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The Catholic Encyclopedia


A titular see of Asia Minor, suffragan of Aphrodisias, in Caria. Situated on the western coast of Caria near the Latmic Gulf at the mouth of the Mζander and the terminus of several of the great roads of Asia Minor, Miletus was for a long period one of the most prosperous cities of the ancient world. At first inhabited by the Leleges and called Lelegeis or Pityussa, it was rebuilt under the name of Miletus by the Cretans (Strabo, XIV, i, 3). It is mentioned by Homer (Iliad, II, 868). About the tenth century B. C. the Ionians occupied it, and made it a maritime and commercial power of the first rank. From it numerous colonies were founded along the Hellespont, the Propontis, and the Black Sea, among others Cyzicus and Sinope. Miletus also had its period of literary glory with the philosophers Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, the historians Hecatζus and Cadmus, the rhetorician Ζschines, and the writer of tales, Aristides. After the sixth century B. C., it passed successively under the domination of the Persians, Alexander, the Seleucides, and the Romans, and finally lost its splendour to such an extent as to become for the Greeks and Romans the symbol of vanished prosperity. It is, nevertheless, often mentioned by Strabo (XII, viii, 16; XIV, i, 3, 6) and by Pliny (Hist. nat., IV, xi; V, xxxii etc.). St. Paul landed there from Samos, and there bade farewell to the ancients of the Church of Ephesus. On another occasion, doubtless after his first captivity, he left here his companion Trophimus, who was ill (II Tim., iv, 20). In the Acts of St. Thyrsus and his companions, martyred at Miletus under Decius, mention is made of a Bishop Cζsarius who gave them burial (Acta SS., III, Jan., 423). Eusebius, Bishop of Miletus, assisted at the Council of Nicζa (325). For the list of the other known bishops see Le Quien (I, 917-20) and Gams (448). Mention may be here made of St. Nicephorus in the tenth century (Anal. Bolland., XIV, 129-66). At first a suffragan of Aphrodisias, Miletus afterwards became an autocephalous archdiocese and even a metropolis. Among those who brought fame to the city during Byzantine times must be mentioned the architect Isidore, who, with Anthemius of Tralles, built St. Sophia at Constantinople. The ancient city is now buried under the alluvium of the Mζander, which has also filled up the Latmic Gulf. Near its site, about four and a half miles from the sea, is the village which since the medieval times has been called Palatia or Palatscha. Recent excavations have brought to light other ruins, the remains of a temple of Apollo Didymζus. Greek Christian inscriptions have also been found there, among others one mentioning the martyr Onesippus, and another, probably of the fourth century, containing an invocation to the seven archangels, guardians of the city (Corp. inscr. gr., 2892, 8847).

S. Salaville, ed.
Transcribed by: Douglas J. Potter
This text is cited July 2004 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  A harbor city in SW Asia Minor at the mouth of the Maiandros river and now 9 km from the sea. According to Strabo (14.1.6; 634f) it was founded by Cretans from Milatos (E Mallia) and then resettled by Ionians under Neleus. These reports have been confirmed by the excavations.
  Between the founding and refounding of the city, Mycenaean Achaeans occupied it, and to this period belong the great bastioned walls perhaps erected against the Hittites and destroyed by the Camians, who led Milesian troops against the Greeks in the Trojan War (Hom. Il. 2.868ff).
  Early in the 1st millennium B.C. Miletos was the most important and probably the largest settlement in the league of the 12 Ionian cities, and it was surpassed in this role by Ephesos only after the Ionian rebellion and the destruction by the Persians (Hdt. 6.18ff) in 494 B.C. After a decisive sea battle in front of Miletos near the island of Lade (Batmas), the city was destroyed (Hdt. 6.11ff).
  In archaic times Miletos extended from the Kalabak tepe 60 m high, presumed to be the seat of the tyrants, to the NE and the so-called Harbor of the Bay of Lions, one of the harbors mentioned by Strabo (loc. cit.). The center was situated from the earliest times around the Athena temple in the NW between the so-called Theater Harbor and the large bay (Athena Harbor) that extended to the Kalabak tepe. Following the Persian wars, the center shifted to the so-called N market on the Bay of Lions whence in the spring of each year processions made their departure from the Sanctuary of Apollo Delphinios to the Apollo temple of Didyma, 18 km distant. The first section of the processional route was transformed in Roman times into a magnificent street: halls of columns, a three-story fountain structure, the Nymphaeum, and a two-story gate on the N side of the still unexcavated S market.
  The excavations have so far produced only an initial evaluation of archaic Milesian art work: whether ceramics, plastic arts. or architecture. Concerning architecture and city planning, however, it is certain that the system of streets intersecting one another at right angles and named after the Milesian, Hippodamos, had already been used in the archaic period. Perhaps the system was developed in the city's colonies, of which it is supposed to have sent out 90--especially on the Marmara and Black Sea (cf. Strab. loc. cit.; Plin. HN 5.112). With the reconstruction begun in 479 B.C. by Hippodamos, the system was carried out throughout his native city.
  The reconstruction of the city, which began with the shrines of Athena and of Apollo Delphinios, extended over a long period. Built upon at least two earlier edifices from archaic and prehistoric (Mycenaean) times, the Classical Athena temple received a new orientation from S to N and took the form of an Ionic peripteros with a double vestibule laid out upon a terrace. It has not been definitely determined whether the Delphinion had any pre-Persian predecessors. Not until the time of Alexander the Great were the city walls completed. Independent not only from the Persian king, but also from its own tyrants, Miletos became a member of the Attic League in the 5th c. B.C. and maintained its alliance with Athens in the Peloponnesian war until Alkibiades succeeded in withdrawing Athens in 412 B.C. (Thuc. 8.17ff). Thereafter and until its subjugation by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. (Arr. 1.18f), Miletos was the base of the Persian king or of Persian Satraps (Maussolos ?) and important because of its maritime position.
  In the confusion among Alexander's successors the city was a point of dispute, especially between the Diadochs and the Epigones, but it was also possessed by local tyrants such as Asandros (314-313 B.C., cf. Diod. 19.75) or by Timarchos, the Aetolian (mound grave on the E slope of the theater hill ?). The city was freed from Timarchos by Antiochos II, who was for this reason named "Theos" (cf. App. Syr. 65).
  Whether Asandros is connected with Miletos through the founding of Heraklea at Latmos, whose fortifications were most likely completed by Pleistarchos, is a question that must remain unanswered until the excavation of the city. [In the "Results of the Excavations and Investigations, etc." only the fortifications and the Christian cloisters of Heraklea are discussed (M III 1 and 2).] It is also uncertain whether the Milesian brothers Timarchos and Herakleides, who built the bouleuterion for Antiochos IV Epiphanes, are descendants of the tyrant Timarchos. The design is important in the history of art as an early axial symmetrical composition: it includes a building at right angles to the main axis with an audience room similar to a theater and covered with an extensive wooden ceiling without center support, and in front of it a court hall with a Corinthian columned vestibule.
  Along with the Seleucids, especially the Attalid Eumenes II of Pergamon stands out as a builder, founding the Gymnasium and most likely also the stadium and honored by a gilded bronze statue upon a large round basis. The Gymnasium, preserved only in a Roman reconstruction, has not been excavated. Older predecessors of the stadium have as yet not been established. The plan of the W gate is in any case by Eumenes with eastern characteristics and of the period of late antiquity. Its drainage system is still readily recognizable today.
  Miletos' relationships with the Romans were less fortunate. The city was late with its introduction of the cult of Roma, namely, after the establishment of the Province Asia 133 B.C. Consequently, even under Tiberius in A.D. 26, Miletos was regarded as inferior to Smyrna as the choice for the site of a temple for the emperor (cf. Tac. Ann. 4.56). The city ranked below Ephesos, the seat of the governor, and also below Pergamon, the site of the emperor cult [cf. author, Das ramische Milet (1970) 119f].
  At the time of Mithridates VI Eupator, Miletos was apparently unreliable and consequently deprived of its freedom, which the city first recovered from Mark Antony in 38 B.C. A retrogression in its development is also indicated by the fact that after 100 B.C. a new strongly fortified city wall crossed directly through the old housing section, which thus appears to have been reduced by half.
  A new blossoming was achieved first under Trajan, who dedicated to his father the grandiose Nymphaeum with its tabernacle-type architecture inspired by theater facades. He also completed the processional street from the sanctified gate in the S of the city up to Didyma (100-101). Above all, the city was indebted to Marcus Aurelius' wife Faustina. Most likely because of her sojourn there in A.D. 164, she made generous donations for the baths named after her and perhaps was also concerned with the completion of the large Roman theater--both the best-preserved ruins in the city. The Baths of Faustina, because of their asymmetrical spatial composition, are especially noteworthy by comparison with the corresponding baths in Rome and elsewhere in the west. The theater, repeatedly reconstructed, was designed for at least 15,000 spectators. The third upper level was removed for use in a mediaeval castle.
  Clearly belonging to the late period of antiquity is the Serapeum lying next to the S market; in its design it anticipated the Early Christian churches--the Basilica of St. Michael and the so-called Bishop's Church. These in themselves attest to the importance of the post-Classical Miletos, which built its Gothic and Justinian walls upon those of the Hellenistic city and as a final Byzantine bulwark the theater castle Palati (Balat).
  Since the description in this entry is chronological, a few directions to help locate the various monuments follow. From the theater, the most conspicuous landmark, one looks E and S over the area of the North Market with the Delphinion, Baths of Capito, Nymphaeum, Bouleuterion, South Market, and adjacent buildings. To the S of the theater lies the Stadium; and the W, the West Market and the Temple of Athena. Between the South Market and the stadium are the Baths of Faustina.
  The three markets have a natural relationship with the four harbors of the town, yet it does not follow that the oldest market is situated at the oldest harbor, that of the theater. Moreover, market does not necessarily mean market-place. To what an extent Miletos was a harbor town even in comparison with Ephesos can be learned from the role of its markets. Accordingly, at the planning of the new town an important area was set aside for what we call the North Market. It is the oldest market-place, the oldest known agora of Miletos.

G. Kleiner, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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Miletos (Miletus)

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   (Miletos). One of the greatest cities of Asia Minor. It belonged territorially to Caria and politically to Ionia, being the southernmost of the twelve cities of the Ionian confederacy. The city stood upon the southern headland of the Sinus Latmicus, opposite to the mouth of the Maeander, and possessed four distinct harbours, protected by a group of little islands; its territory was rich in flocks, and the city was celebrated for its woollen fabrics, the Milesia vellera. At a very early period it became a great maritime State, and founded numerous colonies, especially on the shores of the Euxine. Among these were Abydos, Tomi, Olbia, Cyzicus, and Odessus; and in Egypt, Naucratis. It was the birthplace of the philosophers Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, and of the historians Cadmus and Hecataeus. It was the centre of the great Ionian revolt against the Persians, after the suppression of which it was destroyed (B.C. 494). It recovered sufficient importance to oppose a vain resistance to Alexander the Great, which brought upon it a second ruin. Under the Roman Empire it still appears as a place of some consequence. The earlier name of Miletus is said to have been Pityusa (Pituousa) or Anactoria (Anaktoria).

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Miletos: Eth. Milesios, Milesius. Once the most flourishing city of Ionia, was situated on the northern extremity of the peninsula formed, in the south-west of the Latmicus Sinus, by Mount Grion. The city stood opposite the mouth of the Maeander, from which its distance amounted to 80 stadia.
  At the time when the Ionian colonies were planted on the coast of Asia Minor, Miletus already existed as a town, and was inhabited, according to Herodotus (i. 146), by Carians, while Ephorus (ap. Strab. xiv. p. 634) related that the original inhabitants had been Leleges, and that afterwards Sarpedon introduced Cretan settlers. The testimony of Herodotus is born out by the Homeric poems, in which (Il. ii. 867) Miletus is spoken of as a place of the Carians. That the place was successively in the hands of different tribes, is intimated also by the fact mentioned by Pliny (v. 30), that the earlier names of Miletus were Lelegeis, Pityusa, and Anactoria. (Comp. Paus. vii. 2. § 3; Steph. B. s. v.) On the arrival of the Ionians, Neleus, their leader, with a band of his followers, took forcible possession of the town, massacred all the men, and took the women for their wives,-an event to which certain social customs. regulating the intercourse between the sexes, were traced by subsequent generations. It appears, however, that Neleus did not occupy the ancient town itself, but built a new one on a site somewhat nearer the sea. (Strab. l. c.) Tombs, fortifications, and other remains, attributed to the ancient Leleges, were shown at Miletus as late as the time of Strabo (xiv. p. 611; comp. Herod. ix. 97). As in most other colonies the Ionians had amalgamated with the ancient inhabitants of the country, the Milesians were believed to be the purest representatives of the Ionians in Asia. Owing to its excellent situation, and the convenience of four harbours, one of which was capacious enough to contain a fleet, Miletus soon rose to a great preponderance among the Ionian cities. It became the most powerful maritime and commercial place; its ships sailed to every part of the Mediterranean, and even into the Atlantic; but the Milesians turned their attention principally to the Euxine, on the coasts of which, as well as elsewhere, they founded upwards of 75 colonies. (Plin. v. 31; Senec. Cons. ad Helv. 6; Strab. xiv. p. 635; Athen. xii. p. 523.) The most remarkable of these colonies were Abydos, Lampsacus, and Parium, on the Hellespont; Proconnesus and Cyzicus on the Propontis ; Sinope and Amisus on the Euxine; while others were founded in Thrace, the Crimea, and on the Borysthenes. The period during which Miletus acquired this extraordinary power and prosperity, was that between its occupation by the Ionians and its conquest by the Persians, B.C. 494.
  The history of Miletus, especially the earlier portion of it, is very obscure. A tyrannis appears to have been established there at an early time; after the overthrow of this tyrannis, we are told, the city was split into two factions, one of which seems to have been an oligarchical and the other a democratic party. (Plut. Quaest. Gr. 32.) The former gained the ascendant, but was obliged to take extraordinary precautions to preserve it. On another occasion we hear of a struggle between the wealthy citizens and the commonalty, accompanied with horrible excesses of cruelty on both sides. (Athen. xii. p. 524.) Herodotus (v. 28) also speaks of a civil war at Miletus, which lasted for two generations, and reduced the people to great distress. It was at length terminated by the mediation of the Persians, who seem to have committed the government to those landowners who had shown the greatest moderation, or had kept aloof from the contest of the parties. All these convulsions took place within the period in which Miletus rose to the summit of her greatness as a maritime state. When the kingdom of Lydia began its career of conquest, its rulers were naturally attracted by the wealth and prosperity of Miletus. The first attempts to conquer it were made by Ardys, and then by Sadyattes, who conquered the Milesians in two engagements. After the death of Sadyattes, the war was continued by Alyattes, who, however, concluded a peace, because he was taken ill in consequence, it was believed, of his troops having burnt a temple of Athena in the territory of Miletus. (Herod i. 17, &c.) At this time the city was governed by the tyrant Thrasybulus, a friend of Periander of Corinth (Herod. v. 92), and a crafty politician. Subsequently Miletus seems to have concluded a treaty with Croesus, whose sovereignty was recognised, and to whom tribute was paid.
  After the conquest of Lydia by the Persians, Miletus entered into a similar relation to Cyrus as that in which it had stood to Croesus, and was thereby saved from the calamities inflicted upon other Ionian cities. (Herod. i. 141, &c.) In the reign of Darius, the Ionians allowed themselves to be prevailed upon by Histiaeus and his unscrupulous kinsman and successor openly to revolt against Persia, B.C. 500. Miletus having, in the person of its tyrant, headed the expedition, had to pay a severe penalty for its rashness. After repeated defeats in the field, the city was besieged by land and by sea, and finally taken by storm B.C. 494. The city was plundered and its inhabitants massacred, and the survivors were transplanted, by order of Darius, to a place called Ampe, near the mouth of the Tigris. The town itself was given up to the Carians. (Herod. vi. 6, &c.; Strab. xiv. p. 635.)
  The battle of Mycale, in B.C. 479, restored the freedom of Miletus, which soon after joined the Athenian confederacy. But the days of its greatness and glory were gone (Thuc. i. 15, 115, &c.); its ancient spirit of liberty, however, was not, yet extinct, for, towards the end of the Peloponnesian War, Miletus threw off the yoke imposed upon her by Athens. In a battle fought under the very walls of their city, the Milesians defeated their opponents, and Phrynichus, the Athenian admiral, abandoned the enterprise. (Thuc. viii. 25, &c.) Not long after this, the Milesians demolished a fort which the Persian Tissaphernes was erecting in their territory, for the purpose of bringing them to subjection. (Thuc. viii. 85.) In B.C. 334, when Alexander, on his Eastern expedition, appeared before Miletus, the inhabitants, encouraged by the presence of a Persian army and fleet stationed at Mycale, refused to submit to him. Upon this, Alexander immediately commenced a vigorous attack upon the wails, and finally took the city by assault. A part of it was destroyed on that occasion ; but Alexander pardoned the surviving inhabitants, and granted them their liberty. (Arrian, Anab. i. 18, &c.; Strab. l. c.) After this time Miletus continued, indeed, to flourish as a commercial place, but was only a second-rate town. In the war between the Romans and Antiochus, Miletus sided with the former. (Liv. xxxvii. 16, xliii. 6.) The city continued to enjoy some degree of prosperity at the time when Strabo wrote, and even as late as the time of Pliny and Pausanias. (Comp. Tac. Ann. iv. 63, 55.) From the Acts (xx. 17), it appears that St. Paul stayed a few days there, on his return from Macedonia and Troas. In the Christian times, Ephesus was the see of a bishop, who occupied the first rank among the bishops of Caria; and in this condition the town remained for several centuries (Hierocl. p. 687; Mich. Duc. p. 14), until it was destroyed by the Turks and other barbarians.
  Miletus, in its best days, consisted of an inner and an outer city, each of which had its own fortifications (Arrian l. c.), while its harbours were protected by the group of the Tragusaean islands in front of which Lade was the largest. Great and beautiful as the city may have been, we have now no means of forming any idea of its topography, since its site and its whole territory have been changed by the deposits of the Maeander into a pestilential swamp, covering the remains of the ancient city with water and mud. Chandler, and other travellers not being aware of this change, mistook the ruins of Myus for those of Miletus, and describe them as such. (Leake, Asia Minor, p. 239.) Great as Miletus was as a commercial city, it is no less great in the history of Greek literature, being the birthplace of the philosophers Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, and of the historians Cadmus and Hecataeus.
  The Milesians, like the rest of the Ionians, were notorious for their voluptuousness and effeminacy, though, at one time, they must have been brave and warlike. Their manufactures of couches and other furniture were very celebrated, and their woollen cloths and carpets were particularly esteemed. (Athen. 1. p. 28, xi. p. 428, xii. 540, 553, xv. 691; Virg. Georg. iii. 306, iv. 335.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


  Ampe (Ampe: Eth. Ampaios), a place where Darius settled the Milesians who were made prisoners at the capture of Miletus, B.C. 494. (Herod. vi. 20.) Herodotus describes the place as on the Erythraean sea (Persian Gulf); he adds that the Tigris flows past it. This description does not enable us to fix the place. It has been supposed to be the Iamba of Ptolemy, and the Ampelone of Pliny (vi. 28), who calls it Colonia Milesiorum. Tzetzes has the name Ampe. (Harduin‘s note on Plin. vi. 28.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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