Situated at the mouth of the Meander in the south of the province of
Western Anatolia, the ancient city of Miletus was the oldest and the most powerful of the
twelve Ionian cities in Asia Minor. It also founded over ten colonies on the shores of the
Marmara and the Black Sea, while its commercial activities extended as far as Egypt. Its
schools made a very great contribution to the intellectual and scholarly development of
the Mediterranean world and one cannot talk of Miletus without mention of the great
contributions to geometry and science made by Thales, one of the greatest scholars
produced by the city.
Miletus is also renowned as the first city to
which the principles of modern town-planning were applied. The gridplan introduced by
Hippodamos was later to form the basis of town-planning in all Roman cities. As a result
of the silting caused by the alluvium washed down by the Meander the city now lies at a
distance of several kilometres from the sea. The fact that Miletus formerly possessed four
separate harbours well indicates the important role played by the Meander in the history
of the city.
The Miletus alphabet was accepted as the normal
script employed in writing ancient Greek. The following are a few of the philosophical
views put forward by Milesian philosophers:
healthy and well-educated man is a happy man."
- Beauty arises not from a beautiful body but from
- "Expect the same behaviour from your children
as you showed your own parents."
Thales of Miletus
- "The skilful man is superior to the strong
- "Don't come to a conclusion before listening
to both sides."
- "A small spark is enough to burn down a whole
- "Lend the fallen a helping hand."
Phocylides of Miletus
HISTORY OF MILETUS:
The origins and earliest history of Miletus are
still a subject of controversy. The name "Milawanda" that occurs in Hittite
texts may well refer to Miletus. The excavations undertaken so far have reached as far as
the Bronze Age. The first excavations were conducted by the German archaeologist Theodor
Wiegand but these were several times interrupted by wars and various other events.
Excavations were resumed by Gerhard Kleiner and continued by Werner MüllerWiener.
The history of Miletııs can be traced back to
the 2nd millennium B.C. Settlers from Crete arrived here in 1500 B.C., to be followed by
the Mycenaeans froin mainland Greece, who fortified the city. According to ancient Greek
aııthors, the first inhabitants were the Carians and Lelegians. After the capture of the
city by the Ionians under their leader Neileus in 1000 B.C., the conquerors killed the
Milesian men and married their wives thus forming the new population of the city. Legend
has it that the women of Miletus expressed their resentment and punished their new
husbands by refusing to sit at table with them. The city was ruled for a time by kings
descended from Neileus, but after 800 B.C. administration passed into the hands of the
aristocracy. After 687 B.C. it was ruled by dictators known as "tyrants", and it
was during this period that the city began to found colonies overseas.
By the first half of the 6th century, Miletus,
thanks to these colonies, possessed a large maritime empire. The distinguished scholars
produced by the city at that time included natural philosophers such as Thales,
Anaximenes, Anaximander and Hecataeus. Thales, the first to forecast an eclipse of the
sun, produced new theories in geometry and astronomy, Anaximander carved on stone
universal laws independent of the gods and Hecataeus excelled in geography. Miletus had a
special agreement with Croesus, but after the collapse of Lydia in 547-546 B.C. the city
came under Persian hegemony. After the Greek victory over the Persians in the naval battle
at Mycale in 479 B.C., Miletus was rebuilt on a grid plan with the help of the famous
Milesian architect and town-planner Hippodamos. After 402 B.C. the city came entirely
under Persian rule and in the 4th century was ruled by Carian satraps subject to the
Persians. In 334 B.C. Miletus was captured by Alexander the Great. Following his death it
was subjected by Antigonus in 313 B.C. and the Seleucides in 301 B.C. The city regained
its independence in 188 B.C. In 133 B.C., when the Kingdom of Pergamon was incorporated in
the Roman Empire, Miletus became part of the province of Asia Minor. The city declined in
size under Byzantine rule, shrinking to the area occupied by the castle known as Palatia
to the rear of the theatre. In 1328 it came under Seljuk rule, after which it continued to
exist as the small village of Balat.
The first monument one encounters on entering
Miletus from the south is the Temple of Athena. Built in the first half of the 5th century
B.C., it has six Ionic columns on each of the shorter sides and ten on the longer sides
Immediately to the north of the temple lies an agora from the Hellenistic period, while to
the east of the agora is located a Roman stadium built in 150 A.D. A little further to the
north is a theatre dating originally from the 4th century B.C. Although it underwent
extensive modifications on three occasions, it is one of the best preserved theatres in
Anatolia. The remains of the building, with its entrances and vaulted corridors, display
all the distinguishing f~atures of the Roman period. To the east of the stadium are the
baths of Faustina and, adjacent to the baths, city defence walls dating from the reign of
the Emperor Justinian. There is also a Serapeum, or temple of Serapis, from the 3rd
century A. D . From here one arrives at the southern agora built in the Hellenistic period
with shops in the southern and eastern wings. The monumental gate in the north-eastern
corner of the agora leads into the city centre. The richly decorated nymphaeum that stood
in the vicinity of this gate is now preserved in the Pergamon Museum in East Berlin. To
the west of the nymphaeum there is a bouleuterion dating from the 2nd century B.C. capable
of accommodating 1, 500.
Photographs by:Erdal Yazici,Gungor
Ozsoy,Haluk Ozozlu,Tahsin Aydogmus
Places to visit: