In ancient times Patara possessed one of the best harbors on the Lycian coast. Modern visitors will be forced to use their imaginations to visualize the port of Patara, since the harbor eventually fell victim to the effects of silting from the Xanthos River. Today a beach and sand dunes cover the mouth of the ancient harbor, while the inner part of the harbor is now a marsh. Patara served as the port city for Xanthos, the leading city of the region of Lycia, which was located about 6 miles up the Xanthos River. Patara is located on the southwestern shore of Turkey, due east from the island of Rhodes. It is situated about halfway between Fethiye and Kale, near the present-day village of Gelemiş, about 3.5 miles south of the modern road (highway 400) that runs along Turkey’s Mediterranean shore. Patara is approximately 6 miles east of the mouth of the Xanthos River. A stream from the Xanthos flowed into the sea at Patara and deposited the river’s silt there. Important in the past because of its harbor, the area around Patara is known today for its 11 miles of excellent, sandy beaches. Supposedly named after Patarus, a son of Apollo, the city was famous in antiquity for its Temple of Apollo (no archaeological evidence of the temple has yet been found) and the oracle of Apollo. According to ancient tradition, Apollo liked to spend the winter at Patara and thus the oracle of Apollo was operative only during the winter months. Pottery finds at Patara provide evidence for a settlement here as early as the 6th century B.C.E. In 334–333 B.C.E. Patara, along with several other Lycian cities, surrendered to Alexander the Great. During the subsequent Hellenistic period, the city came first under the control of the Ptolemies and then the Seleucids. Ptolemy II Philadelphus (r. 282–246 B.C.E.) expanded the city and renamed it Arsinoe in honor of his wife, but the new name never took hold. In 196 B.C.E., the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III of Syria captured several Lycian cities, including Patara.
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