This article has been previously published as a part of book Around Ephesus and Kusadasi: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
When you visit the inconspicuous ruins located near Lake Bafa, you might it find hard to believe that Myus was a city-state in ancient times. It was a member of a powerful confederation of twelve Ionian colonies in Asia Minor. Similarly as in the case of Miletus or Priene, the history of Myus is intrinsically linked with the river Meander. For centuries, this river gradually silted up the large bay on the coast of which many Greek cities were located.
According to the Greek geographer and historian Strabo, Myus was founded by Kydrelos, the son of Kodros, the legendary king of Athens. The location of the settlement was chosen because of its attractiveness: on a small peninsula jutting out into the waters of the Latmian Gulf, which is now Lake Bafa.
Myus always was the smallest of the Ionian cities in Asia Minor, which was due to its location. Soon after its founding, the Latmian Gulf began to silt up. Myus was located in a place where the process of alluvium deposition started earlier than in the case of Miletus. In addition, as a result of the creation of the marshy area around the town, its residents began to get sick from malaria, transmitted by mosquitoes.
The scale of the rapid collapse of Myus can be illustrated by the fact that its port could hold a fleet of 200 ships in 499 BC. This fleet represented the Persian strike force made up of Greek and Phoenician ships, gathered in order to conquer the island of Naxos. However, five years later, during the Battle of Lade, Myus could provide only three ships due to the siltation of its port.
About 465 BC, Myus, together with Magnesia on the Maeander and Lampsakos (now Lapseki), was given as a gift to Themistocles by Persian King Artaxerxes. Themistocles, the heroic Athenian commander, was the author of the subterfuge that allowed the Athenians to win in the naval battle of Salamis, fought against Persia in 480 BC. He was also one of the creators of the Delian League. But he fell out of favor with his countrymen and was driven from Athens by the decision taken on the basis of ostracism. Ironically, one must recognize the fact that Themistocles spent the last years of his life in the areas belonging to Persia. Artaxerxes gave him authority over the Greek colonies mentioned above for his excellent services as a governor.
Myus belonged to the Delian League, which was officially created around 478 BC in order to defend the Ionian cities against Persia. As the smallest of these cities, Myus was obliged to pay the lowest premium. It is known that in 390 BC the city was still independent, and even had some territorial disputes with Miletus. In 201 BC, Myus was conquered by Philip V of Macedon, who then placed the city under the control of Magnesia on the Maeander, in exchange for food for his army.
However, soon afterward, Myus deteriorated so much that it lost the remnants of its independence, and was incorporated formally into Miletus in the form of so-called synoecism. It was the amalgamation of villages in Ancient Greece into poleis, or city-states. In Roman times, the residents Myus finally decided to move to Miletus, taking with them all their belongings and the statues of gods. Since then, the town fell into disrepair and was never rebuilt.
During the archeological excavations conducted in Miletus by Theodore Wiegand, several architectural elements of the archaic period were found. They were bearing inscriptions related to Myus and the local temple of Apollo Termintheus. These fragments, discovered in Miletus theater, the stadium and the Temple of Athena, confirmed the identification of ancient Myus with the ruins known as Avşar Kalesi.
Myus also attracted archaeologists. In 1908, Wiegand conducted the first excavations on its territory. He found the fragments of buildings that were sent to Berlin. The most interesting of them are the reliefs depicting chariot races. In 1964 and 1966 work at Myus was led by Hans Weber, who cleared the area around the remains of two temples and created a plan of the old town.
The ruins of Myus are located on a small hill where the temples once stood. At the top, there are the remains of a Byzantine fortress from the 13th century AD. Below, on a slope, two terraces once supported the sacred buildings, of which little has been preserved. The city itself lay below, to the south-east of the temple hill.
The most important temple in Myus was dedicated to Apollo Termintheus. It stood on the higher of the two terraces. Below was the temple of Dionysus. Both of these buildings have almost completely disappeared, with the exception of marble foundations, because the most important excavated fragments were taken by German archaeologists to Berlin. On the site there is also a fragment of the walls of the Archaic period, separating the terraces on the hill. The most impressive building in Myus, preserved in excellent condition, is a fortress built by the Byzantines in the period from 1200 to 1250 AD.
During a visit to Myus, it is worth to stop on the access road and look at the floodplains located below the hill. This area, formerly the part of the Latmian Gulf, is now home to many species of birds.
The ruins of Myus are accessible to visitors at any time of day and night. There's not entrance fee and no guardian at the site.
Modest ruins of Myus are currently known as Avşar Castle (tr. Avşar Kalesi), because they are located next to the village of this name.
By car: in Sarıkemer turn off to the east from the main road (D525) connecting Söke and Milas. Drive 8.5 km to Avşar village. This fragment of the road is narrow and full of potholes. From the road, it is possible to see the ruins of the Byzantine fortress in Myus, but to get there, it is necessary to drive a little further.
Leave the car 2 km past Avşar and walk the remaining 1.5 km to Myus. Getting there by car is only possible with a 4-wheel drive as it is a gravel road with deep wheel ruts. There are several signposts to Myus, but there are spaced far apart.