Take a walk through central Miletus between the southern market and the Delphinion today, following the ancient avenue, and you will inevitably come across the impressive colonnade of the Ionian order. One of Miletus’ most famous monuments, it is the subject of many post cards and photographs. The columns reconstructed here only correspond to a small part of the originally much larger hall. Such an effective partial reconstruction of an ancient monument is called an anastylosis.
Photo: Miletus dig in 2022
The Ionian Hall seen from the southwest in the spring of 2022. The avenue is flooded in the months of spring, as the groundwater level is higher.
The Ionian Hall forms the eastern end of the avenue and follows it for nearly 100 meters from north to south. In antiquity, the tall front of the Ionian Hall had 35 instead of today’s 4 large Ionian columns. Behind it, in the shady depths of the hall, there were 19 chambers of various sizes. Rear entrances to the 2 northernmost chambers connected the hall to the adjacent Capito Thermae. The older Hellenistic peristyle immediately to the west, on the other hand, was clearly separate from the Ionian Hall and shared no entrance with it.
Regarding its function, at least the northern part of the hall can be interpreted as a vestibule or entrance hall leading to the Capito Thermae. Another function is revealed by the building’s parallel location to the avenue and the fact that the Ionian Hall rested on an unusually tall, multi-layered foundation. Considering the festive processions taking place on the avenue, departing from the nearby Delphinion, the Ionian Hall has been identified as a grandstand, sun shelter, and backdrop. Spectators gathered here to watch the festivities on the avenue in the shade of the elevated hall. In reverse, the elevated facade of the hall with its columns and trusses must have had a monumental effect on the people passing below. Note, however, that the Ionian Hall also retained this function outside the periodic processions. An inscribed block from the hall’s trusses and some parallel finds have identified the prefect Cnaeus Vergilius Capito as the donor of the Ionian Hall and the adjacent Capito Thermae. This means that both buildings were erected around the middle of the first century CE. Throughout that century, the originally shorter hall was extended by nearly 100 meters during 2 further stages of construction.
Text: Fabian Sliwka
W. Real – V. Rödel – M. Ueblacker, Milet 1972. Die Grabung auf der Heiligen Straße und die Anastylose der Ionischen Halle in Milet, IstMitt 23/24, 1973/74, 122–130.
M. Maischberger, in: P. Niewöhner, Milet/Balat (Istanbul 2016) 75–77.