Tlos, a Lycian city inhabited for 4,000 years

Necropolis met de burcht. Dosseman / CC BY-SA (

The ruins of the ancient city of Tlos stand on a hill near the coastal resort of Fethiye in Southern Turkey. Built by the Lycians, who called it Tlawa, the city was discovered in 1838 by the British archaeologist and explorer Charles Fellows.

According to legend, the city was founded by the hero Tlos, son of Tremilus, in the second millennium BC. Remarkably, the city was continuously inhabited for almost 4,000 years until the 19th century, first by Lycians who were followed by the Romans, then Byzantines and eventually Ottoman Turks. Tlos was one of the six most important Lycian cities and issued its own coins.


On top of the hill stand the remains of an acropolis and a Lycian fortress, with a gateway in the southeast corner. Walls from the Lycian period can still be seen to the east and the city is surrounded by well-preserved Roman walls. Later the Ottomans built a fort on the foundations of the fortress for the local leader Kanlı Ali Ağa.


In the rocks directly below the acropolis is a Lycian necropolis with Lycian sarcophagi and rock tombs of the type temple graves and house graves. Typical of the temple graves are the two columns and extensive reliefs. One noteworthy tomb is that of Bellerophon containing relief images of horses, lions and leopards, as well as the hero Bellerophon with his flying horse Pegasus. He is supposed to have lived in Tlos. The tomb contains three stone benches for the deceased.

Grave of Bellerophon. Dosseman / CC BY-SA (


From the beginning the Lycian settlement was concentrated on the western and southern slopes with an agora or market place, a theatre, thermal baths and the remains of an early Byzantine church. At the foot of the hill is a Roman stadium with fourteen rows of seats, still visible today, which could accommodate 2,500 visitors. The arena is now an open field. Parallel with the stadium is a market hall, next to a palaestra or wrestling school and baths.

The Roman theatre has 34 rows of seats and is relatively well preserved with many richly decorated reliefs. Inscriptions relate that the building had certainly been in use for 150 years.

Stadium.. Dosseman / CC BY-SA (


Tlos Yakaköy, Saklıkent Yolu, 48850 Seydikemer/Muğla, Turkije


Text Nadine Lemmers

Translation Alun Harvey


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