Miletus is an important historical site at the coast of western Turkey, having been a great maritime power and center of science and philosophy in Archaic Greece. Actually, excavations on the acropolis at Kalabak Tepe to the southwest of the site have shown that there was a Mycenaean colony in the area as early as 1500 BC. The first Greek colonies arrived at Miletus as early as the tenth century BC. It was the most important of the twelve cities of Ionia, and the metropolis to found more colonies than any other Greek city, even being mentioned by Homer in “The Iliad.”
In 499 BC the city of Miletus was destroyed by the Persians, along with the nearby sanctuary of Didyma. Miletus was rebuilt and quickly regained much of its former status and prosperity. During that period, Ephesus surpassed Miletus as the most important city in the region. After the conquest of Anatolia by Alexander the Great, Miletus was rebuilt under the direction of famous Greek architect Hippodamos, who was a native of Miletus. Other famous citizens are Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, the philosophers of nature of the so-called Milesian school. After the death of Alexander the Great, his kingdom was divided among the Diadochoi. Miletus, with other Ionian cities, was ruled first by Antigonus, then by Lysimachus. For a time the city was under the control of the Seleucids of Syria, then under the Ptolemies until it finally passed into the hands of the Attalids. When Attalus III, the last king of Pergamum, bequeathed his kingdom to Rome in 133 BC, Miletus became one of the most important cities of the Roman Province of Asia. The Sacred Road from Miletus to Didiyma was built under the order of Emperor Trajan. The city was also a sacred destination for Christians for being the location of one of St. Paul’s visits on his third missionary journey, mentioned in the Bible. Over time, the inevitable decline in trade brought a reduction of the city’s wealth and of its population in time. During the Ottoman period, the city was utilized as a harbor. It became silted up and finally filled the bay. As of today the ancient ruins of Miletus is located 9-10 km away from the Aegean Coast.
In 1873 the first excavations were carried out here by French archaeologists and their workers. Excavations have been followed by German archaeologists and institutions. At Miletus’ archaeological site, there are the 25.000-seat Hellenistic Theater, and the Sanctuary of Apollo Delphinion that leads the processional way to the Temple of Apollo in Didyma. The Baths of Faustina, built in tribute to Marcus Aurelius’ wife, are large complexes containing water fountains and statues. The Church of St. Michael, the Ilyas Bey Mosque and a caravansary from the 14th century can be seen in the same area. The monumental gate that leaded to the Agora is now displayed at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, but the main collection of artifacts found in the excavations have been kept in the Miletus Museum.
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):