Merhaba Turkey #9 – Letoon

Letoon, alongside Xanthos was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, and if Xanthos was the Lycian commercial capital, then Letoon was the religious hub, a sanctuary dedicated to Leto and her twin children, Artemis and Apollo. In pagan times the site was sacred to an earlier mother goddess, but superseded by Leto in the Roman period.

Legend has it that when Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, found out her philandering husband had shacked up with the nymph Leto, that she chased the alluring vixen across the Mediterranean. Eventually, Leto stopped to quench her thirst from a spring in Lycia, when a group of goat herdsman (most likely fearful of Hera’s wrath, should she find they’d be harbouring the accused) tried to chase her away. Leto in her disgust  and in retaliation turned the herdsman into frogs and gave birth to her twins, the gods Artemis and Apollo, at the sanctuary.


The site contains three preserved temples, the most prominent has been unearthed and partly reconstructed by French Archaeological Mission in 1962. Excavations continue on the site, slowly uncovering artifacts from their watery resting place. The water table is high in this area and many of the temples’ foundations lie submerged, with an army of frogs for company.


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