Context: Miletus
Type: Fortification
Summary: A fortification wall containing curtains and towers, enclosing the classical city of Miletus within the peninsula north of the Kalabaktepe.
Date: ca. 411 BC - ca. 150 BC

Sections of the earliest circuit wall have a thickness of ca. 4-5 m. The best-preserved section of the wall, the southern cross wall, extends for a distance of ca. 500 m. and attained a height of ca. 8-9.50 m. The thickness of the curtains varies between ca. 4.50 and ca. 5.0 m. Within the southern cross wall, the towers are located at a distance of ca. 60 m. from each other. The oldest Sacred Gate was ca. 5.00 m. wide, flanked by towers 7.25 m. in width.

Region: Ionia
Period: Late Clas./Hell.


The late-fifth century circuit wall, preserved in the east, is zig-zag in plan; it is unclear whether or not it contained towers. The southern cross wall, which forms the southern boundary of classical Miletus, consists of indented traces separated by square towers. There are eight curtains and nine square towers. The excavators postulate that beyond the southern cross wall, ditches and outworks further protected the wall, which ran across relatively open and level ground. To the east and west, the fortification wall continues in a north-south direction, punctuated by square towers and sections of indented trace. The fortification wall also protected the city at the north. In places, the city wall contains chambers interpreted either as storage rooms for artillery, or as guardrooms. Staircases at intervals on the interior of the wall led to the various levels of the towers, and to the parodos. Significant city structures, notably the theater and stadium, are built into the city wall at the west. At the eastern extension of the southern cross wall, a monumental gateway, the Sacred Gate, marked the entrance and exit of the Sacred Way to Didyma. This Sacred Gate, in both its early and late phases, consisted of an arcuated passageway flanked by monumental square towers. In the eastern stretch of wall is the second monumental gateway of Miletus, the Lion Gate.

Date Description:

There is no incontrovertible evidence for the date of the first circuit wall; if Herodotus' assertion that all of Ionia was unwalled in 427 B.C. is correct, the circuit at Miletus will not have stood at that time. Hdt. 3.33.2. When Cyrus the Great besieged the city in 402 B.C., this defensive circuit wall must already have been built. The reused blocks, and inscriptions, some of which date to the fourth and third centuries B.C., provide a terminus post quem for the construction of the southern cross wall.


The history of the fortifications of Miletus is complex. A late Mycenaean wall, dating to pre-1000 B.C., has been detected near the Harbor by the Theater. Early fortifications protected the Kalabaktepe to the south of the peninsula of classical Miletus; these archaic walls may date to ca. 650 B.C., and were restored after ca. 550 B.C. The earliest circuit to enclose the classical city of Miletus is dated between 411 and 402 B.C., at which time the wall also was extended to the Kalabaktepe. The line of the first Sacred Gate reveals the line of the earliest circuit wall; it is unclear whether this earliest circuit contained towers, as at Priene, or not. The section of wall which is built into the theater predates ca. 300 B.C. The best-preserved section of the city wall of Miletus, the southern cross-wall, which protects the peninsula, was built in the Hellenistic period, in ca. 200-190 B.C. This section underwent a significant restoration, originally dated by von Gerkan 1935, 125 to ca. 88 B.C., but perhaps occurring as early as ca. 150 B.C. Winter 1971, 278. At ca. 200-190 B.C., a new Sacred Gate was built to the north of the old gate; its towers constituted the first towers in the southern cross wall. In the first and second centuries A.D., the necessity for a defensive wall was less great; however, alterations to the Sacred Gate continued, some of its rooms functioning as part of the city's water supply system. In the late third century A.D., incursions of invaders into Asia Minor led to the restoration of the city wall. A section of wall dating to the time of Justinian extends along the north of the Miletus,South Market. In the Byzantine period, sections of the wall were rebuilt, and a castle was constructed incorporating the upper levels of the theater.

Other Bibliography:

von Gerkan 1935, 8-128; Scranton 1941, 176-77, 181, 183; Kleiner 1968, 27-32, figs. 14-16; Winter 1971, passim.