Cerenorm

25 May 22:30

Priene

TR > Aydın Province > Söke

Priene  was an ancient Greek city of Ionia (and member of the Ionian League) at the base of an escarpment of Mycale, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) north of the then course of the Maeander (now called the Büyük Menderes or "Big Maeander") River, 67 kilometres (42 mi) from ancient Anthea, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from ancient Aneon and 25 kilometres (16 mi) from ancient Miletus. It was built on the sea coast, overlooking the former Latmian Gulf of the Aegean

on steep slopes and terraces extending from sea level to a height of

380 metres (1,250 ft) above sea level at the top of the escarpment.Today, after several centuries of changes in the landscape, it is an

inland site. It is located at a short distance west of the modern

village Güllübahçe Turun in the Söke district of Aydın Province, Turkey.

Priene possessed a great deal of famous Hellenistic art and

architecture. The city's original position on Mount Mycale has never

been discovered; however, it is believed that it was a peninsula

possessing two harbours. Priene never held a great deal of political

importance due to the city's size, as it is believed around 4 to

5 thousand inhabitants occupied the region. The city was arranged into

four districts, firstly the political district which consisted of the bouleuterion and the prytaneion, the cultural district containing the theatre, the commercial where the agora was located and finally the religious district which contained sanctuaries dedicated to Zeus and Demeter and most importantly the Temple of Athena.

The city visible on the slopes and escarpment of Mycale

was constructed according to plan entirely within the 4th century BCE.

It was not the original Priene, which had been a port city situated at

the then mouth of the Maeander River. This location caused insuperable

environmental difficulties for it due to slow aggradation of the riverbed and progradation in the direction of the Aegean Sea.

Typically the harbour would silt over and the population find itself

living in pest-ridden swamps and marshes. The underlying causes of the

problem are that the Maeander flows through a slowly subsiding rift

valley creating a drowned coastline and that human use of the previously

forested slopes and valley denudes the countryside and accelerates

erosion. The sediments are progressively deposited in the trough at the

mouth of the river, which migrates westward and more than compensates

for the subsidence.

Physical remains of the original Priene have not yet been

identified, because, it is supposed, they must be under many feet of

sediment, the top of which is now valuable agricultural land. Knowledge

of the average rate of progradation is the basis for estimating the

location of the city, which was moved every few centuries to renew its

utility as a port. The Greek city (there may have been unknown

habitations of other ethnicities, as at Miletus) was founded by a colony from the ancient Greek city of Thebes in the vicinity of ancient Aneon

at about 1000 BCE. At about 700 BCE a series of earthquakes provided

the opportunity for a move to within 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) of its 4th

century BCE location. At about 500 BCE the city moved again to a few km

away at the port of Naulochos.

At about 350 BCE the Persian-empire satrap, Mausolus (a Carian)

planned a magnificent new city on the steep slopes of Mycale, where it

would be, it was hoped, a permanent deep-water port (similar to the many

Greek island cities, which seem to delight in being located on and up

seaside escarpments). Construction had begun when the Macedonians took

the region from the Persian Empire and Alexander the Great

personally assumed responsibility for the move. He and Mausolus

intended to make Priene a model city. He offered to pay for construction

of the Temple of Athena to designs of the noted architect Pytheos, if it would be dedicated by him, which it was, in 323 BCE; the dedicatory inscription is in the British Museum.The inscription translated to: "King Alexander dedicated the temple to Athena Polias".

The leading citizens were quick to follow suit: most of the

public buildings were constructed at private expense and are inscribed

with the names of the donors.

The ruins of the city are generally conceded to be the most

spectacular surviving example of an entire ancient Greek city intact

except for the ravages of time. It has been studied since at least the

18th century and still is. The city was constructed of marble

from nearby quarries on Mycale and wood for such items as roofs and

floors. The public area is laid out in a grid pattern up the steep

slopes, drained by a system of channels. The water distribution and

sewer systems survive. Foundations, paved streets, stairways, partial

door frames, monuments, walls, terraces can be seen everywhere among

toppled columns and blocks. No wood has survived. The city extends

upward to the base of an escarpment projecting from Mycale. A narrow

path leads to the acropolis above.