View from Acropolis toward NE and area of ancient 2nd harbor, Iasos

Fragment of entablature molding from NE side of Agora colonnade, Iasos

South side of Agora, from W, Iasos

Fragment of entablature molding from NE side of Agora colonnade, Iasos

View from Acropolis toward NE and distant coast, Iasos

Northeast corner of Agora, from SW, Iasos

Summary: One of the southernmost Greek cities of Anatolia, famed in antiquity for its harbors and commercial fishing.
Type: Fortified city
Region: Caria









Iasos occupies a S projecting headland of ca. 800 x 200 m on the gulf of Mendelia, NE of the Halikarnassos peninsula. From the highest point, near the center of the headland, the land slopes away to the flat isthmus joining the mainland. The necropolis and a Roman aqueduct are located on the low land N and E of the isthmus. E of the headland is a small harbor and W is a smaller and well-protected harbor. The W harbor had a mole and could be closed by a chain. The high land W of the harbor was protected by a 3 km long fortification wall with numerous towers and sally ports. This land wall, which was never completed, enclosed a large plateau and may have been built shortly before 412 B.C. by the Iasos ruler Amorges as a garrison or refuge center.

A 2nd fortification wall encircled the city of Iasos on the headland E of the harbor. The city's fortifications may also date to the 5th century B.C., but were extensively rebuilt in later periods. The main gate of the city, located at the isthmus and head of the harbor, opened directly onto the agora, just inside the city walls. Excavations have found earlier 9th and 8th century graves beneath the agora, indicating that the earlier city had been smaller.

The civic center of Iasos, including the bouleuterion, gymnasium, and theater lie in the N quarter of the city, between the agora at the N and the acropolis near the center of the headland. Streets and private houses are found S and E of the acropolis. A sanctuary of Demeter and Kore and a S city gate are at the S tip of the headland and a sanctuary of Artemis is located in the N corner of the city, near the agora. The remains on the acropolis have been greatly disturbed by the construction of a fortress by the Knights of Rhodes in the Middle Ages.


According to tradition, Iasos was colonized, possibly in the 9th or 8th century B.C., by Dorian Greeks from Argos with the support of the nearby Ionian city of Miletus. Archaeological evidence, however, shows that the site was already occupied in the Early Bronze Age. Minoan and Mycenaean remains indicate continued occupation in later periods. Iasos probably supported the Ionian cities against the Persians, and in the 5th century B.C. it was a member of the Delian League. As an ally of Athens, Iasos was attacked by Sparta and Persia in 412 B.C. and sacked. There is some evidence that Iasos was again attacked by Sparta in 404 B.C. and that all the inhabitants were slaughtered or sold into slavery.

After Spartian power in the Aegean was destroyed by Conon in 394 B.C., Iasos was rebuilt, possibly with the aid of Knidos, and it joined a league of Aegean states that included Ephesos, Rhodes, Samos, and Byzantium. Following the Peace of Antalkides in 386 B.C., Iasos came under the control of Mausolos and the satrapy of Caria. Iasos was later liberated by Alexander the Great, but in 125 B.C. it, along with all of Caria, became part of the Roman province of Asia. Prosperity continued throughout the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods and many of the remains visible today date from the later periods.


Chandler visited the site in 1764. Italian excavations under direction of Doro Levi since 1960.

Sources Used:

McDonagh 1989, 323-327; PECS, 401-402; Bean and Cook 1957, 100-105; Bean 1971, 69-81

Other Bibliography:

C. Texier, Description de l'Asie Mineure III (1849). E.L. Hicks, JHS (1887); (1888). W. Judeich, AM (1890). F. Krischen, AA (1913). G. Guidi, Annuario (1921-22) (illustrations). G. Jost, Iasos in Karien, ein antikes Stadtbild (1935). D. Levi, Annuario (1961-62); (1965-66); (1967-68); (1969-70). C. Laviosa, III Congr. Internaz. Cretological (1971).