A city in the southern coast of Asia Minor, famous for its great prosperity, mainly during the period from the 8th to the 4th century BC, when it became the metropolis of the Ionians. It was built in the Latmian Bay, near the mouth of the river Maeander.

Its location was settled in the 2nd millennium BC by Kares or Leleges and subsequently by Cretans, who were brought there by Sarpedon. After the Heraclids descended to the Peloponnese, the Ionians under Neleus, son of the Athenian king Kodrus, colonised Miletus (11th century BC). Since then, especially from 650 BC onwards, the city flourished greatly and became the metropolis of the 80-90 Ionian colonies. It distinguished itself as a commercial and naval power, and became an important centre for science and philosophy, with particular emphasis on the exact sciences. The main exponents of the Milesian School where Thales, one of the Seven Sages of ancient times, and Anaximander.        
     Click on the map to visit the Bouleuterion of Miletus    

The subsequent development of the city is closely linked with the important historical events which took place in the area. It was subjugated to Croesus; later, after the Persians conquered Lydia, it retained some form of autonomy, but soon lost it, after a series of unsuccessful revolts. It was liberated after the naval battle of Mycale (479 BC) and became a member of the Athenian Confederacy from which it seceded twice. Early in the 4th century BC the city began to decline, mainly due to internal conflicts. It was conquered by Alexander the Great in 334 BC, but retained some form of autonomy. It then passed into the hands of his successors, but it was by now a city of secondary importance. During the reign of Antiochus XIII, last king of Syria, Miletus was conquered by the Romans, and under their rule it flourished for the second time.

Miletus was a typical example of a metropolis of the ancient world. It was fortified, and had four ports of which the central one, known as the Port of Lions, was situated in the eastern bay and was strategically the most important one for the city's defence. After its destruction by the Persians, the city was rebuilt by the Milesian architect Hippodamus on the basis of a new system of city-planning which took his name. It was constructed in regular blocks, and the city centre was divided into three cores corresponding to the three areas of public life: religious, administrative, and commercial. The city thus assumed a special form based on symmetry and balance.

The buildings around the central port date from the classical period. They include the Port Colonnade, the small Agora, the Prytaneion, and the western part of the Temple of Delphinian Apollo. Hippodamus' city plan probably included the Temple of Athena, located west of the Stadium, which dates from the same period.

An intense building activity was evident in Hellenistic times. The temple of Delphinian Apollo (Delphinium), which was initially built in archaic times, was given its final form. The whole of the city centre was reshaped, including the north and south Agora, the Gymnasium and the Bouleuterion. During this time the Stadium was built, which might have held 15,000. The theatre, initially built in the 4th century BC, was extended to accommodate 5,300. Also, the Nymphaeum was built, and the north Agora underwent certain changes: the propylon was demolished, and stores were built in two zones which covered the Agora's eastern side. The 16-column entrance to the port, situated between the Delphinium and the stoa, is among the earliest architectural works of the Roman period and one of the city's most characteristic ones. The arena, situated between the Delphinium and the Gymnasium, was joined to the baths built by Vergilius Capitus. The extension of the theatre (capacity 15,000), with a facade of 140 m., also dates from the Roman times.

Towards the end of the Roman occupation Miletus once again fell into decline, especially after the barbarians' invasions starting in the middle of the 3rd century AD Subsequently it fell under successive dominations, from the Byzantine to the Seljuk (14th century AD) and the Ottoman (in AD 1400). After its port was rendered useless by the river Maeander's silt, the city was finally abandoned in the 16th century AD.

Visit the sites:
Paths to Ancient Miletus
A walk through Ancient Miletus
Journey to ancient Miletus