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Tlos (ancient Lycian Federation City)

As one of the six principal cities of Lycia (and one of the most powerful), Tlos once bore the title under the Roman empire of ‘the very brilliant metropolis of the Lycian nation'. It is one of the oldest and largest settlements of Lycia (known as 'Tlawa' in Lycian inscriptions) and was eventually inhabited by Ottoman Turks, one of the few Lycian cities to continue it’s existence through the 19th century. There is evidence that Tlos was a member of the Lycian Federation from the 2nd century BC. Two wealthy philanthropists, one of which was Opramoas of Rhodiapolis, were responsible for much of the building in the 2nd century AD. Inscriptions tell us that the citizens were divided into demes, the names of three of them are known: Bellerophon, Iobates and Sarpedon, famous Lycian legendary heroes. A Jewish community is also known to have existed with its own magistrates.

Acropolis and Tombs - Tlos

Tlos was re-discovered by Charles Fellows in 1838 and he was followed by the explorer Spratt, who thought that "a grander site for a great city could scarcely have been selected in all Lycia" - great praise indeed for a land abounding in grand scenery.

Tlos lies on the east side of the Xanthos valley, and is dominated by its acropolis. This rocky outcrop slopes up from a plateau with a charming village, but ends on the west, north and northeast in almost perpendicular cliffs. On its slope are several Lycian sarcophagi and many house and temple-type rock-cut tombs cut into the face of the hill. The influence of many cultures upon Tlos has resulted in an interesting collage of structures. It is a romantic place with lush nature and many of the buildings are vine-covered (especially the large bath), it would have been the perfect location for any romantic painter.

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.

View over the Xanthos Valley - Tlos

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 a 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 there is a wider building with several chambers and four large arched doors. One can find a palaestra (gymnasium) to the right of the market hall complex with baths on its other side.

Amphitheatre - Tlos

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 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  known from inscriptions that the theatre was under construction for at least 150 years.

Acropolis ruins  - Tlos

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.

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