The ancient Miletus is located beyond the Meander Valley, about forty kilometers from Söke,at the town of Balat. Not far from Miletus are the sites of Didyma and Priene. The deposits of silt from the Meander, the Büyük Menderes of today, has led to a gradual but steady extension of the coastline away from these ancient sites. Miletus was once situated on the shore. The Turkish town of Balat takes its name from the Balatin or Paiatin Castle that is perched above the Miletus theater.
The first settlers of Miletus are thought to have been Lelejes and Cariars, followed by colonists from Crete and Greece. The city’s name was taken from the Cretan leader, Miletus. Later, in the sixth century, B.C., the Ionian city of Miletus, under control of the Greeks, had become one of the most important and formidable powers in the whole of Ionia. As did many early settlements Miletus gained stability through agriculture. Through time a fleet was developed, enabling the powers at Miletus to spread out and colonize other territories in the surrounding area. These colonies have been noticed as far away as Egypt, and are thought to have numbered around eighty. Lydians and Cimmerians gained footholds in Miietus during the 5th and 4th centuries. Then, in 494 B.C., the city was virtually destroyed as a result of Its solidarity with Athens during the Persian wars. Persian control lasted until the arrival of Alexander the Great in 334, During this short period Miietus lay In waste, unable to regain its former strength or status. But with Alexander’s rule of the area Miletus was again restored to prosperity. Power in Ionia went to the Ramans at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., but Miletus was declared a free city, able to continue self-administration. The religious center at Didyma was alloted to Miletus during this period, and a great reconstruction period followed.
According to Herodotus, the Cretans were all slaughtered by the Ionian captors of Miletus. The lonians then married the Cretan wives Since they had brought no women of their own along. But this action very likely proved less than satisfactory. In fact, the women swore an oath not to call their husbands by name or to eat at their tables. Famous Miletians who have come down through history include the philosopher Thales, with his theory that all things are made of water. Thales is credited with having predicted a solar eclipse in the 6th century. And among other lesser achievements, such as anticipating a good olive crop early enough to buy a monopoly in the olive presses and also calculating the height of the Egyptian pyramids, he purportedly turned the flow of the Halys River, allowing the army of Croesus to pass safely. He was also the first man to use the phrase «Know Thyself», and was apparently one of the few who lived this philosophy along with all its implications. Thales has been considered since antiquity one of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world. Miletus was famous for other important thinkers and naturalists besides Thales, These Included Anaximander and Anaximenes who formulated theories concerned with the world’s material substances. Hecataeus, considered one of the fathers of geography, was also a Milesian.
The capture of Miletus by the Persians in 494 B.C. is referred to as the Fall of Miletus. This was the first time in the city’s history that it had been taken by force. But after the Persians were defeated in Greece, the city was revived to such a degree that its yearly tribute to the Delian Confederacy was assessed at the huge sum of five talents. This was only slightly less than that of Ephesus. Miletus, in spite of this revival, did not achieve the position of greatness she had once known. This was primarily because of the maritime supremacy Athens had achieved. Miletus could no longer compete.
The Theater: The theater is the most imposing of the city’s remains. It is considered one of the best examples of the Greco -Roman Type theater in existence, and dates to the second century A.D. Much of the 25,000 seat structure is in excellent condition. The front royvs of seats are well-preserved as are the vaulted passages underneath them. Inscriptions on the seats record their ownership. The 34 – meter – long stage was amply decorated with friezes and statuary in the Roman fashion, and the orchestra pit is tiled with lovely, piebald marble. The theater is situated some thirty meters above the level of the plain.
Delphinion: On the plain, to the east of the theater, are the remains of the Defphinlon or Sanctuary to Apollo Delphinius. This structure was first erected in Archaic times, then reconstructed along Hellenistic lines during the Roman period. A great number of inscriptions were found during the Delphinlon’s excavation that record various laws of the sanctuory as well as names of important visitors and statesmen. A sacrificial altar Is nearby. Legend holds that Apollo turned himself Into a dolphin in order to lure a Cretan ship to Miletus. These sailors served as priests for the temple. The sanctuary’s name is derived from Delphinius, the Greek word for dolphin.
Baths of Faustina: The rsmarkarbly well – preserved bathing complex was orginally constructed during the Age of Hellenism to serve as a gymnasium. The Romans, in turn, made the conversion to a both in honor of Queen Faustina, wife of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The open gymnasium is still recognizable, as is the whole five-part complex for bathing. The exercise field or Palaestra was situated to the west of the bath’s long entrance hall. The first of the rooms in this holl was used as a museum and class room. Most of the small rooms near the entrance also served educational purposes, while those closer to the central bath were likely used as changing-rooms. The large room at the south end of the hall was the Tepidarium, followed by the largest room of the compiex, the Caldarlum or hot-room. This and another hot-room are located to the east of the Tepidarium and are entered through the thick connecting wall. From the second hot-room, the bathers entered the Sudatorium or sweating-room. This was the hottest of the roams and was heated by means of hot water running through the wall-pipes. Then the bathers passed again into the Tepidarlum to cool ^ off, finally finishing In the cold waters of the Frigidarium. The bath complex is dated around A.D. 150 and was lavishly adorned and decorated with mosaics and statuary. Statues of Apollo and the Muses were discovered irr the museum section of the half, while others, the river god Meander and a lion statue, are still in their original positions within the Frigidarium.
Council Chamber: The Council Chamber or Bouleuterion was constructed along the lines of a theater with Its semi-circular assembly hall. Seating capacity of the hall is estimated to have been around 500. This structure is one of the city’s earliest remaining buildings, dating to the second century B.C. The rectangular const- ruction In the poorly-preserved court is thought to have served either as an altar or a tomb. A wooden roof presumably covered the whole building.
Nympheum: The Nympheum, across from the Council Chamber, served as the city’s main water distribution center. Little is left of this ornate fountain-building except the three vaulted niches and some of the rubble from the aqueducts. A large pool stood forward of the niches and was surrounded by a three-storied facade. Reliefs of nymphs decorated the elaborate structure. The fountain, built during the reign of Titus in A.D, 79 channeled water throughout the city.
Other Ruins of Miletus: The North Agora was the major marketing center of the city and consisted of an open court surrounded by two storied hails dating to the Roman period. To the east of the Agora is a Gymnasium that is entered by way of four steps, through the wide agora gate. This second century B.C. structure is surrounded by Doric and Ionic colonnades, witlf classrooms along the north boundary. Remains of several other baths, a stadium and other building foundations may be seen at the site along with the city cemetary. The latter is located below the Byzantine Castle on Kalabaktepe Hill, on the south side.