The Theatre at Letoum (Letoon, Turkey)

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Across the river from Xanthus, 2 1/2 miles to the south-west and 2 miles from the coast, is the well-known sanctuary of Leto. Until 1962 little was to be seen beyond a theatre and a mass of blocks marking the site of a temple; since then the French excavators have uncovered the major part of the sanctuary and adjoining building, working largely under the water-table, and have recovered many interesting document concerning it. The excavation is continuing at the time of writing, and the publication is not yet complete.
(George E. Bean. Lycian Turkey. 1978).
Letoon (Roman Letoum) was not a city in antiquity but rather a sanctuary precinct associated with the worship of Leto and her children, Artemis and Apollo. A sacred site since perhaps the 7th century BC, Letoon was administered by Xanthos, the capital city of the Lycian Federation approximately 3 1/2 kilometers to the south-west. Lycia was initially unaffected by the Roman occupation of Asia Minor in 167 BC. This peaceful independence lasted until 42 BC when Xanthus was destroyed during the Roman Liberators' civil war. Following the war, Xanthus was restored and Lycia experienced a tentative co-existence with Rome until the 5th century AD. Letoon continued to serve as a center for cult worship until perhaps the 7th century AD when the site was abandoned.
The archaeological site of Letoon is approximately midway between the modern Turkish cities of Fethiye and Kas and is an easy hour's drive from either. Located in the agricultural community of Kumluova, the ruins overlook fertile fields and rows of greenhouses growing tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and cucumbers.
The theatre is the largest and most complete structure found at the Letoon sanctuary and dates from the first half of the 2nd century BC (Le Roy). A regional earthquake in 141 AD most likely prompted a major Roman reconstruction of the original theatre, and the existing ruins date from this 2nd century renovation. Excavations at Letoon began in1962 under the direction of H. Metzger in conjunction with a French archaeological mission to excavate the ancient site at at Xanthus. The sancturary of Leto (Letoon) was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1988.
The 76 meter wide cavea exceeds a semicircle and faces the northwest. Carved mainly from living rock, the ima cavea (lower seating section) contains 17 rows of seats divided into 11 cunei by 10 staircases; the summa cavea contains 20 rows of seats in 20 cunei. A praecinctio (walkway) separates the two seating sections. Stone staircases at the rear of the praecinctio provide access to the summa cavea and a row of circular post-holes can be found at the front, immediately behind the upper row of ima cavea seats. A second row of post-holes can be found in the summa cavea, eight rows down from the top. It could be speculated that these holes were related to a velarium or shade-providing awning. Both the ima and summa cavea have an upper most row of seats with continuous backs.
Two vaulted passageways run under the summa cavea and provide access to the praecinctio on the left and right side of the cavea. The entrance to the west archway is decorated by "plain pilasters supporting triglyph frieze with pediment above; east doorway, larger and more richly decorated, has rectangular niches in spandrels, 3-fascia architrave and triglyph frieze with bearded heads of Dionysus, tragic and comic masks and other reliefs in metopes (Sear 381).
The orchestra has an estimated diameter of 30 meters although at least half remains unexcavated. No remains of a podium or scaenae frons (stage and stage house façade) are visible at the theatre.

Bean, George E. Lycian Turkey: An Archaeological Guide. 2nd ed. London: John Murray Ltd., 1989.
Safyurekm, Patty and Kemal ."Lycian Sites." 15 February 2009 <>.
Sear, Frank. Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Tomlinson, R.A. Argos and the Argolid: From the End of the Bronze Age to the Roman Occupation. Ithaca NY: Cornell UP, 1972.
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (Eds. Richard Stillwell, William L. MacDonald, Marian Holland McAllister)
Copyright © 2009 Thomas G. Hines, Department of Theatre, Whitman College. All Rights Reserved
Last Update: 2/15/09