Archaeology Illustrated is proud to present two new images of the Ionian Greek city of Miletus in a way that has never been seen before:
The great city of Miletus occupied a peninsula at the mouth of the Meander River on the western coast of Anatolia, today's Turkey, facing the Aegean Sea.
Ionian Greeks settled at the already ancient site of Miletus around 1000 BC. Miletus became the wealthiest and greatest of the Ionian Greek cities on Asia Minor until the Persian period. In the following Hellenistic period, the Greek scientific and philosophical tradition had its beginnings at Miletus. The nascent intellectual line of thinking was developed by Thales of Miletus as early as the 7th century BC and continued in the next several centuries by the likes of Anaximander and Anaximenes of Miletus who explored natural explanations to the workings of the Universe and earthly phenomena. The architect of the famed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Isidore of Miletus was the native of Miletus in the late Roman period. The Apostle Paul stopped in Miletus at the end of his Third Missionary Journey on his way back to Jerusalem. Paul sent for the church elders residing in nearby Ephesus and when they arrived he delivered an emotional farewell address. (Acts 20:13-38)
Some miles north on the coast is the other great Ionian city, Ephesus, of which I have an overview illustration on this website, and a little distance to the south is the important oracle of Apollo at the site of Didyma, also featured here with its recreated interior. Once boasting several harbors, Miletus is now entirely landlocked due to the sedimentation of the Meander River which filled up the surrounding water ways in late antiquity thus permanently cutting off commercial traffic to Miletus. The visitor to Miletus today has surprisingly little to admire of what is left of the once thriving city's magnificent buildings. Only the ruins of the great theater and the reconstructed remains of a short section of the main downtown colonnade are still standing. In the late 19th century German archaeologists systematically uncovered the downtown area and the civic center of Miletus, and they succeeded in revealing the layout of the entire city center as well as the grid system of the residential quarters. They excavated the remains of virtually all the major public buildings throughout the entire city of Miletus. This illustration is based on their detailed publications pertaining mostly to the Roman Period. I used Google Earth to see how Miletus appears today in a geographical context from about 120 meters up in the air to the east of the city for a comprehensive aerial view of the city center. I copied the Google Earth image onto my watercolor paper and looked at photos taken at the site for landscape features to the west, north and south. Relying on the German excavation plans the regular grid layout of Miletus made it convenient to have precise measurements of the lengths and heights of the various buildings and the overall outline of the mid section of the long peninsula I wanted to depict. Miletus boasted several public baths built on a lavish scale (one is in front center with the barrel dome), many gymnasiums, a sport stadium, several formal open air market places with colonnades, a council house, libraries and places of worship. The city is shown in morning light.
For a ground view I decided on tackling the reconstruction of two major landmarks of the civic center of Miletus the Market Gate and the Nymphaeum (water fountain) built in the "Roman Baroque" style between 80-130 AD.
The Market Gate of Miletus on the right now stands completely reconstructed from fragments in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin and I relied on my photos of the structure for the painting. It gave access to an enormous square, open air market surrounded by colonnades visible on the extreme left on the aerial view of Miletus. This rather ostentatious facade replaced an old, more humble, Hellenistic gate. The Nymphaeum, or ornate water fountain, on the left was erected by the father of emperor Traianus around 80 AD. Its original appearance is referenced from several academic sources that attempted a reconstruction of its details based on its surviving first story. The coloring of the architectural details is evidenced from extant examples of pigmentation from Roman period public buildings throughout the Mediterranean. The view is shown in late afternoon light.read more