Miletos located on the western shores of Turkey is an ancient site that all the archaeologists want to see before the end of their lifes. Not only its historical position of importance but also being a city of philosophers in antiquity make the city a must-see place in Turkey. It is an important stop for cultural tours.
In the age of antiquity the city of Miletos was by the sea, situated on the south side of the Gulf Latmos where the gulf opens out into the Aegean. Over a period of time the Meandros River silted up the gulf from the north-west side creating a flat plain and inland lake known today as Bafa Lake.
Miletos appears as a chracter in mythology, a son of the God Apollo. The story goes as follows: Apollo fell in love with Akakallis, the daughter of King Minos of Crete. Their union resulted in the birth of three children; Miletos, Garamos and Amphimemis. Akakallis feared that her father, the king, might harm her first born, Miletos and so for safety she took him up to a mountain and left him there. Wolves tended the baby and later on he grew up among the shepherds. In manhood Miletos came to Anatolia and married to Kyane, the daughter of Meandros, the river-god. He founded the city that bears his name.
But as mentioned according to tradition, Neleus, the leader of the Ionians and the son of King Kodros of Athens, is the person who is credited with the foundation of the city of Miletos. It is quite possible that the Greeks indeed did settlement in the area as far back as the 11th and 10th centuries BC but we also know that there were already native people living there who probably came from Caria. These people are said to have come to the aid of Trojans.
The earliest construction of a settlement took place on Kalabak Tepe (Hill) and today the evidence of this can be seen on the south-west side of the hill. In the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Miletos reached its golden age. From about 650 BC the city's sea trading prospered especially and colonies were founded on both Black Sea and Mediterranean which created a period of great wealth. Miletos had become the Metropolis of the Ionian world.
As explained, in the Antique Period, Miletos was on the coast and it was a port. It had four different inlets that formed natural harbours. It was from these harbours that the sea trading was conducted. Mostly Baubon or Olisbos manufactured in Miletos were exported.
In 546 BC Miletos and Sardis both fell under the Persian hand. In 500 BC Aristogaras, the tyrant of Miletos urged his people to rebel against Persian rule. The desire for rebellion spread to neighbouring areas. However, not all Ionian cities were in favour of teh cause but the movement continued. The rebels marched to Sardis and set a fire to an area of the city behing Acropolis. The Persians reacted strongly. The result was the Battle of Lade. This took place in 494 BC. The Ionian fleet lined up against the Persian fleet near the island of Lade. The result was terrible for the Ionians as all the ships in the fleet of Ionians were burnt and both Miletos and the Temple of Apollo were raised to the ground.
When the liberating army of Alexander the Great finally reached at Miletos in 334 BC, it was obvious to the king that no rebuilding had taken place in the city. Fortunately, the friendly relationship that the people of Miletos had always enjoyed with Alexander was easily resumed. Help was at hand.
The Hellenistic period continued until 133 BC when Miletos came under the governership of Rome. During the Byzantine period which followed, Miletos lost its position of importance.
The city of Miletos was at the forefront of the start of the scientific enquiry of man into his surroundings. Miletos was known as a city philosophers. Before the 6th and 5th centuries BC, everything in the nature had been linked to the gods but at around this time people's minds opened to the possibility of new ideas about their world.
What can be seen today?
Theatre: among all the theatres in western Anatolia that remain standing Miletos theatre is the most important. Its survival was thanks to its excellent situation on a natural slope which offers protection from the elements. The theatre had three main sections. These were the seating rows, the orchestra and the stage. There were seven rooms behind the stage. The theatre faced west and the front facade measured 140 meters. The width of the seating area was 230 meters and that of the stage building 38 meters. The theatre was calculated as having a seating capacity of 19.000. The Hellenistic structure of the theatre was enlarged during the Roman period. In those days the Emperor would have sat in the first or bottom rows of seats and during the performances would have been shaded by a canopy erected over the four columns. During the Byzantine period a fortress was built on the top of the theatre and it was used for the defence of the city during Seljuk period.
Large Harbour Monument: In 31 AD Emperor Augustus was victorious in battle at Actium and this monument proclaims his triumph. The monument had a massive circular-shaped base. Today the base and two pieces of frieze are what remain from the monument.
North Agora: Agora or market place was the centre of activity of an ancient city bringing together commerce, religion and social interaction. The north agora of Miletos covered a wide area. Building was started during the 4th century BC with expansion and further development taking place in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The agora at first consisted of three separate parts. Colonades were later added and used as shops.
The Ionic Stoa: It was built in 50 AD by Vergilius Capito. The stoa was intended as a further embellishment to the already splendid processional road. Six steps rose up to a platform where a line of Ionic columns formed a portico which led into another roofed columned area that was used as a shopping arcade.
The Bouleuterion: "Bouleuterion" is the name given to an ancient city's goverment assembly building or senate house. Bouleuterion of Miletos is situated at the north and of the south agora. The main building, rather than in the style of a theatre, but roofed, was where affairs of state were debated. The seating rows can still be seen today. In front of the building there was a courtyard and in the middle of the courtyard is a heroon dating back to the late Roman period. There were four doors opening onto the courtyard from assembly room. The seating capacity of the building was 1500.
The Faustina Baths: Faustina Baths are the largest Roman Baths in Anatolia. They are also the best preserved. The courtyard was surrounded by Corinthian columns. The dressing room (Apoditerium) was a long hall leading from Paleastra (excercise area). Apoditerium had niches containing statues of Muses and these statues can now be seen in Istanbul Archaeological Museum. There was a large pool in the Frigiderium (cold section) with two statues which were also fountains. One was lion and the other one was Maiandros, the river god. Until 1992 the original statues were in their original places but later on they were replaced with the artificial ones so as to keep the original ones in safe in Miletos Museum. In Calderium (hot section) there was a central heating system for a full comfort.