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Tlos ruins Turkey.jpg
Ruins of Tlos
Tlos is located in Turkey
Shown within Turkey
LocationMugla Province, Turkey
Coordinates36°33′9.13″N 29°25′14.86″E / 36.5525361°N 29.4207944°E / 36.5525361; 29.4207944Coordinates: 36°33′9.13″N 29°25′14.86″E / 36.5525361°N 29.4207944°E / 36.5525361; 29.4207944
CulturesLycian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman
Site notes
ConditionIn ruins

Tlos (Ancient Greek: Τλώς or Τλῶς) is an ancient ruined Lycian hilltop citadel near the resort town of Seydikemer in the Mugla Province of southern Turkey, some 4 kilometres northwest of Saklikent Gorge. Tlos is believed to be one of the most important religious Lycian sites and settlement on the site is said to have begun more than 4,000 years ago.

Roman theatre of Tlos
Remains of the Ottoman castle
Lycian rock tombs
Lycian rock tombs


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.


According to Stephanus of Byzantium, the city was named after Tlos, one of the four sons of the nymph Praxidike (Ancient Greek: Πραξιδίκη) and Tremilus (Ancient Greek: Τρέμιλος).[1] Praxidike was a daughter of Ogyges (Ancient Greek: Ωγύγης).[2]


Tlos lies on the east side of the Xanthos valley atop a 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-type of rock tombs and temple-type rock tombs cut into the rock 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 on his winged horse so called as 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 Ali Ağa (Bloody Chief Ali) upon the foundations of the fortress.

Since early Lycian times, the city's settlement was likely concentrated on the southern slope 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 theatre, for plays and concerts, public Roman baths and the remains of an early 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 now a local 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 to the right of the market hall complex with public baths on its other side.

There are two adjacent baths, one smaller and one larger to its north consisting of three equal-size rooms. An apse with seven windows opens the most eastern room towards the south. Known locally as "Yedi Kapılar" ("Seven Gates"), its seven arches overlooks the Tlos Valley below. This room could be the "exedra in the public baths" donated by Opramoas to Tlos and would date the back to 100 –150 AD.

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 all around. An inscription records that donations have been made 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 public bath comprises three rooms: two are 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. Also near the baths are the remains of a Byzantine church, temple and what is believed to have been the agora (The market place). The latter is located across the road from the theatre.

Importance in the region[edit]

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 League, to which in 168 BC Rome granted autonomy instead of dependence on Rhodes. Opramoas of Rhodiapolis and another wealthy philanthropist financed much 2nd-century AD for the civic building works in the city.

Inscriptions reveal that citizens of Tlos were divided into demes (social subdivisions), and 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 became a Christian bishopric, a suffragan of the metropolitan see of Mira, capital of the Roman province of Lycia. It was represented at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 by its bishop Andreas, who also was a signatory of the letter that in 458 the bishops of the province sent to Byzantine Emperor Leo I the Thracian about the murder of Proterius of Alexandria. Eustathius was at the synod convoked by Patriarch Menas of Constantinople in 536. Ioannes was at the Trullan Council of 692. Constantinus took part in the Second Council of Nicaea (787). Another Andreas was at the Photian Council of Constantinople (879).[3][4]

No longer a residential bishopric, Tlos is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[5]

Among the titular bishops of Tlos were: George Hilary Brown (titular bishop 22 April 1842 – 29 September 1850, when he was created bishop of Liverpool), Charles-François Baillargeon (titular bishop 14 January 1851 – 25 August 1867, when he was created Archbishop of Quebec), Martin Griver (titular bishop 1 October 1869 – 22 July 1873, when he was created bishop of Perth, Australia); Eugène-Louis Kleiner (titular bishop from 17 June 1910 until his death on 19 August 1915); Paciano Aniceto (titular bishop from 7 April 1979 until 20 October 1983, when he was created Bishop of Iba); Carl Anthony Fisher (titular bishop from 23 December 1986 until his death on 2 September 1993).[6]


Tlos was rediscovered 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 horse Pegasus. It is known that the king-type tomb in the necropolis is dedicated to Bellerophon.

Modern times[edit]

On the opposite hill top, the village of Yaka now co-exists with Tlos. Fields and pomegranate trees make for picturesque scenery. Tlos is a popular destination for tourist from the coastal town such as Fethiye, Kaş 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.[7]

As of 2017, Akdeniz University Archaeology Professor Taner Korkut is head of the excavation efforts at the site. Korkut specialises in ancient cuisine and eating habits, and has excavated basket and steam cooking pottery at the site.[8]


  1. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica, T627.1
  2. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica, T633.8
  3. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. I, coll. 979-980
  4. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 449
  5. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 993
  6. ^ Catholic Hierarchy
  7. ^ Tlos | Turkey Travel Information
  8. ^ "Excavations in Turkey's southwest reveal Anatolian food culture". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 2019-07-28.

External links[edit]