Miletus Ancient City

Miletus Ancient City

Miletus is a significant location in the history of Western Anatolia, serving as one of the 12 Ionian Cities of Asia Minor. Its ruins, situated alongside the Maeander River approximately 30 kilometers south of Soke, are among Turkey's most captivating attractions. Miletus was home to renowned philosophers and scientists, including Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Hippodamus, and Hecataeus.

During excavations carried out by German archaeologists, evidence of a Mycenaean settlement dating back to 1500 BC was uncovered. The remains of fortification walls, houses, and Minoan pottery were among the artifacts discovered.

The city was referred to as Millawanda in some Hittite sources, and prior to the Greek occupation, it had been inhabited by Carians and Lelegians. According to the esteemed scholar Strabo, Neleus, son of Codrus, founded the Mediterranean city of Miletus after emigrating from Athens. The original inhabitants were displaced and had their land and possessions taken. As per Herodotus, the Greeks slaughtered all the men and took their women as wives.

Miletus Ancient City

The strategic location of Miletus played a pivotal role in its thriving trade activity. Situated near prominent settlements like Ephesus and Didyma, the city emerged as the wealthiest among the 12 Ionian Cities (Ionian League) during the 7th and 6th centuries BC. The Milesians established approximately ninety colonies across various regions, including Egypt, the Black Sea, and the Marmara Sea.

In the 6th century BC, all of the coastal Ionian cities in Western Turkey were conquered by Lydia, except for Miletus. Despite the attacks by Gyges, Alyattes, and Croesus, the city was able to fend off the invasions. However, in 546 BC, the Persian army defeated the Lydian king, Croesus, and captured the capital city of Sardis under Cyrus. Subsequently, the Persians continued to invade Ionian city-states individually. The Ionian League, also known as the Panionic League, was unable to consolidate their power for a strong united resistance. Nevertheless, Miletus signed an agreement with the Persians, which granted them significant freedom and special terms.

The period between 500 BC and 494 BC was marked by the struggles of Ionian Cities against Persian rule. Unfortunately, this resistance led to a catastrophic outcome for Miletus. The Persians occupied the city, massacred most of the men, and sent the rest as prisoners to Susa. The temple of Apollo in Didyma was also burnt down in this attack.

Miletus, once a prominent city among the 12 Ionian cities, owed much of its prosperity to its strategic location and close proximity to other important settlements such as Ephesus and Didyma. It established colonies as far as Egypt, the Black Sea, and the Marmara Sea, becoming one of the wealthiest cities in the region during the 7th and 6th centuries BC.

Despite being conquered by Lydia, Miletus was able to repel attacks from Gyges, Alyattes, and Croesus. However, it eventually fell to the Persian army in 546 BC, and like many other Ionian cities, struggled against Persian rule in the following years. The city was severely punished by the Persians in 494 BC, with most of the male population being massacred and the rest taken prisoner.

In 490 BC, the Athenians defeated the Persians at Marathon, followed by another victory in Salamis and Pegae ten years later. The Ionian cities formed an alliance under Athenian leadership, known as the Delian League, in order to resist future invasions. Miletus was rebuilt and restored to its former prosperity and status.

In 334 BC, Miletus became part of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great, and in 133 BC, it became part of the Roman Empire. The Romans granted their new subjects many privileges, including adorning them with valuable monuments and buildings. However, by the 4th century AD, the River Meander had deposited so much sediment that marine navigation became impossible, leading to a decline in trade and population.

Miletus Ancient City

Archaeological studies have revealed that after its destruction by the Persians in 494 BC, Miletus was reconfigured according to the grid-iron style introduced by Hippodamus of Miletus, a technique also found in Priene, Ephesus, and Rhodes. Miletus boasts some of the most ancient structures in the world, including the Greco-Roman Theatre, which dates back to the 4th century BC. The theatre underwent several modifications during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, with a seating capacity increasing from 5,000 to 15,000 spectators. The cavea and orchestra were altered many times, particularly to accommodate gladiatorial games. The semi-circular cavea has a diameter of 140 meters, and the vomitoria (vaulted passages) are well-preserved. The inscriptions on some seats suggest that the theatre was used by various political groups in Byzantine society, such as the "Blues" or the goldsmiths of the Blues.

Another significant structure in Miletus is the Heroon, a Hellenistic mausoleum consisting of a central tomb surrounded by a courtyard and several rooms facing east and west.

The Nymphaeum, a monumental fountain constructed during the Roman period, is also noteworthy. The facade of the fountain has three stories, and colonnades and vaulted niches decorate it extensively. Two basins at the back collected water from an aqueduct six kilometers away, and some of this water was distributed throughout the city using pipes and channels. Several statues from the Nymphaeum are now on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum and the Pergamum museum in Berlin.

Miletus is home to several historical structures, including the Bouleuterion, built by Timarchus and Herakleides in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Seleucid King. The propylon leads to a colonnaded courtyard, and at the back of the building is the auditorium. The propylon's Corinthian columns provide access to a courtyard measuring 26 by 24 meters, where a Roman tomb stands amidst a Doric stoa stretching along three of its facades. With a seating capacity of 1,500, the Bouleuterion is a significant structure in Miletus.

The Delphinion is another noteworthy structure, serving as the largest and oldest shrine in Miletus dedicated to Apollo Delphinius. In ancient times, dolphins were revered for their intelligence and love of music. The Delphinion has a temenos measuring 50 by 60 meters, surrounded by a stoa that was originally constructed in the Doric style but later converted to Corinthian during the Roman period.