Xanthos was a city in ancient Lycia, the site of present-day Kınık, Antalya Province, Turkey, and of the river on which the city is situated. The ruins of Xanthus are on the south slopes of a hill, the ancient acropolis, located on the northern outskirts of the modern city, on the left bank of the Xanthus, which flows beneath the hill. A single road, Xantos yolu, encircles the hill and runs through the ruins.
Xanthos is the Greek appellation of Arñna, a city originally speaking the Lycian language. The Hittite and Luwian name of the city is given in inscriptions as Arinna (not to be confused with the Arinna near Hattusa). Xanthos is a Greek name, acquired during its Hellenization. The Romans called the city Xanthus, as all the Greek -os suffixes were changed to -us in Latin.
Xanthos was a center of culture and commerce for the Lycians, and later
for the Persians, Greeks and Romans who in turn conquered the city and
occupied the adjacent territory. As Xanthus, the former Byzantine
bishopric remains a Latin Catholic titular see. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century, the region became Turkish. The ancient city had long since been abandoned.
Trojan War heroes and Lycian leaders Glaucus and Sarpedon are described in the Iliad as coming from the land of the Xanthos River. In the same text, Achilles' immortal, talking horse is named Xanthos. Xanthus is mentioned by numerous ancient Greek and Roman writers. Strabo notes Xanthos as the largest city in Lycia.
Both Herodotus and Appian describe the conquest of the city by Harpagus on behalf of the Persian Empire, in approximately 540 BC. According to Herodotus, the Persians met and defeated a small Lycian army in the flatlands to the north of the city. After the encounter, the Lycians retreated into the city which was besieged by Harpagus. The Lycians destroyed their own Xanthian acropolis, killed their wives, children, and slaves, then proceeded on a suicidal attack against the superior Persian troops. Thus, the entire population of Xanthos perished but for 80 families who were absent during the fighting.
During the Persian occupation, a local leadership was installed
at Xanthos, which by 520 BC was already minting its own coins. By
516 BC, Xanthos was included in the first nomos of Darius I in the tribute list.
Xanthos' fortunes were tied to Lycia's as Lycia changed sides during the Greco-Persian Wars. Archeological digs demonstrate that Xanthos was destroyed in approximately 475 BC-470 BC; whether this was done by the Athenian Kimon or by the Persians is open to debate. As we have no reference to this destruction in either Persian or Greek sources, some scholars attribute the destruction to natural or accidental causes. Xanthos was rebuilt after the destruction and in the final decades of the 5th century BC, Xanthos conquered nearby Telmessos and incorporated it into Lycia.
The prosperity of Lycia during the Persian occupation is
demonstrated by the extensive architectural achievements in Xanthos,
particularly the many tombs, culminating in the Nereid Monument.