- Aydin - Priene
The origins of this beautiful city are old indeed. By the
eleventh century B.C. it was one of the twelve colonies forming
the Ionian Confederation and enjoyed considerable prestige
and prosperity. It was situated below the mass of Samsum Dagi
(formerly Mikale) on the shore before the river Maeander silted
up the port. Now the sea is fifteen kilometres away and the
surrounding plains have become immense cotton plantations.
The city rebelled against Persian domination under King Cyrus
and in revenge the Persians razed it to the ground. New Priene
was reborn under Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. and after
countless struggles and invasions became a Roman province
in 129 A.D.
The city regained its prosperity under the Emperor Augustus
in spite of having a population of only seven thousand. During
the Byzantine reign it became a Bishopric. Priene became part
of the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth century.
The streets of Priene are unusual in that they are all horizontal
and vertical, parallel and perpendicular, like a chess board.
However comfortable shoes are a must, especially for those
wishing to reach the top where at one time the Acropolis stood.
Now there are only ruins, but the view is spectacular and
well worth the effort. On the other hand, the Theatre is still
in good condition although it is partly submerged in trees
and vegetation. The theatre was originally Greek and built
in the fourth century B.C. but it was altered by the Romans
in the second century A.D. and its seating capacity increased
to hold six thousand spectators. The wall of the stage, which
has two storeys, faces a row of five marble throne-like seats
resting on pedestals in the form of lions feet surrounded
by ivy leaves. Perhaps the theatre was also used for debates
and political meetings.
Only five fluted Jonian columns survive from the original
sixty-six of the great Temple of Athena Polias, erected by
Alexander the great in 334 B.C. In the centre there was once
a statue of Athena seven metres high rivalling in size the
famous statue by Pheidias in the Parthenon in Athens. By the
temple the ruins of houses belonging to rich citizens or important
dignitaries can be seen. They had numerous rooms facing onto
The bouleuterion, the ancient senate was constructed in the
second century B.C. with an enormous council chamber capable
of holding six hundred and fifty people. Almost nothing remains
of the prytaneion, the citys administrative building, only
the great courtyard.The stadium dates from the second century
B.C. and is one hundred and ninety metres long. At one time
there was a portico of Doric columns. Under this loggia athletes
could train when it rained, but it was also used as a meeting
place for the general population of Priene.