Heroon I is the name of a tomb on the eastern slope of Kaletepe, the theater hill. Based on the architectural parts and other finds, the building has been dated to the Hellenistic period, more specifically, around 100 BCE. Unlike other tombs and graves from antiquity, which were mostly built outside their cities and along their traffic arteries, heroa occupy a prominent spot in the city center, as the Milesian example clearly shows. Those exhibiting rich architectural designs and furnishings are interpreted as tombs of particularly important or honorable citizens. In other places, some of the names of those buried and honored in the heroa are known, and the heroa are named after them. This information is entirely absent in Miletus. That is why the Milesian heroa have been given neutral, chronological names: Heroon I, Heroon II and Heroon III.
Heroon I, the heroon introduced here, spans an area of around 34 x 29 meters. It consisted of a central burial mound, which has not been preserved, on top of a subterranean burial chamber. It is located in the middle of a courtyard adjoined by a few rooms to the north and east. The entire complex, i.e., the tomb and the architecture framing it, is aligned with the orthogonal or perpendicular street grid of ancient Miletus, which an adjacent junction shows especially clearly. In antiquity, the subterranean burial chamber was accessible through a narrow passageway. It consisted of 5 burial niches.
The adjacent rooms above ground were probably used to celebrate the dead buried here, as indicated by many pieces of high-quality relief pottery found in 2 cisterns located inside Heroon I. Walls erected around these rooms after the original construction of the building provide evidence of restoration works during the middle Roman Empire. Heroon I ceased to stand in this spot in the early Byzantine Period, when a new building was constructed. Unlike the modifications of the Roman Empire, it overlaps with the foundation of the Hellenistic building rather than being aligned to it. This means that Heroon must already have been demolished and repurposed in another place at the time.
Text: Fabian Sliwka
W. Müller-Wiener, Arbeiten im Gebiet des Heroon am Theaterhang (HI), IstMitt 35, 1985, 16–22.
B. Emme, in: P. Niewöhner, Milet/Balat (Istanbul 2016) 39–41.