Humeitepe is the northernmost hill in the city area of Miletus. In the Bronze Age (around 4000–1500 BCE), Humeitepe was an island. From the Geometric (1050–700 BCE) until the Archaic period (700–490/480 BCE), it formed the northeastern promontory of the Milesian peninsula. After that time, a narrow isthmus connected it with the city, forming the northern boundary of the Lion Harbor.
The ancient name of the hill is unknown, and the etymology of its modern name is unclear. It may be derived from hümayun, an originally Persian word meaning holy, divine, blessed or belonging to the padishah / the sultan that is also used in Turkish. The term is also connected with the Huma Bird, a legendary and mythical creature from Turkish folklore that is said never to touch the ground. Some speculate that the name might refer to a palace which possibly stood on Humeitepe in the Middle Ages. Its elevated location would have granted its residents sweeping views of Balat and the surrounding area; a building in such a spot might have been the residence of an emir or his governor. The Ottoman records do, indeed, mention a district called Hümayun. Another interpretation suggests that the name comes from Ottoman Turkish and means “typhoid hill,” but there are no sources to corroborate this theory. Over time, the name has been spelled in various ways, such as Home Tepe, Humeitepe, and Humeytepe.
Photo: Miletus dig in 2021
View of Humeitepe from the south.
The ridge of Humeitepe must have granted wonderful views of the gulf—or, after it dried up, the Menderes Plain —and the surrounding landscape, from Mount Dilek (Samsun Dağı or Dilek Dağları) to the Beşparmak Mountains (Beşparmak Dağları), formerly called Latmos. Towards the south, you could also see the city center, Kaletepe, the distant hills of Kalabaktepe, Değirmentepe, and Zeytintepe.
Geophysical prospection has provided detailed information about the route of the ancient roads on Humeitepe. To date, 2 bath complexes (the Humeitepe Thermae and the thermae at the Eastern Harbor), the city wall, a gate at the Eastern Harbor and a temple at the northernmost tip of the peninsula have been excavated. The results of a new survey and geophysical prospection have shown that Humeitepe was a densely populated part of the city area as early as the Hellenistic period (330/320–31 BCE), perhaps even before then. Many finds, such as the temple dedicated to Demeter, suggest that the hill was part of the settlement from the Classical period (490/480–330/320 BCE) onward. Very little is known about Humeitepe during the Byzantine Empire (around 300–13 CE), but several medieval buildings, such as the tekke, the mosque on Humeitepe and the khan at the Lion Harbor, are clustered on the southern slopes of the hill. Many other walls and a cemetery bear witness to life in medieval Balat, in which at least the southern part of Humeitepe played an important role.
Text: Lisa Steinmann