Survey in the Chora of Miletus

Contacts: Prof. Dr. Hans Lohmann

Similar to Athens the exploration of the chora in Miletus was not able to keep astride with the exploration of the metropolis. The priority programme of the DFG “Historic Fundamental Research in Asia Minor” enabled the resumption of Theodor Wiegands researches of the Milesian peninsula between 1992 and 1999. In the course of this interdisciplinary project, which combined an extensive survey of 280 km² with scientific concomitant researches of the palaeogeography and the palaeoenviroment of Miletus and with the involvement of a high number of students, the settlement history and the settlement structure from the Neolithic and the times of the Ottoman Empire surrounding the metropolis of Miletus were examined. So far several preliminary reports were published (see below). The final publication is still pending.


Since the late Chalkolithic Human settlement activities in the region of southern Ionia have left a legacy of extensive changes in the natural environment, which lead to the complete silting up of the Latmian Gulf as well as severe and irreparable environmental damages due to deforestation and erosion. In the course of the 5000 year settlement history of Miletus and Milesia the relation between city and country experienced several phases of extremely different evolvement. For the oldest identifiable settlement phase, the Late Chalkolithic, a certain precendence of the settlement(s) in the later urban area can be seen. At the present it can not be determined if Miletus had already ascended to a proto-urban centre in the Early Bronze Age due to sparse findings, but it is safe to say that Miletus had a supra-local function and influenced the surrounding areas during the Middle Minoan Period which clearly show a strong Minoan influence if not a Minoan presence. Whereas the Mycenaean Miletus is a centre of commerce, apparently the hinterland was not colonised.
The Archaic Period is characterised by an at least three-staged settlement hierarchy, settlement structure and a global economic interlacing (including the Carians of the back-country) and represents the period of prosperity of Miletus and Milesia. Although Miletus leads in term of cultural, political and economic matters the country has, especially in smaller cities and sanctuaries (p 328), a focal point of urbanity and culture. The structures proved to be astonishingly substantial and allowed a swift recovery after the disaster in 494 B.C.
In the Hellenic Period the pressure on resources increases and as a result the last land reserves of the Milesian high plain are called upon. The country still plays an important role for the city. But this all changes during the Roman imperial period, in which the colonisation of the country drastically declines. How the large urban population of Miletus susteined itself during the Roman imperial period remains uncertain. The relationship inverts in the Early Byzantine Renaissance and it seems that Miletus almost gains ascendancy over the city (p 175, p 255). This impression depends on the dating of the city wall, which was considered to be from the Justinianic period, and its route which drastically narrowed the city limits. However it is possible that the city wall may have been erected during the Middle Byzantine Period in which the entire population withdrew into the city that had not completely lost its urban character. Only the remains of the Byzantine tower castles (p 66) bare witness to the attempt to regain the country in the 12th/13th century. The colonisation of the Seljug Dynasty left no traces in the surrounding area of Miletus whereas the city underwent a fundamental change. The new construction activity in the now Islamic Miletus does not follow the old so called Hippodamic grid any more. Miletus became an oriental settlement and only the name “Balat” (of sto Palati) is a reminder of its past.


Survey in der Chora von Milet. Vorbericht über die Kampagnen der Jahre 1990, 1992 und 1993, Archäologischer Anzeiger 1995, 293-333.

Zur Siedlungsarchäologie der griechischen Polis.
Geographische Rundschau 10, 1996, 562-567.

Survey in der Chora von Milet. Vorbericht über die Kampagnen der Jahre 1994 und 1995, Archäologischer Anzeiger 1997, 285-311.

Survey in der Chora von Milet. Vorbericht über die Kampagnen der Jahre 1996 und 1997, Archäologischer Anzeiger 1999, 439-473, Kartenbeil.

Der Neue Pauly 8 (2000) 166-167 s.v. Milesia.

Milet und die Milesia. Eine antike Großstadt und ihr Umland im Wandel der Zeiten, in: F. Kolb (Hrsg.), Chora und Polis. Kolloquium des Historischen Kollegs 5. bis 8. April 2000 (im Druck).

Die Chora Milets in archaischer Zeit, in: J. Cobet V. von Graeve – W. D. Niemeier – K. Zimmermann (Hrsg.), Frühes Ionien: Eine Bestandsaufnahme. Panionion-Symposion Güzelçamlı 26. September 1. Oktober 1999, Milesische Forschungen 5 (Mainz 2007) 363 392.

Altfluren oder Pingenfelder?, in: E. Winter (Hrsg.), Vom Euphrat bis zum Bosporus. Kleinasien in der Antike. Festschrift für Elmar Schwertheim zum 65. Geburtstag, Asia Minor Studien 65, 1 (Bonn 2008) 409 422, Taf. 51 52.