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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Xanthos Tombs
State Party  Turkey
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii
Reference 484
Region** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1988  (12th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Xanthos (Lycian: Arñna, Greek: Ξάνθος) was the name of a city in ancient Lycia, the site of present day Kınık, Antalya Province, Turkey, and of the river on which the city is situated. In early sources, "Xanthos" is used synonymously for Lycia as a whole.

The site has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.


The City

Xanthos City Ruins

Xanthus is the Greek appellation of the name of the city of Arñna, of Lycian origin. The Hittite and Luwian name of the city is given as Arinna. 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, Macedonians, Greeks, and Romans who in turn conquered the city and occupied the adjacent territory.

Xanthus is mentioned by numerous ancient Greek and Roman writers. Strabo notes Xanthos as the largest city in Lycia. Both Herodotus and Appian describe the conquest of the city by Harpagus on behalf of the Persian Empire, in approximately 540 BC. According to Heredotus, 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 Hapargus. The Lycians destroyed their own Xanthos 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. 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 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.

In the final decades of the 5th century BC, Xanthos conquered nearby Telmessos and incorporated it into Lycia.

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. 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.

The archeological excavations at Xanthos have yielded many texts in Lycian and Greek, including several bilingual texts that are useful in the decipherment of Lycian.

The River Xanthos

Xanthos (Kinik) River in 2007

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", which also means yellow. 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.

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.

Xanthos of the Iliad

Xanthos is the name given to the river God, (known as Scamander or Skamandros to mortals) who attempts to drown Achilles in book XXI of the Iliad.

Also in the Iliad, Xanthos is the name of one of Achilles' semi-divine horses who, when rebuked for the death of Patroklos, reminds Achilles of his pre-destined demise.

In the Troy series by recently deceased best selling author David Gemmel, the Xanthos is the largest ship ever built, belonging to the series' main character, Helikaon.

Rumored to be blessed by the sea god Poseidon, as it can withstand harsh weather conditions yet is the largest ship to sail the Mediterranean (or the "Great Green") not to sink, the Xanthos is owned by King Aeneas , or more commonly known in the trilogy as Helikaon. The ship is designed by Khalkeus, or "The mad man from Miletos", a polarizing genius in the novels. The Xanthos was originally meant to be a cargo ship and also to offer aid by way of allowing passengers aboard. It is sometimes referred to as the "Golden Ship", which is a reference to the golden gleam it takes when sunlight hits its red oak. Upon its sail is a painted black rearing horse, the symbol of King Aeneas' homeland and kingdom, Dardania. It is also known as the "Death Ship". At first, this was because it was believed to be too big to sail, and thus those that sailed upon it were doomed to die when it drowned. Later, it retains this name when it assumes the reputation as the most feared pirate ship fighter on the Great Green, bringing death to all those who face it in battle.

External links

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  • Trevor R. Bryce, The Lycians, vol. I, pp. 12-27
  • Stabo, 14.3.6
  • Herodotus, 1.176
  • Appian, bell. civ., 4.10.76-80, 5.1.7
  • Arrian, anab. 1.24.4
  • Diodorus 20.27.1
  • Dio Cassius, 47, 34.1-3
  • Plutarch, Brutus 30-31
  • Marinos, vita Procli 6-8
  • Quintus Smyrn. 11.22-26

Coordinates: 36°20′N 29°19′E / 36.333°N 29.317°E / 36.333; 29.317

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Kınık article)

From Wikitravel

Kınık is a town in southwestern extremity of Antalya Province, Turkey. It's mostly visited because of its proximity to Lycian sites of Xanthos and Letoon, both of which are in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1988.

Get in

By bus

Batı Antalya [1] provides bus service to Kınık from Fethiye in the west and Kalkan, Kaş, Demre, Finike, Kumluca, Olympos, Kemer, Antalya in the east.

By car

Kınık lies close to (about 1 km away) main Fethiye-Kaş-Antalya highway (D400).

Get around

Xanthos lies 1 km away from the town, while Letoon is 4 km away. Waymarked Lycian Way, recognizable by its distinctive yellow-black signs, links both to the town centre. Walking from town centre to Xanthos takes about 15-20 minutes.

  • Xanthos (Turkish: Ksantos, although always referred to as 'Xanthos' or 'Xantos' on signs), (on the top of the hill overlooking the town, about 1 km away. Follow yellow sign from the town centre), [2]. Xanthos was the capital of the Lycian federation, which ruled what is now southwestern Turkey in pre-Roman times. Lycian tombs, an amphitheatre, and an obelisk bearing the longest Lycian text ever found to the date are among what to see there. There is a car park at the entrance. 4 TL. The section in which still excavation work is going on is for free.  edit
  • Letoon, (4 km away from Kınık). Letoon was an important religious centre of Lycia.  edit

Stay safe

An old guy with a somewhat dilapidated Mercedes seemingly approaches anyone apparently a traveller (carrying a large backpack for example), offering ride to Patara, about 10 km away. One day in July 2009, in downtown Kınık, he approached a backpacker, when his fellow backpacker was away, and asked whether he would like a ride to Patara for 20 TL. His offer was refused by the backpacker. Later in the same day, in Xanthos this time, he approached the other backpacker. However, this time the price went down to 10 TL, half of what was asked for initially. His offer was declined once more, and when told that the backpackers preferred to hitchhike, he said it was real hard to hitchhike out of town and the travellers would waste too much time waiting beside the road, which, of course, was not the case.

All in all, it's up to you to decide whether to take a ride with this guy or not. However, if you decide to go with him, be ready to haggle heavily and never ever pay more than 10 TL total.


There is a post-office (PTT) in town centre.

The telephone code of Kınık is (+90) 242.

  • Patara, one of the longest stretches of sandy beach anywhere in the Mediterranean basin, with some Lycian and Roman ruins behind the shore, lies some 10 or so km to the south of Kınık.
Routes through Kınık
MarmarisFethiye  W noframe E  KalkanAntalya
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