The City of Intellectuals, Miletus

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Miletus​, The City of Intellectuals

Called Milawanda in the Hittite period, the lonian city of Miletus was conquered and plundered several times but always managed to recover and get back on its feet, before it was finally defeated by the Menderes River, for when the silt brought by the river filled up the bays, Miletus’ commercial harbor came to an end and the city died away. 

City streets on a grid plan were first implemented here.The main streets, parallel to each other, were cut transversally by the streets. In contrast to the unplanned urbanization of our day, urban planners in antiquity would first draw the city plan on parchment, debate it, finalize it and then begin construction. The revolutionary architect Hipotomos, who planned this city, also planned Cnidus. Another revolutionary and Innovative architect by the name of Isidorus was also from here. Isidorus was among the first architects to develop domes to replace the roofs of temples, and he was one of the two architects who built the Hagia Sophia, which has been shaped worldwide architecture for close to 1500 years.

Where is Miletus?


Persians in Miletus

When the Persians lay siege to Miletus in 494 BC they announced that if the people surrendered to them they would not be punished, neither their temples nor their possessions would be burned to the ground and they would not be treated worse than before. But if they offered resistance, “They will lose the war and become slaves, their sons will be emasculated, their daughters will be sent to Baktra and their lands will be given to others. The long-haired Persians took captive the people who did not follow their instructions, but on King Darius’ order, they contented themselves with “settling them in the city of Ampe, at the estuary of the Tigris, ” in the south of present day Iraq, without hurting them. 

There is no doubt that Miletus was a great center of culture in antiquity. The thinker that Herodotos referred to because of his Phoenician origins as “Thales, in whose veins runs Phoenician blood” was born here. Thales was one of the most important astronomers and geometricians of antiquity. He made many discoveries, such as that the base angles of an isosceles triangle are equal, that the opposite angles of two intersecting lines are equal, and that a line passing through the center of a circle divides it into two equal pieces. It was he who predicted the solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BC.

Miletus "The city of philosophers"

Many other scholars, including Anaximander, who drew the first geographical map and Anaximenes, teacher of the physicist Anaxagoras, were also born in Miletus. It was most likely for this reason that the city was referred to as “the city of intellectuals” or “city of philosophers” in antiquity. 

Like many other port cities that swarm with ships and people from many other countries. Miletus too was a cosmopolitan city. It was acquainted with the knowledge of the Sumerians via the Phoenicians and the ports of Syria and Palestine, as well as the mathematics and general culture of Egypt, to which sailboats frequently traveled. It became rich thanks to the wool trade and it subjugated other cities through its strong fleet. 

What else?

Places to be seen include the Faustina Bathhouse, the theater with 14,500 seats, the agora, the ceremonial street, the monumental foundation, the gymnasium, the Temple of Athena, the stadium, the bouleuterion, and the archeological site museum. Many monuments from Miletus, including its temples and the ceremonial entrance to the agora, were carried off to Berlin during the Ottoman Empire’s period of decline.


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