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Priene Ancient City is an ancient Ionian city located in Güllübahçe Village which is about 15 km from Söke District of Aydın. The city, which is known to be by the sea when it was founded, has moved away from the sea by 16 km as a result of filling the sea with the alluviums carried by the Meander River.
History of Priene Ancient City
According to the narratives that have come from the ancient times until today, those who founded the city were colonists who migrated to Ionia. Their leader is Aepytos, the son of Kodros, the legendary founder of Athens. It is assumed that Priene has always been attached to Athens in the historical process.
The first establishment of the city of Priene, which is one of the 12 Ionian cities including Ephesus and Miletus Ancient Cities, dates back to the eighth century BC. After the abandonment of the first settlement for unknown reasons, the city was rebuilt in its current location in the fourth century BC, which has a fairly steep land. Priene, who came under the auspices of the Lydians, Persians, Alexander the Great, the Kingdom of Pergamon, Romans and Eastern Romans, respectively, is completely abandoned in the thirteenth century after Christ.
Here are three important reasons why the city is in its current position.
- The rock mass dominating the plain facilitated the defense system.
- It is a permanent water source that comes out of the rock and meets the city’s water needs.
- The high city is far from the mosquitoes in the marshy area.
The name of the city is of Luvian origin, Luvians were one of the most important ancient Anatolian Civilizations, and ‘’Priene’’ means ‘Castle Home’. Priene is known to be a small city with a population of 4-5 thousand people. The first systematic archaeological excavations were carried out by a German team in 1868-1869. Along with the important pieces of the Temple of Athena, some other artifacts taken away from the city are exhibited in the Berlin Museum and the British Museum today.
Famous People visited Priene
One of the most famous philosophers of Antiquity, Bias lived in Priene in the sixth century BC. In addition, it is known that Alexander the Great came to the city in 334 BC and gave financial support to finish the Temple of Athena, which was still under construction at the time of Alexander the Great’s arrival. Probably the people of Priene didn’t leave this donation unrequited and make a house in honor of Alexander the Great. Today, we can only see the ruins of this building called the House of Alexander the Great.
There are many houses in the ancient city of Priene. It is said that the house architectures here show properties very similar to the Pompei and Delos houses. The walls of the houses were as strong as those in public buildings.
Priene City Plan
Priene, which has a very good city planning, has 3.5 meters of streets and 7 meters of wide streets. Due to the land structure of steep hills, stairs are often used.
The city was built with the “grid system” developed by the Miletus architect Hippodamus. The side streets of the city, which is generally 3.5 meters wide, have stairs due to the slope of the land. Other public and official buildings often cover an entire block and are located in the city center.
Having a complete tour of Priene takes more than 3 hours. There are many attractions in Priene such as the Egyptian Gods Sacred Area, Baths and Gymnasion (Sports Complex), Ancient Theater, Agora (Bazaar), Asklepios Sacred Area, Bouleuterium (Assembly Building), Food Market, Athena Temple, Demeter Temple, Acropolis (Upper Campus) and the Church.
Things to See in Priene
Ancient Theater of Priene
The ancient theater is on a steep stony slope, seen when entering from the main entrance gate in the east of the city. At the end of this road, there is the Ancient Theater located on the left. The half-moon seating arrangement of the theater, which was built in the fourth century BC, has a total capacity of 6,500 people.
The backstage section with the dressing rooms of the theater, and the magnificent marble seats reserved for nobles and clergymen have managed to survive to the present day.
Temple of Athena in Priene
When you leave the theater and continue upwards, the temple of Athena, built between the fourth and second centuries, is reached on a rocky terrace in the highest part of the city. The inscription in the temple says that the sanctuary is dedicated to the goddess Athena. This inscription is in the British Museum today.
The statue of Athena, made of gold and ivory, was located in front of the temple built for the goddess Athena, the most dominant place in the city.
The architect of the temple is Pytheos, who also built the famous world wonder Bodrum Halicarnassus Mausoleum. It is known that there are 6 columns on the short sides of the temple and 11 columns on the long sides. Today, its 5 surviving columns are still sufficient to explain its once-magnificent times and offer visitors an exquisite view.
Bouleuterion of Priene
The construction of the assembly hall, also known as the administrative building of the city dates back to the second century BC. The building with a seating capacity of 640 people, seats are located parallel to the three walls of the building, and the whole building was covered with a wooden roof. A marble altar decorated with god busts can be seen in the middle of the building.
Synagogue of Priene
The Priene Synagogue is a synagogue built in Priene, probably in the 2nd century AD. The discovery of the synagogue was made by Theodor Wiegand and Hans Schrader, who conducted excavations in Priene between 1895-1898. Although the area, which was defined as the meeting room, was thought to be an early Christian church, it was later understood that the building was a synagogue. The building, which was used as a normal house before the synagogue, was probably built in the helenistic period.
Agora of Priene
The bazaar also known as Agora is located just below the Bouleuterion and is the heart of the city, is the most important socialization area of the people with its shops attached to it.
On the north end of the Agora, which is built in the shape of a horseshoe, on the open side, there is the main street and on the other three there are stoas. The buildings called stoa are galleries with covered columns that protect from sun and rain. The remains of only a few of these galleries have survived. Rows of shops covered the stoas in the market place. It is also said that there was once an art gallery here. In the middle of the agora, the ruins of the altar dedicated to the god Hermes are seen.
Guide to Priene Ancient City
Priene is open between 10:00 and 19:00 in summer season. Priene is open between 08:30 and 17:30 in winter season. Priene ancient city is closed only on Mondays. Entrance fee is 10 Turkish Lira.
I always loved to visit Priene especially because of its magnificent location and not so crowded streets. The only problem in Priene is the steep hill that you have to climb when you arrive. I will be far more flat and easier after this hill, do not worry :D.
You can contact me to learn more on Priene or you can write to me to book a licensed Turkish tour guide to visit Priene. See you soon, Hasan Gülday.