One of the most prominent cities of the ancient Greek world, Miletus city was situated on the western coast of Turkey nearby Didymaion which was the oracle center of Anatolia. The population of the city was between 80,000 and 100,000 people. Its location on trade routes of the antique world and its harbours basicly played a significant role on its prominence. However, Miletus city was on the coast of River Meander which silted up for centuries and this occurence can be said to be one of the reasons for its decline in importance. The ancient Miletus city have stayed a few kilometres away from the sea today.
According to what the ancient historians legendarily told, the city was founded by one of the sons of King Codrus in Athens, Neleus. Miletus seemed suitable to settle. They killed the male inhabitants to get women married with the residents of Neleus. From that occasion on, the women never had dinner at the same table with their husbands and called them by their names. Miletus reached its peak era under the control of Ionians’ which lasted for more than two hundred years, between 10C BC and 7 C BC. The ancient Miletus city rebelled against the Persian armies around 499 BC, yet it was invaded along with their vandalizing consequently. Miletus joined in the Delian League contributing more than ancient Ephesus city. After the agreement between the Persian Satrap and Athens, Miletus was ruled by the Persians again. At the end of the 5C BC Carian governors took the control of Miletus city.
After a siege by Alexander the Great in 334 BC, the city was ruled by the Seleucid Dynasty in the following years. Miletus became one of the most important centers of trade during the Roman era. The Roman period was followed by Byzantine and Turkish periods.
The ancient Miletus city is significant on terms of its biblical aspect. St. Paul made a visit at Miletus in 57 AD on his way back to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey. Paul sent a message to his friends that were in Ephesus to be with him at Miletus and he said them goodbye for the last time. Afterwards, he sailed to Patara. The grid city plan of Hippodamus was applied on Miletus in the 5C BC for the first time in the world. Originally built as a small Hellenistic structure, the theatre of Miletus city had a capacity of 5,300 spectators. However, in the first half of the 2 C AD it was restored as a Roman theatre. Keeping the Roman features structurally, the Miletus Theatre held approximately 15,000 spectators and its stage building became three-storied. It is possible to see the sculptures depicting Tripod of god Apollo in front of the stage building.
A Byzantine castle was erected erected at the top of the hill in 7 C AD, using the stone pieces of the theatre. It was later restored during the Seljuks period. The Delphinium, a Hellenistic edifice surrounded by four colonnades, had a 6 C BC altar in the middle. Related to god Apollo, the dolphin was sacred for the inhabitants of Miletus. The festivals of Didyma were celebrated here. There was another portico parallel to the sacred road on the southern part of the Delphinium. There were 35 Ionic columns and 19 shops known behind the colonnade dating back to 1 C AD.
The Senato Hall, Bouleterion, was built in 2 C BC, including an entrance hall on a propylon style, a courtyard and an auditorium. In the porch were the friezes depicting war scenes. The auditorium, covered with a wooden roof, would hold 1,500 spectators.
The Fountin Structure, Nymphaeum, was first erected in 2 C AD and restored in the following century. As a three-storied edifice, it was built towards the Bouleterion opposite the sacred road. There were statues of gods standing in the niches and the water was gushing out of the mouths of the bronze fish.
The South Agora was located behind the Bouleterion. It was typically a Hellenistic structure, which was reformed in the Roman era. The Northern gate of the Agora is unfortunately exhibited at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin today, like other gems of Anatolia.
The Temple of Serapis was located between the Faustina Baths and the southern agora. Erected with Corinthian columns and including a relief of Serapis on the pediment, the temple was a 3 C BC edifice. It was restored in 3 C AD by Emperor Julius Aurelius.
The Baths of Faustina, dating back to 2 C AD Roman baths, were built by Faustina, wife of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The cold room frigidarium had a lying statue of the river god, thought to be animating the River Meander.
Ilyas Bey Mosque was a part of the complex including a madrasah, cemetery and an imaret, an Ottoman soup kitchen, too. It was constructed in 15 C by Ilyas Bey, the regional Ottoman military commander. It was entered by the central arch. Having a brick dome, the mosque was destroyed in 1955.
Excavations at Miletus city have been conducted by the Berlin Museum along with the German teams since 1899. Some pieces from Miletus city, such as the massive gate of agora, are on display at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.