When you approach Miletus and the museum on its main street between Priene and the village of Akköy, you see a strangely shaped hill on the side of the road facing away from Miletus. It slightly resembles a mesa. Its name is of modern origin, derived either from kalpak or kabalak, both words that are sometimes rendered as kalabak in some sources. They describe a specific, pointed felt hat and a plant, the butterbur (Petasites hybridus), respectively.
Kalabaktepe used to be a center of archaic Miletus. It was the core of the metropolis from which many Black Sea colonies were founded, called the pearl of Ionia by Herodotus and considered one of the largest, richest poleis (cities) of the archaic Mediterranean. To the south, Kalabaktepe is surrounded by a city wall that continues eastwards, encircling the area of the archaic settlement of Miletus. Its entire extent and, as such, the actual size of the archaic city are still unknown.
Many residential areas have been excavated on and around Kalabaktepe, with narrow streets snaking between their densely built houses. Built across multiple terraces, these neighborhoods give the impression of a naturally grown, rather than planned, city. In some areas, they can even be traced back to the late geometric period, i.e., the eighth century BCE. As well as residential areas, the archaeologists found many workshops here, which provide evidence of metal production, bone carving and ceramics pottery since the seventh century BCE in the archaic period.
On the eastern terrace of Kalabaktepe, next to some houses, stood a shrine offering sweeping views of the Miletian peninsula and the surrounding sea to the east. This is where the foundations of an archaic temple, around 11 x 19 meters in size, where discovered. Based on a bronze bowl with an engraved dedication, the shrine and temple have been identified as being dedicated to Artemis Kithone. Other inscriptions in the city and antique documents corroborate this.
After the Ionian revolt, the Persians destroyed the settlement on Kalabaktepe in 494 BCE. You can see on the southern slope of the hill that new houses were built hurriedly, reusing the older city walls as foundations and stone quarries. For many of them, the ground has been raised with large quantities of rubble. Perhaps, this is where the survivors of the Persian raid gathered until the city could be rebuilt in full. This phase of the settlement does not appear to have been in use for a long time. Since no later than the Hellenistic period (from the late fourth century BCE), the entire hill has been located outside the city walls.
Text: Lisa Steinmann
A. von Gerkan, Kalabaktepe, Athenatempel und Umgebung, Milet 1,8 (Berlin 1925).
M. Kerschner – R. Senff – I. Blum, Milet 1994--1995. Die Ostterrasse des Kalabaktepe, Archäologischer Anzeiger 112, 1997, 120—122.
R. Senff, Die archaische Wohnbebauung am Kalabaktepe in Milet, Denkschriften Wien 288, 2000, 29–37.