Modern Fethiye is located on the site of the ancient city of Telmessos, the ruins of which can be seen in the city, e.g. the Hellenistic theatre by the main quay.
A Lycian legend explains the source of the name Telmessos as follows: The god Apollo falls in love with the youngest daughter of the King of Phoenicia, Agenor. He disguises himself as a small dog and thus gains the love of the shy, withdrawn daughter. After he reappears as a handsome man, they have a son, whom they name ‘Telmessos’ (the land of lights).
The city became part of the Persian Empire after the invasion of the Persian general Harpagos in 547 BC, along with other Lycian and Carian cities. Telmessos then joined the Attic-Delos Union established in mid-5th century BC. and, although it later left the union and became an independent city, continued its relations with the union until the 4th century BC.
Telmessos Theatre – the sign on site says it was late Hellenistic, with stage added about 200AD, abandoned with the city, excavated 1992-95, seated 6,000 on 28 rows. August 2011
Very little is known of the city during Byzantine times. Surviving buildings attest to considerable prosperity during late Antiquity, but most were abandoned in the 7th–8th centuries due to the Arab-Byzantine Wars. The city was fortified in the 8th century, and appears as “Telmissos or Anastasioupolis” ca. 800. By the 10th century, the ancient name was forgotten and it became known as Makre or Makri (Μάκρη, “long one”), from the name of the island at the entrance to the harbour. In the 12th–13th centuries there are signs of renewed prosperity: the city walls were enlarged, a report from 1106 names Makre a centre for perfume production, and geographical works from the 13th century describe the city as a commercial centre. The area fell to the Turks in the late 12th or early 13th century.