Judging by the modest number of tourists reaching the ruins of Miletus, it is hard to believe that in the antiquity it was one of the most important cities of the region, in its heyday challenging the power of Ephesus. Founded by the Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor, Miletus will be remembered in the annals of history as the birthplace of mathematician Thales and two famous philosophers, Anaxagoras and Anaximander. Miletus was also one of the oldest and most important Greek cities of Ionia, boasting not one, but four harbors. Today, the crowds of sightseers from all over the world rub shoulders in Ephesus, leaving the pleasure of discovering the secrets of Miletus to small groups of curious visitors who manage to reach this site.
According to a legend, Miletus was founded by a hero named Miletos. There are three versions of this story regarding his origins and adventures. According to Ovid, Miletos was the son of Apollo and Deione, exiled from Crete by King Minos. He settled in Asia Minor, where he founded the city of Miletus. There, he married the daughter of the river god Meander — Kyana — and had two children with her.
The second version says that Miletos was the grandson of Minos and the son of Apollo. His mother abandoned him at birth in the forest, fearing the wrath of Minos. Miletos was nursed by a she-wolf and later adopted by shepherds. Many years later, unaware of his origins, Minos fell in love with his own grandson, who fled to Caria. He married the daughter of King Eurydos — Idotea.
Another version states that Miletos was the son of Aria. He was abandoned by his mother and adopted by his grandfather, Kleos. He grew up to be a handsome young man and attracted the attention of Minos, who wanted to rape him. Miletos fled from Crete, first to the island of Samos, where he founded the first city called Miletus, and then to Caria, where he founded another town of the same name.
All these versions of the legend have two things in common: the father of Miletos was Apollo, and he fled to Asia Minor from Crete, escaping the unwanted attentions of King Minos. These legends reflect the close ties between the historical city of Miletus and the Minoan civilization of Crete.
It is not currently possible to determine how long Miletus area has been inhabited by humans because any potential traces of the first settlement are located under thick layers of sediment deposits of the river Meander. The oldest traces, accessible to archaeologists, come from the Neolithic period (3500-3000 BCE) when these areas were located on several islands, located off the coast, at the mouth of Meander.
Around 1900 BCE, the items from Crete, identified with the Minoan civilization, appeared in Miletus. Most probably they were trade objects. The impact of the Minoans on the development of Miletus, visible over the next centuries and corresponding layers of the archaeological excavations, seems to explain the origins of the founding legends of the city, binding this event with the influx of people from Crete.
Clear traces of settlement in Miletus are dated to the Mycenaean times, i.e. the middle of the second millennium BCE. At that time, Miletus area was settled mainly by the Carians, the indigenous people of Asia Minor, and the settlers from Crete. There are preserved fragments of city walls, houses, and lots of ceramics from those times.
The founding of Miletus was described by Strabo in the following words: "Miletus was first founded and fortified above the sea by the Cretans, where the Miletus of olden times is now situated, being settled in Sarpedon, who brought colonists from the Cretan Miletus and named the city after that Miletus, the place formerly being in the possession of the Leleges; but later Neleus and his followers fortified the present city." According to the Greek tradition, Neleus came to Miletus after the 'Return of the Heraclids', i.e. the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnesus. The Ionians killed the men of the city and married their widows. This is the mythical explanation of the enduring alliance between Athens and Miletus, which played a significant role in the Persian Wars.
The historical documents mention Miletus for the first time in the Late Bronze Age, in the notes from the Hittite Empire. The settlement is referred to as Milawata (Millawanda) in these documents. These texts demonstrate that in the 13th century BCE Miletus was subordinated to the Hittites as a territory belonging to the vassal ruler of the land known as Ahhiyawa. This period corresponds to the archaeological findings, according to which at that time the rising influence of Mycenaeans could be clearly observed in Miletus.
In literature, Miletus first appears in the Iliad, where the Milesian princes are mentioned, fighting alongside the Trojans as their allies.
Greek colonization and the development of the city
Greek settlers arrived in Miletus in the late 11th and the early 10th centuries BCE. According to local tradition, they came to the city under the leadership of Meleus, son of the Athenian king Kodros. After landing, they murdered all the men living in Miletus and married the widowed women. The aim of this story was to explain the enduring alliance between Athens and Miletus, which was crucial during the wars with Persia.
The period of greatest prosperity of Miletus was in the 7th and the 6th centuries BCE. Especially from 650 BCE the city developed tremendously, thanks to the colonies founded on the shores of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. In total the Milesians founded about 90 colonies, of which the most important were: Naucratis — the only Greek colony in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs, Cyzicus on the southern coast of the Marmara Sea, and Sinope (now Sinop), Amisos (Samsun) and Olbia (now in Ukraine) on the Black Sea coast. As Strabo put it: "Many are the achievements of this city, but the greatest is the number of its colonisations; for the Euxine Pontus has been colonised everywhere by these people, as also the Propontis and several other regions."
At the turn of the 7th and the 6th centuries BCE, the kings of Lydia — Sadyattes and Alyattes II — attempted to conquer Miletus, but they were successfully repelled by the famous Milesian tyrant, Thrasybulus. This ruler features in an anecdote from Herodotus's Histories, in which a messenger asked him for advice on the art of ruling. Thrasybulus took the messenger for a walk in a field, where he cut off all of the tallest ears of wheat. The message was that a wise ruler would remove those prominent men who might be powerful enough to challenge him.
Persian rule and Hellenistic Period
The independence of Miletus ended in 546 BCE, when, together with the nearby area of Lydia, it came under the Persian control. The Milesians responded to such a turn of events with a rebellion against Persia, with the participation of all the Ionian colonies in Asia Minor. Despite initial successes and burning the capital of the satrapy — Sardis — the rebels were finally defeated and lost their fleet at the Battle of Lade in 494 BCE. In retaliation, the Persians captured and destroyed Miletus, and some of its inhabitants were resettled far inland, to Ampe on the shores of the river Tigris. As a result, Miletus lost its dominant position among the cities of Ionia, and it has never regained its former importance and splendor.
Strabo recounts the story related to the conquest of Miletus by the Persians: "Phrynichus the tragic poet was fined a thousand drachmas by the Athenians because he wrote a play entitled The Capture of Miletus by Dareius." This short passage concerns the famous poet, Phrynichus, one of the earliest of the Greek tragedians, sometimes even regarded as the real founder of tragedy. Herodotus recalls the story of the memorable performance of 'The Capture of Miletus.' As Miletus was a colony of Athens, it was traditionally held especially dear to the mother city. The Athenian audience was moved to tears by Phrynichus' tragedy, the poet was fined "for reminding familiar misfortunes", and the play was banned from being performed ever again.
The city had been weakened, but it did not disappear from the pages of history. The most frequently repeated history of its reconstruction goes as follows: Miletus was rebuilt around 479 BCE, with the new grid plan, following the ideas of urban development described by Hippodamus, a native of Miletus. The city's regular layout became famous, serving as the basic plan for many cities of the region.
Surprisingly, the idea that Hippodamus was responsible for the new layout of his native city has recently been questioned by Alexander Herda. This researcher suggested that the new orthogonal street-insula grid-system of Miletus started to become established around the Northern Agora in the first half of 6th century BCE. Therefore, it could not be created by Hippodamus who lived in the 5th century BCE. If this theory is confirmed by further research it would mean the complete reassessment of Hippodamus' achievements. Possibly he merely popularised an existing city plan and exported the idea to other cities of the region. This situation would be totally in line with his reputation as a lover of attention, according to Aristotle's description in Politics: "Some people thought he carried things too far, indeed, with his long hair, expensive ornaments, and the same cheap warm clothing worn winter and summer."
Alexander Herda goes even further than just questioning the role of Hippodamus in the invention of the urban grid plan. The proposed solution is elegant and clever, and it involves another famous Milesian — the great mathematician and astronomer — Thales. During his lifetime, the mid-6th century BCE, Miletus was already replanned in the street-grid system, initially introduces in the new districts of the city. These were the areas to the south of the Lion Harbour, artificially dried by filling in a mixture of stone, earth, and artefacts. The older districts of the city held on to the traditional, irregular network of streets, and only the destruction of the city by the Persians in 494 BCE created the need for rebuilding them. Thales' role in the development of the grid plan seems only natural as he was known for the innovative use of geometry, and his understanding was not only theoretical but also practical. Where could he get the geometry to play a more practical role than in the planning of his home city?
In 387 BCE, the Greek city-states of Ionia, including Miletus, fell again into the hands of the Persians, following the terms of the Peace of Antalcidas. After the successes of Alexander the Great in Asia Minor and the victorious battle of the Granicus River in May 334 BCE, Miletus opposed the Macedonians, as the city sheltering many Persians who hid there from the Macedonian army. Residents of Miletus, fearing Alexander's attack, tried a diplomatic solution, offering to open their harbour for both the Persians and the Greeks. Alexander did not accept the proposal and sent his army to the city, which began to demolish the walls, making breakthroughs in two places. Miletus fell after just one day of fighting. The Persians hiding in the city watched the defeat of their allies but did not come to their aid. After taking the city, many defenders joined the ranks of the Macedonian army, as their fighting skills made a great impression on Alexander.
In the Hellenistic times, the city reached its greatest extent, occupying within its walls an area of approximately 90 hectares. It was known as one of the major commercial cities of Ionia and as a center of art. In these times, the city was controlled by numerous rulers, from the local dynasties that rose to prominence after Alexander's death.
After the conquest of Asia Minor by the Romans, Miletus retained its status of an independent city. In the 90-ties of the first century BCE, the city got into conflict with the cities of the lower Maeander plain, including Magnesia and Priene. The reason for the conflict was the right of sailing into the Meander mouth or the entrance of the whole Latmian Gulf. Both of these entry points were controlled by Miletus when Priene was cut off from the open sea by the ongoing siltation of the Meander delta. The situation was only resolver in favour of Priene and other cities when the Romans intervened.
Miletus was visited by Augustus in 19 BCE, and this event inspired the erection of the temple dedicated to the emperor, Apollo, and the people. Another imperial cult temple was built in Miletus during the reign of Caligula, but its location remains unknown. The comfort of the Milesians greatly improved when all the streets of their city were paved during the reign of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian.
Miletus appears in the New Testament as the meeting place of the Apostle Paul with the elders of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20: 15-38). During his second stay in Miletus, the Christian community already existed in this city.
In the early Byzantine era, Miletus became the seat of the archbishops. Numerous Byzantine-era buildings have been discovered in the area of the city, testifying to the prosperity of Miletus in this era. Among the most notable structures worth remembering are the Bishop's Palace, the numerous churches, and the chapels. In the 6th or the 7th century, the city got new fortifications. These walls included some ancient buildings, such as the Temple of Serapis and the monumental gateway to the South Agora. The significantly shorter circuit of these walls resulted from the constant threat of the Arab fleet raids. Encompassing the much smaller area, the new walls were easier to defend and required a smaller garrison.
However, in the invasion period, from the 7th to the 9th century CE, Miletus was apparently abandoned. The early Byzantine walls fell into ruin. The reasons for the collapse of the city are not clear, and, as Philipp Niewöhner explains, it could be the consequence of the Arab raids and the long process of ruralisation of Asia Minor. While the countryside continued to prosper, the urban center of Miletus was abandoned, its ruins were hidden by sedimentation, and its ancient name — forgotten.
The history of the Byzantine settlement of Miletus in the southern part of the site was studied very recently, from 2013 to 2015. The studies encompassed the area to the south of the ancient city centre and the Hellenistic and Roman walls. This area is today under cultivation and thus it is possible to study it by the means of geomagnetic prospection. The researchers discovered a regular grid-plan of the ancient period in this location, including a bath building, situated to the southeast of Miletus Museum. However, the housing district was only occupied until the first half of the 7th century CE. The last known building project in the southern city was a round church of St. Mary from the 6th century, situated very close to the ancient walls. Niewöhner suggested that this church stood out as a single building in a deserted quarter of the city, similar to the situation in Constantinople where the Theodosian walls included open spaces for gardens, monasteries, and cisterns.
The middle Byzantine period lasted from the 10th century until the arrival of the Turkish tribes. In this period, a small castle called Ta Palatia was built on a hill towering above the city in order to defend against the Turks. This new fortified settlement had no relation to ancient Miletus and only its name referred to the monumental ruins of the Graeco-Roman city below.
The Turks conquered Miletus in the 13th century CE, and used it as the main harbour and trading port for the Seljuk Emirate of Menteşe. The same function was also played by Miletus at the beginning of the Ottoman rule when it was called Balat from the distorted version of the Byzantine name Ta Palatia. The traces of the Turkish settlement have been preserved in the form of public buildings that are made of lasting lime mortar masonry, clustered around the Lion Harbour. There was also a Venetian trading colony in the town, with its own church dedicated to St. Nicolas and a chapel.
Soon, the harbour was completely silted up, and the city declined. Today, its ruins are situated about 7 km away from the seashore. The Turkish village was relocated to the south and called Yeni Balat after the great earthquake of 1955.
Thales was, most probably, the most famous Milesian. He was a philosopher and a mathematician and was considered to be one of the so-called Seven Sages of Greece. Seven Sages were prominent activists and reformers active in areas belonging to ancient Greece in the 7th and the 6th centuries BCE. Thales was recognized by Aristotle as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition. Strabo described Thales as "the first to begin the science of natural philosophy and mathematics among the Greeks." This conviction was also expressed by Bertrand Russell, who claimed that Western philosophy began with Thales.
The main achievement of Thales as a philosopher was his attempt to explain natural phenomena without recoursing to mythology. Nowadays the most famous legacy of Thales are his achievements as a mathematician. It is difficult to find a person who did not learn Thales’ Theorems at school. Thales applied his findings in geometry to solve practical problems, such as the determination of the height of the pyramids or the calculation of the distance of the ship from the shore.
There is a story that tells how Thales became rich from an olive harvest by prediction of the weather. Apparently, he bought all the olive presses in Miletus after predicting the weather and a good harvest for a particular year. Aristotle explains that Thales did not want to enrich himself but to prove to his fellow Milesians that philosophy could be useful. Alternatively, Thales went into olive oil business because of a personal challenge of a person who had asked him why, if Thales was a famous philosopher, he was still poor.
Thales also spared the Milesians much trouble when he advised them not to enter into an alliance with the Lydians. Thus, when the Lydian king Croesus was defeated by the Persians, Miletus was spared the destruction because it had taken no action in an ill-fated expedition of Croesus.
Thales' work was continued by his Milesian successors: Anaximander, who dealt with the origins of the universe, and his student, Anaximenes.
Another famous Milesian was Hecataeus — a historian and a geographer, also known from his opposition to the anti-Persian uprising of the Ionian cities. He was the author of two works: the historical book Genealogiai, in which he presented a critical review of Greek mythology, and the geographical book Ges Periodos, a sailing guide to the ports of the eastern Mediterranean.
Hippodamus, another Milesian, was a philosopher and an urban planner. He was the possible author and the namesake of the Hippodamian plan of city layout (grid plan). It was a system that helped to plan the layout of the city in a rational way. A city, built according to this system, was divided into districts by transport routes in the east-west and north-south directions, and streets intersecting at right angles, forming a grid. Many Greek cities, including Miletus, Priene, and Piraeus — the port of Athens, were built in accordance with this idea.
Isidore of Miletus was an architect, a physicist, and a mathematician. Together with Anthemius of Tralles, he designed the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
The first archaeological excavations in Miletus were conducted in 1873 by a French researcher, Olivier Rayet. His work was continued, in the years 1899-1931, by the Germans - Julius Hülsen and Theodor Wiegand. Successive seasons of excavations in 1938, and after World War II, were also led by the German teams. Currently, the works at Miletus are conducted under the leadership of the Ruhr University of Bochum.
The exhibits unearthed during the excavations in Miletus are scattered across numerous museums. One of the most interesting objects - the Market Gate - was transported in pieces to Germany and reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. In Turkey, the finds from Miletus are on display in the local museum in Miletus, but also in archaeological museums in Izmir and Istanbul.
Before taking a tour of Miletus, one should realize that in the ancient times this city was situated on a peninsula, extending far into the waters of the Latmian Gulf. The most important strategically harbor was the so-called Lions Bay, located in the northern part of the city. The isthmus leading to the bay was guarded by the statues of two lions. The isthmus was so narrow that it was possible to close it with a chain.
The ruins of Miletus cover an extensive area, but the lower areas are frequently flooded making the tour difficult or even impossible. Most of the visitors are happy to visit only a small section of the city, including the theatre and the Baths of Faustina that are situated close to the entrance. However, there is much more to see in Miletus and the visitors are encouraged to explore the ruins if the water level is low. Due to deforestation, overgrazing, erosion, and soil degradation the ruins of the city are hidden among a maquis shrubland and there aren't many trees to provide shelter from the sun. Thus, the former Miletus Peninsula can still be identified as its barren rocks are in stark contrast to the irrigated green lands of the Maeander floodplain below. Plan at least three hours for the extended tour, and bring your own supplies of drinking water. The descriptions of the ancient structures of Miletus presented below follow the suggested sightseeing route, starting at the theatre.
Understanding the layout of Miletus is difficult as one needs to remember about several issues. First of all, the site's topography has changed dramatically from the prehistoric times to the modern era. When the area was settled for the first time, in the Neolithic period, there were several islands of limestone there, surrounded by the Aegean Sea. About 1500 BCE these islands consolidated into a peninsula that was subsequently settled by the Greek colonists. The classical Graeco-Roman Miletus was situated on the narrow peninsula, almost completely surrounded by water. Since then the sea has risen by about 1.75 meters but the peninsula was surrounded by sediments from the Maeander river and is now land-locked.
The second issue that complicates the layout of Miletus is its long period of existence. Therefore, the visitors can see the mixture of Graeco-Roman architecture, with Byzantine and Turkish structures. While the Greek city was organised according to the grid plan, the Byzantine and Seljuk buildings were erected in the places dictated by other reasons, such as the safety and the gradual siltation of the terrain.
Theater and Fortress area
The largest and best-preserved monument of Miletus is the great theater that welcomes the travelers coming to see the ruins of the ancient city. Its origins were much more modest than the preserved building. In Hellenistic times, the theater was rebuilt four times, but it could accommodate only 3,500 spectators. The theatre was built in the 4th century BCE, and then enlarged in the Hellenistic period.
The Romans greatly extended the theater so that it could sit as many as 15 thousand people. The two-storey skene with a luxurious facade was erected of colourful marble. The orchestra was covered with red marble slabs and turned into an arena for gladiatorial fights. Therefore, to protect the spectators, the first tiers of seats were removed and a parapet was constructed.
The structure preserved to the present day is 140 meters wide and 30 meters high. There is no upper gallery, which in the past extended the theatre to the height of 40 meters. While strolling through the audience keep in mind that in antiquity the theater stood on the seafront and overlooked a beautiful panorama. The spectators could see the Theatre Harbour in front of them, and the West Agora across the water. The Theatre Harbour was probably the oldest of Miletos’ four harbours. It could be closed off with a chain in Geometric-Archaic times. Nowadays, the Theatre Harbour area is scattered with ancient architectural remains. There is also the building of the Seljuk-era caravanserai there, serving as a restaurant for the visitors.
The exploration of the theatre requires time, as the structure is huge and labyrinth-like, with covered passages and steep staircases. Many seats are still marked with the inscriptions informing where various groups of citizens were seated. For instance, the seat on the 5th row in the second section from the right bears the information that it was "the place of the Jews who are also God-worshipers". Other visible inscriptions include a Christian invocation of the archangels. There are also decorative reliefs, depicting erotes fighting animals and griffins.
The front seats were reserved for the most important officials, and the Roman emperors sat there when they visited the city. This section is marked with the columns that supported a baldachin stretched over the imperial section during the performances.
Under the facade of the theater, the archeologists have found the remains of the city walls from the Hellenistic Period. An archaic tower can still be identified, close to the eastern section of the façade. Actually, the Byzantine-era city walls ran directly over the stage but they were removed by the German archaeologists. Above the theater, there are walls from the Byzantine Castro Palation. The fragments of these walls have been preserved on the hillside. The archaeologists suspect that the fortress was erected on the remains of the phrourion — a military post, built by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes in 411 BCE.
The theatre was incorporated into the new city walls in the 7th century CE. Most of these Byzantine fortifications were dismantled during the excavations in the early 20th century, but the castle of the last refuge remains standing above the theatre's third tier of seats. It was a citadel of a new town of the hilltop that was built in the 11th century, in the time of the Turkish tribal invasions. This town had a gate flanked with towers, on the eastern slope of the hill, above the Mosque with Four Columns. The new town replaced the ancient settlement below that was being slowly buried under fluvial sediments. This settlement was called Ta Palatia because of the palatial appearance of those ancient ruins that were still visible above the ground.
From the top of the fortress, the area of the ancient Lion Harbour can be seen, in the eastern direction. During the tour of Miletus, it is possible to visit the harbour area if the water levels are low. Looking in the northern direction, the distant massif of Dilek, which in ancient times was known as Mykale, looms over the horizon. It's hard to imagine, but in the ancient times all the area between Miletus and the slopes of these mountains was covered with the waters of the Latmian Gulf. Today, it is just a flat grassland — the floodplain of the Meander River that was a part of the Karian Sea in ancient times. Turning to the south-west, one can glimpse the hill called Kalabak Tepe — one of the sites where the traces from the archaic period were discovered. The walls of ancient Miletus almost reached the slopes of this hill. Finally, eastwards, far away, the granite massif of the Latmos Mountains (modern Beşparmak Mountain) rises to over 1300 meters above sea level.
Descending from the top of the hill in the south-eastern direction, the visitors come across the ruined Mosque with Four Columns. This building consisted of a single room on the square plan, with the sides 15 meters long. The ruins were identified as a mosque because of the still recognizable mihrab niche in the southern wall. The name comes from four ancient columns, reused as the roof support. This early-Turkish building is located far away from other Turkish structures of the city, and it is possible that it served the garrison stationed in the citadel above. The simple design suggests an early construction date, possibly the 13th century. A minaret with a spiral staircase is a later addition.
The scant remains of a large building, situated just to the north-east of the mosque have been identified as a Hellenistic-era heroon — a cult place of a hero or an important personality. This building is called Heroon I for easier identification as three heroa have been discovered in the area of Miletus. The heroon on the eastern slope of the theatre was built of marble in the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE. The complex consisted of a spacious central courtyard — the actual heroon — and two series of rooms on its narrow sides. These rooms, some equipped with pipes, served as the spaces for funeral banquets. The burial structure stood in the courtyard, it had an ellipsoidal plan, and was built of large limestone slabs surrounding the vaulted chamber. The burial chamber could be accessed through a passageway, and there were five tombs inside. In the centre of the chamber, there was a pit covered with marble slabs, but its function is unknown.
Church of St. Michael area
Descending from the theatre hill along the path in the south-eastern direction, the visitors come across a complex of buildings consisting of early Christian and early Turkish structures.
On the right side of the path, there is a building of the Turkish baths, and on the left — the Mosque with Forty Steps. The mosque dates back to the 14th century. Its rectangular prayer room had the inner dimensions of 16 to 20 meters. The name of the mosque came from a high stepped platform at the southwest corner of the building. This platform played the role of a minaret — a common practice in the Seljuk Emirate of Menteşe.
The bath opposite the mosque was probably built in the same time, as a part of the religious pious foundation. It was erected on the plan of a cross, with the arms crossing in the domed hot-water section. The entrance was through the vestibule in the north, and three additional rooms on the east could possibly be the women's section.
Further to the north, there is a complex of Byzantine buildings, consisting of the Church of St. Michael and the bishop's palace. They were erected on the remains of the Dionysus Temple from the 3rd century BC. An inscription informs that at the beginning of the 7th century, the earlier Church of St. Michael was demolished and replaced with as a three-aisled basilica with a baptistery and galleries. The floor was covered with mosaics and tiles while the whole building was covered with a tile roof. Today, the three aisles of the basilica are still visible, separated by the rows of columns. The northern and western walls of the church stood on ashlar foundations that had previously been a part of the small Dionysus Temple. The bishop's palace, on the rectangular plan of 30 by 7 meters, stands to the north of the church.
Following extensive investigations carried out during the 1960s and 1970s, the Church of St. Michael was believed to have been the episcopal basilica, with a palatial residence for the bishop directly to the north. However, Philipp Niewöhner pointed out that the dimensions of the basilica — 27 by 13 meters — and its baptistery are very modest for this function. He suggested that this church played the role of a private oratory for the bishop. If this explanation is correct the location of the episcopal basilica of Miletus remains unknown. Moreover, only three basilicas of Byzantine Miletus have been discovered so far: the so-called Large Church and the Church of St. Michael, both in the city centre, and a huge basilica in the cemetery next to the Kalabaktepe — the probable acropolis of the ancient city — to the south.
Lion Harbour area
Moving in the north-eastern direction, the visitors can reach the Lion Harbour. It was Miletus' most prominent harbour during antiquity. Its outstanding signiﬁcance resulted from its strategic role as one of the closeable war harbours of ancient times. Strabo mentioned it in the following words: "The present city has four harbours, one of which is large enough for a fleet." The narrow bay of the harbour was sandwiched between the Theatre Hill and Humei Τepe Hill, and it penetrated deep into the northern part of the Miletus peninsula. The extremely narrow entrance to the harbour was closed off with a chain, creating a protected naval base. This harbour was also exceptionally deep — more than 20 meters and thus protected against early siltation.
Two stone lions guarded both sides of the entrance. These Hellenistic-era sculptures can still be seen in Miletus, however not in their original positions and they are partly buried in the ground. One of them (the eastern one) is in a very good shape, but the other one was found broken into pieces. The eastern lion is four meters long, over two meters high, and weighs around 23 tons. These impressive dimensions make the Milesian stone lions one of the largest Greek lion sculptures known to date. The eastern lion was re-excavated in the 90-ties of the 20th century. The studies of the sculpture revealed the inscription on its shoulders, stating that "For after I had given up raw meat in the mountains, I lie here now, a guard for the public harbour". The statue was subsequently buried for the protection, in the location next to the so-called Lion Gate, where it had been moved from the harbour during the Roman period.
It is worth remembering that the lion in antiquity was perceived as the holy animal of Apollo and these animals were often depicted on the coins minted in Miletus along with the laureate head of Apollo Didymeus. Other lion sculptures, from the Archaic and Classical periods, can be seen in the garden of the Museum in Miletus.
In the Roman era, two monuments were erected in the southwestern corner of the harbour: the Large and the Small Monument. The Large Harbour Monument is older, dating back to the 1st century BCE. The scholars, such as Alexander Herda, suppose that the monument must have celebrated a naval victory of the Milesian fleet. It is possible that the Large Monument was initially dedicated to Pompeius, the famous Roman general who cleared the Mediterranean waters of the pirates ravaging the cities of the Asia Minor coast around 63 BCE. Alternatively, it celebrated the Roman victory of Lemnos in 73 BCE when Lucius Licinius Lucullus defeated a Pontic fleet commanded by the Roman renegade Marcus Varius, early in the Third Mithridatic War. The fleet of Miletus was involved in both of these victories. It is even probable that the monument is older and it was erected after the Milesian naval victory around 100 BCE, when the local admiral Hegemon, son of a Philodemos, defeated the pirates. This theory is supported by the existence of his statue in the Delphinion "because of his virtue and goodwill." However, the original inscription has not been preserved. For certain, the structure was dedicated to Octavian Augustus, commemorating his victory in the naval battle of Actium in 31 BCE.
The appearance of the Large Harbour Monument is known thanks to the convincing reconstructions based on the recovered fragments. It stood in front of the west wing of the Harbour Stoa. The structure had four levels, reaching the height of approximately 18 metres. The decoration showed a monumental tripod standing on lions, a clear allusion to Apollo, the main deity of Miletus. It was also decorated in a low relief depicting Tritons and dolphins, ending in sculpted ship prows. Nowadays, it is possible to see the three-stepped base of the structure and the sculpted reliefs of the tritons.
The Small Harbour Monument was built later, most probably during the reign of the Flavian dynasty, and it was clearly modelled on the Large Monument. Its dimensions were more modest as it only reached the height of 5.4 meters. The structure was three-sided with a pyramidal roof, finished with a Corinthian capital. It stood on the south-west pier of the Harbour of Lions, in front of the west wing of the Harbour Stoa. Today, only a part of its base can be seen.
Just next to the monuments, there are the traces of a basilica-type building from the Roman period, identified as a synagogue by Armin von Gerkan, a renowned German classical archaeologist. He made this assumption on the basis between the architectural similarity of this building and the ancient synagogues found in Palestine. The building was erected in the 3rd or the 4th century CE, but if it really functioned as a synagogue is doubtful. Actually, one of its columns had an inscription where Helios Apollo commanded the erection of an altar to Poseidon.
The remaining two harbours of ancient Miletus were the Humei Tepe Harbour and the Eastern Harbour at the eastern fringe of the peninsula. As Alexander Herda suggests, one of these to harbours served as the emporion, i.e. the commercial market with a slave market. This author also mentions the existence of two additional smaller harbours — Athena and Kalabak Tepe, of only minor importance.
If the water level is low, it is possible to head straight from the Lion Harbour to the area of Humei Tepe Hill. The name of Humei Tepe Hill — the easternmost point of ancient Miletus — is often translated as the Typhoid Hill as the Turkish word humma means any kind of high-fever, including that associated with malaria and typhoid. This explanation can be related to the unhealthy humid climate of the Maeander plain. These unfavourable conditions prompted the first excavator of Miletus — Theodor Wiegand — to locate the excavation house at the remarkable distance from the ancient site: 5 kilometres away, on a high hill.
Surprisingly, the vast area of Humei Tepe has never been the subject of systematical archaeological investigation. Episodic excavations and geomagnetic prospections have been undertaken on the hillside within the last 60 years. However, even these meager studies allowed the determination of an urban settlement in the area. This zone includes a dense set of insulae (apartment buildings) as well as two baths, a harbour, and a sanctuary. The researchers determined that Humei Tepe was one of the densely built-up areas of Miletus, especially in Hellenistic and Roman periods. Only in the years 2014-2015, a survey was conducted by German archaeologists under Christof Berns management, bringing to light a vast amount of diverse finds including pottery and architectural ceramics.
The Roman baths at Humei Tepe occupy just a single block, and it makes them one of the smallest baths of ancient Miletus. Their clientele could be the residents of the nearby neighbourhood or the seamen and merchants from the Lion Harbour. On the basis of marble decorations, the archaeologists decided that the building was erected between the middle of the 1st and the 2nd century CE. The bath complex has a symmetrical plan, with a vestibule opening into a peristyle court that also served as a palaestra. Small rooms surrounded this court, opening into the adjacent streets so they were most possibly occupied by some shops.
The main building of the baths was located in the northern section of the complex. It consisted of the changing rooms and the cold-water bathing hall, the warm and the hot room. It was entered through a vestibule on the northern side of the palaestra. The boiler rooms with the hypocaust system occupied the corridor on the northern side. Today, the best-preserved parts of the building are the warm room and the changing rooms. The ruined Seljuk-era caravanserai stands to the west of the Humei Tepe baths.
The northernmost tip of Humei Tepe was occupied by the Temple of Demeter. The existence of this sanctuary was confirmed in the early 1980s, during the excavations conducted by Wolfgang Müller-Wiener. The story related to this sanctuary was told by Parthenius of Nicaea, the Greek poet active in the 1st century BCE. In his only surviving work, the Erotica Pathemata (Love Romances) he describes the fate of Herippe — a woman from Miletus, the wife of Xanthus: "During the invasion of Ionia by the Gauls [around 275 BCE] and the devastation by them of the Ionian cities, it happened that on one occasion at Miletus, the feast of the Thesmophoria was taking place, and the women of the city were congregated in temple a little way outside the town. At that time a part of the barbarian army had become separated from the main body and had entered the territory of Miletus; and there, by a sudden raid, it carried off the women."
The subsequent events are even more shocking. As Parthenius explains, Xanthus, who deeply missed his wife, turned his possessions into gold and travelled to the Gauls to ransom Herippe. He was received in a most hospitable manner and got the promise that his wife would be released. However, when Herippe heard about the gold, she told about it to the Gaul who had abducted her, because she preferred to stay with him. She even suggested killing Xanthus. The Gaul was disgusted by the idea and killed Herippe instead of a sacrificial animal. After hearing the explanation, Xanthus was let go and went back home taking back all his gold.
The celebration mentioned by Parthenius — the Thesmophoria — was an ancient Greek religious festival, in honour of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. It was held annually, around the time that seeds were sown in late autumn. The festival was one of the most widely celebrated in the Greek world but it was restricted to adult women, and its rites were kept secret.
The second baths of Humei Tepe, in a much worse state of preservation, are situated on the eastern side of the hill, over the Humei Tepe harbour. In the same area the stretches of city walls can be seen.
The sightseeing route takes visitors to the south. On the way to the heart of ancient Miletus, it is possible to see two ruined buildings from the Seljuk period: a kiosk and a small mosque. The mosque was built on the ancient street. Its plain prayer hall on the rectangular plan has a mihrab niche flanked with pilasters. The kiosk could have been the residence of the emir or his governor. This building is distinguished by high panoramic windows finished with pointed arches, providing the sunlight for the western chamber. Its dome, now collapsed, was supported by decorative pendentives of brick, decorated with the muqarnas pattern. The second room had plain windows and sparse decoration, but its dome was higher.
North Agora area
The centre of Miletus was located just to the south of the Lion Harbour. The travellers who arrived by ships to this harbour were greeted by a long L-shaped Doric stoa. It was built on the waterfront in the Hellenistic period and accommodated shops and warehouses. The stoa led to the North Agora, the main agora of Miletus, through the monumental gate built in the 1st century CE in the southeastern corner of the Lion Harbour. Unfortunately, only the foundations of this splendid construction have been preserved to our times.
The North Agora developed after the Persian wars but it acted as an assembling place for the Milesians since at least Archaic times. It was the oldest of the three agoras of Miletus. Initially, it was just an open square but in time it underwent a complex architectural evolution. As the consequence, the once plain square was divided into several zones with different functions. The official buildings erected around the agora reflected these functions. Leading from the North Agora there were entrances to the Hellenistic Gymnasium from the 2nd century BCE, the Capito Baths of the 1st century CE, the Nymphaeum from the same period, the Great Church from the 5th century CE, the Monumental Gate to the South Agora, and the City Council Chamber (Bouleuterion) from the 2nd century BCE.
The creation of the new North Agora of Miletus in the 6th century BCE has been linked to an episode related by the ancient author Plutarch in his "Life of Solon": "They say that he [Thales] gave directions for his burial in an obscure and neglected quarter of the city's territory, predicting that it would one day be the market-place of Miletus". Therefore, it can be assumed that the grave of the most famous Milesian lies somewhere below the North Agora of the city.
The most important religious sanctuary of Miletus, devoted to Apollo Delphinius and thus called the Delphinium, was standing in the northeastern corner of the North Agora. It was excavated at the beginning of the 20th century. The Delphinium formed the religious and political nucleus of Miletus. Apollo Delphinius ("Apollo of the womb") was regarded as the protector of ports and ships and it made him a natural candidate for the chief deity of Miletus, the city of many harbours. Moreover, as the cult of Apollo Delphinius originated in Crete, it is assumed that a sanctuary of this god existed at Miletus from the period of the earliest settlers who arrived there from this island. Apollo Delphinius was the combination of the late Bronze Age god Delphinios with the Greek Doric god Apollo. However, it is worth noting that the Greek origins of Apollo have long been questioned, and his western Asia Minor identity is more and more frequently accepted, possibly as the Trojan god Appaliunaš. Moreover, god Delphinios might not have originated in Crete, but also from Asia Minor — as the Hittite god Telipinu.
The ruins of the Delphinium in Miletus still make a great impression. They consist of a rectangular temenos — the sacred quarter, with the altar in the centre. The temenos was bordered by two-aisled stoas at the north, east, and south. The sanctuary dates back to as early as the 5th century BCE. It is possible to see a rectangular altar with volute acroteria, and several other round marble altars. The inscriptions found on the walls of the temple inform us the place also served as the city archive. Moreover, the Prytaneion — the political nucleus of the city — is supposed to have been located within the Delphinium. Apollo Delphinius cult association — called the Molpoi — held extensive power, controlling the access to the city's citizenship and forming the governing body of Miletus.
The sanctuary was rebuilt and modified several times, for instance in the 2nd century CE, a circular shrine with a pyramidal roof was constructed in the temenos, and the porticoes were changed to single-aisled colonnades with Corinthian capitals. A propylon was added also on the west side.
The annual spring procession from the Delphinion to the Didymaion (the Temple of Apollo in Didyma) started here, following the trail of the Sacred Road that had its beginning between the Delphinium and the North Agora. In the Roman period, this stone-paved 30-meters wide street was lined by colonnaded halls on high staircases, acting as viewing platforms for the people watching the festivities.
The temenos of Apollo Delphinius was bordered from the southern side by the Baths of Capito building. The inscription found in the Ionic Stoa that functioned as the vestibule to the baths informs that they were sponsored by the delegate of Egypt and Asia to the emperor. The identification of the person responsible for the construction was possible because of another inscription, from Didyma. Thus, the commissioner of the baths was Gnaeus Vergilius Capito, the Commissioner of Asia Minor during the reign of Emperor Claudius, i.e between 41 and 54 CE.
The baths consist of a peristyle court to the west — the so-called palaestra — and the bathing complex to the east. The bath rooms progress from cold to hot, with the hottest room called caldarium at the end of the row. There is a swimming pool in the courtyard and a circular domed hall on the southern part that functioned as a sweat room. The whole complex measured approximately 96 by 40 metres.
The Hellenistic gymnasium, erected in the 2nd century BCE, stood just to the south of the Baths of Capito. Its founder was the prominent Milesian called Eudemus. It was accessed via a monumental gate, i.e. the propylon. The facilities of the gymnasium were located around the central palaestra which was surrounded by the Doric colonnade. The main building, located to the north of the palaestra, included a row of five rooms: the ephebeion — study room for the adolescents — was the central of them, and on the sides, there were the apodyteria, the anointing room, and the bath. The symmetrical gymnasium building was a model for the construction of the Baths of Capito.
The function of the building called the Hellenistic gymnasium has recently been questioned by Alexander Herda who suggested that the building severed as a combined Pompeion, prytaneion, and Molpon — the seat of the collegium of the Molpoi, the Milesian board of religious singers. However, this theory has been questioned by other researchers who pointed out the lack of material evidence, such as the altar of Hestia, cultic structures, or banquet rooms. Thus, the identity of the so-called Hellenistic gymnasium remains uncertain.
Apart from the Greek and Roman structures, there are also some traces of the much later, Turkish buildings in the North Agora. The most notable one is the bath that was erected over the northern end of the Ionic Stoa, possibly in the 15th century CE, after the Ottomans gained control of the area. The entrance was from the west, through a vestibule overlooking the Sacred Road. This vestibule looks like a terrace today, but it was originally a walled room with a flat roof supported on three pillars. The hot section is better preserved and it follows a similar layout as the bath next to the Mosque with Forty Steps. There is also a central room which was heated thanks to the hypocaust system.
Between the Sacred Way in the west and the gymnasium and the Capito Baths in the east, the monumental Ionic Stoa was built in the middle of the 1st century CE, during the reign of Emperor Claudius. It housed shops opening onto the street and measured approximately 100 by 14 metres. The Ionic colonnade of 35 columns that stood on a high podium of seven steps and supported an entablature with a richly decorated frieze. The structure was built during the reign of the Flavian dynasty, and modified in the times of Emperor Trajan.
The next building situated along the eastern side of the North Agora was the great nymphaeum, i.e. a monumental fountain, one of the most impressive structures of its kind in Asia Minor. Originally it had three levels with rich architectural ornamentation. Its façade was designed after a theatre's scaenae frons (the elaborately decorated architectural background of a stage) and consisted of Corinthian columns and niches where numerous statues were displayed. The very similar solution of the columnar façade can be seen in the Library of Celsus in Ephesus.
The nymphaeum was erected on the U-shaped plan, with projecting side wings that were two-storeyed. The building was more than 20 meters wide and had not one but two water basins. The statues adorning the lower floor, placed in nine niches, had a functional character, because they spouted water to the large collective basin below. Another, smaller basin was in front of it, and people drew water from it.
The statues were arranged in a specific way. At the lowest level, there were the seated figures and the figures related to water by theme — these were the water-spouting figures. They included Poseidon and nymphs. At the second level, there were statues of the Olympian gods as well as gods of the mythical heroes, including Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Heracles, and the Muses. The highest level was added later, during the reign in Emperor Gordianus III, i.e. the mid-3rd century CE. Most probably, it displayed the statues of the imperial family, the families of the donors, and the mythical heroes of Miletus. Two naked male statues, preserved only in small fragments, were most probably the portraits of two patrons of the nymphaeum, Ulpius Traianus, the father of Emperor Trajan and the proconsul L. Egnatius Victor Lollianus, who lived in the period when the fountain was expanded. Most of these statues remain in Miletus, but some were taken to Istanbul and Berlin.
The last significant structure situated along the eastern side of the North Agora, was the so-called Great Church. Its plan is of an apsidal basilica with the main nave flanked by two aisles and preceded by a square atrium. There is a round building next to the apse and it is believed to have been a martyrium. The baptisterium was located in the square-plan building to the north of the atrium. The entrance to the church was via the propylon with four columns that belonged to the earlier, Roman architectural complex from the 3rd century CE.
There is a controversy concerning the date of the church's construction. Ekrem Akurgal thought that the church was earlier than the city walls erected in the times of Emperor Justinian and suggested the 5th century CE. However, Philipp Niewöhner proposed that the church was constructed during the second half of the 6th century CE. Moreover, Akurgal called the building the Diocesan Church of Miletus because of the existence of the baptistery, discovered in the early 20th century. Again, it is not necessarily true, as numerous examples of baptisteries in parish churches found elsewhere demonstrate that they are not indicative of episcopal seats. Thus, at the moment, the scholars do not have sufficient material for or against the theory that this church was the main one of Miletus.
To the south of the North Agora stood one of the most important of the city's civic buildings — the bouleuterion, i.e. the Council House. It consisted of a monumental propylon with three doorways, a colonnaded courtyard 32 by 35 meters, and a roofed auditorium. The courtyard had Doric colonnades of three sides and an altar in the centre, from the Roman era, for the Imperial worship of Augustus.
There were four doors that led from the court to the auditorium that served as the assembly hall. It was equipped with 18 rows of seats, with two staircases dividing it into three parts. The roof was made of wood and it was supported by four columns of the Ionic order. The walls of the hall were covered with marble slabs and there were windows to let in the sunlight. There are various estimates concerning the capacity of the hall, suggesting that it could seat from 800 to 1500 people. The Council House was by Timarchus and Heracleides, two brothers from Miletus, as is testified by an inscription carved on the architrave of the entrance. The construction date of the building — between 175 and 164 BCE — is also based on this inscription that associated the erection with the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruler of Syria. The scant remains of a building between the bouleuterion and the North Agora have been associated with the Temple of Asclepios and the sanctuary of the Imperial Cult.
South Agora area
The second agora of Miletus was situated to the south of the North Agora, and it has been called South Agora by the scholars. The monumental front of the Market Gate marked the entrance into it from the North Agora. The gate was built in the 2nd century CE, possibly during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. It replaced a previous, more modest Doric propylon. The gate was built of marble, and it was about 30 meters wide, 16 meters high, and 5 meters deep. It was a two-storied structure with three doorways and numerous projections and niches. While it was still in Miletus, the niches on the second level featured statues of emperors, fighting against barbarians.
The gate was first restored in the 3rd century after it was damaged by an earthquake. In the 7th century CE, the gate was incorporated into the Byzantine city walls. The central passage was transformed into a gate, the eastern opening was blocked, and the western arch was changed into the entrance of a flanking tower. The Market Gate finally collapsed in the 10th or 11th century, after another earthquake.
The Market Gate was excavated in 1903 by Theodor Wiegand and its fragments were transported to Berlin where Emperor Wilhelm II was so impressed with Wiegand's discovery that he ordered the reconstruction of the gate at full scale in the Pergamon Museum. In the 1920s, the gate was subsequently reassembled from 750 tons of architectural fragments. However, many fragments were missing so modern fill materials were used to replace them, including steel and mortar. This practise was widely criticised, shortly after the completion of the reconstruction. The gate was seriously damaged from aerial bombardment during World War II. It was extensively restored from 1952 to 1954. The next major restoration work was carried out in the first decade of the 2000s, because the gate had deteriorated from a combination of indoor atmospheric effects and incompatible building materials.
The South Agora dates back to the 3rd century BCE, to the times of Antiochus I. When it was constructed many buildings of the Classical period of the city were demolished to provide public space that accommodated political, economic, religious, and social events of the city. The South Agora had a rectangular plan with the sides 127 and 161 metres long. These impressive dimensions make it one of the largest agoras of ancient Greek cities excavated so far.
The South Agora was surrounded with colonnades and shops and it could be entered from the western, southern, and northern sides. The colonnades were of the Doric order and they all belong to the same construction phase. The east stoa had 39 pairs of shops, and they were arranged in such a way that a half of them could be accessed from the east, and a half — from the west. The shops of other stoas were organised more haphazardly.
There was also an enormous storage building, stretching along the entire length of the western side of the agora. It was erected in the 2nd century BCE and its purpose was to store merchandise and wheat. The shape of the building underwent some evolution in time. Initially, it stretched from the council house to the Serapeion. It was remarkably long and narrow as it measured 163 to 13.50 meters. The warehouse was divided into two long sections by forty-two marble pillars placed along its axis.
The long sides of the building had no windows and its short sides were decorated with a mixture of Doric and Ionic elements. Unfortunately, there is no archaeological evidence of how the interior looked like but the scholars suppose that there were two levels with numerous small rooms separated with wooden walls. At a later building phase, the north part of the warehouse was reduced in size to 105 meters, making place for a road. In the Roman period, a public latrine was built between the warehouse and the South Agora.
The Serapeion — the Temple of Serapis — stood to the south of the warehouse of the South Agora. Zeus-Serapis was is a Graeco-Egyptian deity whose cult introduced during the third century BCE on the orders of Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter. The cult of Serapis was spread as a matter of deliberate policy by the Ptolemaic kings and it continued to be popular during the times of the Roman Empire. The Serapeion of Miletus was a building of the basilica type from the 3rd century CE, with the main nave flanked by two aisles separated with two rows of Ionic columns. A four-columned marble portico stood in front of it — a gift from the wealthy Milesian Julius Aurelius Menekles. The temple was orientated along the north-south axis, with the entrance on the southern side. It was separated from the Faustina Baths by the Justinian-period city walls.
İlyas Bey Mosque area
To the south of the South Agora area, the visitors come across İlyas Bey Mosque, erected in 1404, during the transition period between the reign of the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks over these areas. The mosque was funded by the Menteşe emir İlyas Bey, in gratitude for the safe return of his wife who had been captured by Tamerlane. The mosque was a part of a larger complex of buildings such as a madrasa and double baths. There was also a fountain between the madrasa and the baths. The area around these structures was used as a cemetery. While the baths, madrasa, and fountain have survived only partially til the present day, the mosque has kept its structural integrity.
The mosque was built on a square plan with sides about 18 meters long and covered with a dome. It is characterized by beautiful ornaments carved in marble. Especially noteworthy is the mihrab, window frames, and the marble floor, lined with multi-coloured stones. The building was granted the Europa Nostra award as an important part of the cultural heritage of Turkey. After a long restoration period that started in October 2007, both the mosque and the cells of the surrounding madrasa have been made available for tourists.
Right at the entrance to the excavations at Miletus, opposite the theater, stands a 14th-century caravanserai, also known as İlyas Bey Caravanserai. On the ground floor, there were once stables and on the first floor — rooms for travelers. Currently, there is a restaurant in the caravanserai, offering several types of kebabs, köfte, gözleme, and ayran.
Roman Heroon III and Faustina Baths area
The Roman era heroon is situated to the north of the Faustina Baths, between the theatre and fortress complex and the buildings of the Lion Harbour area. So-called Heroon III is the biggest urban mausoleum of Miletus. Its central location within the city and the elaborate design suggest the importance of the buried person. Like in the case of the previously discussed Hellenistic heroon, also this structure consisted of a rectangular courtyard surrounded by the colonnades. In the yard, there was a barrel-vaulted grave chamber on the square plan. On the basis of the ornamentation and archaeological finds, this heroon was dated to the beginning of the 3rd century CE.
Faustina Baths building is one of the best-preserved structures of ancient Miletus. The inscriptions, discovered during the excavations, inform that these baths were built in honour of Faustina the Younger, the wife of Marcus Aurelius who contributed financially in the rebuilding programme of the city after 178 CE earthquake. The complex was later rebuilt, most possibly in the 3rd century CE. In late antiquity, the building served as part of the city fortifications.
Interestingly, the structure does not fit into the grid plan of the city because of the shape of the terrain where the building was erected as it was a former riverbed. Also, the arrangement of the particular sections of the baths is asymmetrical, for the same reason.
On the western side on the baths, there was a palaestra, with the sides 77 and 79 meters long, surrounded with the colonnades of the Corinthian order. This square constituted the main area of physical exercises.
Three entrances led from the palaestra into the apodyterium (from Ancient Greek word for the undressing room). It consisted of a large changing room with cubicles and shelves where the visitors stored their clothing and other belongings. The slaves, privately owned slaves or hired at the baths, looked after these objects while the customers enjoyed the pleasures of the baths. The apodyterium of these baths had a form of a very long (80 meters) basilical hall with 13 rooms on the long sides, equipped with beds for the visitors.
In the Baths of Faustina, the northern section of the dressing-room was decorated with the statues of the Muses and Apollo, now located at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. This square apsidal hall with elaborate architectural and decoration served as the place of the imperial cult.
The bathing block was organised on the eastern part of the complex. It consisted of eight rectangular vaulted halls, forming an irregular maze. The rooms were equipped with pools and marble floors.
From the changing room, the visitors moved on to the three-roomed frigidarium — the cold water section of the baths. There they could enjoy a large swimming pool decorated with statues of the god of the river god, most probably the personification of the Maeander River, and a lion. These statues played not only the decorative role but were also fountains. The copies of these statues can be seen in the original positions, while the originals are in the Miletus Museum.
From the cold room, the guests proceeded into the caldarium i.e., the hot section that consisted of two halls with apses, located in the south-eastern part of the complex. These rooms were heated with hot air flowing through the channels in the floor and the pipes in the walls of the building. The heating system of the baths was situated at the eastern and northern parts of the complex. Because of the great heat of the room, the caldarium was only slightly ornamented. The architectural elements that can be seen on the ground today, are from the upper sections of the wall that has collapsed.
Next, the bathers moved on the sudatorium — a vaulted sweating-room. To obtain the great heat required there, the whole wall was lined with vertical terracotta flue pipes, placed side by side, through which hot air passed to an exit in the roof.
The next room was the tepidarium — the lukewarm section. The guests could gradually cool down there before going back to the cold section or finishing the visit by returning to the changing room.
The visit to the Faustina Baths area is usually the final part of the visit to Miletus. However, a significant section of the ancient city was situated on the other, western part of the access road.
The stadium of Miletus was situated on the south side of the Theatre Harbour, and its erection was financed by King Eumenes II of Pergamon who reigned from 197 to 160/159 BCE. This sponsorship is indicated by an inscription from the propylon of the adjacent gymnasium, erected west of the stadium in the same period. The stadium's alignment is parallel to the bouleuterion and at the right angles to the South and North agoras. It is a Hellenistic structure and, as such, it differs from the Roman stadiums because its ends were not rounded but finished in two opposing wings. The unearthed parts of the stadium revealed the excellent wall-building technique of cut stones. The stadium was rebuilt by the Romans and its eastern gate had a form of a monumental propylon. The length of the stadium was 191 meters, and it could accommodate 15,000 spectators on twenty rows of seats, divided into twelve tiers. The size of the audiences of the theater and the stadium, give an idea of the power and grandeur of ancient Miletus.
The Gymnasium of Eumenes II — the most ancient of Miletus gymnasiums — was situated between the stadium in the east and the West Agora. Similarly as the stadium is was also sponsored by Eumenes II of Pergamon who offered 160 thousand medimnoi of wheat — the equivalent of 7000 tons. According to another inscription, the Milesians were to invest the annual interest from the wheat sale for the construction of the gymnasium. The stadium and gymnasium complex was a part of a unified building project, serving athletic and religious needs of the city's inhabitants.
The late Byzantine chapel of Hagia Paraskevi was erected to the northeast of the stadium. The chapel incorporates an older building with a lower floor level. A closer examination of the remaining walls of the chapel reveals that ancient corner-stones and marble slabs were used in its construction. Philipp Niewöhner analysed the architecture of the chapel to establish the date of its erection. He suggested the late medieval or early modern period for the building, possibly after the Turkish conquest when the Greek population of Miletus was expelled from the fortified castle hill but stayed in the area for many centuries. The Christian quarter of the city may have developed around Hagia Paraskevi and the chapel's simple architecture and modest dimensions hint at the diminished situation of the Orthodox inhabitants of the city after the Turkish conquest.
In the Turkish era, the building was used as a barn, until the earthquake of 1955 forced the inhabitants of the village to move to a new location. The chapel's existence was documented by a photograph taken in 1899 but not much research has been devoted to this building since then. In 1978 it was documented with cursory notes and some photographs, but since then the state of the chapel has deteriorated as its roof and two walls have collapsed.
The West Agora was built in the 2nd century BCE, on the southern side of the Theatre Harbour. It was the latest of the city's three agoras, occupying the area not used for the housing. Actually, in the 2nd century BCE, the southern side of the Theatre Harbour served only as the public space. The West Agora had the dimensions of 191 by 79 meters. It was a grand open space, surrounded by Ionic stoas on three sides. It was accessed through a monumental gateway, also of the Ionic order.
The Temple of Athena stood to the south of the West Agora. Goddess Athena was worshipped in the coastal cities of Asia Minor from the Geometric period onwards. The temple was erected in the first half of the 5th century BCE, replacing a smaller temple of the archaic period, i.e from the 7th century BCE. The spatial arrangement of the new temple was modified to conform to the grid plan of the city. It stood on an artificial platform and had strong foundations. The building measured 18 by 30 meters and consisted of a pronaos and a cella. It was surrounded by the Ionic colonnade with ten columns on each longer sides, six columns on the southern side — at the front, and seven columns on the northern one — in the rear of the temple.
In the late Hellenistic period, a peristyle house was built next to the temple and in the Roman period the additions made to this house encroached into the temple area. The construction of the West Agora in the Hellenistic times, to the north of the temple, further limited the sacred district of Athena. The Roman times saw the construction of small shops and workshops to the east of the temple. Moreover, two vaulted rooms were erected and directly over the eastern part of the temple building. Only the strong foundations of the temple, made of slabs of gneiss from the mountain range of Latmos, has been preserved to our times.
Carl Weickert conducted the excavations in the neighbourhood of the Temple of Athena in 1938 and 1955-1957. He unearthed the fragments of city walls and houses from the Mycenaean period, around 1400 BCE. Moreover, below this layer, he found the traces of even earlier habitation, from the Minoan times, i.e. around 1600 BCE. Finally, the excavations in this area of Miletus revealed the earliest traces of the Greek settlement, dating back to the period from 900 to 700 BCE, and characterised by protogeometric and geometric ceramics.
On the opposite, northern side of the West Agora, stood another heroon, from the Hellenistic period, now called Heroon II. It was erected at the highest point of the peninsula, towering over the waters of the Theatre Harbour. It had a burial chamber accessed via a staircase. In the Roman times, the monument was adapted to serve as a small temple.
The traces of the city walls that once protected Miletus can be seen in many locations of this ancient city. Miletus obtained the first fortifications as early as the Late Helladic period, i.e. from the 14th to the 11th century BCE. The fragments of these oldest walls were discovered to the south of the Athena Temple. This section was 75 meters long and it was equipped with four bastions. The walls were made of bricks with stone foundations and they were four meters thick.
In the Archaic times (from the 7th to the 6th century BCE) the whole peninsula where Miletus was located and the Kalabaktepe to the south-west were surrounded by the walls reinforced with numerous towers. These walls were erected in two distinct phases: the older one with the polygonal masonry technique, and the later one with rectangular stones. The traces of these walls can be seen at the southern tip of the Theatre Hill and in the Theatre Harbour area.
The walls were rebuilt in the Classical Period, for the first time after the Persian wars in 479 BCE, and for the second time in 334 BCE, following the conquest of the city by the Macedonian army of Alexander the Great. The first phase of these walls is now represented by the Sacred Gate. It was the gate in the southern section of the walls and it marked the beginning of the Sacred Road that connected the city with the sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma. The Sacred Gate was rebuilt many times, with the oldest fragments being from the Archaic period.
The Hellenistic fortifications of Miletus were discovered in the Theatre Harbour and under the theatre. They were erected of limestone slabs and marble. The south-eastern gate of these walls was called the Lion Gate from the moment when Emperor Trajan rebuilt the streets of the city and relocated the statue of the lion to this location
Later additions and modifications of the walls included the southern cross wall from the 1st century BCE. It was built to protect Miletus against the raids of King Mithridates VI of Pontus. Other modifications of the fortification system were made in the 3rd century and the 6th century CE.
Kalabaktepe, Değirmentepe, and Zeytintepe
To the south-west of the ancient Miletus stands the hill called Kalabaktepe. There is not much to be seen there today, but the archaeologists have found many fascinating traces of the past there. One of them is the sanctuary of Artemis Chitone — one of the oldest sanctuaries of Miletus. This goddess was described by Callimachus, a Greek scholar and poet, in the following words: "Lady of many shrines, of many cities, hail! Goddess of the Tunic [Chitone, by-name of Artemis as a huntress, wearing a sleeveless tunic (chitôn) reaching to the knees], sojourner in Miletus; for thee did Neleus [son of Codrus, founder of Miletus] make his Guide, when he put off with his ships from the land of Cecrops."
The sanctuary of Artemis Chitone was discovered on the eastern slope of Kalabaktepe. The archaeologists from the Austrian Archaeological Institute discovered the sacred district in 1995, on the basis of two inscriptions found in this location. Their finds mark a period from the 8th to the mid-5th century BCE. The first sanctuary, from the late Geometric period, consisted of a building with two rooms and amazingly it still has a part of the wall preserved to its original height. In the 7th century, the district of Artemis was extended and a century later a temple was erected. The sanctuary was destroyed and desecrated as the form of punishment meted by the Persians to Miletus as the ringleader of the Ionian revolt. Later, a residential district was built on its top. According to the archaeologists, the people who returned to Miletus after the Persian revenge, originally settled in the highest and thus safest location — on Kalabaktepe. However, after the new district developed next to the Lion Harbour, the Kalabaktepe settlement was permanently abandoned.
Actually, it may be hard to believe, judging by the scant archaeological traces in the Kalabaktepe area, that in the Archaic times it was the heart of Miletus, the acropolis of the city. The hill stood in an excellent defensible location and overlooked the lower town situated on the peninsula. The modifications of the Kalabaktepe Hill by its inhabitants are evidenced by its flat top and eastern terrace — artificially made in this period. Only the destruction by the Persians hinted the relocation of the city centre to the region to the south of the Lion Harbour, where the most important buildings of the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods can be seen.
Today, three hills — Zeytintepe, Değirmentepe, and Kalabaktepe — flank the southern bank of the Meander River. However, in the ancient times, the landscape was completely different, and the river delta was a gulf of the Aegean Sea. The narrow piece of land, between the hills and the seashore, served as the necropolis of Miletus, next to the road that connected the city with the sanctuary of Oikus. There are still chamber graves, sarcophagi, and barrel vaulted tombs in the necropolis area. The geomagnetic survey, conducted in the necropolis area in 2002, revealed the existence of a large, multi-aisled church. The archaeologists reconstructed its appearance as an early Byzantine basilica, around 40 meters in length. It was erected on the Roman-period tombs in the beginning of the 6th century CE. This dating means that is the oldest of the known Christian basilicas of Miletus.
Several Archaic houses of the 6th century BCE were found on the southern slope of Kalabaktepe. These houses were erected of mudbricks, they had flat roofs and open courtyards. Moreover, there is also evidence of industrial activity in Kalabaktepe area, including kilns for ceramic production.
Değirmentepe, located 1.5 kilometers to the south-east of Miletus, was the site of the Late Bronze Age necropolis. Zeytintepe is a low hill to the north of Değirmentepe. It was the location of an Archaic temple of Aphrodite Oikos. This sanctuary was excavated from 1990 to 2008 and it has been dated to the first half of the 7th century BCE. The temple was destroyed by the Persians sharing the fate of the Artemis Sanctuary on Kalabaktepe.
The ruins of Miletus are open to visitors daily, in summer (April — October) from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm and in winter (November — March) from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. The area is not fenced, but in the evening, after the guards go home, the entrance is watched over by large and not very friendly dogs that make sure that the visitors depart from Miletus quickly and efficiently.
The ticket to Miletus costs 12 TL. Parking at the ruins of Miletus is free of charge.
By public transport: there are several buses daily, connecting Miletus with Didym and Söke, but their schedules change frequently so check them before the trip. Alternatively, you can buy an organized trip, known as PMD or Priene-Miletus-Didyma, during which you will be able to visit all three places in just one day.
By car: from the main road of the region, i.e. İzmir-Aydın highway, take an exit at Germencik and go in the direction of Söke. There are two access roads from Söke to Miletus. The shorter but slower one goes through Güllübahçe (with the ruins of Priene) and Atburgazı, through the lovely area of Büyük Menderes River delta. The distance from Söke is 38 kilometers. Slightly longer (41 km), but faster route from Söke to Miletus leads through Sarıkemer, and in Akköy it connects with the route through Güllübahçe.
If you choose Söke as a starting point, it is possible to make a loop using the above routes and visit Priene, Miletus, and Didyma during one tour.
From the east (from Milas) the road to Miletus leads around Lake Bafa, and the distance is 74 km.