Miletus (pronounced: /maɪˈliːtəs/; Ancient Greek: Μίλητος, Milētos; Latin: Miletus, Turkish: Milet) was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia (in what is now Aydin Province, Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria. Before the Persian invasion in the middle of the 6th century BCE, Miletus was considered the greatest and wealthiest of Greek cities.
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. 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 Ionians. 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 BCE, Miletus was the site of origin of the Greek philosophical (and scientific) tradition, when Thales, followed by Anaximander and Anaximenes (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.
Miletus is the birthplace of the Hagia Sophia's architect (and inventor of the flying buttress) Isidore of Miletus and Thales, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher (and one of the Seven Sages of Greece) in ca. 624 BCE.
The ruins appear on satellite maps at 37°31.8'N 27°16.7'E, about 3 km north of Balat and about 3 km E of Batiköy in Aydın Province, Turkey.
In antiquity the city possessed a harbour at the southern entry of a large bay, on which two more of the traditional twelve Ionian cities stood: Priene and Myus. The harbour of Miletus was additionally protected by the nearby small island of Lade. Over the centuries the gulf silted up with alluvium carried by the Meander River. Priene and Myus had lost their harbours by the Roman era, and Miletus itself became an inland town in the early Christian era; all three were abandoned to ruin as their economies were strangled by the lack of access to the sea. There is a Great Harbour Monument where, according to the New Testament account, the apostle Paul stopped on his 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 Acts of the Apostles.
The earliest available archaeological evidence indicates that the islands on which Miletus was originally placed were inhabited by a Neolithic population in 3500–3000 BCE. 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.
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.
Beginning at about 1900 BCE artifacts of the Minoan civilization acquired by trade arrived at Miletus. 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:
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.
Luwian and Greek period
Miletus is first mentioned in the Hittite Annals of Mursili II as Millawanda. In c. 1320 BCE, 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 found on-site has been associated with this raid. In addition the town was fortified according to a Hittite plan.
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.
During the collapse of Bronze Age civilisation, Miletus was burnt again, presumably by the Sea Peoples.
Mythographers told that Neleus, a son of Codrus the last King of Athens, had come to Miletus after the "Return of the Heraclids" (so, during the Greek Dark Ages). The Ionians killed the men of Miletus and married their widows. This is the mythical commencement of the enduring alliance between Athens and Miletus, which played an important role in the subsequent Persian Wars.
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.
In the late 7th century BCE the tyrant Thrasybulus preserved the independence of Miletus during a twelve-year war fought against the Lydian Empire. Thrasybulus was an ally of the famous Corinthian tyrant Periander.
Miletus was an important center of philosophy and science, producing such men as Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes.
When Cyrus of Persia defeated Croesus of Lydia in the middle of the 6th century BCE, Miletus fell under Persian rule. In 499 BCE, Miletus's tyrant Aristagoras became the leader of the Ionian Revolt against the Persians. 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.
Its gridlike layout became the basic layout for Roman cities.
In 479 BCE, the Greeks decisively defeated the Persians on 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 there.
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 the 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.
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. From Miletus came the famous merchant family of Mauros, one of their members became judge of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Miletus was headed by a curator.
Seljuk Turks conquered the city in the 14th century 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 km (6.2 mi) from the sea.
The Ilyas Bey Complex from 1403 with its mosque is a Europa Nostra awarded cultural heritage site in Miletus.
The first excavations in Miletus were conducted by the French archaeologist Olivier Rayet in 1873, followed by the German archaeologists Julius Hülsen [ Theodor Wiegand. between 1899 and 1931. Excavations, however, were interrupted several times by wars and various other events. Carl Weickart excavated for a short season in 1938 and again between 1955 and 1957. He was followed by Gerhard Kleiner and then by Wolfgang Muller-Wiener. 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
Miletus became known for the great number of colonies it founded. It was considered the greatest Greek metropolis and founded more colonies than any other Greek city. Pliny the Elder mentions 90 colonies founded by Miletus in his Natural History (5.31), among them: Amisos, Apolonia, Dioscurias, Histria, Odessos, Olbia, Panticapaeum, Phanagoria, Phasis, Pityus, Sinope, Tanais, Theodosia, Tomis, Tyras and Trapezunt.
- Thales (c. 624 BCE–c. 546 BCE) Pre-Socratic philosopher
- Anaximander (c. 610 BCE–c. 546 BCE) Pre-Socratic philosopher
- Anaximenes (c. 585 BCE–c. 525 BCE) Pre-Socratic philosopher
- Leucippus (first half of 5th century BCE) Philosopher and originator of Atomism (his association with Miletus is traditional, but disputed)
References and sources
- Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective By Luc-Normand Tellier page79 “The neighboring Greek city of Miletus, located on the Menander river was another terminal of the same route; it exerted certain hegemony over the Black sea trade and created about fifty commercial entrepôts in the Aegean sea and Black sea region...”
- A Short History of Greek Philosophy By John Marshall page 11 “For several centuries prior to the great Persian inversion of Greece, perhaps the very greatest and wealthiest city of the Greek world was Miletus”
- Ancient Greek civilization By David Sansone page 79 “In the seventh and sixth centuries BC the city of Miletus was among the most prosperous and powerful of Greek poleis.”
- Crouch (2004) page 183.
- Book 14 Section 1.6.
- 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."
- Christopher Mee, Anatolia and the Aegean in the Late Bronze Age, p. 142
- Mee, Anatolia and the Aegean, p. 139
- Iliad, book II
- Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
- 'Miletos, the ornament of Ionia: history of the city to 400 BCE' by Vanessa B. Gorman (University of Michigan Press) 2001 - pg 123
- The Byzantine aristocracy and its military function, Volume 859 of the Variorum collected studies series, Jean-Claude Cheynet, Ashgate Pub., 2006. ISBN 978-0-7546-5902-0
- Studies in Byzantine Sigillography, Volume 10, Jean-Claude Cheynet, Claudia Sode, published by Walter de Gruyter, 2010. ISBN 978-3-11-022704-8
- Olivier Rayet and Thomas, Milet Et Le Golfe Latmique, Fouilles Et Explorations Archeologiques Publ, 1877 (reprint Nabu Press 2010 ISBN 1-141-62992-5
- Theodor Wiegand and Julius Hülsen [Das Nymphaeum von Milet, Museen zu Berlin 1919] and Kurt Krausem, Die Milesische Landschaft, Milet II, vol. 2, Schoetz, 1929
- Theodor Wiegand et al., Der Latmos, Milet III, vol. 1, G. Reimer, 1913
- Carl Weickert, Grabungen in Milet 1938, Bericht über den VI internationalen Kongress für Archäologie, pp. 325-332, 1940
- Carl Weickert, Die Ausgrabung beim Athena-Tempel in Milet 1955, Istanbuler Mitteilungen, Deutsche Archaeologische Institut, vol. 7, pp.102-132, 1957
- Carl Weickert, Neue Ausgrabungen in Milet, Neue deutsche Ausgrabungen im Mittelmeergebiet und im Vorderen Orient, pp. 181-96, 1959
- Colony and Mother City in Ancient Greece By A. J. Graham page 98 “Judged by the number of its colonies Miletus was the greatest of the Greek mother cities. For though some of the more extravagance claims made in antiquate have not been substantiated by modern investigations, her colonies were by far more numerous than those of any other Greek cities.”
- Crouch, Dora P. (2004). Geology and Settlement: Greco-Roman Patterns. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Media related to Miletus on Wikimedia Commons
- Ausgrabungen in Milet official site of the excavations in Miletus by Ruhr-Universität Bochum (in Germna)
- Ancient Coins of Miletus
- A Small Desription About Miletus
- MA in Black Sea Cultural Studies. International Hellenic University-School of Humanities.
- The Theatre at Miletus, The Ancient Theatre Archive, Theatre specifications and virtual reality tour of theatre
- "Miletus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Miletus.
- Virtual Tour at Ancient Miletus
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