Travelling from Kaş to Fethiye one arrives at the village Gelemiş at the southern point of the plain Xanthos-Eşen. Scattered in the marshy area and among the dunes of sand of the coast exposed to sand erosion remains of the ancient city Patara are seen. The name of the city is “Padaura” in the Luwian/Etruscan language. The word “pa” means “water” and “ura” means “ground” and accordingly, the name of the city means “marshy ground / river ground”. It appears that the inlet extending up to The Taurus Mountains in the north during prehistorical times was filled with the silt carried by the creek Patara in time and thus, formed a small bay.
In times of antiquity, various structures were built around the bay and the area was used as the harbour of the city of Xanthos, capital of the Lycian region. The city which grew with the influx of people from other Lycian cities later came to be known as “Ptari”. The city minted its first coin during the Lycian era. It thrived greatly and built a great temple in honour of the god Apollon. It became the second largest centre of oracle/prophecy of the Mediterranean.
Patara was occupied by the Persians during the 5th century. It opened its gates to Alexander in 333 B.C. Subsequently, it passed into the hands of the Egyptians, Seleucids and Rhodians. Finally, it was included within the Lycian Federation. It is one of the 6 great cities within the Federation. During the Pax Romana era, on the other hand, when the maritime commerce developed, it became a harbour where the cereals carried from Anatolia were stored and shipped. When Apollon came to be identified with Jesus Christ it became a religious centre and a place frequented by the Christian saints.
The harbour was entirely filled up with the silt carried by the creek Patara and turned into a marshland. The remains were largely covered with sand as a result of erosion. There is a lighthouse in the west of the harbour. Inscriptions in the Lycian language are found on this structure which is assumed to be two-storeyed. The structure contains a cereals silo / granarium consisting of 8 chambers in equal sizes. To the north of the granarium a mausoleum is visible. Its front façade is embellished with four columns. An aqueduct, 6 m high, appears to have carried water to the city from Letoon. In the necropolis a Lycian type monumental tomb and stone-carved sarcophagi having inscriptions in the Lycian language are seen. Down from the necropolis towards the sea the city entrance gate in the form of a triumphal arch is visible.
It appears that the triumphal arch was built by the Lycian people in the name of Modestus, the Lycian Governor. In the western side of the triumphal arch a stone podium was unearthed in an earth mass. The existence of a ceramic belonging to the classical era and an Apollon head suggests that here was the foundation of the famous Apollon Temple. In the south there are the remains of a Roman Bathhouse comprising five large rooms. In the north of the bathhouse are the remains of a Byzantine basilica visible. It is claimed that the basilica was built on the foundations of the house where St.Nicholaus was born. He was born in Patara, but, engaged in his religious activities in Myra and died there.