Now surrounded by arid plains, Miletus once sat upon a thin strip of land surrounded by four separate harbors. Envied for its prosperity and strategic coastal location, the city was destroyed and resettled several times. Eventually, it suffered the same fate as its Ionian neighbors the silting of its harbors. For centuries, Miletus was a hotbed of commercial and cultural development. In the 5th century BC, the Milesian alphabet was adopted as the standard Greek script. Miletus later became the headquarters of the Ionian school of philosophers, including Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. The city’s leadership, however, faltered in 499 BC, when Miletus organized an unsuccessful Ionian revolt against the Persian army. The Persians retaliated by wiping out the entire population of the city, massacring the men and selling the women and children into slavery.
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Today, the site’s main attraction is the theater, which sat 15,000 and was originally al the water’s edge. Clearly visible from the Priene-Didyma highway, the strikingly well-preserved structure dates from Hellenistic times, though most of the visible portion was constructed by the Romans. The remaining portions of Miletus are marshy most of the year, sometimes even during the summer. To the right of the theater as you enter the site is a restored 15th-centuıy kervansaray. The footpath meandering to the right of the theater leads to the largest Roman baths in Anatolia, the Faustina baths, erected by the wife of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Visible beyond the baths is the dome of the 15th-century Ilyas Bey Complex, which included mosques, Died roses, and baths, among other unidentified buildings. Further along the road past the baths are flu* north and south agoras. Today, only the pediment on which the gate to the south agora stood is visible, the grand entrance having been moved to Berlin’s Pergamon Museum in 1905. Just north of the south agora is the bouleuterion, where the government assembly met. From the front of the bouleuterion, the Sacred Way runs past the Nymphaeum, Hellenistic Gymnasium, Ionic Stoa, and Capitol baths on the right, and the north agora on the left, to the Delphinium, tire sanctuary of Apollo Delphinus. The temple, whose priests were all sailors, was first constructed to honor Apollo, who supposedly transformed himself into a dolphin and led the Cretans to Miletus.
Beyond the structures that border the Sacred Way lie a few isolated remains. Standing at the north end of this avenue, with the theater to your left, you can see the early 16th-century Dervish Lodge to the right, where followers of the Muslim mystic Mevlana studied. The Inn of Fleas is to the left. Though the name is not the original one, it is apt for the kervansaray-style structure today. Farther to the left is the synagogue, built in the Roman Period. North is where the two white marble lion statues used to sit, nobly surveying the harbor known as the Bay of Lions.
There is a small, rather underwhelming Archaeological Museum about 500m before the main entrance, featuring sculpture from the site. Even this fragment gives a good impression of the city’s former wealth and beauty.