Right at the city center of Miletus, there are the remnants of a large courtyard surrounded by colonnades. A square building stands in the middle. The complex measures around 50 x 8 meters, taking up the exact area of a city block or insula in the orthogonal street grid of Miletus. Notably, the road adjoining it to the east connected the Lion Harbor to the north with the Holy Gate to the south. It must have been one of the city’s main traffic arteries. Many large, public facilities, such as the theater and the Faustina Thermae, were located in the immediate vicinity of this peculiar collection of buildings.
Photo: L. Steinmann 2017
Heroon III seen from the north, 2017
Due to its prominent location in the city center, right on an important thoroughfare, and the sheer dimensions of the complex, its interpretation as a significant public building seems sensible. During earlier digs led by Theodor Wiegand in 1909 and 1910, a well-preserved pedestal and fragments of a large garland sarcophagus were discovered inside the square central building. The latter must have rested on the foundation in antiquity. These discoveries allowed archaeologists to interpret the entire complex as an honorary grave, which must have been built for an important citizen in this exclusive location right at the city center of Miletus (on the significance of the heroa, see the entry about Heroon I).
The honorary grave, today known as Heroon III, is the latest and largest of Miletus’ 3 inner-city heroa (cf. Heroon I and II). Although the complex was robbed in late antiquity, the former size of Heroon III is easy to gauge. The large, rectangular courtyard was surrounded by colonnades on all 4 sides, with a few rooms adjoining them to the south. These rooms may have been used to celebrate the dead. The colonnades themselves consisted of granite columns with Corinthian capitals and correspondingly decorated trusses. The actual square grave stood asymmetrically in the inner courtyard. Its interior walls feature niches, which would have housed statues. Based on a stylistic study of the decorated architectural segments and the corresponding foundation, the construction of Heroon III has been dated to the early third century CE. Under Heroon III, remnants of a Hellenistic residential house with rich wall paintings were found.
Text: Fabian Sliwka
B. F. Weber, Die römischen Heroa von Milet, Milet 1,10 (Berlin 2004) 101–144.
M. Maischberger, in: P. Niewöhner, Milet/Balat (Istanbul 2016) 41–44.