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 existance 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.
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.
Yaka village now co-exists with
Tlos and the fields and pomegranate trees make for very picturesque scenery.
Tlos is a popular destination for tours from the coastal cities. The whole
area it is situated in is beautiful with many small villages. Tours often
include a trip to the beautiful Saklikent Gorge
and the lovely
Yakapark Restuarant. Opposite the acropolis of Tlos are some small cafés
with toilet facilities. Tlos is about 4 km. northwest of Saklikent Gorge.
Features of Tlos include:
- Acropolis Hill - overlooks a
lovely valley of fertile fields and orchards with mountains rising in
the distance. Lots of Lycian rock-cut tombs and sarcophagi. Crowning
the top is the fortress of Kanlı Ağı ('Bloody Chief Ali'), a notorious
Ottoman feudal lord, built upon the foundations of a Lycian fortress.
It was still in use in the 19th century - the explorer Spratt was
entertained here in 1842 by the brother of the ağa occupying it at that
time. Also upon this hill are a Lycian wall and a Roman era wall.
Since early Lycian times, the city's settlement was probably concenrated
on the southern and western slopes, for wide terraces with huge cisterns
and the back walls of buildings carved from the rock are found there.
The view from the top is spectacular with amazing 360 degree views over the Xanthos valley and the surrounding mountains. Although the hill looks high, there is a good path and it is actually not difficult to get to the top.
- 'Tomb of Bellerophon' - An
interesting tomb of Tlos, a large temple-type tomb with an unfinished
facade featuring a relief in its porch of the legendary (from Greek
myth) hero Bellerophon riding Pegasus, the winged horse. Punished by
the Lycian king Iobates for an improper love affair, Bellerophon was
sent to kill the Chimaera, a fire-breathing monster. With the aid of
Pegasus, a gift from Athena, Bellerophon slew the monster from the air
and then married the king's daughter. From their offspring came the
later rulers of Lycia. Today the Chimaera continues to exist as a
perpetually-burning fire in eastern Lycia near Olympos. Another carving
of a lion or leopard is also seen inside the tomb.
- Stadium - located just under the acropolis hill, from the Roman period. It had a seating capacity of 2,500. Today only the seats remain and the sporting area is being used as a farmer's field. Granite columns were found strewn about the area and these probably indicate that there was a columned portico standing at the north side of the area.
- Market Hall - running parallel
to the stadium is what researchers presume to have been a market
building. This a a long 150 metre hall with two stories, over 30 feet
wide, not divided into chambers, 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. In the first photo below,
you can see the palaestra (gymnasium) to the right of the market hall
complex. The baths are on its other side.
- Baths - Tlos has two baths.
The smaller stands right next to the larger bath (to its north). Even
today, the larger bath is still a very impressive structure and consists
of three large adjoining rooms of equal size. An apse with seven
windows opens the easternmost room towards the south. This is called
"Yedi Kapı" ("Seven Gates") by locals and its dramatic set of seven
arches overlooks a lush valley. This magnificent room is probably the
"exedra in the baths" that
donated to Tlos, along with contributions towards the theatre. This
would date the baths to around the first half of the second century AD.
The smaller bath is joined to the south end of a large hall. Two of the bath's three rooms are located in the western part of the building while 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.
|The large bath|
|Arch of the smaller bath|
- Amphitheatre - A large Roman era
theatre with 34 rows of seats. A portion of the stage building still
stands and its many highly-decorated carvings are scattered about. An
inscription records donations for the theatre from private citizens,
ranging from 3,000
denarii by the priest of
Dionysus and high priest of the Cabiria to lesser donations of 100
denarii. The famous
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