The ancient Lycian city is located near the village of Kinik on a hillside in a gorgious natural site overlooking the Esen river. Xanthos long remained independent until it was taken by the Persians: according to Herodotus, the warriors of Xanthos showed an extreme bravery killing their wives, children and slaves entrenched in the burning citadel. They themselves fought to death . Only a few families that were away, survived.
The city was completly burnt down between 475 and 450 BC. During excavations this was confirmed by a thick layer of ash covering the site. Rebuilt and repopulated, Xanthos, along with Pinara, Patara and other cities, surrendered to Alexander the Great. The city, which came to the hands of Antigonus, was claimed by Ptolemy I who took it from him by force in 309 BC. In 197 BC, Antiochus III , who wanted to take Lycia from the Ptolemies, made an agreement with the Xanthians, declaring the city free and dedicating it to Leto, Apollo and Artemis. After Antiochusf defeat at Magnesia of Sypile, and because of their support to her, Rome gave Xanthos to the Rhodians. Complaining that they were treated like slaves, the Xanthians revolted many times so that Rome finally put an end to the Rhodien domination in 167 BC. During the Roman civil wars of the 1st century BC, the Lycians sided with Caesar against Pompeius.
But Caesar was assassinated in Rome by Brutus and Cassius who came to Asia Minor to collect money and recruit soldiers. As the Lycians were reluctant to make any contributions, Brutus attacked Xanthos where the Lycian Leaguef s soldiers were gathered. He demolished the Acropolis and slaughtered the inhabitants. For the second time in their history, in the year 42 BC, the Xanthians underwent mass suicide for their freedom. Marc Antony, hoping to heal the scars left by Brutus, rebuilt their city. In Byzantines times, the city walls were renovated and a monastery was added. The city was deserted, ruined by Arab raids in the 8th century.
Xanthos was discovered in 1838 by Sir Charles Fellows who had all the reliefs and finds of any significance transported to London, on a warship that anchored in Patara.
The Hellenistic walls and gates of the city, the Lycian buildings and monuments, the necropolis with typical Lycian tombs and sarcophagi, the funerary pillars, the Roman theatre, the agora, the Byzantine church with mosaics, the Byzantine monastery are among the main vestiges of the archaeological site..