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It is believed that the name of Priene is not Greek but is related to pre - Greek names of Cretan origin, such as Praisos and Priansos. In recent years, the theory gains weight that Priene was one of the cities of the Kingdom of Ahhiyava, which is believed to have been founded in the Miletus region, and that its name also derives from that origin. Therefore, our knowledge of the initial foundation of the city, whose existence goes back to the 2nd millennium BC, rests on hypotheses. The fact that the location of the pre - 4th century BC Priene has not yet been able to be determined up to the present day, plays an important role in this.

According to the information gathered from ancient sources, Pausanias has written that Priene was founded by Aipythos, son of Neleus of Athens, and by Philotas of Thevai, and that the native population was Carian, whereas Strabo gave the information that the city was founded by Philatos and that it was then called Kadme.

It is also believed that Priene was founded (like Pitane, Myrina, Kyme and Ephesus) by Amazon queens.

Archaeologists on the other hand, basing their claim upon the results of certain research, say that the first city was actually located at its present site, but because of the rising level of the land, o due to its filling up with alluvial deposits, it had remained inland and that during this period the outlet of the city was provided by the port of Naulochos.

One other hypothesis is that the city was situated not in the Maeander valley, but in the northern part of the mountains of Samsun (Mycale). Furthermore, it is dentified with the much destroyed city of Melie situated within the ruins of the fortress visible here. In this case, the city would have outlets via two ports, one in the north, and the other in the south (Naulochos).

The question of where? and by whom? the city of Priene, one of the oldest settlements of lonia, was first founded, is open to debate. The information gathered from ancient sources and from recent theses differ widely. Nevertheless, to conclude, it is accepted that Priene was asmall city, that it was situated on a peninsula close to Miletus and that it had two ports.

Since The site of this first city could not be determined and no cocrete findings have been obtained. The only piece found is the electrum coin discovered in Clazomenae. This coin, with the head of Athena on it, and which can be dated back to 500 BC, is evidence that priene was attached to the lonian League.

The city which, it is cartein, was linked to the Panionion from is foundation onward, was, like all lonian cities, attacked by the Kimmers in the mid 7th century BC, but since this sack was of a transitory nature, the city recovered in a short time.

At the end of the 7th century BC, Priene was captured by the Lydians and remained for some time under the rule of this kingdom.

The 6th century BC was the most prosperous era of Priene , as for all other lonian cities. In the beginning of this century. Bias, one of the "Seven Sages" was born in Priene, and he put into order the laws of this city. This brilliant era ended in 545 BC when Mazares, the commander of the Persian king Cyrus, attacked the city, burnt it down completely and enslaved its people. After a difficult period, Priene participated in the lonian revolt against the Persians started in 500 BC and joined the Battle of Lade with 12 ships. However, as a result of the Persians completely destroying the lonian fleet, the city was sacked again. The Persian fleet, defated after its attacked on Athens, had to retreat and take refuge in the bay in front of Mycale, whereupon the Spartans attacked and burnt the whole Persian fleet (479 BC). The "Attic - Delian Sea League" was founded immediately following upon this battle and victory, and Priene joined it in 450 BC. In 442 BC the Samos - Priene war came to an end throught the mediation of this league.

Up to the mid - 4th century, the city, thought at times under the influence of Athens, was more under the domination of the Persians.

After the death of Mausolus (353 BC) the Persian satrapies came under the rule of Athens, According to findings and remains, the refounding of the city of Priene coincides with this period.

During the Hellenistic period, which began with the victory of Alexander the Great over the Persians and his capturing of Anatolia, all lonian cities showed great prosperity. Alexander the Great gave the cities autonomy and abolished the excessive taxes paid to the Persians.

It is known that when Alexander besieged Miletus and the city resisted, he came to Priene and stayed there for some time (see The House of Alexander) and the made a donation to the Temple of Athena.

After the death of Alexander the Great, his commander Lysimachus (287 BC) came into power. Lysimachus acted as mediator between Samos and Priene to solve the misunder - standing about borders that had been going on for a long time. He reconciliated the two parties and gave Dryussa (north of Mycale) to Priene (283 - 82 BC). This misunderstanding which began with the foundation of the city was caused by the fertile land which lay to the north of Mycale, on which Samos was making continual attacks to gain posession.

During the Hellenistic period, the city came under the rule of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Pergamum.

Prince Orophernes who had spent his childhood in Priene, came to rule the Kingdom of Cappadocia in 158 BC, but when he was banished from the throne a short time later, he left the state treasury to Priene for protection. His brother, King Ariarathes V of Cappodocia, asked for the treasury to be given back, but the Prieneans replied that they could only give it back to the person who had entrusted it to them and rejected the request, whereupon Ariarathes V and the King of Pergamum, Attalus II, attacked Priene together and destroyed the city completely (155 BC). Later in time, the treasury was given back to Orophernes who, in return for this kindness, made a considerable donation to the city and worked hard for its prosperity.

Treaties made in 196 and 188 BC were not able to put a stop to the fight over borders betveen Samos and Priene. In 135 BC, throught a decree issued by the Senate of Rome, Dryussa was definitely joined to Priene and the misunderstanding was thus ended.

After the death of King Attalus II of Pergamum in 133 BC, his lands were attached to Rome in conformity with his will, and Priene thus came under Roman rule.

During the Roman period, Priene went through very difficult days because of the many wars and especially the attacks of pirates, and could only achieve a more peaceful period during the reing of Emperor Augustus.

In the Ist century BC, one of the arms of the Maeander river, flowing out to the sea, provided a connection to the port, but as time went by, the alluvial mud brought down by the river caused the sea to move continually away from the city, and the connection to the port was cut off. This caused interest in the city to lessen, and Priene gradually began to be abandoned.

In the Byzantine period the city was a bishopric, and findings prove that, until the fall of the empire, it was still populated. At the end of this period Priene was completely deserted.


The site of the remains of the city was first opened to the world of science in 1673 through a jorney of English businessmen however, research work undertaken in the 18th and 19th centuries were more orientated on the Temple of Athena. Systematic excavation and research work only began when, in 1894 R Kekule and Karl Humann visited the city and decided to do archaeological research.

Excavation work, begun in 1895 under the supervision of Karl Humann for the Berlin Museum, was continued after his death under the supervision of Theodor Weigand. In 1898 excavation was stopped and sutdies to be prepared for publication were begun on the city, of which a great part was revealed.

In recent years, superficial research work is from time to time carried out in Priene by the members of the German Institute of Archaeology in Istanbul.

Priene, believed to have been rebulit in 350 BC, lies to the south west of the area of Soke, within the boundaries of Gullubahce village, on the southern slopes of the Mycale mountain. The city was bounded on the north by the steep stretches of the Mycale, rising like a fortress, on the south by the Maeander valley, and on the south - east by the mountains of Latmos (Besparmak). It was not a harbour city anymore, and its outlet to the sea was secured by the port of Naulochos.

Strabo states the distance of this new city to the sea as being 7.5 kilometres whereas today this distance is more than 15 kilometres.

Priene is a most beautiful example of ancient town plannig. A focter especially important to ancient town planners was to have the whole town facing southward. This enabled the buildings to be protected from the sun in summer, but to receive more sun in winter. This implementation can be observed perfectly in Priene.

The city was built in accordance with the "grid system" developed by architect Hippodamus of Miletus.

The side streets, generally 3.5 metres in widht were built in steps beceuse of the sloping ground, and they largely impeded carriage transportation.

Each block (insulae), 47.20 x 35.40 metres in dimension, formed by main and side streets crossing at rigt angles, generally contained four houses.

Official and other buildings open to the public (temples, agorae, gymnasiums, bouleuterion, etc.) mostly covered the whole of a block or were continued on a second one, and were situated in the central part of the town.

The city had three gates of which one was in the west, and the two others in the east. The "East Gate" situated to the north - east of Theatre Street and which could be reached by a long, stone - paved ramp, was the main gate of Priene.

Next to the south - east gate named the "Source Gate" there was a tower with an epigraph on it, the technique of which provides proof that the tower was built at the same time as the city.

The West Gate opens onto the widest street of Priene.

Water for the city was provided from the sources at Mycale. It was brought down by aqueducts to the reservois located to the north - east of the city, and from there was distributed to the whole city by baked earthen pipes. Through this distribution many fountains (Nymphaea) were built in Priene. Some of these were situated to the south of the Athena Temple, at the eastern end of the Sacred Stoa, and in the southeastern corner of the theatre.


The wals surrounding Priene were 2 metres wide and 6 metres high. The front and rear faces of the wals were built of squared stone blocks while the space in between was filled up with rubble and mud. This construction technique, called "emplekton" is characteristic of the Hellenistic period. The watch towers were built in two storeys and apart from the wals. Thus, if the towers were destroyed they could be rebuilt without any harm coming to the wals. The wals between the towers were usually masoned in the shape of sawteeth in Troy.

The Acropolis, located on a very steep mass of rock in the rear part (north) of the city, was also surrounded by wals and watch towers. The connection between the Acropolis and the city walls was severed here, since there was no need for it on this streep hillside.

In the Byzantine period the walls were repaired and made more solid with some additions. During this period, the citadel in the Acropolis was given special attention and it was enlarged towards the north. The connection between the city and the Acropolis was provided by steps cut into the rocks.

Our knowledge of the Priene necropolis is extremely small, however certain findings seem to indicate that the necropolis was situated to the east of the city.