Tlos is an ancient ruined Lycian hilltop citadel near the resort town of Kalkan in the Antalya province of southern Turkey, some 4 kilometres northwest of Saklikent Gorge. Tlos is believed to be one of the most important religious Lycian cites and settlement on the site is said to begin more than 4,000 years ago.
It is one of the oldest and largest settlements of Lycia (known as 'Tlawa' in Lycian inscriptions) and was subsequently inhabited by Romans, Byzantines and eventually Ottoman Turks, making it one of few Lycian cities to be continually inhabited up until the 19th century.
Tlos lies on the east side of the Xanthos valley atop an rocky outcrop that slopes up from a plateau from a modern village, but ends on the west, north and northeast in almost perpendicular cliffs.
The influence of many cultures upon Tlos has resulted in a patchwork of structures dominated by an acropolis and fortress. On the slopes leading up to the acropolis are numerous Lycian sarcophagi and many house- and temple-type tombs cut into the face of the hill. One such is the Tomb of Bellerophon, a large temple-type tomb with an unfinished facade of four columns featuring a relief in its porch of the legendary hero Bellerophon riding his winged horse Pegasus. A carving of a lion or leopard is inside the tomb.
At the top of the hill sits the remains of an acropolis and a Lycian fortress, which is evident by the remains of a Lycian wall and Roman-era wall. The Ottomans constructed a fort for the local feudal governor Kanlı Ağı Ali (Bloody Chief Ali) upon the foundations of the fortress.
Since early Lycian times, the city's settlement was likely concentrated on the southern and western slopes. Wide terraces with cisterns and the back walls of buildings carved from the rock are found there, as well as an agora, a Roman-era amphitheatre, baths and the remains of a Byzantine church.
At the foot of the hill is a Roman stadium with seating capacity for 2,500 people. Only the seats remain and the arena is a farmer's field. Granite columns were strewn about the area, which could indicate a columned portico on the north side of the arena.
Parallel with the stadium is what researchers presume is two-storey, 150-metre long market more than 30 feet wide with small rectangular doors and large arched doors in its west wall. The building is constructed of carefully jointed ashlar masonry. At the south end is a wider building with several chambers and four large arched doors. There is also a palaestra (gymnasium) to the right of the market hall complex with baths on its other side.
There are two adjacent baths, one smaller and one larger to its north consisting of three equal-size room. An apse with seven windows opens the most eastern room towards the south. Known locally "Yedi Kapı" ("Seven Gates"), its seven arches overlooks the valley below. This room could be the "exedra in the baths" donated by Opramoas to Tlos and would date the baths to 100-150 CE.
There is also a Roman theatre with 34 rows of seats. A portion of the stage building still stands and there are many highly-decorated carvings scattered about. An inscription records donations for the theatre from private citizens and religious dignitaries, ranging from 3,000 denarii by the priest of Dionysus and high priest of the Cabiria to lesser donations of 100 denarii. The philanthropist Opramoas also made a very large donation for the theatre. It is also known from inscriptions that the theatre was under construction for at least 150 years.
The smaller bath comprises three rooms: two in the western part of the building and the third is a large rectangular room to the east. Another room to the west may have been part of the complex. All the rooms had barrel-vaulted ceilings.
To the north of the smaller bath stood a palaestra (gymnasium). Also near the baths are the remains of a Byzantine church, temple and what is believed to have been the agora. The area thought to be the agora is located across the road from the amphitheatre.
Importance in the region
Tlos was one of the six principal cities of Lycia (and purportedly one of the most powerful). The city was dubbed "the very brilliant metropolis of the Lycian nation" during the Roman period.
There is evidence that Tlos was a member of the Lycian Federation from the 2nd Century BCE. Later, two wealthy philanthropists, one of which was Opramoas of Rhodiapolis, were responsible for much of the building in the 2nd Century CE.
Inscriptions reveal that citizens of Tlos were divided into demes (social subdivisions), the names of three of them are known: Bellerophon, Iobates and Sarpedon, famous Lycian heroes of legend. A Jewish community is also known to have existed with its own magistrates.
Tlos was re-discovered by Charles Fellows in 1838 and he was followed by the explorer Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt, who thought that "a grander site for a great city could scarcely have been selected in all Lycia."
In mythology, it was the city inhabited by hero Bellerophon and his winged flying horse Pegasus. It is known that the king-type tomb in the necropolis is dedicated to Bellerophon.
On the opposite hill top, the village of Yaka now co-exists with Tlos. Fields and pomegranate trees make for very picturesque scenery. Tlos is a popular destination for tourist from the coastal town such as Kas and Kalkan.
At the entrance of the site stands a small white prefabricated ticket hut. Opposite the acropolis are some small cafés with toilet facilities and parking. There is also a natural spring.
- The official web site of Tlos Excavations
- Images from Tlos
- 200 pictures of Tlos
- Description and photo's from Tlos
- "Tlos". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.