Monday, 13 May 2013

Priene, Didyma, Miletus

When it was first built, Priene was about 6 kms from the course of the River Meander but over the years, the Meander continued to meander and eventually the town could not call itself a town with a nearby port.

It was laid out in a strict rectangular format

Priene Plan

and in its day, it would have looked quite spectacular and organised.

Priene Picture of

And so on a very wet thundery day, we walked around the rectangular street pattern and climbed over remains

Priene Road down to Agora  Priene Road up Priene Road down

Priene Path intohoping (without success) that the rain would stop

Appropriately, we came across an old roman

Priene Water Divider

drain in the path which had three inlets and one outlet although it would not have coped with the volume of rain that day.

Priene Houses

The buildings here were much smaller than those we had seen elsewhere leading us to assume that some were offices since we were close to the Bouleuterion at this point.

The Temple of Athena Polias was built around 330BC, it is said using funds provided by Alexander the Great.

Priene Temple Athena

Its design is similar to all temples but there were a few interesting elements we had not seen before such as

Priene Temple Base markings

these lines drawn on the temple platform by the original stonemasons to act as a guide for the next layer of stones,

Priene Temple Block staples

the remains of a staple used to tie two stones together. The staple was inserted into holes in each stone and then “glued” in place with molten lead. here ancient metal thieves have managed to remove the top part of the staple but not the lead encased element.

Priene Temple Door Markings-1

Here the track cut in the floor to guide the roller on the bottom of the door is clearly evident as is the door post hole in the top left of the photograph.

Priene View from Temple Rain Approaching

The temple was of course positioned such that it could be seen from afar and from it you could also see afar. This is the view (with heavy rain approaching across the plain) from the temple platform over where the River Meader used to be

Priene Temple Floor Marking

We had no explanation for this flower pattern carved into the temple floor. It was not in a significant position and we have no idea why it is there.

Priene Floor Marking

This time, there was a variation on the usual circular segmented games pattern carved into the floor.

The Theatre

The Theatre was well preserved but reasonably standard. There were some seats in the front row for important people and clear evidence on the hill of it being extended as some time.

Priene Seats for important people

A stage platform was still in evidence

Priene Theatre

and for the first time we saw the remains of

Priene Water Clock

a Clepsydra (a water clock) at the front

Priene Water Clock-1

for use when timing orators. This one looked like it was not one of the simple ones but exactly how it worked is a mystery.

Priene Buleuterion

The Bouleuterion was unusual in that for the first time, we were in a rectangular debating

Priene Buleuterion Plan

chamber where protagonists could sit opposite each other. Built around 200BC it was roofed but later supporting pillars were erected (resting on some of the seats) to support sagging roof beams. Council offices were next door.

The Great Temple of Didyma

This temple was home to the second most important Oracle in the Ancient World (after Delphi). Dating from at least 600BC, it was destroyed by the Persians in 494BC and rebuilt by Alexander the Great whose arrival (if you wish to believe it) in 334BC at the ruined site caused the temple waters to start flowing again and brought the oracle back to life.

Didyma what it looked like

In its day, it must have been a magnificent building (although unfinished).

Didyma Great Temple Apollo Didyma forcourt rocks

The first impression is of size and weight

Didyma Massive Pillar

because everything about it is massive and heavy and an aerial view shows how big it was.

Didyma Aerial View

The decorations are very ornate but show

Didyma Relief Didyma Pillar CornerDidyma Relief-1  Didyma Pillar Corner Didyma frieze Didyma frieze-1  Didyma Medusa Didyma Medusa-1

evidence of the temple being unfinished

Didyma Pillar unfinished

as here where the patterns stop on the top side of these stones but continue on the bottom section where carvers would not have been able to get to once the stone was laid (i.e. the underside was carved before the stone was put into position.

Didyma Tunnel into inner sanctum

The big surprise here is that have entered what you think is the temple (i.e. climbed the steps and wandered about between the

Didyma overlooking inner sanctum area

large pillars, you then find a tunnel leading into the rock wall.

Didyma Tunnel Roof

The roof of the tunnel shows the usual carved pattern. Walking down the tunnel takes you into an inner courtyard

Didyma Plans

within which was the oracle when the temple was built, and later (bottom plan above), a Byzantine Church.

Didyma Inner Sanctum looking down

This view looks down towards the spring at the rear of the picture

Didyma remains of inner sanctum temple

this is the general area of the spring

Didyma Inner Sanctum looking up and this view looks back towards the entrance end of this sanctum (i.e. from where the first picture was taken).


Whilst settlement in the Miletus area dates back to 3500 BC, the current grid patterned

Miletus Plan

dates from around 600BC. It too had a large port in those days but it also suffered from the meanderings of the River Meander.

Miletus old harbour entrance

The original port entrance was on the left of this photograph

Miletus view across old harbour

and the original port was in the middle right.

When you approach the city, the first building you see is the Theatre which is large by any standard.

Miletus first view of theatre

Most of the stage area has gone and therefore there is an uninterrupted view of the seating.

Miletus Theatre view

Miletus view of theatre

Beautifully preserved underneath the theatre are the various tunnels through which the crowds went when accessing their seats.

Miletus Theatre tunnels Miletus theatre vomitorium Miletus Theatre vomitorium small-1 

When it was originally built, it sat around 5000 and in roman times it was expanded to seat 15,000.

More information can be found out about the Theatre here.

The Faustina Baths

The baths are impressive because of their size. During their life they were rebuilt a

Miletus Faustina Baths brickwork

and this picture of part of one side shows at least four different rebuilds using materials gleaned from elsewhere.

Miletus Faustina Baths brickwork inside

This arch is within the baths and separates probably the cold area from the warm area.

Miletus Caldarium size

From the other side of the arch, we are in a warm room which is about 80 metres long

Miletus Caldarium side room 

with 6 side alcoves beneath which were the furnaces to generate heat and steam for the hot room.

Miletus Frigidarium

The Frigidarium is well preserved and on one

Miletus Marble cladding on wall

wall near the entrance is a fragment of the original marble wall covering.

Attached to the Baths is the Museum (a meeting hall where statues of the Muses were displayed)

MIletus Museum overview

this is large

Miletus Museum

and tucked away in an alcove, was for me, the best part of Miletus – a fragment of original Roman plaster

Miletus plaster museum

One could stand very close to it without fear

Miletus Museum Plaster detail

of an attendant telling you to stand back and I could see the original brush strokes as the artist attempted to reproduce stone panel edges.

Miletus Museum Plaster detail very close

There is a reasonably good website with a lot of information about Miletus here  and here – the second one is a little heavy on graphics by trying to impressive but within it are some good images of what Miletus might have looked like.

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