Home > 2011 Posts > Meandering in Miletus

Meandering in Miletus

More than three thousand years ago, it rivaled Troy.

Looking North from the Roman Theater to Where the Meander River Once Flowed

Back then, Miletus was the major Mycenaean port city in Asia Minor. The Mycenaeans, Homer’s Achaeans, had taken it from people he called Carians, and it was under constant threat from the powerful Hittites inland who called it Millawanda.

Thales of Miletus was famous as one of the Seven Sages. Later, the city was conquered by Alexander, Romans and Goths. Then, finally, the Turks. Today, the famous river Meander no longer flows past at the end of its winding course, and the coast now lies miles away. But a thoughtful stroll through the monumental Roman ruins almost brings these ancient memories back to life.

The 15th Century Mosque Built on the Ruins. Note the Huge Birds Nest on Top

I was in the Miletus a few years ago to research a setting for part of a book. Before the trip, I’d studied maps, ancient texts, scholarly works and Google Earth. Very dry stuff. So, it was good to be on the ground at last, scrambling over the stones in a place where so many ancient powers had once held sway. I did a lot of exploring there and was happy to discover all I had hoped to find.

By the way: Three cheers for the Turks! One of the many things I appreciate about the Turks’ approach to archaeological sites is the access an interested visitor can have. They preserve and protect the fragile things, but use common sense, treating stones as a bit more durable than glassware. In most of Europe on the other hand, the various ministries of antiquities hire thousands of make-work employees whose only purpose seems to be access prevention. And, as with many entrenched employees of the state, their attitude is mostly so pointless and surly that it can make you long to be back home, suffering abuse from a slightly less truculent DMV window clerk on Crack. Go Turks!

Ruins of the Baths

In Miletus, the 15,000 seat Roman theater used to face the sea and is still mostly intact. Though the structure dates from about 240 BC, some form of theater had likely been in that place for a thousand years then.

And the nearby Baths of Faustina (c. 40 AD) were the model from which Turkish Baths came into being. Before taking Miletus, nomads from the steppes had little use for bathing. And, the Turks conquered this area long before finally taking down the last of the Roman Empire in the East. So they had plenty of time to adopt the practice.

But these things are so new. Even if you don’t know all the details of what happened here, as you explore the ruins, you can know that few places on earth are so steeped in continuous history, including Troy.

And at Miletus, you can touch it! Go there when you can.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. June 28, 2011 at 8:08 am
  2. November 28, 2011 at 7:41 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: