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The Bay of Miletus and the Latmicus Sinus – Pre-Antique and Antique Miletus


For as the Milesians had command of the sea,
it was of no use for (Alyattes) army to besiege their city.
Herodotus, 1.17.1


YEAR 3: (23) So it became Spring. Because Uhhazitis stood beside (i.e. allied himself with) the king of Ahhiuwa, the land of Millawanda (…) to the king of Ahhiuwa. I, My Sun(god) (…). And (I) sent forth Gullas and Malazitis (with) troops and horse(-troop)s, and they attacked (the land of Millawanda?), and they came back (lit. took up) with deportees, cattle and sheep (and they brought them away to Hattusas).”

Mursilis II, King of the Hethites, son of Subbiluliuma (14. Century BC) The Annals


“(…) And Nastes again led the Carians, uncouth of speech, who held Miletus and the mountain of Phthires, dense with its leafage, and the streams of Maeander, and the steep crests of Mycale.”

Homer, The Illiad, 2.867

“[7](…) Notable men were born at Miletus: Thales, one of the Seven Wise Men, the first to begin the science of natural philosophy and mathematics among the Greeks, and his pupil Anaximander, and again the pupil of the latter, Anaximenes, and also Hecataeus, the author of the History, and, in my time, Aeschines the orator, who remained in exile to the end, since he spoke freely, beyond moderation, before Pompey the Great. But the city was unfortunate, since it shut its gates against Alexander and was taken by force, as was also the case with Halicarnassus; and also, before that time, it was taken by the Persians. And Callisthenes says that Phrynichus the tragic poet was fined a thousand drachmas by the Athenians because he wrote a play entitled The Capture of Miletus by Dareius.(…)”

Strabo, 14.1.7

“[1](…) This was how (Alyattes) attacked and beseiged Miletus: he sent his army, marching to the sound of pipes and harps and bass and treble flutes, to invade when the crops in the land were ripe;
[2] and whenever he came to the Milesian territory, he neither demolished nor burnt nor tore the doors off the country dwellings, but let them stand unharmed; but he destroyed the trees and the crops of the land, and so returned to where he came from;
[3] for as the Milesians had command of the sea, it was of no use for his army to besiege their city.(…)”

Herodotus, 1.17.1

“[2] They were still warring with equal success, when it happened, at an encounter which occurred in the sixth year, that during the battle the day was suddenly turned to night. Thales of Miletus had foretold this loss of daylight to the Ionians, fixing it within the year in which the change did indeed happen.
[3] So when the Lydians and Medes saw the day turned to night, they stopped fighting, and both were the more eager to make peace.(…)”

Herodotus, 1.74.2

“[3] When (Croesus) came to the river Halys, he transported his army across it–by the bridges which were there then, as I maintain; but the general belief of the Greeks is that Thales of Miletus got the army across.
[4] The story is that, as Croesus did not know how his army could pass the river (as the aforesaid bridges did not yet exist then), Thales, who was in the encampment, made the river, which flowed on the left of the army, also flow on the right, in the following way.
[5] Starting from a point on the river upstream from the camp, he dug a deep semi-circular trench, so that the stream, turned from its ancient course, would flow in the trench to the rear of the camp and, passing it, would issue into its former bed, with the result that as soon as the river was thus divided into two, both channels could be forded. [6] Some even say that the ancient channel dried up altogether. But I do not believe this; for in that case, how did they pass the river when they were returning?”

Herodotus, 1.75.3

“[3] It was the design of the Persian admirals to flee to the shelter of (their own) army, and there to beach their ships and build a fence round them which should be a protection for the ship and a refuge for themselves. With this design they put to sea. So when they came past the temple of the Goddesses at Mykale(…), they beached their ships and fenced them round with stones and the trunks of orchard trees which they cut down; they drove in stakes around the fence and prepared for siege or victory, making ready, after consideration, for either event.”

Herodotus, 9.96.3

“[2] (…) As for the Leleges, some conjecture that they are the same as the Carians, and others that they were only fellow-inhabitants and fellow-soldiers of these; and this, they say, is why, in the territory of Miletus, certain settlements are called settlements of the Leleges, and why, in many places in Caria, tombs of the Leleges and deserted forts, known as “Lelegian forts,” are so called. However, the whole of what is now called Ionia used to be inhabited by Carians and Leleges; but the Ionians themselves expelled them and took possession of the country, although in still earlier times the captors of Troy had driven the Leleges from the region about Ida that is near Pedasus and the Satnioïs River. So then, the very fact that the Leleges made common cause with the Carians might be considered a sign that they were barbarians. And Aristotle, in his Polities also clearly indicates that they led a wandering life, not only with the Carians, (…)”

Strabo, Geography, 7.7.2

“[1]The Persian fleet wintered at Miletus, and putting out to sea in the next year easily subdued the islands that lie off the mainland, Chios and Lesbos and Tenedos. Whenever they took an island, the foreigners would (net) the people.
[2] This is the manner of their doing it: the men link hands and make a line reaching from the northern sea to the southern, and then advance over the whole island hunting the people down. They also captured the Ionian cities of the mainland in the same way, but not by netting the people; for that was not possible.”

Herodotus, 6.31.1

“Wherefore they (the Syrians) reverence the fish as of the same origin and the same family as man, holding a more reasonable philosophy than that of Anaximandros; for he declares, not that fishes and men were generated at the same time, but that at first men were generated in the form of fishes, and that growing up as sharks do till they were able to help themselves, they then came forth on the dry ground.”

Passage in Aristoteles about Anaximandros of Miletos

“[2] All the rest spoke their minds to the same effect, favoring revolt, with the exception of Hecataeus the historian who, listing all the nations subject to Darius and all his power, advised them that they should not make war on the king of Persia. When, however, he failed to persuade them, he counselled them that their next best plan was to make themselves masters of the sea.
[3] This, he said, could only be accomplished in one way (Miletus, he knew, was a city of no great wealth), namely if they took away from the temple at Branchidae the treasure which Croesus the Lydian had dedicated there. With this at their disposal, he fully expected them to gain the mastery of the sea. They would then have the use of that treasure and their enemies would not be able to plunder it.
[4] The treasure was very great, as I have shown in the beginning of my account. This plan was not approved, and they resolved that they would revolt. One out of their number was to sail to Myus, to the army which had left Naxos and was there, and attempt to seize the generals who were aboard the ships.”

Herodotus, 5.36.2

The Ilyas Bey Mosque at Miletus and the Principality of Mentese

General view of the Ishak Bey Külliyesi.
In the Cemetery at the Ishak Bey Mosque, on a more recent “stone” than the one above, one can be read:God is eternal
Look, traveller, don’t be taken by surprise
Collect yourself,
Many years you have lived,
And what all befell you,
Death, the destiny has arrived,
And a stone has been set up at your head.
Mustafa Ali Kiliç, Veteran of Gallipoli
B: 1307 (AH) D: 1962
Commence to read the Coran for his soul.

Above the geometrically ornate marble Mihrap of the Ilyas Bey Camii, a very special and fine example of its kind.

Already in late Antiquity the silts of the Menderes had severed off Miletus from the high seas and vessels of only modest size could travel to Miletus “upriver”. One of the last accounts is that of Cyriacus, a merchant from Ancona, who reported to have travelled in 1412 on a merchantman up to the port under the theatre.

In Byzantine Times Miletus became “Palatia”, the palasts, as above the ruins some villas had been erected. Obviously lacking the glory it had once enjoyed in antiquity, it still remained a centre of wealth and culture. When it came down to choosing an architect for the Haghia Sophia, Emperor Justinianus opted for a Milesian, Isidoros of Miletos. Up to the 14th century Palatia was a diocese, until the area was eventually subjected to the Turks of the Anatolian Selçuks. The name was vernaculized to “Balat”.

The Meneteseoglu Beyligi was a Turkic Principality founded by Mentese Bey. They were seagoing and entertained a remarkable navy which managed to occupy Rhodes in 1300.This triggered the Knights of St. John to crusade to the island which they regained in 1314.

The Mentese Beyligi tried in vain to regain Rhodes in 1320. Together with Aydinoglu Umur bey they fought the Latins until a peace treaty was signed in 1355.

Some of their very important diplomatic instruments, the Ahid-Names with the State of Venice, have survived to our time.

The Menteseoglu remained installed until the mid 15th century. Their capital was Mylasa/Milas and their retreat the Beçin Castle. Ilyas Bey, the Dominus Palatie, was one of the most brilliant sovereigns of this small principality.

The Ilyas Bey Mosque was completed in 1404, an era when all Anatolia was in turmoil after the devastating defeat of the Ottoman Sultan Beyazit against Timur Han the Lame at the Battle of Ankara. It appears that Timur Han supported the Principalities of Anatolia, or as it was called then, the Beyligs of Rum, of Rome.

The Ilyas Bey Mosque was a complex with a shrine and a religious school annexed. Few remains of the madrasah have survived, but the mosque is in good state.

You can link to any of the hotspots on the map above: 1: Miletos, 2: Myus, 3: Priene, 4:Herakleia under the Latmos, 5: Domatia, Eski Doganbey


Mursilis II, King of the Hethites, son of Subbiluliuma (14. Century BC) The Annals

Homeros (9. Century BC) The Iliad

Herodotos ( 5. Century BC) The Histories

Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus, (AD 23–79) The Natural History

Strabo (born 63 BC or 64 BC, died ca. 24 AD), Geography

Pausanias,( 2. Century AD) Periegesis tes Hellados

Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, Le Voyage pittoresque de la Grèce (1782-1822),
Maps from: Eski Haritalarda Bati Anadolu, Nezih Basgelen, Istanbul, 2005,
Engraving from: Gravürlerle Türkiye, Volume IV, Rep. of Turkey, Ministry of Culture, Ankara 1996

Miletus Model

Related Pages in this site:

The Carian Language

The ‎Hittites