples of archaic Lycian art and has been dated to the 7th century BCE.

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Northern Necropolis
The eastern slope of the Roman acropolis in the north of the city is the necropolis area. Most of the Roman period rock-cut and sarcophagus tombs are located on the north of the dynastic period walls extending in the southeast-northwest direction on this slope. Merehi and Lions sarcophagi from the dynastic period are also located on this area. The monumental tombs of Payava and Ahqqadi along with a few other dynastic period rock-cut and sacophagus tombs are around the so-called acropolis pillar at the southern part of the slope, which is inside the city walls.



Nereid Monument
It is the earliest known monumental tomb built in the form of a Greek temple, which was an inspiration for the later monumental structures such as the Mausoleum at Halicarnassos. The monument was first found by Fellows in 1938. It has been destroyed, probably as a result of an earthquake, and all its parts were found scattered around. With the efforts of Fellows, all the relief pieces of the monument, together with the other monuments, were transported to England by ships and are still exhibited in the British Museum. Although the exact date of the monument is unknown, researchers generally date it to around 390-380 BCE. As the tomb owner, the name Erbinna (Arbinas) is more accepted, with the prediction that it was built for one of the Xanthos rulers of the dynastic period. The monument looks like an Ionic temple built on an 8-meter podium with a height of 4 meters. The upper area of the podium measures 10.2 x 6.8 m. The cella on the podium is surrounded by four Ionic columns on the short sides and six on the long sides. It is completely made of white marble on limestone used in the foundation and inner body of the podium. Apart from the two rows of friezes surrounding the podium, there are two more rows of friezes surrounding the eaves of the Ionic temple and the wall of the cella. The triangular roof pediments on the east and west faces of the monument are also decorated with friezes. Researchers have different opinions about the order of these friezes in the reconstruction of the monument. The reconstructed part exhibited in the British Museum is only the eastern face of the mausoleum. The monument is called by this name because the statues of women between the Ionic columns and the sea creatures under their feet are likened to the Nereids, the sea nymphs in Greek mythology. On the other hand, Thurstan Robinson draws attention to the fact that these statues may be the consorts (Eliyãna) of the goddess Leto mentioned in the Trilingual Inscription found in Letoon. The investigations show that there are four kline in the monument. Therefore, the monument may have been used for the owner and his family.

Eastern face of the Nereid Monument is resconstructed in British Museum. A nereid (or eliyãna) statue. A nereid (or eliyãna) statue. A part of the upper (smaller) frieze of the podium. Archers and hoplites attack a city, while defenders throw stones from behind the walls. A part of the lower (larger) frieze of the podium. A combat scene, shield to shield. A part of the upper (smaller) frieze of the podium. A seated ruler (a persian satrab or the owner of the tomb, Arbinas?) receives an embassy. A part of the architrave frieze above the external columns. A part of the procession of men with offerings. A corner slab of the lower (larger) frieze of the podium. The base of the monument as discovered in 1838. The base of the monument and the fallen slabs around it circa in 1843/44. (Drawn by G. Scharf) The base of the monument in 2022.


Lion Pillar Tomb
The Lion Tomb is accepted as the oldest of the Lycian style pillar tombs by most researchers on account of the relief styles. It is located to the east of the Roman acropolis. The tomb chamber, which was formed by carving the top of the 3 meter high column, was decorated with reliefs. It can be seen from the drawings of the monument that Fellows discovered on his trip in 1838 was still standing at that time. However, the reliefs adorning the burial chamber were cut and moved to the British Museum. The pillar is still lays at the site. The owner of the tomb is unknown. The monuments is dated to the middle of the 6th century BCE.



Harpy Tomb
This funerary monument is composed of a monolithic pillar, surmounted by a funerary chamber. It is dated to 480-470 BCE and thought to belong to a dynast of Xanthos, Kybernis, who is presumed to have died from wounds he received during the wars (Platea or Salamis) against the Greeks under the command of the Persian king Xerxes. The chamber walls were adorned with reliefs which are today displayed in the British Museum. Plaster casts of the original reliefs have been placed on the tomb at Xanthos in 1957. The monuments is called by this name on account of the reliefs of the creatures with bird bodies and human heads which are called Harpy in Greek mythology. The monument reaches a total height of 8.87 m (monolith pillar: 5.43 m). There is a 20 cm deep hollow carved at the top of the monolith. It creates a 2.3 m deep burial chamber together with the height of the relief panels surrounding it. In the late period, a Christian hermit settled and lived in this tomb chamber. Fellows notes that on the back of the reliefs are religious-themed drawings made by this hermit. The lid at the top of the chamber which looks like 3 pieces stacked on top of each other is in fact was carved from a solid piece of rock.
Next to Harpy Monument, there is another tomb so called "Sarcophagus Pillar". Actually, it is a hybrid tomb consist of a pillar-like basement made of ashlar blocks and a Lycian style sarcophagus placed on top of it. Researchers dates the sarcophagus to the Helenistic period and the the basement to the dynastic period.

The sculpted reliefs of the tomb chamber have been taken to British Museum by Fellows. Reliefs of Harpy Tomb in British Museum


Inscribed Monument (Kheriga Monument)
This famous monument is also known as Inscribed Pillar or Xanthian Obelisk. It was a pillar tomb which is a common monumental tomb style in Lycian dynastic period. The upper part is not survived. The monument stands to the northeast of the Roman agora. The monolithic pillar lies on top of a two-step rock base and once was surmounted by a funerary chamber which hade relief-decorated walls and a projecting roof. It is thought to belong to the dynast Kheriga who has died around 400 BCE. Most probably it was also crowned by a statue of the dynast. The surviving part of the monument is 4.04 m high together with the podium. The original height of the monument should be 9.71 m without the statue. The pillar shows an inscription in the Lycian language on its four faces and an epigram in Greek on its north face. It is the longest Lycian inscription ever found.

East face North face West face South face The broken piece of the Inscribed Pillar


Payava Tomb
It is one of the most impressive tombs not only of Xanthos but of all Lycia. Fellows found the monument during his first visit to Xanthos in 1838 and later transferred to England along with other monuments on his subsequent visits. The original height of the monument is 7.85 m and it is in the form of a typical Lycian sarcophagus placed on a monolith column. It is the largest sarcophagus found in Xanthos and is distinct with its rich decorations. For ease of transportation to England it was cut into pieces. The reconstructed section of the sarcophagus 3.5 m high and is on display in the British Museum. The original location of the monument on the southeastern slope of the northern acropolis dominates both the Lycian acropol of the city and the entire view of the Xanthos valley extending to the sea. There are Lycian inscriptions on four sides of the sarcophagus which state that the tomb was built by Payava. On account of the Persian Satrap Autophradates mentioned in the same inscriptions, the mausoleum is dated to around 360 BCE. The general shape of the tomb is in accordance with the original Lycian architectural style which imitates wooden Lycian houses. The relief decorations display both Greek and Persian influence.

West side of the lid. West side of the lid. East side of the lid. South side: Two men clothed in cuirasses and cloaks, one of whom may be the tomb owner Payava. The Lycian inscription mentions about Payava and a ruler (possibly satrap Artumpara). East side: A battle of cavalry and hoplites. The inscription says that the tomb was built by Payava. West side: A seated man in Persian dress (possibly satrap Autophradates) receiving a delegation, one of whom may be Payava. The inscription probably mentions the name of the satrap Autophradates (Wataprdata). North side: A man possibly placing a wreath on the head of a young athlete. The base of the Payava Tomb in Xanthos. The original location of the tomb is on the northern acropolis. A reconstruction of the tomb with the original base.


Dancers Tomb
In comparison to Payava Tomb, the Dancers Sarcophagus is much smaller and less decorated. The funerary chest, topped with a ogivally formed lid, rests on a massive base itself erected on two steps. When Fellows found the sarcophagus, the chest was in situ and the lid was broken in two fragments and fallen on either side of it. Today, the restored monument stands in its original place in Xanthos. It is erected on a hill which dominates the city walls, the ravine below to the east, and the terraces of the eastern districts of the city. The chest has no reliefs and does not imitate the classical Lycian wooden architecture. Only the oglival shaped lid has been decorated. There is a hunting and a fighting scene on each of its wider sides. The monument takes its name from the dancer figures depicted on the narrow sides of the lid. It is dated to the middle or the second half of the 4th century BCE.

East side South side West side North side


Merehi Tomb
It was found by Fellows beneath the rocks below the northern rocky slope. When found, the lower part had been displaced by an earthquake, and the lid was half buried and inverted. The lid has been taken to England and today displayed in the British Museum. It is almost as large as the Payava sarchophagus. The length of the oglival shaped lid (3.17 m) is only 2 cm shorter than the Payava's. The relief decorations has also similarities with the Payava monument but they are restricted to the lid only. Similar to the Payava sarcophagus, on the both wider faces of the lid, there are the scenes of four-horsed chariots. Unlike the Pavaya monument, these scenes are enriched with hunting a panther on one side and the Chimaera on the other. That is why initially it was named Chimaera Tomb by Fellows. The Lycian inscription on the sachophagus states that the tomb was built by a person named Merehi. On account of the similarities with the Pavaya monument, a date in the beginning of the 4th century BCE has been suggested.

The lid of the sarcophagus is in British Museum. The lower part of the tomb is at the orginal place in Xanthos, below the north slope of the northern necropolis. The Lycian inscription on the sarcophagus.


Lions Tomb
The sarcophagus is located on the northern slope of the Roman acropolis. It is thought to be the oldest sarcophagus in Xanthos and is dated to the dynastic period, probably the last quarter of the 5th century BCE. It was noticed by Fellows in 1840 during his second visit to Xanthos. The 1 m-high base of the sarcopahgus and the three steps supporting it are carved into the solid limestone rock. The base does not contain a burial chamber; it is a massive block. There are two lion reliefs tearing a bull on the northern face of the 2.25 m-wide base. The chest of the sarcophagus is broken and its parts are scattered around the grave. Until a few decades ago the chest of the sarcophagus was standing on the base even though the upper edges was already broken at that time. On the north face of the chest there is a highly fragmented Lycian inscription, estimated to be at least three lines. The lid of the sarcophagus, whose entire face was decorated with reliefs, was completely destroyed and only a few fragments were found.

Some parts of the chest are scattered around the tomb. A piece of the gable end of the lid is in front of the tomb, while the chest of the sarcophagus was still standing on the base. Until a few decades ago the chest was standing on the base. The found fragments of the sarcophagus lid were reconstructed.


Ahqqadi Tomb
The tomb is located on the southeast slope of the Roman acropolis, about 100 m southwest of the Payava Tomb. It has a total height of 6.9 m together with the three-stepped podium, the hyposorion and the sarcophagus. Although it was built with a similar plan to the Payava sarcophagus, it is proportionally much narrower. In addition, there is no decorative ornament, except the lion heads on both sides of the lid. However, it was made with a very meticulous craftsmanship. The Lycian inscription on the north face of the sarcophagus states that the owner of the tomb was Ahqqadi. Despite its visual differences, it is dated to the same period as the Payava sarcophagus, the first half of the 4th century BCE.

The Lycian inscription on the northern side.


South Gate (Vespasian Gate)
It is one of the three gates of the city, together with those in the east and west. It is notable for the still-standing single-arched structure belonging to the Roman imperial period. The inscription above the arch indicates that it was built during the Vespasian period (1st century CE). The large stone blocks with polygonal masonry used on both sides of the span in front of the south face of the arched gate belong to the towers which are dated to the late archaic/early dynastic period. There are three separate dedication inscriptions on these blocks, which were added during the Hellenistic period. The metopes found on the doric frieze above the door arch are thought to be the busts of Leto, Apollo and Artemis. It is also known as the Arch of Sextus Marcius Priscus, the Lycian Governor, who ordered the building of the monumental gate dedicated to Emperor Vespasianus.

Vespasian Gate from north. Vespasian Gate from south. Inscriptions 1, 2 and 3 are from the Hellenistic period. A part of the metopes is in the British Museum.






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Image sources:
British Museum
C. Fellows, 1839, 1841, 1847, 1848
O. Benndorf & G. Niemann, 1884
G. Perrot & C. Chipiez, 1892
F. N. Pryce, 1929
P. Demargne & P. Coupel, 1969
Götter, Heroen, Herrscher in Lykien, 1990
J. des Courtils, 2003
N. Başgelen, 2005
Jastrow, 2006
Mike Peel, 2012
Carole Raddato, 2012
M. Seyer, 2017
Ertuğrul Anıl, 2022
Bora Bilgin, 2022
Tayfun Bilgin, 2022
Reha Özer, 2022


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