|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|UNESCO region||Europe and North America|
|Inscription||1988 (12th Session)|
The Letoon (Λητῶον), sometimes Latinized as Letoum, was a sanctuary of Leto near the ancient city Xanthos that was one of the most important religious centres of the Lycian region in Anatolia. The site is located between the towns of Kaş and Fethiye in Antalya province of Turkey, approximately four km south of Xanthos along the Xanthos River.
Archaeological finds at the site, which was never a fully occupied settlement, but remained essentially a religious centre, date back to the late sixth century BCE, before the Greek cultural hegemony in Lycia, which began in the early fourth century. In earlier times, the site was probably already sacred to the cult of an earlier mother goddess— she is Eni Mahanahi in Lycia— which was superseded by the worship of Leto, joined by her twin offspring.
In Greek mythology, a claim for an early cult of Apollo in the valley of the Xanthus, unsupported by history or archaeology, was provided by two myths, each connected to an eponymous "Lycus". One sprang from the autochthonous Telchines of Rhodes and would have colonized the region at the time of Deucalion's flood; the other Lycus was an Athenian brother of Aegeus driven from Athens, a seer who introduced the cult of Lycaean Apollo, which a folk etymology connected with Lycia and therefore made him its Athenian colonizer: see Lycus (mythology).
The foundations of the Hellenistic temple dedicated to Leto, and her children, Artemis and Apollo, have been excavated under the direction of H. Metzger from 1962. Archæologists have excavated much of the ruins; discoveries include the Letoon trilingual, bearing inscriptions in Greek, Lycian and Aramaic, which has provided crucial keys in the deciphering of the Lycian language; it is conserved in the Fethiye Museum.
The sacrosanctity of the site is the purport of an anecdote related by Appian concerning Mithridates, who was planning to cut down the trees in the sacred grove for his own purposes in his siege of the Lycian coastal city of Patara, but was warned against the sacrilegious action in a nightmare. The site remained active through the Roman period. The site was Christianised by the construction of an early church, which reused cut stone from the sanctuary, but was abandoned from the seventh century CE.
- Note that the name has three syllables: Le-to-on or Le-to-um.
- Noted by Strabo, xiv.2.2 and 3.6.
- Lycian Turkey.
- Pierre Grimal, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology: "Lycus".
- H. Metzger, "Fouilles du Létôon de Xanthe (1962-65)" Revue archéologique (1966).
- Appian, Mithridates, 27, noted by T. R. Bryce, "The Arrival of the Goddess Leto in Lycia", Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 321 (1983:1-13). p. 3 and note 9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Letoon|
- The official website of the French Archaeological Mission of Xanthos-Letoon
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre: Xanthos-Letoon
- Canadian Epigraphic Mission at Xanthos-Letoon, website of the research project on Xanthos and Letoon by Université du Québec à Montréal and Université Laval, including downloadable published works
- Extensive picture collection of Letoon