The Bay of Miletus and the Latmicus Sinus

The fertile plains of the Menderes River, or the Meandros, form the northern border of Caria. For a mariner, one of the many fascinations lies in the fact that these plains have formed only relatively recently and continue to form: Their extension into the Aegean Sea increase by several metres per annum. So here we have the chance to travel over sea, or to be more precise, over what used to be the sea, by foot, on a bike or another land vehicle.

Today mostly cotton fields and marsh reeds prevail where there was once the Aegean Sea, and it tells us of a story still relatively fresh in the memory of mankind. “Köprünün gerisindeki yol denize iniyor” tells me the farmer at Köprüalan – and points towards the Bafa Lake! “Yol denize iniyor” – “This road leads to the sea”. Only a sloppy expression? Or a memory of generations? Well, this may be only a coincidence, but how about the eels in the Lake of Bafa, at Kapkiri, the town which used to be Herakleia and used to produce many a fine trireme for the Ionian fleet? How did these eels get into the Bafa lake? If mankind has a short memory, the eels certainly remember their origin.The Latmian Golf. Mostly a lie, mostly the truth. Not existing – but in the memories and in the phantasy.

In the following page I have taken a few references from the texts of the antiquity and have displayed with some recent pictures.

The once Milesian Bay, today’s Söke Ovasi, the fertile plains of the Menderes

Engraving from Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, Voyage pittoresque d la Grece

Marshes near Mt. Mykale, at the Karina Gölü. Even at our times the River Meandros gains several meters each year against the open sea.

“Islands which have been united to the main land: Again, islands are taken from the sea and added to the main land; Antissa to Lesbos, Zephyrium to Halicarnassus, Aethusa to Myndus, Dromiscus and Perne to Miletus, (…)”

Pliny the Elder, Book II, 91.89

The lagoon Karina

“[1]The Ionians then came there with their ships manned, and with them the Aeolians who dwell in Lesbos.
This was their order of battle:
The Milesians themselves had the eastern wing, bringing eighty ships; next to them were the Prieneans with twelve ships, and the Myesians with three; next to the Myesians were the Teians with seventeen ships; next to these the Chians with a hundred; near these in the line were the Erythraeans, bringing eight ships, and the Phocaeans with three, and next to these the Lesbians with seventy; last of all in the line were the Samians, holding the western wing with sixty ships.
[2] The total number of all these together was three hundred and fifty-three triremes.”

(Describing of the Seabattle of Lade)

Herodotus, 6.8.1-2

“(…) and then, having by now become a large river, the Maeander flows for a time through Phrygia and then forms the boundary between Caria and Lydia at the Plain of Maeander, as it is called, where its course is so exceedingly winding that everything winding is called “meandering.” And at last it flows through Caria itself, which is now occupied by the Ionians, and then empties between Miletus and Priene. It rises in a hill called Celaenae, on which there is a city which hears the same name as the hill; and it was from Celaenae that Antiochus Soter made the inhabitants move to the present Apameia, the city which he named after his mother Apama, who was the daughter of Artabazus and was given in marriage to Seleucus Nicator. And here is laid the scene of the myth of Olympus and of Marsyas and of the contest between Marsyas and Apollo. Above is situated a lake which produces the reed that is suitable for the mouth-pieces of pipes; and it is from this lake that pour the sources of both the Marsyas (todays Çine Çayi) and the Maeander.”

Strabo 12.8.1

[17] (…) In fact, the soil is not only friable and crumbly but is also full of salts and easy to burn out. And perhaps the Maeander is winding for this reason, because the stream often changes its course and, carrying down much silt, adds the silt at different times to different parts of the shore; however, it forcibly thrusts a part of the silt out to the high sea. And, in fact, by its deposits of silt, extending forty stadia, it has made Priene, which in earlier times was on the sea, an inland city. (Today we know that the meandering of rivers is caused by the Coriolis force of the turning globe)

Strabo 12.8.17





“(…) that the Maeander, flowing through the land of the Phrygians and Carians, which is ploughed up each year, has turned to mainland in a short time the sea that once was between Priene and Miletus.”

Pausanias 8.24.11

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