Temple of Serapis
The Serapeion was an important ritualistic site in Miletus during the Roman Empire. As was commonplace for structures dedicated to the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, the temple faced south and was close to the city’s markets. Situated right in the city center, it adjoined a large storage facility to the east and the southern market. To the west, it neighbored the Faustina Thermae.
The temple consists of a main room measuring about 22 x 12 meters and a 9 x 3 meter vestibule (propylon) to the south. Only the lower sections of the main room’s open walls remain. Originally, the temple was made from repurposed marble slabs, divided into a larger central nave and 2 smaller side naves by 2 colonnades. The colonnades consisted of 5 non-fluted columns of bluish-grey marble on each side, supported by Attic-Ionian plinths. At the eastern wall, a small side entrance provides access to the interior. At the northern end of the room, there is a pedestal made from repurposed rubble and bricks with an accessible internal hollow. It was probably used for ritualistic practices and votive offerings to the god Serapis. The structure cannot have supported a statue, as the hollow would not have provided the necessary stability, but there may have been an idol in a niche in the rear wall.
The vestibule of the temple to the south and its frontal architrave with an inscription are very well preserved. It consists of a foundation with multiple steps and 4 frontal columns and a nearly fully preserved gable. The gable is decorated with a central bust of Serapis with an aureole. After its excavation, it was re-erected opposite the steps, facing north but at a lower height. The idol was already damaged when it was discovered. An inscription on the architrave names a certain Ilius Aurelius Menekles, not otherwise known, as the donor of the propylon. It also refers to its decoration, a coffer adorned with reliefs. Ten of the panels have been preserved nearly entirely, complete with their depictions of busts of gods and demigods. Based on the ornamental design of the building and the shape of the letters in the inscription, the propylon has been dated to the Severan dynasty (193–235 CE). It is likely that it was added to the existing temple at a later point in time. The temple itself was built no earlier than the Hadrianic period (117–138 CE).
Text: Marieke Bohn
R. Salditt-Trappmann, Der Tempel des Serapis in Milet, in: R. Salditt-Trappmann (ed.), Tempel der ägyptischen Götter in Griechenland und an der Westküste Kleinasiens (Leiden 1970) 33–36.
P. Niewöhner, Neue spät- und nachantike Monumente von Milet und der mittelbyzantinische Zerfall des anatolischen Städtewesens, AA 2013/2, 165–233.
M. Maischberger, in: P. Niewöhner (ed.), Milet / Balat. Städtebau und Monumente von Archaischer bis in Türkische Zeit. Ein Führer (Istanbul 2016) 96–98.