|Summary:||Sanctuary of Poseidon and meeting place of the Ionian League.|
The sanctuary is on a low hill on the N slope of Mt. Mycale, overlooking the sea. It was in the territory of Priene, which is ca. 5 km due S on the opposite slope of the mountain, and linked to that city by a paved road.
The sanctuary was enclosed by a temenos wall and at the center of the site was a rectangualr altar of ca. 17.50 m by 4.25 m. There were no temples or other buildings at the sanctuary, but a small theater or odeum consisting of 11 semicircular rows of seats cut into bedrock is located ca. 50 m SW of the altar at the foot of the small hill. This was almost certainly the meeting place for the delegates of the Ionian League. There is also a large cave above the meeting place, but it has not been shown to have had a cult function.
At an early date, possibly before 800 B.C., the 12 main Ionian cities formed the Panionic League which had religious and cultural importance, but no political or military function. The League established its center at a site which may have already been sacret to the small city of Melia and dedicated the new sanctuary to Poseidon Heliconius. The sanctuary served as the meeting place of the League and as the location for the Paionia, a regularly held festival in honor of Poseidon. The city of Priene managed the sanctuary and had some privileges in appointment of priests.
During the Persian period activities of the League and the sanctuary were limited and for a time the Panionia was held in the neighborhood of Ephesus for saftey. After the conquests of Alexander, the Paionia was revived at its origianl sanctuary and continued to be held throughout the Roman period. The cultural and religious significance of the Panionium sanctuary and the festival, however, never regained the importance they held before the 5th century B.C.
The location of the Panionium was first suggested by the discovery of an inscription in the area in 1673. T. Wiegand discovered the actual location of the sanctuary at the end of the 19th century and the site was partially excavated by a German team in 1958.