In the area between the North Market and South Market, there lies a large, open square framed by colonnades. It is commonly referred to as the Hellenistic peristyle. While the Ionian Hall to the east and the Capito Thermae to the north directly adjoin the square, it has no direct access to the neighboring open buildings. Surrounded and clearly delimited by walls, the Hellenistic peristyle constitutes a separate, closed room whose function has not been identified to this day.
The reconstruction of its layout, including the framing structures, is primarily based on partially excavated foundation walls. Building parts reused in a nearby Byzantine wall provide clearer insights into its architectural design. Based on these insights, the Hellenistic peristyle consisted of an open square surrounded by colonnades on all 4 sides. It could be accessed through a vestibule and a lockable gate building to the south. Several rooms of unclear purpose adjoined the colonnades to the north. Interestingly, the northern side of the structure deviated from the rest of the structure in terms of its dimensions and architectural design: while the open square is framed by lower halls of the Doric order on 3 sides, the north side displays a considerably larger ensemble of the Ionian order, which must have overlooked the surrounding colonnades.
Soon after its discovery and excavation, the mysterious Hellenistic peristyle was interpreted and published as a gymnasium or sports complex. This has been largely refuted today, and researchers believe that the building played an official or administrative role instead. It may have housed a political committee or court, for instance. In this context, the lockable gate to the south is interesting: it gives the Hellenistic peristyle an aura of exclusiveness and secludedness, away from the public urban areas surrounding it. It is possible that only certain important people were granted access to the open square, where they would pursue specific activities away from the public eye. Based on a stylistic study of the building ornaments and certain notable parallels to the ornaments used in the Bouleuterion, the Hellenistic peristyle has been dated to the beginning of the second century BCE. At the time, the open square must still have stood on its own while the Ionian Hall and the Capito Thermae were being built in the first century CE. In the Byzantine period, the square was probably demolished, as the repurposed architectural segments from the building found in a nearby Byzantine wall reveal.
Text: Fabian Sliwka
von Gerkan – F. Krischen, Thermen und Palaestren, Milet 1,9 (Berlin 1928) 1–22.
B. Emme, Peristyl und Polis. Entwicklung und Funktionen öffentlicher griechischer Hofanlagen, Urban Spaces 1 (Berlin 2013) 113–118.
B. Emme, in: P. Niewöhner, Milet/Balat (Istanbul 2016) 78–79.