The History of Miletus




Ongoing excavations at Miletus have so far found civilised settlements dating back through the bronze age to 3000 BCE, although historical records only go back to the 2nd millennium. According to legend the town was founded in 1500 BCE by Miletos. He was the grandson of King Minos of Crete, his parents being Minosís daughter Akakallis and the God Apollo. He was however subjected to the sexual advances of Minos and his brothers Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon, and scorning the King he ran away with Sarpedon to Lycia.


Regardless, the Cretian settlement was soon overrun by Milesians, who in turn were ousted by the Ionians from Athens on mainland Greece in 1000 BCE, who killed off all the men and married all the women.


After 687 BCE, Miletus started to found new colonies, and build up a maritime empire. During the 6th century BCE, Miletus fell under Lydian domination. Lydians were the first people to produce coinage. After being under siege by sea and land from 495 BCE, Miletus finally came completely under Persian rule by 402 BCE. The people were killed or banished and the city burnt down, leaving it in ruins, but it was rebuilt when the Persians withdrew from the city.


In 334B.C., Alexander the Great defeated the Persian army, and conquered all the cities in Anatolia. Because of the Oracle he had received at Didyma, when he conquered Miletus he pardoned all the inhabitants, and made them responsible for the upkeep of the Temple of Apollo. It was during this period that Miletus expanded its colonies and trade, and built many of its finest buildings.


By 133 BCE all the lands of the then weak king, Pergamon, were taken into the Roman Empire. Miletus becoming the administrative capital of Asia Minor under the Romans. Many major features were built during this period, including the city walls, monumental gates, the sacred way to the Temple of Apollo at Didyma, a new agora, Delphinion and Nymphaion, several of which were influenced by the Emperor Claudius, during his reign.


When the Roman Empire became divided, Miletus came under the Byzantine jurisdiction of Emperor Constantine in 323 CE. During the third century the harbour began to silt up with mud carried down the river Meander, and the trading which was the life blood of Miletus came to a halt. The silt completely filling the bay and formed a swamp which led to health problems for the people due to the mosquitoes. The once great city was reduced to a village surrounding the Palatia (fortress) which they had built on the summit of the hill above the amphitheatre.