History of Ancient Miletus
Miletus, in the archaic period known as the ruler of the Aegean, birthplace of science and philosophy. Owed its importance to its position on trade routes and developed seamanship.
According to Homer Miletus was the exceptional Ionian city fought against the Greeks with the Trojans. Miletus is one of the 12 ionian cities located at the Western Turkey. Visited by St. Paul and mentioned in Acts Chapter 20.
It was one of the largest cities in Anatolia with a population of between 80,000 and 100,000. Highly prosperous, it founded many colonies and was the home of the 6th century BC philosophers Anaximander, Anaximenes, and Thales, the town planner Hippodamus and architect Isidorus. Miletus seems to have produced geniuses the way Aphrodisias produced sculptors. Anaximander known as the father of geography by drawing the first map of the world. Thales, was the most important among them. He was considered to be one of the 7 geniuses of the Ancient World as well as Bias of Priene and Solon of Athens. In 585 BC by calculating the solar eclipse, he became very famous. He believed that the source of life and live creations is out of water. He also calculated the height of the pyramids. Furthermore, he managed this checking up with help of the length of a persons shadow. In the day time when persons shadow was equal to his height, he made the calculations with the Pyramids.
First settlement dates back to 1600 BC by Minoans and Mycenaeans. According to the legend, the city was founded by Neleus, son of King Codrus of Athens. The residents were Carians and Cretans which moved here from a city having the same name. Neleus came to settle with his men and killed the resident males compelling the women to marry the newcomers. After this took place the women swore not to sit at the same table with their husbands and also not to call them by their names and this became a tradition for the next generations.
In the 11th century BC Ionians came to Miletus, and by 7th century BC Miletus was at its peak which was to last for more than two centuries. Miletus colonized over 90 cities such as Sinope, Amissos, Trapezos... located at the Black Sea shores of Anatolia.
With other cities of Ionia in 499 BC, Miletus rebelled against the Persians, who had captured, burned it to the ground and enslaved its surviving population. This last battle was that of Lade (Island of Lade) in 494 BC, just outside the harbor of Miletus where the Persian fleet of 600 warships defeated the Ionian force. The role of Miletus was significant in the defeat of the Persians at the Mycale battle in 479 BC. Shortly after the battle, Miletus joined the Delian Confederacy with a contribution larger than that of Ephesus. Miletus joined this alliance with 80 ships while Priene was joining with 12 ships. Upon an agreement between the Persian Satrap and Athens, Miletus and other Ionian cities of Anatolia came under the rule of the Persians again. At the end of the 5the century BC Miletus, was ruled by the Carian satraps. Captured by Alexander the Great after a siege in 334 BC. Miletus were among the cities who fought with Persians against Alexanders Army and defended their land. Afterwards ruled by the Seleucid Dynasty in the following years, Miletus remained an important trade center in the Roman times.
How far is Miletus from Ephesus?
Miletus is 50 miles away from Ephesus. After the riot took place in the theater of Ephesus. St, Paul was kicked out from the city of Ephesus. He travelled to north to Troas, Assos, Mitylene. Chios. Samos, St. Paul stopped in Miletus in 57 AD on his way back to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey. In Miletus Paul sent sends a message to the leaders of the church in Ephesus to join him in Miletus, and after speaking with them for the last time he bade them an emotional farewell. Paul warned them that he faces persecution and imprisonment when he returns to Jerusalem. Paul, boarded his ship in Miletus and sailed off via Cos, Rhodes, Patara to Jerusalem.
The Roman period was followed by Byzantine and Turkish periods. Miletus was a major port city located on a peninsula with four harbors. With the silting of the Meander River the ruins of the ancient city today are a few kilometers away from the sea. The city had a grid plan which was developed by Hippodamus when it was rebuilt in the 3rd century BC after the Persians had sacked it.
The Theater was a small Hellenistic theater with a seating capacity of 5,300, but in the beginning of the 2nd century AD it was modified to a Roman theater and held about 15,000 people. The lower section was built onto a natural hillside, and the upper is supported by vaulted substructures up to a height of 131 ft. The facade facing the harbor was 460 ft long. During the Roman period the stage building had three stories and was 111 ft wide. In front of the stage building it is still possible to see pieces depicting gladiators fighting against wild animals. From the 3rd row till the 6th, carvings show that some seats were reserved for some persons and groups. 5th row was reserved for the Jews and Theosebes (God-fearers) who are afraid of God and the 3rd row for the Jewelers. The Theosebes were Jewish sympathizing pagans with beliefs and rituals of their own. The Theosebes were one of the key groups that received attention of St. Paul and his mission.
At the top of the theater hill was a Byzantine fortress which is thought to have been built mostly with the stones of the theater in the 7th century AD but restored later by a Turkish tribe called Metesogullari.
Harbor monuments stood in front of the Lions’ Harbor. There were two of them; different in size but similar in style. The large piece was 25 ft high, mounted on a three-cornered base built on a round foundation with a diameter of 36 ft. The smaller one was only 17.5 ft.
The Delphinium was a Hellenistic open air shrine surrounded by stoas on four sides with a 6th century BC altar in the center. Together with Apollo, the dolphin was sacred for the Milesians as they believed that when the first settlers sailed they were guided by Apollo in the form of a dolphin. The annual festival and celebrations of Didyma were started here. An Ionic Stoa lay parallel to the processional road on the south of the Delphinium. It is a 1st century AD structure which had 35 Ionic columns and 19 shops behind the columns. Delphinios name meaning Dolphin in Greek is also correlated with Delphoi of Greece. According to the legend Apollo who needed priests for his temple, saw a Cretan ship at the horizon. He turned himself to dolphin and leaded the seamen where the temple was located.
The Bouleterion was a 2nd century BC building which consisted of a pro pylon, a courtyard and an auditorium. The pro pylon had three Corinthian columns and friezes depicting war scenes. It opened into a courtyard with a monumental tomb in the middle. There were four gates that opened into the main hall. The auditorium seated 1,500 people and had a wooden roof.
The Nymphaeum was first built in the 2nd century AD and rebuilt in the following century. It faced the bouleterion across the processional road and had three stories with statues of gods placed in niches and water spouting from the mouths of bronze fish.
The South Agora lay behind the bouleterion. It was a Hellenistic structure which was later remodeled in the Roman period. Today the North Gate is unfortunately another of the gems from Anatolia currently housed in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. The South Gate was destroyed during the construction of Ilyas Bey mosque.
The Temple of Serapis lay between the south Agora and the Faustina baths. It consisted of a pronaos and a naos with Corinthian columns and a relief of Serapis on the pediment. The temple was a 3rd century BC building which was rebuilt in the 3rd century AD with a donation by Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The Baths of Faustina were 2nd century AD Roman baths which were built by Faustina, Marcus Aurelius’ wife, daughter of Antonius Pius who usually accompanied her husband on his journeys through the Empire. Faustina was famous as a waster of money belonging to others. The frigidarium had a reclining statue of the river god probably personifying the Meander River. The baths are a complex structure with Gymnasium and Stadion located next to it. Caldarium was heated by hypocaust system underground heating was practiced. Ground was over 2 feet high legs. The hot air was going through which was gathered by boiling water in the furnaces.
The Ilyas Bey Mosque was part of a complex which consisted of a mosque, medrese, cemetery and an imaret. It was built in the early 15th century by Ilyas Bey, the regional Ottoman military commander. The dome of the mosque was made of bricks. At the entrance are three arched partitions separated by two columns. The entrance is through the center arch. The mosque was destroyed in 1955.
The Caravansary is a 15th century building built by the Mentese Principality which had a lower floor for animals and an upper for people.
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