The spat known as the Panlonion of antiquity was the sacred meeting grounds of the twelve ionian cities. Here they staged their annual festival, Panionia, under the shadow of the ancient Mount Mycole, as well as various religious gatherings and celebrations.
The Panionion was dedicated to the Heliconian Poseidon, the local deity of the city of Helice in Greece, whence the original settlers .of* Ionia hod come. A temple built in Poseidon’s honor and sacred to the god was thought to have stood on the site from the year 700 B.C. The ruined sanctuary can be found today at the village of Güzelçamiı, near the town of Davutlar, some twelve miles south of Kuşadası.
HISTORY OF THE PANIONION
The twelve cities of Ionia and their territories extended along the coast of Western Anatolia and were bordered by the Aeoiians to the north and the Dorians in the south. The Panionion, the gathering place of the lonians, was described by the geographer Strabo as lying three strada from the sea. Twelve strada would have been about one mile. And the site of the sanctuary has remained unnoticed to travelers in this region for centuries>having only been recently excavated. Strabo olso wrote of the sacrifices made to the god Poseidon at the Panionion. He claimed it was a favorable sign if the victim cried out during the sacrificai ceremony. It is doubtful that many of these rites were considered unsatisfactory with this os the requisite. The lands of the Panionion were located within the confines of Priene, and for this reason the high priest of the temple at the sanctuary wos traditionally chosen from this city. If is thought that the site served the lonians until the fourth or fifth century B.C., when it was abandoned because of various hostilities in the area in favor of Ephesus.
At the Panionion the council members of the Ionian states met to make decisions concerning the government of the league as weil as to observe religious rites. The twelve cities included; Miletus, Ephesus, Teos, Phocaea, Myus, Colophon, Clazomenae, Samos, Priene, Lebedus, Erythrae ond Chios. The city of Smyrna was added to the league after its formation. Though important decisions were taken as a group by the council of the Ponionian League, the individual cities seemed to have enjoyed a great deal of independence in matters concerned with local politics. Priene was the breadbasket of Ionia during this period, lying in the fertile plains of the wandering Meander River. The most important city and the commercial center of the league was Miletus. It also flourished as a city of learning and the arts, Smyrna was noted for its traditions of poetry and literature, and Ephesus, to the south, had always been o great religious center.
Alexander the Great, upon his emergence into Asia Minor to usher in the Age of Hellenism, removed the Panionion from Ephesus back to its original location, and the traditional Panionia festival was once again celebrated at me site. This continued down ]nto the Roman period. The importance of the Panionion was never ^ the same, however, as other sanctuaries and festivals grew out of $ new conquests to serve as competition.
RUINS OF THE PANIONION
Little is left to be seen at the site of the ancient sanctuary on the slight hill above Güzelçamli Village. The ruins of a Christian church were discovered in the area in the late seventeenth century bearing an inscription that confirmed the location of the Panionion. Remains of a small amphitheater can be seen os welJ as parts of the fallen enclosure wall of the sanctuary. The theater was apparently constructed with only eleven rows of seats, having a large level rock as its stage area. The theater may have been used by the members of the Pan/onian League far council gatherings. A larger theater has not been uncovered, although the area might be expected to have had one in view of its importance to the whole of Ionia. A rectangular structure once occupied the center of the area which measured some twenty yards in length. This may have been the staging area for the many sacrifices referred to by ancient writers that were supposed to have taken place at the Panionion.