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Explore legendary Hellenistic landmarks while on a historical day tour of Priene, Miletus, and Didyma. Tour these magnificent ancient sites, each of which, in their prime, enjoyed centuries of both prosperity and dominance over the Aegean region.
Izmir or Bodrum
A day in this legendary trio of sites takes visitors back to when Greek arts, science, and philosophy flourished in the region. As you walk the cobblestone streets and marvel at what remains of the Greek’s artistic architecture, learn about the rich history of three cities and their role in shaping the region into what it is today.
A day full of archaeological wonders…
Your private tour begins in the ruins of Priene. Believed to have been established around the 7th century BCE, this ancient city’s importance in the ancient world was no longer in doubt by the 4th century BCE. Enjoying a prime position at the foot of Mt. Mykale, the port city also boasted of two harbors and thus, hosted the League of Ionian Cities congresses and festivals despite being smaller than the neighboring Miletus.
Its decline started with the Roman Empire’s rise at around 45 BCE and was sealed in the 2nd century when silting at the harbor brought an end to its sailing and shipbuilding industry. Thus, it was abandoned and fell to rubble as the centuries went by.
Visiting the ancient site today has been made possible by the digging that started in the late 19th century. Here, walk the right angle streets as you explore the ruins of the Temple of Athena Polias, designed by Pytheos of Priene and funded by Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, only five columns of the temple remain.
The 6500 capacity theatre is another impressive feature of Priene, its main highlight being the lion’s-paw indentations on the front row marble seats. From here, explore the ruins of a Byzantine basilica, the city hall, a Hellenistic synagogue, and impressive Roman Baths.
Our private tour then takes us to another beautiful Hellenistic city, Miletus, which sits in the valley of the Buyuk Menderes River. The city’s origins are unclear, but the Minoan Cretans may have started it in the Bronze Age before the Ionian Greeks took over from 1000 BCE onwards.
Over the centuries, Miletus grew and prospered, but its golden age was ushered by the arrival of Alexander the Great in 334 BCE. When the Romans took over the region two centuries later, Miletus’ influence shrunk, with the Romans making significant changes to the city’s architecture.
Miletus was still active in the Byzantine period and even made it to the Seljuk period, but it was completely abandoned after the harbor silted up in the 14th century.
Once in Miletus, you will immediately realize that just like in Priene, the streets of Miletus meet each other at a right angle. But, that aside, the city’s most stunning feature is the intricate blend of Hellenistic and Roman architecture. This is most evident in the Great Theatre, a 5000-seat Hellenistic theatre that the Romans reconstructed in the 1st century CE into a magnificent 15,000 seat theatre.
Above the theatre are ruins of a Byzantine castle that provide a splendid view of the Lion harbor. From there, explore the agoras south of the harbor, bouleuterion (city hall), Baths of Faustina (constructed for Marcus Aurelius’ wife), and the oldest shrine in Miletus- a Delphinium dedicated to Apollo.
To cap off this experience of historical splendor, tour the 15th-century post-Seljuk Ilyas Bry Camii and the impressive Miletus Museum.
Our final stop will be in the ruins of Didyma (“twin” in Greek), once a center of immense religious significance to the Hellenistic world. The city was home to an Oracle of Apollo, whose importance came second only to the Oracle of Delphi. Didyma’s oracle was destroyed by the Persians in the 5th century BCE but was rebuilt in 334 BCE when Alexander the great freed the region from the Persians.
After this period, the city built the most significant temple dedicated to Apollo in the Hellenic world. It is believed that had the temple been completed, it would have been larger than the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus and the largest in the ancient world. But, unfortunately, Didyma’s fall came with the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire, and by the 5th century CE, its once-influential oracle had been silenced.
Today, the site is home to one of Turkey’s most stunning ancient temples. Spend the evening exploring the breathtaking temple, which will be your last activity of the day.
The highlights of this trip are the columns at the temple of Athena in Priene, Greek Theater at Miletus, and the colossal temple of Apollo at Didyma.