The Holy Gate is not a single structure. It consists of an older and a younger gate which were joined together. Its name refers to the Holy Road, which used to connect the city center of Miletus with the Temple of Apollo in Didyma. The gate marks the spot where the Holy Road leaves the city, illustrating the development of the city’s fortification across its various building phases.
Even the foundations of the 2 gate buildings are differently designed and aligned. The older, outer building has been identified by 3 layers of ashlar bricks outlining the foundation of the 2 towers between which the gate stood. Its threshold stone still shows clear wagon tracks, while the eastern tower features visible gaps for the locking beam that used to secure the complex.
The newer gate is located immediately to the north of the older, and its foundations show that its orientation is not aligned with the overall layout. It appears to be considerably more sophisticated, too. The building consisted of 2 square rooms with a 3-meter passage. Towards the outside, it was flanked by 2 rectangular towers. Its construction was not intended to replace the older gate; rather, it incorporated it into the new defense line.
Combining the 2 buildings, then, created a courtyard gate with a triangular layout. The new, west-facing orientation is due to the changed course of the wall. At the same time as the newer gate was constructed—probably in the first half of the fourth century BCE—the city walls were shortened significantly. When Alexander the Great occupied Miletus in 334 BCE, he initially only conquered the outer city, i.e., the area up until Kalabaktepe that is excluded by the new wall. A surviving inscription on the gate reveals that the newer gate underwent construction works during the reign of Emperor Trajan (98–117 CE). Under the proconsul Q. Iulius Balbus, the Holy Road to Didyma was reterraced and paved in 100 CE. Within the scope of this project, the passageway of the gate received a new threshold stone above the old one, as the ground had already risen during antiquity. A water basin, used to distribute water across clay pipelines from the surrounding area, was built in each of the gate chambers of the newer gate. In the second century CE, several elaborate tombs were built to the south of the newer gate, replacing one of the towers of the older gate that had already been torn down at the time. The last known building measures took place in the third century CE to repair the southern transverse wall.
Text: Silas Munnecke
A. von Gerkan, Die Stadtmauern, Milet. Milet 2,3 (Berlin/Leipzig 1935).
G. Kleiner, Die Ruinen von Milet (Berlin 1968) 28–32.
B. Emme, Heiliges Tor, in: P. Niewöhner (ed.), Milet / Balat. Städtebau und Monumente von archaischer bis in Türkische Zeit. Ein Führer (Istanbul 2016).