Miletus was an important ancient Greek then Roman city, which still boasts an impressive ancient theatre among its ruins in modern Turkey. Sadly, today’s ruins of Miletus are barely a shadow of its former glory. Nevertheless there are several ruins still to be explored.
With a history thought to date back as far as the 16th, perhaps even the 17th, century BC, Miletus eventually became a thriving hub from the 8th to 7th centuries BC until suffering significant destruction during its capture by the Persians in the 5th century BC. Miletus was rebuilt on a new site after this and once again became an important centre.
During Alexander the Great’s campaign against the Persian Empire, in 334 BC, the Macedonian conqueror undertook a short siege of the city before its capture. Another great leader, Julius Caesar also visited this city upon his release after being kidnapped by pirates in 75 BC. Caesar headed to Miletus to raise a fleet to pursue his former captors, whom he swiftly defeated and executed.
In its heyday Miletus was a magnificent city renowned for its great philosophers. The city’s success was due in large part to its port which eventually silted up, contributing greatly to its decline.
Today, the 15,000-seater Roman theatre is definitely Miletus’ star attraction. One fascinating aspect of this theatre, other than its excellent state of preservation are the inscriptions which are said to reserve seating for certain groups, including one for “Jews and God fearers”. These inscriptions are said by some to show Miletus to be a tolerant, multicultural society.
Make sure you explore the covered walkways within the theatre, which are great fun to wander through. Though the site has suffered greatly through the centuries, there are a handful of other highlights to be found at Miletus. These include the small remains of a colonnaded covered walkway, the Baths of Faustina and a reasonably well preserved temple to Apollo.
Getting to Miletus
Located on the southern edge of the Meander River flood plain, Miletus is 22 kilometres (14 miles) south of Priene by car. It’s the central of the three ancient sites (Priene, Miletus and Didyma) you can visit on a day trip from Selçuk (Ephesus) or Kuşadası. The Miletus Museum is about one km south along the side road to Akköy.