The southern part of Miletus lies between the Hellenistic city wall to the south, the ancient city center, bordering the Faustina thermae and the southern market, to the northeast, and the coast with the Heroon II to the northwest. It is on a lower plain than the other sections of the city. There have only been few archaeological finds from South Miletus, as large swathes of the city used to lie underneath the village of Balat (called Eski Balat, “old Balat,” today) before the earthquake in 1955. After the earthquake, the inhabitants of Balat moved to their current location to the south of the ancient city area.
A large part of the area is used agriculturally today. Thanks to occasional finds and geophysical prospection, however, which makes it possible to map structures in the ground, the network of streets and city blocks (insulae) is well understood. The orientation of the streets diverges from those in the north and center of the city by a few degrees. Furthermore, the city blocks of South Miletus are of a different size than their northern counterparts. No conclusions have been reached as to how these differences came about. But many researchers assume that the urban planners worked with the size and orientation of Miletus’ 2 most important temples (the Delphinion in the north and the Temple of Athena in the south) in mind.
Photo: B. Vergnaud
Photo: Miletus dig in 2022
The layout of the southern part of Miletus
The archaeological finds are covered in sediment from the river, making them difficult to access. Around the Temple of Athena and the stadium, the remnants of a Bronze Age and Geometric settlement have been unearthed. This shows that parts of the southern section belong to the earliest parts of Miletus, still called Millawanda in the Bronze Age. Only few buildings from the Hellenistic period are known thus far. They include residential buildings, the gymnasium and the stadium near the Temple of Athena. What is certain is that the area was enclosed by the city wall to the south during the Hellenistic period. Three thermae complexes from the Roman Empire are known: the baths at the western market, the baths opposite the museum, and the southern baths. The latter comprise a rectangular complex spanning around 640 m². Its northern and southern walls are around 27 meters long, the eastern and western walls, around 24 meters. Compared to the other thermae, this bath complex is quite small and probably served the residents of the neighboring quarter. It is aligned with the orthogonal street grid and fills the southern half of one insula. At least in the first building phase in the late first and early second century CE, it appears to have had a circular trail taking patrons through the various stages of the bathing process. Later renovations used spolia from the Faustina thermae, the St. Michael Basilica and the Great Church which resulted in a restructuring of the complex into a double bath allowing for gender-segregated bathing. As the former island dried up and became a peninsula, winter floods became common. In response to this, the ground of the area was raised in late antiquity so as to continue using the thermae.
All these buildings show that the southern section of the city contained a lively residential area during the Roman Empire, perhaps even earlier. Its use continued throughout the Byzantine period and Middle Ages. Towards the south, there stood a round church. Architectural segments have revealed that another, still undiscovered basilica must have existed in South Miletus. Settlement during the Middle Ages primarily clustered around the northern part of South Miletus, as the famous İlyas Bey Mosque and the small chapel of Hagia Paraskevi show.
Text: Sandra Golling
- Ph. Niewöhner, Die Südstadtthermen von Milet. Vom kaiserzeitlichen Baderundgang zum byzantinischen Doppelbad. Mit Beiträgen von J. Gorecki und A. Waldner und unter Mitarbeit von D. Göçmen und Ch. Klein, AA, 2015, 173–235.