Modern Fethiye was known in history to the ancient world as Telmessos and used to be the most important city of the ancient Lycian civilization. Despite the lack of information about its founding, historians agree that the appearance of the city dates back to the 5th century BC.
Following the Fethiye history Lycian legend explains the origin of the name Telmessos as, the god Apollo who fell in love with a beautiful girl by the name of Agenor, the youngest daughter of the king of the Phoenix. He transformed into a little dog and he made his way to a shy and timid Princess and eventually won her love. After which, Apollo transformed back and then his son Telmessos was born, whose name translates as “the land of lights”.
Ancient city of Telmessos (Fethiye) is located on the border between Lycia and Karya (now territory of Turkey). The city has been widely known as a centre of prophecy and its predictors had a strong influence on the course of Fethiye history. The fact that life in Telmessos was culturally rich in the Hellenistic and Roman periods is confirmed by survived monuments such as stone tombs, Lycian sarcophaguses, the Rhodes fortress and the Roman Theatre.
In 547 BC along with all the cities of Lycia and Karya,Telmessos was captured by the Persian general Harpagos, and the city of Apollo’s son joined the Persian Empire. Earlier Telmessos Fethiye was part of the Attic Maritime Union, also known as the Delian League founded in the second half of the 5th century BC. Over time the city left the union but continued to maintain a relationship with it up to the 4th century BC when it became independent.
Later, Alexander the Great appeared in ancient city of Telmessos and according to one legend in the winter of 334-333 BC, the city surrendered to him of its own will. According to another legend during his Asian campaign Alexander the Great attempted to take over Anatolia by sending his powerful fleet to the bay of Telmessos. The commander of Alexander’s fleet asked the city governor for permission to allow his musicians and slaves to enter the city. After receiving permission, his soldiers disguised as musicians and slaves, seized the acropolis of the city during the night festivities.
In the year of 240 BC Ptolemy III passed the city of Telmessos to the son of King Lizimakhos. Further, according to the agreement signed in 189 BC after the Magnesia battle, the Romans passed the city to king Eunenes of the Bergamon kingdom. After the fall of the Bergamon kingdom the city of Telmessos in 133 BC joined the Lycian League and was one of the six most important cities of the union. Further in the 8th century AD the rule over the city fell into the hands of King Anastasios 2nd.
The ancient city of Telmessos Fethiye was captured in 1284 by the principality of Menteseogullari and it was renamed to Makri, which means “remote city”. In the year of 1424 the city became part of the Ottoman Empire.
Finally in the year of 1934 it got its present name, Fethiye in honour of Fethi Bey, who was the first Turkish combat pilot who died tragically in accident.