Ionian city 15
km SW of Soke. This however is not the original site.
The city was founded on an unknown site by Aipytos,
grandson of Kodros, and the Theban Philotas (Strab.
633; Paus. 7.2.10
). It was a member of the Ionian
League and was severely treated by the Persians (Paus.
.), but provided twelve ships at the battle of Lade in
494 B.C. (Hdt. 6.8
). In the Delian Confederacy Priene
was assessed at one talent, a low tribute as compared
with her neighbor Miletos. Priene was never in fact a
large city. The move to the new site was made in the
4th c., probably at the instigation of Mausolos; apparently it had previously been that of the city's harbor, Naulochos.
Alexander reached Priene in 334. His offer to defray
the cost of the new Temple of Athena, then still unfinished, if he might make the dedication, was accepted;
the dedication was made on the temple wall. Alexander
also exempted Priene from the syntaxis which he exacted
from the other cities. The Panionion, assembly place of
the Ionian League, lay on Prienian territory and was to
some extent under Prienian control; but the land was
disputed by the Samians, and the quarrel over it continued for centuries.
Under the Roman Republic and Empire Priene prospered less than most of the Ionian cities, no doubt largely
because of the silting of the Maeander; Strabo says (579)
that this had separated the city from the sea by 40 stades.
The present distance is 12-13 km.
One coin is attributed to the early Priene; otherwise
the coinage begins after Alexander and continues, with
an interruption in the 1st c. B.C., down to the time of
Valerian. As a bishopric Priene ranked 21st under the
Metropolitan of Ephesos.
The site at Turunçlar is the most spectacular in Ionia.
It lies on sloping ground at the S foot of a nearly perpendicular cliff, on the top of which was the acropolis,
the Teloneia. Only a part of its fortification wall remains.
A narrow path leads up the rock face from its E foot.
The main city wall is preserved to a greater or lesser
height in its entire length from the E to the W foot of
the hill, roughly a semicircle; it has an inner and an
outer face, with a rubble core. There are three gates, two
on the E and one on the W. The interior is laid out on
the Hippodamian system; the slope required many of
the N-S streets to be stepped. The walls and most of the
surviving buildings date from the foundation of the city
or soon after.
Of the main E-W streets the one farthest N leads from
the NE gate straight through the city to its W end; about
its middle point it passes the theater. This is among the
best surviving examples of a Hellenistic theater, with
only slight Roman alterations. The stage building is especially well preserved. It was a two-storied building with
proscenium in front; the stage was supported on 12 pillars, to 10 of which Doric half-columns are attached,
with an architrave and triglyph frieze above. The intercolumniations were variously filled: at the extreme ends
with a wide-meshed grille, then with three double folding
doors alternating with painted panels of wood. The stage
itself was formed of wooden boards laid between stone
crossbeams. A staircase led up from the orchestra at the
The cavea is more than a semicircle, and is supported
by handsome analemmata of cushioned ashlar. Some 15
rows of seats have been excavated, with five marble
thrones spaced at intervals in the front row; in the middle is the altar of Dionysos. A royal box was added later
in the fifth row. The parodoi were not closed in Roman
times but remained open in the Classical fashion. At the
W corner of the orchestra is the base of a water-clock,
with somewhat enigmatical cuttings; this suggests that the
theater may have been used at some period as a court
On the S side of this street, farther E, is the Sanctuary
of the Egyptian Gods, Isis, Sarapis, Anubis, and Harpokrates. It consists of a rectangular court with an altar in the middle, and is of Hellenistic date.
The next street to the S leads to the Temple of Athena.
It passes the excellently preserved bouleuterion, a rectangular building with seats on three sides, covered with
a roof supported on pillars; on the fourth side is a rectangular recess with stone benches, with a door on either
side. In the middle of the floor is an altar. There is seating space for 640 persons, suggesting that the building may have been used also as an ecclesiasterion.
The poorly preserved building adjoining this on the E
is identified as the prytaneion, restored in Roman times;
it contained a water basin and, in the SE corner, the
sacred hearth. Across the street from this is the upper
gymnasium, Hellenistic in origin but much altered in later
times; this too is in poor condition.
The Temple of Athena, chief deity of Priene, stood
on a high bastion of admirable ashlar masonry dominating the town. It was of the Ionic order, with a peristyle of 11 columns by 6, and of standard plan with
pronaos, cella, and opisthodomos. The cult statue, a copy
of the Athena Parthenos, was installed later, in the mid
2d c. B.C. The architect was Pytheos, who wrote a book
taking this temple as a model. At present only the foundations are preserved, but some of the columns have recently been reerected. The altar stood as usual in front of the temple on the E, but is now ruined. The temple
was later rededicated to Augustus, and at the same time
an entrance gateway, still partially preserved, was erected
to the E.
About the middle of the S side of the same street is
the agora, originally an open rectangle bordered on E,
S, and W by a stoa backed by shops; in the middle of
the S side the shops were interrupted by a hall divided
down the middle by a row of eight columns. Later the
E side was incorporated into the precinct of Zeus. In the
center was an altar, probably for sacrifice to Hermes,
and close by to the E another monument of uncertain
purpose. Across the N side ran a row of honorific monuments and exedras. Across the street from the agora is
the sacred stoa, 116 m long, dating probably from about
130 B.C. It is divided down the middle by a row of 24
Ionic columns; at the back is a row of 15 rooms, and
in front a row of 49 Doric columns; in front again is
an open flight of six steps.
At the extreme W end of the street, near the gate, is
a small sanctuary of Kybele, with a pit for offerings. A
little E of this is another sanctuary comprising a forecourt and several small rooms, in one of which is a sacrificial table placed over a cleft in the ground. A statuette found here and apparently representing Alexander suggests that this is the Sanctuary of Alexander mentioned in an inscription.
Farther up the hillside to the N is the Sanctuary of
Demeter and Kore, consisting of an open space some
45 m long, with an entrance on the E and the temple
at the W end. At the entrance stood two statues of
priestesses; the base of one remains in place. The plan
of the temple is unique: a columned porch in front, leading to a cella of irregular shape, with a high stone bench
at the back for votive offerings. Two small chambers adjoin this on the N, one opening to the porch. Outside the
temple on the SE is a sacrificial pit, square and lined
with masonry; it was roofed with planks laid across between triangular stone blocks, one of which remains. A normal altar was later installed in the NE corner of the sanctuary.
The lower gymnasium is at the foot of the hill just
inside the city wall. The palaestra, about 45 m square,
is best preserved on the N side, where there is a row of
five rooms. At the W end is the washroom, with basins
at the back and at the entrance; the floor is paved with
smooth pebbles. In the middle of the row is the ephebion,
used as a lecture room, with benches round the walls;
the back wall is covered with more than 700 names of
students. The other three rooms should be the konisterion, korykeion, and elaiothesion.
Adjoining the gymnasium on the W is the stadium,
constructed in the 2d c. B.C. and replacing an earlier one.
The course is some 190 m long by 18 m wide, with
permanent seating only in the middle of the N side; the
slope of the ground prevented it on the S. At the W end
are some interesting remains of the starting gate for the
foot races. On a long stone foundation are the bases of
ten square pilasters; these originally had Corinthian capitals and an architrave. In the surface of the foundation is
cut a water channel, extending for its whole length and
originally covered with wooden planks. In the sides of
the bases are vertical rectangular cuttings, evidently belonging to the arrangements for operating the hysplex.
Some 2 m in front (to the E) of this installation are
the remains of an older and simpler form of starting
sill, consisting merely of eight square slabs set in the
ground, with a square hole in each one evidently intended to hold an upright post.
The private houses at Priene are in comparatively good
condition and of early date; many, if not most, go back
to the 3d c. B.C. The normal plan comprises an entrance,
often in the side street, with a vestibule and open courtyard leading to an antechamber and the main living-room; at the sides are other rooms. Bathrooms and latrines occur, but rarely. In a few houses remains of
staircases have been found, but no upper stories are preserved.
R. Chandler et al., Antiquities of Ionia
I (1769); IV (1881) (temple of Athena); T. Wiegand &
H. Schnader, Priene
(1904); M. Schede, Die Ruinen von
(2d ed. 1964)MI
; G. E. Bean, Aegean Turkey
(1966) 197-216 (suggested explanation of hysplex); E.
Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey
G. E. BEAN