Location: Ionia Map

First settled: by the Greek colonists in the 11th century BC

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Priene is an Ionian (Ancient Greek) city founded in Aydın Söke, approximately 100 km away from Selçuk-Ephesus. The city is 10 km north of the Menderes River. When the city was founded, it was on the seashore. Due to the alluvium of the Menderes, the city is now within kilometers of land.

Location and Environmental Features
The city of Priene was founded at the foot of Samsun (Mykale) Mountain. Strabo mentioned that Mykale was full of wild animals and surrounded by trees. When viewed from the height of the city, a wide and flat plain can be seen. In the past, there was a sea where this plain is located. Strabo mentioned that the alluviums brought by the Maiandros River turned Priene, which was previously on the seashore, into an inland city. Skylaks mentions that Priene had two harbours. It is known that the Port of Naulokhon, which was a gift to the city from Alexander the Great, is also located within the territory of Priene.



Priene is located north of Miletus on the mountainous Mykale peninsula. The exact location of the Priener's first settlement is not known. The origins of the city lie in the darkness of history. According to Pausanias, Greek immigrants, namely Ionians and Thebans, took the city from the Carians. Priene was a member of the 8th century BC at the latest. The Ionian League of Cities was founded in the 1st century BC and became the protective power of the federal sanctuary of Panionion after the destruction of the Carian city of Melie. The city was only mentioned in writing in connection with the Cimmerian invasions in the 7th century BC. BC, who plundered the entire region, destroying the Phrygian Empire and almost the Lydian one as well. Disputes then broke out with Samos over fertile land in the north of the Mycale mountain range, which lasted until the end of the 2nd century. Around 645 Priene came under the supremacy of the Lydians. In the early 6th century B.C. The legislator Bias, one of the Seven Wise Men, lived in Priene in the 1st century BC. As 545 B.C. When the Persians attacked the Lydian Empire, most Ionian cities remained loyal to them. Priene and the neighboring town of Magnesia are said to have been destroyed after the conquest by Mazares and the residents sold into slavery. The extent of this devastation is doubtful, as the Greek cities were obliged to pay taxes shortly afterwards. Priene took part in the sea battle off the island of Lade in 494 with twelve ships (as part of the Ionian Revolt 501–494 BC) and, like the other Ionian cities, was destroyed after the defeat. Even after the Greeks' victory over the Persians, Priene only recovered slowly. Priene only appeared sporadically in the tribute lists of the Attic Sea League. It occurred in the 5th century BC. BC no longer appeared as a belligerent party, but the surrounding towns fought over Priene. 387 B.C. In the 1st century BC, Priene and the other Ionian cities came back to the Persian Empire in the so-called royal peace.

Towards the middle of the 4th century B.C. The city was refounded elsewhere in the 4th century BC. This measure could have been initiated by the Carian ruler Maussollus or the Athenians. The settlement, which has now been largely excavated, lies on the southern slope of the mountainous Mykale peninsula below a 300 m high rocky block that, when incorporated into the walled urban area, served as the city's acropolis. Neighboring poleis (city-states) were the island of Samos in the west, Miletus in the south, Magnesia in the east and Heraclea on Latmos in the southeast. The new settlement was laid out according to plan and despite the partly steep slope with a rectangular street grid that divided the area into insulae of equal size. Such city complexes are called Hippodamian after the name of the theorist Hippodamus of Miletus. A large square, the Agora, was left out in the city center. In the residential areas, the insulae were apparently divided into plots of equal size and built on with a largely uniform type of house. The most complex individual building in the new city was the Temple of Athena, which was planned by the architect Pytheos. On one of its antes there is a building inscription carved for Alexander the Great, who supported the building when he was on his conquest against the Persian Empire in 334 BC. Stayed in Ionia.

Priene, which like the other Greek cities in Asia Minor retained autonomy, had a democratic constitution, the individual offices of which are known from the inscriptions. Over the following centuries, the city continued to expand with numerous marble buildings surrounding the agora with halls. Numerous statue bases and exedra with inscriptions bear witness to the influence of individual families.

Priene was one of the Hellenistic territorial states of the Seleucids and, after 246, of the Ptolemies for about half a century until the victory of the Romans under Gnaeus Manlius Vulso over the Seleucids in 190 BC. BC came into Rome's sphere of influence, initially as a free, independent ally. Towards the middle of the 2nd century B.C. In the 4th century BC, the Cappadocian king Orophernes entrusted Athena of Priene with the immense treasure of 400 talents. After Ariarathes V had driven him from the throne with the support of Attalos II, King of Pergamon, he demanded that Priene hand over the money, besieged the city and devastated its surroundings. But a request for help from the Romans led to their retreat. Around 140/130 BC In the 4th century BC, a fire destroyed the districts to the west. After the death of Attalos III. Priene came with the entire imperial territory of Pergamon in 129 BC. BC came under the rule of the Roman Empire by will, although it remained a nominally free city.

The Mithridatic Wars (89–65 BC) brought a severe turning point and economic decline. However, some building projects testify to a certain recovery that followed until the early imperial period, including, above all, the completion of the temple under Augustus, in which he was worshiped from then on. Due to alluvium from the meander, the coastline pushed out more and more, meaning that Priene and its harbor lost its importance. The modest remains of a synagogue date from the second century.

When the Roman Empire was divided, Asia Minor - and with it Priene - became part of the Eastern Roman Empire, which continued to exist as the Byzantine Empire until 1453. From the 5th century onwards, the city was occupied as a bishop's seat. In the 13th century, a fort was built from spolia in the area of the former agora. With the conquest by the Turks around 1300, evidence of the settlement of the city, now called Sampson, finally ended.


Research and Excavation

The first archaeological excavations in Priene were carried out by C. Humann in 1895 and later by Th. It continued under Wiegand until 1898. However, before these excavations, the results of the research conducted by the British Society of Dilettanti were published. Excavations were carried out from 1992 to 2000 by W. Raeck from the University of Frankfurt and W. Koenigs from the Technical University of Munich. It was carried out by W. Raeck from 2001 to 2013. Excavations were carried out under the direction of the Miletus Museum Directorate from 2014 to 2017. Excavations have been carried out by H. Mert since 2018.



In modern times, the ruins of Priene first attracted the interest of English business travelers in 1673. Because of the famous Temple of Athena, Priene was a destination on the Society of Dilettanti's research trips to Ionia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Richard Popplewell Pullan largely uncovered the Athena sanctuary in 1868/69. The systematic excavation of large parts of the city began in 1895 by the archaeologist Carl Humann. After his death in 1896, the company was continued by Theodor Wiegand and Hans Schrader. A few years later, the results were presented in a detailed publication. Follow-up investigations of the original excavations took place in 1995 and 1996. Further excavations have been taking place since 1998, including under the direction of Wulf Raeck. Regular campaigns primarily explore Priene's late classical and Hellenistic urban planning and residential architecture.

Priene is a prime example of regular Greek urban planning in a medium-sized polis; the city's former population is estimated at around 5,000 people. The Panionion was located in Prienes, which gave the comparatively small town supra-regional importance. Coin finds provide evidence of brisk trade with numerous cities, particularly in the eastern Mediterranean.


City complex

The entire city-state covered an area of 400 km², the actual urban area of Priene covered an area of 37 hectares. However, only 15 hectares of this were built on or could be built on; The remaining area provided shelter for people from the surrounding area and their livestock in the event of a siege. The city is surrounded by a city wall. In addition to the city, this also includes the Acropolis.

Three gates led into the city. The west gate led directly onto the main street. In the east this could not be achieved due to the landscape conditions. The east gate led into the city a little further north and visitors were led onto the main street via a widened side street. The spring gate led into the city via a staircase.

The rectangular street grid divided the city into regular insulae measuring 120 × 160 feet. Through measurements at the site, an extremely sophisticated system of road layout could be reconstructed. The streets leading from north to south were mostly so-called stair streets, which means that the high gradient (up to 35°) was compensated for with stairs, which, however, also meant that these streets could not be used by cars.

The main street, which crossed the city from west to east for a length of about 1,000 meters, was the widest, with a width of about 7.1 meters, 24 feet in city measurements of the time. Based on measurements of streets, buildings and shrines, a founding time foot size of 29.46 cm was determined. Different foot measurements were also used in the late Hellenistic and Roman times.



The agora, the public market and meeting place, was located roughly in the middle of the city. In an east-west direction it was the width of two insulae of the city grid and in a north-south direction the length of one and a half insulae; It therefore measured 82 × 88 m. The southern part of the square was surrounded on three sides by a surrounding Doric colonnaded hall; A similar colonnaded hall initially formed the northern edge on the other side of the main street. It was built in the middle of the 2nd century BC. It was replaced by a two-aisled new building in the 1st century BC, called the Holy Hall, which continued an insula width to the east and was over 116 m long. The mixed order of its column front combines elements of the Doric and Ionic order (web fluting of the columns as well as dentil cutting and Ionic geison in the entablature). The west and east walls of the hall have been described inside with public documents over time. In the middle of the square there is a foundation on which an altar, possibly to Zeus or Hermes, once stood. There are numerous other foundations of smaller exedra, monuments and statues across the entire square. In the northeast of the Agora are the city's most important administrative buildings, the Buleuterion and the Prytaneion.

To the east of the agora lies the sanctuary of Asclepius, whose entrance was not on the agora, but on the eastern side of the sanctuary facing away from it. The center of the complex is a small Anten temple from the 2nd century BC. BC, whose designs are closely based on the model of the Athena Temple. In front of the temple there are the foundations of an altar, to the north of which are the remains of a small Doric colonnade.


Athena Sanctuary

The Temple of Athena is one of the relatively few buildings from ancient Greece whose architect is known by name. According to Vitruvius (1.1.12 and 7.praef.12) it was designed by Pytheos, who also worked on the mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Vitruvius praised the work at the Temple of Athena as excellent.

The temple was a peripteros with 6 × 11 columns that had an Asia Minor-Ephesian base. Unusually for the Ionian order, the Naos received an opisthodom.

The study of architectural ornamentation has revealed several construction phases, from the beginning in the second half of the 4th century BC. BC until completion in the earliest Roman imperial period, probably under Augustus.

Due to its mention by Vitruvius, the Temple of Athena and its order were given great importance in modern times. After the temple was discovered in the 18th century, it was used to obtain architectural forms (e.g. Altes Museum, Berlin). The temple and its surroundings have recently been extensively researched and published by the German Archaeological Institute and the Technical University of Munich under the direction of Wolf Koenigs.



Of the over twenty theaters in Western Asia Minor, some of which are very well preserved, this alone has essentially preserved the Hellenistic form. All others were fundamentally rebuilt in Roman times. A special feature are the five marble chairs around the orchestra, which were intended for dignitaries and guests of honor.

In the main axis between the stage house (Skene) and the auditorium there is an altar for the god Dionysus, from whose cult the ancient theater emerged. The proscenium (proskenion) with half-column pillars and a Doric entablature as well as the stage house are well preserved. Panels with painted backgrounds were hung between the pillars - the forerunners of the later stage design. The theater had excellent acoustics and could accommodate all of the city's residents with 6,500 people. It was used for both theatrical performances and town hall meetings. This is indicated by a stone with a holder for an hourglass, which limited the time of speaking.


Bouleuterion and Prytaneion

Bouleuterion is one of the best preserved buildings in the city. It forms a building block with the Prytaneion next to it. Bouleterion has a nearly square form with dimensions of 20x21m. There is an altar in the middle and there are rows of seats parallel to 3 walls. It has 16 steps on the north side and 10 steps on the east and west sides. It is said that its total capacity is 640 people. The top of the building is covered with a wooden roof. The Prytans that make up the Prytaneion are the executive committee of the Bouleuterion. Prytaneion was also a place where the state was represented.



Together with the theater, it is the best preserved structure of Priene. It covers the birinsula together with the adjacent Prylaneion. It has an almost square form and measures 20 x 21 m. It is a closed hall with an altar in the middle and seating on three sides in the form of steps rising parallel to the walls. It has 16 steps in the north and 10 steps in the east and west. It has angular seating steps, not round as seen in the Hellenistic Bouleuterion of the neighboring city of Miletos, but just like the bouleuterions of the nearby cities of Herakleia adLatmos and Notion. Total seating capacity is 640 people. The rectangular lodge-shaped niche between the two doors is for speakers. There is a marble altar in the middle of the audience hall. There are bucranies carrying garlands made of laurel branches on all four sides of the altar. The top of the bouleuterion was covered with a wooden roof. The windows of the building were in the walls on the side. As one of the well-preserved places, Bouleuterion can reveal life in ancient times. It has a plan that is considered modern even today, with seating steps rising on three sides and a rectangular audience hall with diagonal stairs. The plan was implemented by Jens Misiakiewicz almost unchanged in the pathology lecture hall of the University of Mannhein. However, there is an autopsy table instead of an altar.



It is right next to the bouleuterion. It is in the form of a peristyle house, that is, it consists of spaces arranged around a courtyard, with the colonnade around it covered with a roof. It had a square-shaped courtyard into which a total of 8 rooms opened. We have precise information about the function of the two rooms. The middle space in the south served as a transition from the north gallery of the agora to the courtyard. A rectangular-shaped hearth was discovered in a place just to the east. The sacred fire dedicated to the goddess Hestia probably burns in this hearth. M.O. It dates back to the 2nd century. The inscription in the form of a half column inside the Prytaneion contains the names of the people who served in the Prytaneion.


Stoa of the Sanctuary of Priene

Just north of the Agora, B.C. there is a "Holy Stoa" built in the 2nd century. According to an inscription found here, this stoa was built by Cappadocia King VI. It was deposited by Ariarathes and with this inscription, BC. It is dated to the year 130. The stoa is reached from the agora by a 6-step staircase. There are 49 Doric columns on the front of the Stoa and 24 Ionic columns on the inside. The roof of the Stoa was probably wooden. There were 15 rooms at the back of the Stoa. It is known that Emperor Augustus was worshiped in 9 rooms from the west. From the inscription on the wall of the room, it is understood that the Julian calendar was used at that time.



Since its excavation and publication in 1904, Priene has been considered a standard example and ideal of a late classical Hellenistic city complex. The Temple of Athena, praised by Vitruvius as an outstanding example of Ionian architectural culture, aroused great interest in science and architecture as early as the 19th century. His Ionic order of columns can still be found in encyclopedic works today. The stringent city plan with its partially well-preserved individual buildings found its way into urban planning and architectural theory writings and textbooks in the early 20th century. Individual buildings and systems were immediately exemplary for modern construction projects.