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Miletus(mīlē`təs), ancient seaport of W Asia Minor, in Caria, on the mainland not far from Sámos. It was occupied by Greeks in the settlement of the E Aegean (c.1000 B.C.) and became one of the principal cities of Ionia. From the 8th cent. B.C. it led in colonization, especially on the Black Sea. The Milesians were strong enough to resist the Lydian kings and were not molested by the Persians. In 499 B.C., however, they stirred up the revolt of Ionian Greeks against Persia; the Persians sacked the city (494 B.C.). Although less flourishing, Miletus remained an important seaport until the harbor silted up early in the Christian era. Miletus produced some of the earliest Greek philosophers, including Thales and Anaximander. The site was excavated by German archaeologists.
an ancient city in Ionia at the mouth of the Maeander River in Asia Minor.
Greeks first appeared in Miletus in the 16th century B.C. In the 14th century it was an important Achaean city with massive walls. Around the beginning of the first millennium B.C. a new wave of Greeks, the lonians, settled in Miletus. According to ancient tradition, lonians from Attica led by Neleus, son of King Codrus of Athens, settled there circa 1100 B.C. From the eighth to sixth centuries Miletus was a polis (city-state) and an important trade, artisan, and cultural center. It played a major role in the settling of Greeks on the shores of the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Colonists from Miletus founded Cyzicus, Sinope, Abydos, Istrus (Istria), Olbia, Panticapaeum, Theodosia, and numerous other cities. In the sixth century B.C. Miletus engendered the Miletian, or Ionian, school of natural philosophy (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes). The logographer Hecataeus lived in Miletus.
Miletus reached the zenith of its glory during the tyranny of Thrasybulus (c. 610–600 B.C.). In the middle of the sixth century B.C. the city came under Persian rule. Circa 500 B.C. Miletus headed a revolt of Ionian cities against Persian sovereignty. After its defeat in 494, the city was destroyed by the Persians. In 479 its restoration was begun, and in 478 it became a member of the Delian League. Between 411 and 402 B.C., Miletus acquired a gridiron plan (Hippodamian plan) and became one of the best examples of ancient city construction. After the Peloponnesian War (431–04 B.C.), Miletus again fell under Persian rule. In 334 B.C. it was captured by Alexander the Great, and in 129 B.C. it came under Roman rule. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods Miletus preserved its commercial importance and played a major cultural role.
Systematic excavations of Miletus have been conducted intermittently by German archaeologists (T. Wiegand and others) since the early 20th century. The findings have revealed that the center of Miletus comprised three agoras: the northern agora with a bouleuterion (175–164 B.C.), a sanctuary to Apollo of Delphi (sixth century B.C.), and other buildings; the southern agora; and the western agora with an Ionic temple of Athena (fourth century B.C.). Several thermae, among them the Baths of Faustina (second and third centuries A.D.), have also been discovered.
REFERENCESKobyiina, M. M. Milet. Moscow, 1965.
Milet: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen…, vols. 1–17. Edited by G. Kleiner, T. Wiegand, et al. Berlin, 1906–68.
Freeman, K. Greek City-States. London, 1950.
Kleiner, G. Alt-Milet. Wiesbaden, 1966.