Lycian Rock Tombs in Fethiye: Unraveling the Ancient Past

Lycian Tombs in Fethiye: A Journey to the Past

Welcome to the fascinating world of Lycian tombs! These unique ancient structures offer an intriguing glimpse into the lives and burial customs of the ancient Lycian civilization. 

In this blog post, we will delve into the history, types, and fascinating features of Lycian tombs, and explore the famous tombs in the stunning Turkish city of Fethiye.

Explanation of Lycian Tombs

Lycian tombs are ancient burial sites carved into rock faces or built as free-standing structures, created by the Lycian civilization that once thrived in modern-day Turkey. 

These tombs were important symbols of status and power, reflecting the beliefs and customs of the Lycian people.

Historical Background of Lycian Civilization

The Lycian civilization was a powerful and influential society that existed in southwestern Turkey, around the region of present-day Fethiye. 

Ancient civilization of Lycia

The Lycians were known for their unique language, advanced seafaring skills, and impressive architectural accomplishments.

Lycian Tombs Definition and Types

Definition of Lycian Tombs

Lycian tombs are burial sites that were designed to house the remains of high-ranking individuals, their families, and even their beloved animals. 

These tombs are characterized by elaborate carvings, intricate decorations, and impressive architectural features.

Types of Lycian Tombs

There are five main types of Lycian tombs:

  1. Rock-cut Tombs: These tombs are carved directly into the rock faces of cliffs or mountains. A prime example of this type of tomb can be found in the Lycian city of Kaş.
  2. Temple Tombs: These tombs are built to resemble temples, often featuring imposing columns and ornate pediments.
  3. House Tombs: Designed to look like traditional Lycian houses, these tombs boast intricate facades and spacious interiors.
  4. Sarcophagus Tombs: These tombs feature stone sarcophagi, often adorned with detailed carvings and inscriptions.
  5. Tower Tombs: As the name suggests, these tombs are built in the form of towers, sometimes reaching impressive heights.

The Fascinating Features of Lycian Tombs

Decorations and Carvings

Lycian tombs are renowned for their intricate decorations and carvings, which often depict scenes from mythology, battles, and daily life.

These details provide valuable insights into the Lycian civilization’s culture and beliefs.

Architectural Elements

Lycian tombs showcase a variety of unique architectural elements, such as carefully carved columns, pediments, and facades.

These features testify to the advanced skills and craftsmanship of Lycian masons and architects.

Importance of Lycian Tombs in the Ancient World

Lycian tombs were considered significant monuments in the ancient world, reflecting the power and influence of the Lycian civilization.

They were also important sites for religious and cultural rituals, with many tombs serving as pilgrimage destinations.

Lycian Tombs in Fethiye

Fethiye is home to several impressive Lycian tombs, including the famous Amyntas rock tomb.

To make the most of your visit, consider checking the local weather to ensure optimal conditions for exploring these ancient sites.

Ancient City of Telmessos: A Glimpse into Lycian History

Nestled within the captivating region of Fethiye lies the ancient city of Telmessos, a significant historical site that offers a fascinating glimpse into the storied past of Lycia.

Boasting a rich history that spans millennia, Telmessos is home to an array of captivating ruins and artifacts that showcase the city’s vibrant heritage. Let’s delve deeper into the intriguing history of this remarkable site.

The city of Telmessos has a long and varied history, with roots that can be traced back to the Hittites, who referred to the city as Kuwalapašša, and the Lycians, who called it Telebehi. 

Historical records indicate that Telmessos was a part of Lycia (then known as Lukka) and was later conquered by the Hittites.

Notably, the city is mentioned in Hittite documents as having sent aid during the war against Iyalanda.

Situated on the Gulf of Fethiye, Telmessos was a flourishing Lycian city renowned for its school of diviners.

The city’s famed diviners were consulted by notable figures such as the Lydian king Croesus before he declared war on Cyrus, and Alexander the Great after the siege of Halicarnassus.

During the 5th century BC, Telmessos was a member of the Delian League, a powerful alliance of Greek city-states.

The city was later captured by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. In the 8th century AD, the city was renamed Anastasiopolis, likely in honor of Emperor Anastasios II, but this name did not persist.

The city eventually became known as Makri, after the nearby island at the harbor’s entrance.

This name was first documented in 879 AD, but an earlier 7th-century inscription found in Gibraltar bearing the ethnonym “Makriotes” suggests that the name Makri may have been in use even earlier. Today, the ruins of Telmessos can be found in the modern city of Fethiye.

Entrance and Opening Hours

To visit the ancient city of Telmessos, visitors are required to purchase an entrance ticket for 40 TL per person.

The site is open to the public every day from 08:30 to 17:30, offering ample time to explore its many wonders.

Amyntas Rock Tombs: A Majestic Ancient Wonder in Fethiye

One of the most iconic and awe-inspiring sights in Fethiye, the Amyntas Rock Tombs serve as an enduring testament to the skill and artistry of the ancient Lycians. 

Carved into the mountainside, these magnificent tombs offer a fascinating glimpse into the region’s rich history and showcase the impressive architectural achievements of the Lycian civilization.

Let’s delve deeper into the history and unique features of these ancient rock-hewn tombs.

The History of the Amyntas Rock Tombs

The Amyntas Rock Tombs, also known as the Fethiye Tomb, are situated in the modern district of Fethiye, on the site of the ancient Greek city of Telmessos in Lycia. 

At the time, Lycia was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire, and the Lycians were a confederation of independent city-states that included Telmessos.

The imposing tomb dates back to 350 BC and is named after the Greek inscription found on its side, which reads “Amyntou tou Ermagiou,” meaning “Amyntas, son of Hermagios” in English. 

It’s important not to confuse this Amyntas with Amyntas I of Macedon, a Macedonian king and ancestor of Alexander the Great.

In this context, Amyntas may be a descendant of Harpagos, a Median general who served Cyrus the Great and later became the satrap of Lycia. Harpagos was the founder of the Harpagid Dynasty, which ruled Lycia for several generations.

A Monumental Lycian Achievement

The Amyntas Rock Tombs were built by the Lycians, a talented and resourceful people who lived in the Persian Empire’s satrapy.

Their intricate carvings and monumental scale are a testament to the Lycians’ architectural prowess, reflecting their deep respect for the deceased and their desire to create lasting memorials.

As you explore the Amyntas Rock Tombs, take the time to appreciate the intricate details and stunning craftsmanship that went into creating these awe-inspiring structures.

The tombs’ majestic presence and enduring beauty serve as a powerful reminder of the rich history and cultural heritage of the Lycian people.

Entrance and Opening Hours

To explore the Amyntas Rock Tombs, visitors must either have a museum card or pay an entrance fee of 40 TL. 

The site is open every day from 08:30 to 17:30, providing ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the captivating history of these ancient wonders.

Preservation and Restoration of Lycian Tombs

The Importance of Preservation

Preserving Lycian tombs is crucial for safeguarding the rich history and cultural heritage of the Lycian civilization. 

These ancient sites offer valuable insights into the lives and customs of the Lycians, and their preservation ensures that future generations can continue to learn from and appreciate these remarkable structures.

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The Process of Restoration

The restoration of Lycian tombs involves a combination of careful research, skilled craftsmanship, and cutting-edge technology. 

Restorers work diligently to repair damage caused by natural disasters, human interference, and the passage of time, while ensuring that the tombs’ original appearance and character are preserved.

The Challenges of Preservation

Preserving Lycian tombs presents numerous challenges, including the delicate nature of the structures, the risk of damage from natural disasters and human activity, and the need for ongoing maintenance and monitoring. 

Despite these obstacles, dedicated professionals continue to work tirelessly to protect and preserve these ancient wonders for future generations.


A visit to the Lycian tombs in Fethiye is a unique and unforgettable experience, offering a fascinating journey through the history, culture, and architectural accomplishments of the ancient Lycian civilization. 

As you explore these remarkable sites, be sure to take the time to appreciate the intricate carvings, impressive architectural elements, and stunning views that make these tombs a true testament to the skill and artistry of the Lycian people.

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Lycia is an ancient region located along the southwestern coast of Turkey, specifically on the Teke Peninsula in the Antalya and Muğla provinces. This area, historically known for its unique Lycian culture and civilization, boasts a rich history and is dotted with numerous archaeological sites and ruins.