Miletus: Wikis


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—  Ancient Polis  —
Turkish transcription(s)
 - Modern name Milet
Hittite transcription(s)
 - Exonym Millawanda
 - Exonym Milawata
The Theater of Miletus
Miletus is located in Turkey
Country Turkey
Region Ionia
Founder Neleus

Miletus (mī lē' təs) (Ancient Greek: Μίλητος, literally transliterated Milētos, Latin Miletus) was an ancient city on the western coast of Anatolia (in what is now Aydin Province, Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria. Evidence of first settlement at the site has been made inaccessible by the rise of sea level and deposition of sediments from the Maeander. The first available evidence is of the Neolithic.

In the early and middle Bronze age the settlement came under Minoan influence. Legend has it that an influx of Cretans occurred displacing the indigenous Leleges. The site was renamed Miletus after a place in Crete.

The Late Bronze Age, 13th century BCE, saw the arrival of Luwian language speakers from south central Anatolia calling themselves the Carians. Later in that century the first Greeks arrived, calling themselves Achaeans. The city at that time rebelled against the Hittite Empire. After the fall of that empire the city was destroyed in the 12th century BCE and starting about 1000 BCE was resettled extensively by the Ionian Greeks. Legend offers an Ionian foundation event sponsored by a founder named Neleus from the Peloponnesus.

The Greek Dark Ages were a time of Ionian settlement and consolidation in an alliance called the Ionian League. The Archaic Period of Greece began with a sudden and brilliant flash of art and philosophy on the coast of Anatolia. In the 6th Century BC, Miletus was the site of origin of the Greek philosophical (and scientific) tradition, when Thales, followed by Anaximander and Anaximines (known collectively, to modern scholars, as the Milesian School) began to speculate about the material constitution of the world, and to propose speculative naturalistic (as opposed to traditional, supernatural) explanations for various natural phenomena.



Location of Miletus at Maeander River's mouth.

The ruins lies about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north of Akkoy.

The city also once possessed a harbor, before it was clogged by alluvium brought by the Meander River. There is a Great Harbour Monument where, according to the New Testament account, the apostle Paul stopped there on the way back to Jerusalem by boat. He met the Ephesian Elders and then headed out to the beach to bid them farewell, recorded in the book of Acts 20:17-38.



During the Pleistocene epoch the Miletus region was submerged in the Aegean Sea. It subsequently emerged slowly, the sea reaching a low level of about 130 meters (430 ft) below present level at about 18,000 BP. The site of Miletus was part of the mainland.

A gradual rise brought a level of about 1.75 meters (5 ft 9 in) below present at about 5500 BP, creating several karst block islands of limestone, the location of the first settlements at Miletus. At about 1500 BCE the karst shifted due to small crustal movements and the islands consolidated into a peninsula. Since then the sea has risen 1.75 m but the peninsula has been surrounded by sediment from the Maeander river and is now land-locked. Sedimentation of the harbor began at about 1000 BCE, and by 300 CE Lake Bafa had been created.[1]



The earliest available archaeological evidence indicates that the islands on which Miletus was originally placed were inhabited by a Neolithic population in the 2nd half of the 4th millennium BCE (3500–3000 BCE).[2] Pollen in core samples from Lake Bafa in the Latmus region inland of Miletus suggests that a lightly-grazed climax forest prevailed in the Maeander valley, otherwise untenanted. Sparse Neolithic settlements were made at springs, numerous and sometimes geothermal in this karst, rift valley topography. The islands offshore were settled perhaps for their strategic significance at the mouth of the Maeander, a route inland protected by escarpments. The grazers in the valley may have belonged to them, but the location looked to the sea.

Bronze Age

Recorded history at Miletus begins with the records of the Hittite Empire in the Late Bronze Age. The prehistoric archaeology of the Early and Middle Bronze Age portrays a city heavily influenced by society and events elsewhere in the Aegean, rather than inland.

Cretan period

Beginning at about 1900 BCE artifacts of the Minoan civilization acquired by trade arrived at Miletus.[2] For some centuries the location received a strong impulse from that civilization, an archaeological fact that tends to support but not necessarily confirm the founding legend—that is, a population influx, from Crete. According to Strabo:[3]

Ephorus says: Miletus was first founded and fortified above the sea by Cretans, where the Miletus of olden times is now situated, being settled by Sarpedon, who brought colonists from the Cretan Miletus and named the city after that Miletus, the place formerly being in possession of the Leleges.

The legends recounted as history by the ancient historians and geographers are perhaps the strongest; the late mythographers have nothing historically significant to relate.[4]

Luwian and Greek period

Miletus is first mentioned in the Hittite Annals of Mursili II as Millawanda. In ca. 1320 BC, Millawanda supported the rebellion of Uhha-Ziti of Arzawa. Mursili ordered his generals Mala-Ziti and Gulla to raid Millawanda, and they proceeded to burn parts of it (damage from LHIIIA:2 has been found on-site: Christopher Mee, Anatolia and the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age, p. 142). In addition the town was fortified according to a Hittite plan (ibid, p. 139).

Millawanda is then mentioned in the "Tawagalawa letter", part of a series including the Manapa-Tarhunta letter and the Milawata letter, all of which are less securely dated. The Tawagalawa letter notes that Milawata had a governor, Atpa, who was under the jurisdiction of "Ahhiyawa" (a growing state probably in LHIIIB Mycenaean Greece); and that the town of Atriya was under Milesian jurisdiction. The Manapa-Tarhunta letter also mentions Atpa. Together the two letters tell that the adventurer Piyama-Radu had humiliated Manapa-Tarhunta before Atpa (in addition to other misadventures); a Hittite king then chased Piyama-Radu into Millawanda and, in the Tawagalawa letter, requested Piyama-Radu's extradition to Hatti.

The Milawata letter mentions a joint expedition by the Hittite king and a Luwiyan vassal (probably Kupanta-Kurunta of Mira) against Milawata (apparently its new name), and notes that Milawata (and Atriya) were now under Hittite control.

Homer records that during the time of the Trojan War, it was a Carian city (Iliad, book II).

In the last stage of LHIIIB, the citadel of Pylos counted among its female slaves "Mil[w]atiai", women from Miletus.

During the collapse of Bronze Age civilisation, Miletus was burnt again, presumably by the Sea Peoples.

Dark Age

Mythographers told that Neleus son of Codrus of Athens had come to Miletus after the return of the Heraclids (so, during the Greek Dark Age). The Ionians killed the men of Miletus and married their widows.

Archaic period

Map of Miletus and Other Cities within the Lydian Empire

The city of Miletus became one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor.

Miletus was one of the cities involved in the Lelantine War of the 8th century BCE.

Miletus was an important center of philosophy and science, producing such men as Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes.

By the 6th century BCE, Miletus had earned a maritime empire but brushed up against powerful Lydia at home.

When Cyrus of Persia defeated Croesus of Lydia, Miletus fell under Persian rule. In 502 BC, the Ionian Revolt began in Naxos; and when Miletus's tyrant Aristagoras failed to recapture the island, Aristagoras joined the revolt as its leader. Persia quashed this rebellion and punished Miletus in such a fashion that the whole of Greece mourned it. A year afterward, Phrynicus produced the tragedy The Capture of Miletus in Athens. The Athenians fined him for reminding them of their loss.

Classical period

The Ionic Stoa on the Sacred Way

Its gridlike layout, planned by Hippodamos, became the basic layout for Roman cities.

In 479 BC, the Greeks decisively defeated the Persians at the Greek mainland, and Miletus was freed of Persian rule. During this time several other cities were formed by Milesian settlers, spanning across what is now Turkey and even as far as Crimea.

The eponymous founder of the bawdy Miletian school of literature Aristides of Miletus taught here.

Alexandrian period

In 334 BC, the city was liberated from Persian rule by Alexander the Great.

Roman period

The New Testament mentions Miletus as the site where the Apostle Paul in 57 CE met with the elders of the church of Ephesus near the close of his Third Missionary Journey, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 20:15–38). It is believed that Paul stopped by Great Harbour Monument and sat on its steps. He may have met the Ephesian elders there and then bid them farewell on the nearby beach. Miletus is also the city where Paul left Trophimus, one of his travelling companions, to recover from an illness (2 Timothy 4:20). Because this cannot be the same visit as Acts 20 (in which Trophimus accompanied Paul all the way to Jerusalem, according to Acts 21:29), Paul must have made at least one additional visit to Miletus, perhaps as late as 65 or 66 CE. Paul's previous successful three-year ministry in nearby Ephesus resulted in the evangelization of the entire province of Asia (see Acts 19:10, 20; 1 Corinthians 16:9). It is safe to assume that at least by the time of the apostle's second visit to Miletus, a fledgling Christian community was established in Miletus. (The rendering of the King James Version of Malta as "Melita" in Acts 28:1 has created confusion between Malta and Miletus among some readers of the Bible.)

Byzantine period

During the Byzantine age Miletus became a residence for archbishops. The small Byzantine castle called Castro Palation located on the hill beside the city, was built at this time.

Turkish rule

Seljuk Turks conquered the city in the 14th century A.D. and used Miletus as a port to trade with Venice.

Finally, Ottomans utilized the city as a harbour during their rule in Anatolia. As the harbour became silted up, the city was abandoned. Today the ruins of city lie some 10 kilometres from the sea.

Archaeological excavations

The first excavations in Miletus were conducted by the French archaeologist Olivier Rayet in 1873, followed by the German archaeologist Theodor Wiegand. Excavations, however, were interrupted several times by wars and various other events. Today, excavations are organized by the Ruhr University of Bochum, Germany.

One remarkable artifact recovered from the city during the first excavations of the 19th century, the Market Gate of Miletus, was transported piece by piece to Germany and reassembled. It is currently exhibited at the Pergamon museum in Berlin. The main collection of artifacts resides in the Miletus Museum in Didim, Aydın, serving since 1973.

Colonies of Miletus

Pliny the Elder mentions 90 colonies founded by Miletus in his Natural History (5.112).

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ Crouch (2004) page 180.
  2. ^ a b Crouch (2004) page 183.
  3. ^ Book 14 Section 1.6.
  4. ^ The late fantasy fiction of Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses XXX 1–2 after Nicander, can be safely disregarded as being in any way history. His entertaining tales have the imaginary character named Miletus fleeing Crete to avoid being forced to become the eromenos of King Minos. He founds the city only after slaying a giant named Asterius, son of Anax, after whom the region known as Miletus was called 'Anactoria', "place of Anax." Anax in Greek means "the king" and Asterius is "starry."


  • Crouch, Dora P. (2004). Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195083295.  

External links

Coordinates: 37°31′N 27°17′E / 37.517°N 27.283°E / 37.517; 27.283

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MILETUS (mod. Palatia), an ancient city of Asia Minor, on the southern shore of the Latmic Gulf near the mouth of the Maeander. Before the Ionic migration it was inhabited by Carians (Iliad ii. 876; Herod. i. 146),, and pottery, found by Th. Wiegand on the spot proves that the site was inhabited, and had relations with the Aegean world, in the latest Minoan age. The Greek settlers from Pylos under Neleus are said to have massacred all the men in the old city, and built for themselves a new one on the coast. Miletus occupied a very favourable situation at the mouth of the rich valley of the Maeander, and was the natural outlet for the trade of southern Phrygia (Hipponax, Fr. 45). It had four harbours, one of considerable size, and its power extended inland for some distance up the valley of the Maeander, and along the coast to the south, where it founded the city of Iasus. Its enterprise extended to Egypt, where it had much to do with the settlement of Naucratis. Very little "Naucratiti" pottery, however, was found on the site by Wiegand, and only in the Athena temple. The Black Sea trade, however, was the greatest source of wealth to the Ionian cities. Miletus, like the rest, turned its attention chiefly to the north, and succeeded in almost monopolizing the traffic. Along the Hellespont, the Propontis and the Black Sea coasts it founded more than sixty cities - among them Abydus, Cyzicus, Sinope, Dioscurias, Panticapaeum and Olbia. All these cities were founded before the middle of the 7th century; and before 500 B.C. Miletus was decidedly the greatest Greek city. During the time when the enterprise of the seafaring population raised Miletus to such power and wealth nothing is known of its internal history, though the analogy of all Greek cities, and some casual statements in later writers, suggest that the usual struggles took place between oligarchy and democracy, and that tyrants sometimes raised themselves to supreme power. Miletus was equally distinguished at this early time as a seat of literature. The Ionian epic and lyric poetry indeed had its home farther north; philosophy and history were more akin to the practical race of Miletus, and Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Hecataeus all belonged to this city. The poet Timotheus and the famous Aspasia were also natives. The three Ionian cities of CariaMiletus, Myus and Priene - spoke a peculiar dialect of Ionic.

The Mermnad kings of Lydia found in Miletus their strongest adversary. War was carried on for many years, till Alyattes III. concluded a peace with Thrasybulus, tyrant of Miletus; the Milesians afterwards seem to have acknowledged peaceably the rule of Croesus. On the Persian conquest Miletus passed under a new master; it headed the Ionian revolt of 500 B.C., and was taken by storm after the battle of Lade (see IoNIA). Darius massacred most of the inhabitants, transported the rest to Ampe at the mouth of the Tigris, and gave up the city to the Carians. This disaster was long remembered in Greece and made the theme of a tragedy by Phrynichus. Henceforth the history of Miletus has no special interest. It revived indeed when the Persians were expelled from the coast in 479 B.C., became a member of the Delian League, revolted to Sparta in 412, passed into Carian hands, and opposed Alexander on his southward march, succumbing only to a siege in form (334 B.C.). It was a town of commercial importance throughout the Graeco-Roman period, and received special attention from Trajan. Its harbours, once protected by Lade and the other Tragasaean islands, were gradually silted up by the Maeander, and Lade is now a hill some miles from the coast. Ephesus took its place as the great Ionian harbour in Hellenistic and Roman times. Miletus became the seat of a Christian bishopric and was strengthened by a Byzantine castle (Kc crrpov HaAaTicov) built above the theatre; but its decay was inevitable, and its site is now a marsh.

Since 1899 Miletus has been the scene of extensive excavations directed by Dr Th. Wiegand for the Berlin Academy. The ruins lie about the base of a hillock projecting north-east into a bend of the Maeander. On the north is a well-preserved theatre of Roman times on the site of an older Greek building. When complete it had 54 rows of seats. It was as large as any theatre in Asia Minor, and is still imposing, the auditorium, though deprived of its upper ranks and colonnade, rising nearly 100 ft. Cyriac of Ancona described the building as practically complete in his day (1446). The front is over 150 yds. long. East of this was the ancient north harbour, now silted up, and on the hillside above it stood a large heroon of Hellenistic time remarkable for being, like the tomb of Brasidas at Amphipolis, within the walls. South of the harbour head lies the Hellenistic agora with ruins of large magazines of Doric style. South of these again lie a nymphaeum of the age of Titus, and a senate-house of theatral form. On the east opens a great hall surrounded by porticoes and enclosing a high altar of Artemis, once richly adorned with reliefs. The Roman agora lies beyond this again. A straight street leads south-west from the north harbour to. the Didyma Gate in the wall, which runs across the neck of the peninsula and was rebuilt by Trajan, when he undertook to raise the level of the outer quarters of the city; and streets cross this at right angles in the geometric Hellenistic manner. A Sacred Way lined with tombs, led to Didymi. Two temples have been discovered by Dr Wiegand, one, on the south-east, being a large sanctuary of Apollo Delphinius with triple colonnade enclosing a court with central tripod. This seems to have been the chief temple of the city and the place where public records, treaties, &c., were engraved. The other temple, an archaic sanctuary of Athena, lies west of the stadium.

See O. Rayet and A. Thomas, Milet et le golfe Latmique (1877); Th. Wiegand, "Vorlaufige Berichte fiber die Ausgrabungen in Milet," in Sitzungsberichte of the Berlin Academy (1900, foil.); A. von Salis, "Die Ausgrabungen in Milet and Didyma" in Neue Jahrb. f. d. k. Alt., xxv. 2, 1910. (D. G. H.)

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(Miletum, 2 Tim 4:20), a seaport town and the ancient capital of Ionia, about 36 miles south of Ephesus. On his voyage from Greece to Syria, Paul touched at this port, and delivered that noble and pathetic address to the elders ("presbyters," ver. 28) of Ephesus recorded in Acts 20:15-35. The site of Miletus is now some 10 miles from the coast. (See EPHESIANS, EPISTLE TO.)

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Coordinates: 37°31′N 27°17′E / 37.517°N 27.283°E / 37.517; 27.283 Miletus (mī lē' təs) (Ancient Greek: Μίλητος, literally transliterated Milētos, Latin Miletus) was an ancient city on the western coast of Anatolia (in what is now Aydin Province, Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria.

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