Holidaymakers who choose to base themselves in and around the lively port city of Kusadasi in Turkey, have several outstanding archaeological sites to visit, among them – once nearby Ephesus has been explored – is that of Miletus.
From Kusadasi Spa & Golf Resort, Miletus is around 58km and its ruins make a memorable and cultural day out. Now sited 5 miles inland, Miletus was once a coastal city at the mouth of the River Meander. Located at the hub of four working harbours, it fell into decline as these silted over.
Like Ephesus, it was one of the 12 most important cities of Ionia and one of the first in the ancient world to mint coins. Destroyed by the Persians in 499BC, it was subsequently rebuilt, partly to a design plan (the Hippodamian grid) devised by a native of the city, Hippodamus.
Its defeat by Alexander the Great brought about a new era of trade and prosperity, while the Romans who annexed it in 133BC built several monumental structures. During the 2nd century AD, Emperor Trajan ordered construction of the Sacred Way, from Miletus to Didyma where the Temple of Apollo lay, and the 12 mile route became an annual pilgrimage.
Although the original great city was eventually brought to its knees by destruction of its harbours, and malaria, it continued as a small village but was finally abandoned in the 17th century. Today’s visitor has a good many ruins to see, however, and the hilltop Byzantine castle permits a wide view of these scattered across the plain. A monumental tomb lies below the castle, honouring a local hero.
There is a large theatre, its façade 460ft (140m) wide and 100 ft (30m) tall, dating from the 4th century BC, which was expanded under Emperor Trajan to seat 25,000 spectators. A Greek inscription reads ‘For the Jews and the God-fearers’, underlining that the city had a sizeable Jewish population.
Other relics include the Baths of Faustina from 164AD, built with fountains shaped after the river god Meander; the main temple Delphinion, a shrine to Apollo of the Dolphins: the Harbour Gateway, Byzantine church of St. Michael (6th century AD) and others, among which the bouleuterion, a part-excavated stadium, featured a 600 feet long track and water clocks at the start and finish.