Situated on the slopes of Mendos Mountain, Fethiye was established on top of ancient Telmessos on the shores of the Gulf of Fethiye. For this reason, the majority of the ruins have remained under this quaint district. Because of the abundance of accommodation facilities, captivatingly beautiful coves and significant development in yacht tourism in recent years, Fethiye represents the center of excursions in the Lycian region. Fethiye, which is located 50 kilometers from Dalaman Airport, can be reached by highway from Mugla, Denizli and Antalya and can also be reached by sea. Those staying in Fethiye can easily wander out to the ancient cities in the vicinity, such as Cadyanda in Üzümlü Pinara in the village of Minare, Tlos in the village of Kaleasar, Sidyma in Dodurga, Xanthos, Letoon and Patara. Here, the temperature does not drift below 160C, and one can frolic in the surf for up to nine months a year.
The town, which gets its name from Telmessos, the son of the god Apollo, was captured by the Persian King, Harpagos and was annexed to the Carian Satrap in the year 540 B.C. The tribune-lists of the Delian Confederacy, which were written up in 477-478 B.C., list Telmessos and Lycia separately; and in the 4th century we find the Lycians under their dynast Pericles fighting against the Telmessians, beseiging them and reducing them to terms. The result of this may have been that Telmessos was then brought into Lycia, since the geographer who passes under the name of Scylax, writing in the same century, reckons the city as Lycian.
When Alexander arrived in the winter of 334 B.C., he made a peace agreement with the Telmessians, who readily joined him. Not long afterwards, however, Nearchus the Cretan, one of his trusted ‘Companions’ whom he had appointed satrap of the region, was obliged to recapture the city from a certain Antipatrides, who had gained control of it. The two men were old friends, and Nearchus asked permission to leave in the city a number of captive women singers and boys that he had with him. When this was granted, he gave the women’s musical instruments to the boys to carry, with daggers concealed in the flute-cases; when the party was inside the acropolis, the prisoners’ escort took out the weapons and so seized the acropolis. This is described by the historian as a stratagem; others might call it sharp practice.
In 240 B.C., Telmessos was presented by Ptolemy III to another Ptolemy, son of Lysimachos; and at the settlement in 189 B.C. after the Battle of Magnesia; it was given by the Romans to Eumenes of Pergamon. but the lands which had belonged to Ptolemy were allowed to remain in his hands. So far as we know, Telmessos continued in the Pergamon Kingdom until that came to an end in 133 B.C.; it would then naturally be included in the Roman province of Asia. In 88 B.C., we hear that the Rhodians received help ‘from the Telmessians and from the Lycians’, implying that the city was not then incorporated into Lycia. Later, certainly under the Empire and perhaps earlier. Telmessos was a normal member of the Lycian League. After the Mithridates Wars, Telmessos was given to Rhodes. Like the other Lycian cities during this period. Telmessos also chafed under harsh Rhodian rule, and subsequently Rome retook Lycia back from Rhodes.
The significance of the city, which continued its existence into the Byzantine era, waned with the Arabian raids which occurred after the 7th century. The city’s name was changed to Anastasiupolis during the 8th century in honor of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasiupolis II, whereby the following century this too gave way to the Makri, which meant ‘far city.’ Later on, the city was called Megri, whereas Megri was finally changed to today’s Fethiye in 1934, to commemorate one of the first Turkish aviators, Fethi Bey.
C. Texier, who saw Telmessos in the 1850’s, indicated that the Apollo Temple and theater could be seen at that time. Not long after C.Texier’s visit, a major earthquake struck in 1856, which knocked down these structures, and when Fethiye was hit with a second devastating quake just over 100 years later, in 1957, these ruins were completely destroyed. Today’s Fethiye is what was built up after this second temblor more than forty years ago. Today, the theater, which was found near the pier of new Fethiye, has been uncovered. This theater, which had the capacity to hold 5,000 people, was built in the Early Roman Period and renovated later in the 2nd century A.D.
A medieval castle situated on the acropolis hill, where the city was first established, is surrounded by a wall. Today, one can see the bottom portion of this wall, which was erected by the Romans as well as the upper part, which was constructed during the Middle Ages, when the Rhodian Knights used this castle as well as Sövalye Adasi, located in the harbor, to hold the city under their control.
The Tomb of Amyntas, which is the most splendid and best known of all the tombs, is located on the E face of the city’s acropolis and has become the symbol of Fethiye. Seen from the plain below, it gives a great impression of size from up close. It is of the temple-type, in the Ionian order. Four steps lead up to the porch with two columns between pilasters; halfway up the left-hand pilaster the name of Amyntas, son of Hermapias is inscribed in letters of the 4th century B.C. Encountering this tomb in the 1850’s, C. Texier apparently wished to document this as he signed the upper left corner of the grave door.
In the cliff-face further to the left are numerous other tombs; two of these are temple-tombs similar to that of Amyntas, and little less impressive. There are also a number of Lycian-type sarcophagi within the city. One of these is situated on the street directly below these stone monuments, while the other stands besides the municipal building near the pier. The sarcophagus next to the municipal building is one of the few sarcophagi with reliefs that has managed to remain intact to the present. Both sides of the lid and of the surmounting Crest carry reliefs showing rows of warriors with shields in their hands, with a man sitting in an armchair wearing long clothing on the right side. The ends of the lid are divided into four panels. This sarcophagus, which was erected in ca. 340 B.C., once had reliefs on the bottom part as well, which is understood from the drawings of both Sir Charles Fellows and C.Texier. In addition, there are two sarcophagi from the 4th Century that are located in the Cumhuriyet District, one of which has reliefs. However, these reliefs are in poor condition.
The area around Fethiye is filled with many ancient cities. For instance, to the NW of Esen Stream, about 45 kilometers outside Fethiye, lie the Ptnara ruins in the village of Minare, which have some interesting Lycian rock tombs. Here ancient structures, such as the theater, odeum and temple are pratically all intact. Again, in the ruins of Sidyma, which are found in the village of Yaka about 40 km. outside Fethiye. Tlos, which was one of the six major Lycian cities, offers a striking view with its theater, baths, agora and stadium.