Milas is an ancient city and the seat of the district of the same name in Muğla Province in southwestern Turkey. The city commands a region with an active economy and very rich in history and ancient remains, the territory of Milas containing a remarkable twenty-seven archaeological sites of note. The city was the first capital of ancient Caria and of the Anatolian beylik of Menteşe in mediaeval times. The nearby Mausoleum of Hecatomnus is classified as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Milas is focused on agricultural and aquacultural processing, related industrial activities, services, transportation (particularly since the opening of Milas-Bodrum Airport), tourism and culture. The centre lies about 20 km from the coast and is closer to the airport than Bodrum itself, with many late arrival passengers of the high season increasingly opting to stay in Milas rather than in Bodrum where accommodation is likely to be difficult to find.
Milas district covers a total area of 2167 km2 and this area follows a total coastline length of 150 km, both to the north-west in the Gulf of Güllük and to the south along the Gulf of Gökova, and to these should be added the shores of Lake Bafa in the north divided between the district area of Milas and that of Aydın district of Söke.
Along with the province seat of Muğla and the province's southernmost district of Fethiye,
Milas is among the prominent settlements of south-west Turkey, these
three centers being on a par with each other in terms of all-year
population and the area their depending districts cover. Five townships
have their own municipalities, and a total of 114 villages depend on
Milas, distinguishing the district with a record number of dependent
settlements for a very wide surrounding region. Milas center is situated
on a fertile plain at the foot of Mount Sodra, on and around which
sizable quarries of white marble are found and have been used since very ancient times.
The city's earliest historical mention is at the beginning of the 7th century BC, when a Carian leader from Mylasa by name Arselis is recorded to have helped Gyges of Lydia in his contest for the Lydian throne. The same episode is at the origin of the accounts surrounding the beginning of the cult for and the erection of the statue of Labrandean Zeus in the neighboring sanctuary of Labranda, held sacred by peoples across western Anatolia, with the statue holding the labrys brought over by Arselis from Lydia. Labrandean Zeus (sometimes also named "Zeus Stratios") was one of the three deities proper to Mylasa, all named Zeus but each bearing indigenous characteristics. Of these, the cult of Zeus Carius (Carian Zeus) was also notable in being exclusively reserved, aside from the Carians, to their Lydian and Mysian kinsmen. One of the finest temples was also the one dedicated to Zeus Osogoa (originally, just Osogoa), traceable to times when the Carians had been a maritime folk and which recalled to Pausanias the Acropolis of Athens.
The Hecatomnids, the dynasty founded by Hecatomnus, were officially satraps of the Persian Empire but Greek in language and culture, as their inscriptions and coins witness. Mylasa was their capital and the mausoleum of Hecatomnus can still be seen today which served as an architectural precedent from which the later mausolea of the dynasty developed. During the long and striking reign of Mausolus, they became virtual rulers of Caria and of a sizable surrounding region between 377-352 BC. During Mausolus's reign the capital was moved to Halicarnassus, but Mylasa retained its importance. Mausolus was the builder of the famous Ancient Wonder of the World, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
In the 1st century BC the two major, and antagonistic,
politicians of the city were Euthydemos (in Greek Εὐθύδημος) and Hybreas
(Ὑβρέας) and, when the first died, the second spoke at his funeral
coining the proverbial phrase ”You are a necessary evil: we can live
neither with you nor without you”.
In 40 BCE Mylasa suffered great damage when it was taken by Labienus in the Roman Civil War. In the Greco-Roman period, though the city was contested among the successors of Alexander, it enjoyed a season of brilliant prosperity, and the three neighbouring towns of Euromus, Olymos and Labranda were included within its limits. Mylasa is frequently mentioned by ancient writers. At the time of Strabo the city boasted two remarkable orators, Euthydemos and Hybreas. Various inscriptions tell us that the Phrygian cults were represented here by the worship of Sabazios; the Egyptian, by that of Isis and Osiris. There was also a temple of Nemesis. An inscription from Mylasaprovided one of the few certain data about the life of Cornelius Tacitus, identifying him as governor of Asia in 112-13.
Among the ancient bishops of Mylasa was Saint Ephrem (fifth century), whose feast was kept on January 23, and whose relics were venerated in neighbouring city of Leuke. Cyril and his successor, Paul, are mentioned by Nicephorus Callistusand in the Life of Saint Xene. Michel Le Quien mentioned the names of three other bishops, and since his time the inscriptions discovered refer to two others, one anonymous, the other named Basil, who built a church in honour of Saint Stephen.The Saint Xene referred to above was a Roman noblewoman who, to escape the marriage which her parents wished to force upon her, donned male attire, left her country, changed her name from Eusebia to Xene ("stranger"), and lived first on the island of Cos, then at Mylasa. Since the Fourth Crusade, Mylasa has remained a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church, Mylasensis; the seat has been vacant since the death of the last bishop in 1966.