Field of Dreams

Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and see where life takes you.

Our destination after Patara was another Lycian city called Xanthos, but we took a wrong turn and ended up right in the middle of an all-village street bazaar. You could probably buy anything here: screwdrivers, tomatoes, goats, furniture, clothing; you name it, it was for sale.

Once through the bazaar, we came upon one of those brown, historic-site, directional signs we’ve learned to look for. It said “Letoon.” Neither of us knew anything about Letoon, but rather than try to make our way back through the bazaar, we pressed on. A couple miles further down the road, we rounded a corner and there, standing in a field of straw, was this huge amphitheater. I guess the thought was, “If you build it, they will come.”

Just beyond the amphitheater, was Letoon, the religious center of ancient Lycia. According to the guidebooks (which I read after-the-fact), Letoon was never populated; it was purely a place of worship (according to a marker at the site, the amphitheater was used for “religious performances”).

Sometime in the 7th century B.C., in honor of Leto, the mother of the gods Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis, whose father was Zeus, the Lycians built a substantial temple here. Like the Apollo and Artemis Temples in Side, Leto’s Temple in Letoon was built 6 columns wide by 11 columns long. Today, only three columns stand, and they appear to have been reerected in modern times.

It was time for a meditative moment as Dale contemplated what it was like for those who used to patronize this place.

One Greek myth is that Hera, the wife of Zeus (who was the head deity), was so jealous of Leto, that she had Leto banished and forbade all nations from harboring Leto and her children, Apollo and Artemis. When Leto came to Lycia, she asked some local herdsmen if she could drink from their spring. When they said, “No,” She turned them all into frogs. For some reason, unfathomable to me, the Lycians were so impressed with this feat that they adopted Leto as their goddess and built Letoon in her honor.

Anyway, several centuries after the Lycians built Leto her temple, they followed it with temples for her children. Apollo’s Temple has the same footprint as Leto’s, but the Artemis Temple is smaller.

Those in the know say that the temple on the right was built for Apollo because of the mosaic found inside it, and that the smaller temple in the center honored Artemis.

The mosaic you see in the picture, above, is actually a reproduction. We saw the original in the Archaeology Museum in Fethiye today. The symbol in the center represents Leto; Artemis’ symbol is on the left, the bow and arrow, and Apollo’s lyre is on the right. To me, this is evidence that Artemis’ Temple is on the left, Leto’s is in the center, and Apollo’s is on the left. But, hey, I was trained as a lawyer, not as an archaeologist. So, let’s go with the official story.

Something else that was discovered at Letoon that is also now on display at the museum in Fethiye is a proclamation stone, dated 358 B.C., written in three languages: Lycian, Greek and Aramaic. This stone has been a critical tool for interpreting the lost language of Lycia.

We examined all three sides, then Dale declared, “They all look Greek to me.”

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

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