Monuments reported by ancient authors MILITOS (Ancient city) TURKEY - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Monuments reported by ancient authors (5)

Ancient tombs

The grave of Neleus

The grave of Neileus is on the left of the road, not far from the gate, as you go to Didymi (Paus. 7,2,6).

Ancient temples

Temple of Serapis



Ancient altars

Altar on the Poseidium

There is an altar, erected by Neleus, to be seen on the Poseidium.

Ancient oracles

Oracle of Apollo Didymaeus

Oracle of Apollo Didymaeus, usually called the oracle of the Branchidae, in the territory of Miletus. This oracle was, as has been intimated, the fourth in importance of all in the Grecian world; and the legends respecting its foundation are highly picturesque. (Conon. Narrat. 33; Varr. ap. Lutat. ad Stat. Thebaid, viii. 198.) The antiquity of it has, however, been much doubted, and C. W. Soldau (in the Zeitschrift fur Alterthumswissenschaft, 1841, pp. 546-584) endeavours to show that it was founded somewhere about the last quarter of the 7th century B.C. But his arguments, though highly ingenious, hardly seem to countervail these two facts: first, that Herodotus calls it an oracle founded in ancient time (manteion ek palaiou hidrumenon, i. 157); and, secondly, that Pharaoh-Necho (who died in B.C. 601) sent to Branchidae, as an offering to Apollo, his military dress (Hierod. ii. 159), which he would hardly have done to a quite recent institution. It is true that it is suggested that the temple was more ancient than the oracle; but no one supposes that the family of the Branchidae were more ancient than the oracle; and their arrival (in the person of the head of the family, Branchus) could hardly have been a fact unknown to Herodotus if it had taken place only a century and a half before his own time. Branchus is probably a mythical person; the only argument to the contrary being the obscure reference in Diogenes Laertius (i. 3, 5 [72]), in which he is set side by side with the sage Chilon as a person of brief terse speech.
  The oracle, however, is quite unmentioned by Homer or the Homeric hymns, and various points in the myths of its foundation indicate that it was an offshoot from Delphi; to which conclusion the reference in Strabo (xvii. p. 814) also leads. But at the beginning of the 5th century B.C., the sentiments of the Delphic oracle towards Branchidae were the reverse of friendly (Herod. vi. 19). It was the oracle chiefly consulted by the Aeolians and Ionians of Asia Minor; and it was one of the seven selected by Croesus to answer his test question; and though it appears not to have solved his puzzle satisfactorily, he gave it, says Herodotus (i. 92), offerings, as I learn, equal in weight and similar to those which he made to Delphi. This, under all the circumstances, may be doubted; but Croesus must have been liberal to the Branchidae, to render such a statement possible.
  The meaning of the word Didymaeus (Didumaios or Didumeus) is not quite certain; but if we accept the statement of Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v. Diduma) that the temple and oracle were dedicated to Zeus and Apollo, the twin Apollo (i. e. twin with Zeus) seems the natural interpretation: though twin with Artemis cannot be discarded as impossible, if Didumeus has this meaning. In any case, if Stephanus be right, such a dedication suggests an oracular foundation (cf. Aesch. Eum. 19), and goes some way to show that the oracle is coeval with the temple.
  Of the constitution of the oracle of Branchidae only a few traces are left. As its name implies, it was administered by a sacerdotal family, and this appears further from its later history; for in the unfortunate close of the history of the Branchidae, far away in the Sogdiana, we find them preserving their cohesion and identity. Other families are also mentioned in connexion with this oracle, especially the Evangelides (cf. Conon. Narrat. 44); but what their relation to it exactly was we do not know. Perhaps they only entered on the scene after the Branchidae had disappeared. Though Strabo (l. c.) describes this oracle as similar to Delphi, in the fact of its replying by words and not by signs, we cannot certainly infer that it had a tripod and a prophetess in the early times; though it had in the times of Iamblichus (de Myst. iii. 2). But it had a sacred spring more marvellous than Castalia, which rose in the promontory of Mycale, then (it was said) dived under the sea and reappeared near the temple of Apollo (Pausan. v. 7, ยง 5; and cf. Euseb. Psraep. Ev. v. 15).
The Branchidae failed in patriotism (Schol. Aristoph. Plut. 1002; Zenob. v. 80); yet the impression which the few stories that have come down to us about them leave, is not wholly unfavourable. When we find the historian Hecataeus proposing to take the treasure of their temple, and to derive thence a fund for repelling the Persians (Herod. v. 36), their coolness for the Greek cause, if not admirable, is intelligible. About the beginning of the 5th century B.C. a catastrophe overwhelmed them. Darius, after capturing Miletus, burnt their temple (Herod. vi. 19, 20) and, we must infer, appropriated its treasures; and when the historian goes on to say that Darius carried away the Milesians to Ampe on the Tigris, we should suppose that the Branchidae were at any rate among those carried off. But a different story was current in Greece in later days; namely, [p. 288] that it was Xerxes, not Darius, who carried away the Branchidae; that they voluntarily surrendered their treasures to him, bargaining for a safe home in Persia, since they dared not dwell among the Greeks, and that they were accordingly settled in Sogdiana (Curtius, vii. 23; Aelian, ap. Suid. s. v. Branchidai: Strabo, xi. p. 518, xiv. p. 634; Plut. de ser. num. vindicta, 12); and Strabo says, finally, that it was Xerxes who burnt their temple. Amid this contradictory evidence, it is impossible for us now to decide how the case lay; but the easiest supposition is, that Herodotus was not aware of the exact place to which the Branchidae were transported, and that on this point the four later historians are right; that the four historians, on the other hand, are mistaken in saying that Xerxes had anything to do with the matter (since Herodotus could hardly have erred here); and that the story of the treachery of the Branchidae was the exaggerated shape which the sense of their want of patriotism took in the minds of after-generations. Be that as it may, the final upshot, as reported by the four above-named historians, was tragical. Alexander the Great, in his wild arrogance regarding himself as the avenger of the past wrongs of Greece, slew the descendants of the Branchidae, in their peaceable remote retreat in Sogdiana.
  The oracle of Apollo Didymaeus, no longer the oracle of the Branchidae (though still sometimes called so), revived from the ruins in which the Persians had left it; though how soon, we do not know. In the time of Alexander we find it under the direction of the authorities of Miletus (cf. O. Rayet, Rev. Archeol. 1874, ii. pp. 106, 107); the priests were chosen annually by lot from among the principal families of the city (cf. C. I. G. 2884, 2881): the chief of the priestly body was called stephanephoros, crownbearer, and it seems possible that he combined with his religious office, either sometimes or always, the position of chief magistrate of the city, for we find him in one case admitting certain persons to citizenship (O. Rayet, p. 108); besides these, there was a prophet, also annually ordained. The temple had been rebuilt, but on a scale so grand that the roof was never put on (Strabo, xiv. p. 634). The oracle flattered Alexander, and after him Seleucus Nicator, from whom it received gifts; and from this time onwards it rapidly became rich. In the year 74 B.C. it was pillaged by pirates, yet Strabo in his visit still found it in a condition of great magnificence. It seems (like the other Asiatic oracles) to have been less affected by a decline in prestige than the oracles in Greece proper; and the Roman senate included it among those religious institutions which it was legally permissible to endow with inheritances (Ulpian, Fragm. xxii. 6). It shared in the oracular revival of the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., but after the death of Julian fell irretrievably into ruin.

This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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