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Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Antique MILETUS, THE CRADLE OF PHILOSPHY is seeking for a revival As we continued our excursions to the ancient Carian settlements, we found ourselves heading for Miletus, thought to be established by the Carians. Famed for its philosophy school and the birth place o...f Thales, the father of Greek school of philosophy and science, who advised humanity to “know thyself”, Miletus had been a home to many famous philosophers in antiquity. One of the most famous ports of antiquity, the ruinous settlement is now marooned in an alluvial delta at the mouth of Great Menderes, known as Maiandros in the archaic period. It is claimed that Miletus was one of the most beautiful and liveliest cities of the antiquity. I had been there once in the past but I realized that to look and to see are two different things. This time I am going there to see and understand. At first, my intention had been to research the topographical formation and the eco system, which I will have to do sometime in the future. Karina, The endless coastline where the delta meets the Aegean is generous to photography enthusiasts, especially at sundown. Miletus was a rich and powerful settlement established on the shore line about two thousand years ago. As a result of the silting caused by the alluvium washed down by the Meander river, the city now lies at a distance of several kilometers from the sea and the shore line is covered with vast marshes. Further inland, cotton farming is a thriving occupation of the inhabitants. Far from the glorious days, this grand city of the bygone era is today waiting on a vast coastline to be revived into its better days. Although visited by travelers in summer season, the city seems to be forever doomed to desolation. Two thousand years ago, today’s Söke delta was a harbor along the basin and Bafa Lake was a bay. Maiandros was flowing in to the basin from north east. In time Maiandros River began to silt up the harbor and initially the neighboring Priene city lost its connection to the sea. Three hundred years would pass before the alluvium began to fill up the Miletus harbor. First Miletus and subsequently Lade island protecting the city was silted and in time, the city was abandoned. Archaeological excavations in Miletus Directed by Dr Th. Wiegand for the Berlin Academy, excavations began in Miletus in 1899. Excavations ceased in 1938 because of 2. World War. Following the war, works re-started and still continue. Miletus received special attention during the Greco-Roman period and won its autonomy in the year 38 BC., thus becoming a metropolis. The city prospered for about three hundred years. However, the thriving settlement began to decline in the year 3. BC. Once the alluvium from Maiandros began to fill up the port, the sea receded and the port became useless. The conditions deteriorated in time and marsh fever (malaria) erupted. The inhabitants began to abandon this once grand city. The Byzantine era saw that the city was strengthened by a castle and city walls and the settlement was relocated around the amphitheatre. However, disaster was inevitable and the city was completely abandoned in the year 6 A.D. Myths on the founding of Miletus The word Miletus (Milet) has no particular meaning in Helen language. It is suggested that it was transliterated from Milawa, one of the Aizawa cities referred to in the Hittite tablets, which means “the owner of the road that leads to the temple of mother goddess”. There are various legends regarding the founding of Miletus. One of these suggests that Akakallis, otherwise known as Delone was the daughter of Minos the Cretan King. She gives birth to three sons fathered by Apollo. One of the children by the name of Miletus was abandoned in a forest because of Delone’s fear from Minos. The child was suckled by wolves and raised by shepherds. When Miletus grew up, he realized that his grandfather intends to kill him so he escaped to Anatolia. There he founded the city of Miletus and married Kyane, the daughter of the God of Maiandros (Menderes River). Two children, Kaunus and Byblis were born to this marriage and subsequently each one founded their own cities. Another legend says it that during the classical period, a group of men led by Neleus, son of Codrus of Athens had come to Miletus region in about 10-11 B.C following the return of the Heraclids (during Greek Dark Ages) and killed the men of Miletus and married the widows. Thus, was how Miletus populated. Or was it the Carians that founded the city? Also, although there is not sufficient data at hand some researchers suggest that Miletus had been founded by barbarians of Caria. Strabon mentions that Miletus was founded by Cretans who arrived from a nearby city, which also was known as Miletus. Reference has been made to this city in Homer’s Iliad (Iliad, II, 868), when he mentions the names of ships arriving in the port. Excavations made around the Temple of Athena uncovered Late Mycenaean ceramics made in Crete in the second half of the year 2000 B.C. Those ceramics prove the existence of Miletus and Mycenaean colonies. Also, excavations carried out by Prof. Carl Weickert and Prof. Kleiner unearthed remains of wall structures dating back to1600 B.C and ceramics of late Mycenae period. Miletus was invaded in 1400 BC. and subsequently walls were built around the settlement. Archaic Miletus is still a myth. Not much is known about the Miletus civilisation of the archaic age. Information about Miletus about 650 to 480 is limited. However, it is known that Miletus turned its attention to Black Sea (Pontus Eokseinos) and Mediterranean (Mare Pamphylium-Mare Lycium) after 670 B.C., established strong trade relations and formed colonies in the region. It is known that Sinop, Giresun and Trabzon were founded by them. Although Miletus was under attack by Lydians in 611 to 600 BC., the city resisted colonization. Miletus thrived under the reign of a tyrant by the name of Thrasbulas and became a center of attention in the region in terms of cultural and trade activities. Persian Domination The city was subjugated by the Persians following the defeat of Lydian King Kroisos by the Persian King Kyros. When the Persians wanted a share from the colonies of Miletus, Aristogoras, the tyrant of Miletus rebelled. Having gained some success in the beginning didn’t help and they lost the war against the Persians. A naval war in 494 BC. resulted in loss of 80 ships and Miletus was once more subjugated by the Persians. Subsequently, the Persians burned and pillaged the city, including the temple of Apollo and exiled the people of Miletus to Mesopotamia. Miletus took part on the side of the Spartans in 477 BC. and joined the Attica-Delos Naval Confederacy but despite that, they couldn’t free themselves of the Persian domination. Persian domination continued until the year IV. B.C and nothing of significance happened. A great relief was felt when Granikos, a commander of Alexander the Great conquered Miletus and the Ion cities in 334 BC. Economical activities began to flourish once more, the city walls were repaired and re-settlement began to pick up speed. Miletus was under the dominion of the kingdoms of Seleucids and Pergamon in Hellenistic era (300 B.C to 30 A.D). The city exchanged hands a few time throughout that period. Although it was an autonomous city for a while following defeat of Seleucids Kingdom in the Magnesia wars (188 B.C), it was annexed by the Kingdom of Pergamon upon Apamea Peace settlement. Involvement of the Romans with the city increases. The Roman emperors were getting more and more interested with the city in133 B.C and can be credited with the overall restructuring of the city. Emperor Claudius had the Ion style Stoas and the capitol baths built and the architectural restructuring of Miletus city continued under the reign of Emperor Tarianus and Hadrianus, whom had the road from Miletus to Didyma built as well as the monumental fountain, the Delphinion, the Southern gate of the Agora and the Faustina baths. But the nature was merciless on Miletus city towards the 3rd Century. Filling up of Latmos bay with stilt and the coastline turning into marsh forced the citizens of Miletus to flee. Miletus lost its importance throughout the Byzantium domination and became an insignificant and small city. At the end of VI. AD. it had become almost non existent. At around 1261, the Menteşe Turkish Seigniory took control of the Carian lands, including Miletus. The Seignior of Menteşe Seigniory Orhan bey issued coinage and the name of city was changed to Palatia. The West was always interested in the city Subsequent to defeat of Menteşe Seigniory by Sultan Murad II. in 1424, this insignificant city was annexed to the Ottoman Empire. Researcher and travelers have begun to develop an interest in Miletus in mid 15th Century. Cyrianus was the first person to mention Miletus in his writings in 1446. Evliya Çelebi has also mentioned Miletus in his Travel Book (1670). Many other researchers have mentioned about Miletus in the following years. C.Humann has drafted the plans of the intact parts of the city structure. Haussoullier has carried out researches in Miletus as well as Didyma in 1895-96. Th. Wiegand had been the first archaeologist to begin excavations in Miletus in 1899 with the financial support of Royal Berlin Museum. Excavations in Miletus continued under Prof. Carl Weickaert in1955-57. The latest excavations show that the city went through three stages. Those stages were late Chalcolitic age, early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze age settlements. The excavations in Killiktepe near Miletus uncovered a part of a Neolithic age wall, various utensils and stone instruments dated back to 7000-5000 B.C. Surface excavations around Miletus city uncovered remnants of late Neolithic age and Chalcolitic age settlements. The earliest examples of Chalcolitic age is around the amphitheatre port and Athena temple. In addition there were also findings of various utensils on the western side of the Bouleterion, in Kaletepe and below Heroon. Early Bronze Age findings were made (3100-2000 B.C) around Athena temple. Middle Bronze ages of Miletus are not properly identified. T. Wiegand discovered the late Bronze Age level in the excavations carried out in 1907 and similar discoveries were made at the Stadium hill, amphitheatre port and Athena temple in subsequent excavations. Certainly, Miletus was a connection point between Western Anatolia and Aegean islands. Thus, Mynos and Mycenaean culture is not seen anywhere else in Anatolia but Miletus. ARCHITECTURE IN MILETUS Important structures in the city Miletus was established as a port city. Grid planning was applied in construction of the city and the structures were built accordingly. The Roman amphitheatre, one of the important structures in the city had a seating capacity of 15.000 and built in 1st Century. The amphitheatre is still stands in all its grandeur and restoration works continue. Amongst the important structures of Miletus are Roman baths, the main religious center Delphinion, Northern Agora, Ion style Stoa dated back to 1st Century, Capitol Baths, Gymnasium, 2nd Century Bouleterion, 164m by196 m. Southern Agora and 1st Century Faustina Bath. Miletus is surrounded by Mykale Mountain (Samsun Mountain) on the North, Latmos Mountains (Beşparmak Mountains) on the east and lowlands on the south. Hundreds of years ago, the Aegean nestled all the way along the skirts of Latmos Mountains and the region was a large bay encompassing the Bafa Lake as well. Today, Miletus is an antique tourist attraction near Balat Village of Didim in Aydin. Amphitheatre Miletus Amphitheatre has been known as one of the most attractive samples of Greco-Roman Architecture. With a seating capacity of 5 thousand 300 in Hellenistic eras, it was renovated and the capacity was increased to 15 thousand. The sections that still stand and the galleries still give one the feeling of being in an amphitheatre. Today, there is a castle on the peak of the hill, which was used by the Byzantium and the Ottomans. However, the castle is also in ruins The Port The staircases leading through the galleries take you to the inner sections of the city and you finally arrive in the only port that is still intact out of the four 5 ports in the region. The monument in the port area, called Triton is an interesting relief on few blocks of marble of half men half fish and points to the entrance of the port. Other structures Northern agora and Southern agora, the wheat silo, the 100 meter long ceremonial road and the gate to this road, the senate building, called “Bouleterion”, the three storey fountain, called “Nymphaion”, the Ionian style stoa consisting of 19 shops, the open air temple dedicated to Apollo and the Delphinios Sacred Area are some of the most important structures in Miletus city. Faustina baths are one of the most striking samples in Miletus and are accepted to be one of the largest of the Roman Baths found in Anatolia. . The baths were made for Faustina, the wife of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. There are cold, warm and hot water pools in different sections of the bath complex and the dressing rooms are still intact. The largest one of the pools is marble covered and is mostly in ruins but the resting Maiandros sculpture and the Lion sculpture seem to be guarding the pool. We must point out here that the sculptures are copies of the originals, which are kept in Milet Museum. İlyas Bey Mosque The most important structure from the near past of Miletus is the mosque that was built by an İlyas bey of Menteşeoğulları Seigniority in the year 1404. Currently, the mosque is being restored by Ankara University Archaeology department and is built on an 18mx18m area. On the grounds of the mosque is an Ottoman graveyard. At the entrance to the grounds is a gate, both sides of which have geometrical ornamentation carved on soft stone. The gate and the ornamentation are really impressive and the antique columns on either side are interesting parts. Flooring is covered with block bricks and there are two sets of stair on the corners facing the gardens, leading to the minarets. However, the minarets have long ago collapsed. The dome is supported by Turkish triangles. The acoustics inside is unexpectedly strong. There is a bath complex, madrasa, library and student chambers in the social complex. Miletus in the history of philosophy Miletus is known as the cradle of philosophy. The reason for that is the Philosophy school considered to be the founded by Thales, one of the seven Greek sages. The great mathematician and philosopher lived between 624 and 546 B.C and is famed for his simple but just as wise explanation of existence ; “all things are made out of water” … Thales’ monistic view of water leads him to animistic pantheism. Since water is the divine source of all living things and so all animate and inanimate things can be alive, then the whole world is full of gods. This conclusion leads Thales to suggest that the real substance of soul and nature is water since water’s power is fundamentally kinetic. However, according to the basic belief “Ex nihilo nihil fit” of Greek thought, out of nothing comes nothing and nothing can be fully exterminated. Another basic belief is hylozoism that is all matter possesses life and has a property of transformation. Aristotle also refers to the great Greek philosopher Thales. He notes that Thales is the thinker who suggested that every matter possesses gods. Another famed philosopher from Miletus is Anaximandros, who lived between 611 and 546 BC and is the student and successor of Thales. It is suggested that it is Anaximandros who invented the sun dial and was the first person to draw a map. He was also the first thinker to bring an explanation to Meteora that is the matters in the universe and the earthquakes, in terms of physics. However, the most important discovery in those days was that he suggested that the earth was suspended in the universe and he based this on mathematical explanations (Capelle, 1994). He was one of the first to speak about evolution and suggested that the first beings were covered with spiky shells and came out of moisture. In time those shelled beings he said, came on land and transformed into other beings after their shells fell. Anaximenes, last of the important philosophers of Miletus and a student of Anaximandros was perhaps the first philosopher to insist on an underlying physical law governing the universe and lived between 585 and 525 BC. The details of the life of Anaximenes are almost totally unknown, but he is said to have flourished in the year of the fall of Sardis. What is known of Anaximenes's views emerges largely from discussion and criticism of his work by Aristotle and others. There is no question that Anaximenes was familiar with Anaximander's writings, since their views are very close. His writings, which survived into the Hellenistic Age no longer exist, except in passages in the works of later authors. Consequently, interpretations of his beliefs are frequently in conflict. It is clear, however, that he believed in degrees of condensation of moisture that corresponded to the densities of various types of matter. When "most evenly distributed," aer is the common, invisible air of the atmosphere. By condensation it becomes visible, first as mist or cloud, then as water, and finally as solid matter such as earth or stones. If further rarefied, it turns to fire and “a rainbow is produced when the sun's rays fall on compressed air; thus hotness and dryness typify rarity, whereas coldness and wetness are related to denser matter.” (Cevizci, 2002)

Resources: Kent Haber culture committee ( Felsefe Ekibi Journal, Onur Kabı “Philosophy in Miletus School” Yazı: Yiğit Uygur / Teranslation Doğan Şahin - Published in BMagazine

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