In legend, the nymph Leto was loved by Zeus and thus jealously pursued by his wife Hera. Wandering in search of a place to give birth to her divine twins Apollo and Artemis, Leto approached a fountain to slake her thirst, only to be driven away by local herdsmen. Leto was then led by wolves to drink at the Xanthos River, and so changed the name of the country to Lycia, lykos being Greek for wolf. After giving birth, she returned to the spring – on the site of the existing Letoön, and forever after sacred to the goddess – to punish the insolent herdsmen by transforming them into frogs.
The name Leto may derive from the Lycian lada (woman), and the Anatolian mother-goddess, Cybele, may have been worshipped at this same site previously. Another similarity between the two goddesses is a link with incestuous mother-son unions, thought to have been common in Lycian society. The most famous of all the prophecies supposedly delivered at the Letoön predicted that Alexander the Great would destroy the Persian Empire.