The city center was shaped by the Lion Harbor, on the one hand, and by the avenue and the markets, on the other. With its diverse buildings, it was the religious, economic and social center of the Caput Ioniae, Ionia’s capital.
The avenue south of Humeitepe, directly connected to the northern market to the west and another market to the south, formed the center of Miletus. Following the city’s refoundation after its destruction by the Persians in 494 BCE, possibly even sooner, the main route of access to this avenue was through the Lion Harbor. Today, the road and its surrounding area are flooded in winter and spring, only becoming accessible in the summer months. This limits any further exploration of the building to relatively shallow layers. Like the road grid, the orientation of the agora and its adjacent buildings do not follow a precise north-south alignment. These buildings include the Delphinion in the north, the Thermae Gymnasium in the east, the famous Market Gate in the south and the Bouleuterion in the west. During the Roman Empire, porticos were added to the building, with the Ionian Hall one of them. This measure gave the courtyard a uniform facade that would have had a considerable impact on the urban landscape. The Nymphaeum in the southeast was built at the same time. With its impressive, multi-story facade, visually relaxed by cornices and niches (a tabernacle facade), its inventory of sculptures and the rustling of the flowing water, it was an especially pleasant feature of the city.
The Delphinion at the northern end of the avenue was the point of departure for the procession of the annual festival for Apollo. Its route passed the Holy Gate in the south of Miletus’ urban area and ran long the approximately 16-kilometer Holy Road to the monumental Temple of Didyma. During the reign of Emperor Trajan, the dedicatory road built specifically for the procession was expanded considerably and paved with marble slabs. Many inscriptions still bear witness to this development today.
Text: Sandra Golling
H.-U. Cain – M. Pfanner, Die Agora Milets in der Kaiserzeit und Spätantike, in: O. Dally – M. Maischberger – P. I. Schneider – A. Scholl, ZeitRäume. Milet in der Kaiserzeit und Spätantike (Regensburg 2009) 83−95.
A. Slawisch – T. Ch. Wilkinson, Processions, Propaganda, and Pixels. Reconstructing the Sacred Way Between Miletos and Didyma, AJA 122, 2018, 101–143.