1.A short discription of the Polis1
Priene was an ancient city, built on the slope of Mt Mycale, near the Gulf of Latmia. It seems to have been a colony of Thebes, its founders being Aepytus, son of Neleus, and Philotas of Thebes.2 A member of Ionian Dodecapolis and the Panionion, the city reached its prime in the 6th century BC, when Bias, one of the Seven Wise Men of Antiquity, appears to have been the civic leader.
In the 7th century, king Gyges of Lydia opened hostilities against the Greek cities of Asia Minor. The ensuing battles between Cimmerians, Lydians and Greeks lasted until 630 BC, when the Cimmerians suffered repeated defeats by the Lydians and the Assyrians. With the Cimmerians out of the way, the Lydians renewed their attacks against the Greek cities. Ardys, heir to Gyges, captured Priene and attacked Miletus. Priene was also unsuccessfully besieged by Alyattes, successor to Sadyattes and son of Ardys. The city’s defence was organised by Bias.
In later years, Priene became involved in war with the Samians, who suffered a major defeat and, after six years of peace, decided to form an alliance with Miletus against Priene. This time the Samians were successful, but Bias, ambassador of Priene to the peace conference, obtained favourable terms for his city.
In 560 BC Croesus made the kingdom of Lydia subject to his rule, forcing all the Aeolic and Ionian cities, except Miletus, to pay tribute. At this time King Cyrus II became king of Persia, later defeating Croesus and succeeding him as suzerain of the Greek cities. King Cyrus’ commander, Mazares, campaigned against Pactyes of Lydia, who besieged Sardis with the help of the Greeks of the coastal cities. On learning that Mazares was approaching, Pactyes abandoned the siege and left for the Aeolic city of Cyme, while Mazares, wishing to punish Pactyes’ allies, captured Priene, enslaved3 some of its inhabitants (545/544 BC) and then sacked other cities. At this point Bias, seeing no chance of freedom, during a conference of the Ionian League of Panionion suggested that all Ionic cities colonise Sardinia. But his views were not accepted.4
Since this moment, Priene’s history becomes problematic. We know nothing of the city after the enslavement of its inhabitants. In the Ionic assembly of the spring 499 BC, the tyrant of Miletus announced his plans for a revolt against the Persians, which were accepted with great enthusiasm. The crucial moment of the revolt was the naval battle of Lade (494 BC), an island off the coast of Miletus, in which the Persians defeated the Ionians. Priene’s contribution of twelve ships allows us to estimate the city’s free population around 500 BC at about 10,000. While we know that the Persians destroyed Miletus and its surviving inhabitants chased inland, there is no reference to the fate of Priene. The fact that ancient sources make no mention of Priene might mean that the city did not play a leading role after the Persian wars. Priene appears in the member lists of the Delian League5 with a tax contribution of one .
In 441/440 BC Priene and its surrounding region was a casus belli for Samos and Miletus. Seeking help from Athens, Miletus won; but we do not know what happened to Priene.
Xenophon (Hellenica, 3, 2, 17) refers to Priene in his account of the events in 397 and 392 BC, when soldiers from Priene and other Ionian cities dropped their weapons and refused to follow the Lacedaimonians under Dercylidas against the Pharnabazus. We do not know why Xenophon singled out Priene from the other Ionian cities for special mention.6 Another contemporary reference puts Priene at the mouth of the River Maeander.7 From this time onwards until 330 BC there are only a few problematic references to Priene.8
Combined with the lack of archaeological data, this evidence does not give a trustworthy account of the earliest history of the city. Various theories have been put forward, although none has been generally accepted,9 since late 19th century excavations have brought to light only one third of the city from the Late Classical and the Hellenistic period. Firm conclusions cannot therefore be reached on this period, and it is impossible to reach any conclusions at all about the earliest phase of the city.
There is no consensus among the academic community about whether or not it was refounded in the same location as its predecessor, or about the circumstances that led to the refounding. Even the year is in question,10 and it is an undeniable fact that the ancient sources available do not mention the relocation of Priene. On the contrary, Polybius stresses that the inhabitants of Priene, in contrast to the people of Myus, were proud that there had been no destruction of their city that forced them to abandon it. Nor is there any references to a relocation of the city due to the alluvial deposits of the River Maeander, as is the case with other cities. In the absence of other data, the interpretation of inscriptions and the debate on the edict of Alexander the Great continues. However, it is certain that Priene was built around 370 BC.
However, the dating of monuments and other archaeological findings still remains insecure. Since excavations have been limited in scope and conducted at a time when modern means of evaluating archaeological data were not available, it is difficult to draw safe conclusions. Dating the Temple of Athena, and therefore the city itself, is a typical example. Re-examining the inscriptions has led to new assessments and new dates have been suggested.11
The town-planning of Priene is also a matter of controversy. Everyone agrees that the Hippodamian system was adopted, but there are many contradictory views on the identity of the planner. According to some scholars this was Pytheos, whom Vitruvius, the 1st century BC Roman historian, credited with writing a study on architecture as well as planning the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Since there are similarities between the Mausoleum and the Temple of Athena, many scholars, but by no means all, accept the view that Pytheos was the temple’s architect; but there is dissent with the view that the planner was the same person.12
Historical references to the period after Alexander are fragmentary. Priene was subject to the border changes of the Hellenistic states. It successively came under the rule of Demetrius Poliorcetes, Lysimachus, the Seleucid and the Ptolemaic kingdoms. There were many frontier disputes in the region between Priene and Samos. In 277 BC the area around Priene was destroyed by the Celts. In 155 BC Priene confronted Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, and Attalus II, king of Pergamum; and it suffered serious damage, even the Temple of Athena. At the beginning of the 2ndcentury BC Priene came under the influence of Rome and after 129 BC belonged to the newly established Roman Province of Asia.
The Mithridatic Wars of the first half of the 1stcentury BC dealt a severe blow to Priene’s economy. The Maeander’s alluvial deposits meant that Priene was no longer a coastal city. In the years to come the city shrank, the Temple of Athena and the were abandoned and their building materials were used for the construction of a in the centre, as well as for residences on the site of the old gymnasium. Very little is known of the time between the 6th and 10th centuries.13 Due of Arab raids in the region the city was abandoned around the end of the 7th century.
From the middle of the tenth century Priene flourished again. It is reported as one of the twenty most important cities of the Thracian . Between the 11th and 13th centuries Priene became known as Sampson and it was the centre of important imperial in the Maeander Valley. Its significance is proved by the fact that after 1204, when the crusaders occupied Constantinople, the Latins claimed Priene. It became the ‘capital’ of the short-lived state of Sabbas Asidenos (1204-08) and was finally incorporated into the Nicaean empire. In the second half of the 13th century the Seljuk Turks threatened to capture the Sampson area; and despite the ambitious, and temporarily successful, efforts of Ioannis Palaeologos (1264) and Alexios Philanthropinos (1295) the city came under the control of the Turks.
In 1673 English merchants from Smyrna discovered Priene; a century later archaeological excavations began.
1. Temporary text (in progress).
2. Strabo 14,1,3 and Ael., Various History 8, 5, 13-16: Paus. 7,3,2: Diog. Laertius Bias, Eustathius 823,11. The city is referred to as Kadme in Strabo (14,1,12) and in Eustathius.
3. Hd. 1,161, Polybius 33,6. Polybius makes a comparison between Myus and Priene. Despite the catastrophe, the inhabitants of Priene remained in their city, contrary to the inhabitants of Myus, who took refuge in Miletus.
4. Hd. 1, 170
5. The Delian Confederacy/League was founded in 478/7 BC. Representatives of Athenians and their Ionian allies met on Delos with the intention of taking revenge for their sufferings on the barbarians by sacking the lands of the Persian king. Later on the Athenians used the League as a means of establishing their dominance over Greece and Asia Minor.
6. Xenophon mentions Achilleion separately, name of a port probably, which has not been traced.
7. Oxyrhynchos 12,3. (396/5)
8. Demand, N. "The relocation of Priene reconsidered", Phoenix 40 (1986), pp. 35-44.
9. See among others, Regling, K.L., Die Münzen von Priene (Berlin 1927). Demand, Ν., "The Recolation of Priene reconsidered", Phoenix 40 (1986), pp. 35-44.
10. These views are presented in the article by Demand, Ν., "The Recolation of Priene reconsidered", Phoenix 40 (1986), p. 1. For the time of Alexander: Lund, H.S., Lysimachus: A study in Early Hellenistic Kingship (London 1992. Krischen, F., Die griechische Stadt (Berlin 1938). Crowther, C.V., "Priene 8 and the history of Priene in the Early Hellenistic Period", Chiron 26 (1996), pp. 195-239.
11. Among others see: Berchem, D. van, "Alexandre et la restauration de Priène" MusHel 70 (1972), pp. 198-205. Botermann, H., "Wer baute das neue Priene? Zur Interprentation der Inschriften von Priene Nr. 1 und 156", Hermes 122 (1994), pp. 162-187. Carter, J. C., The sculpture of Athena Polias (London 1983). Hornblower, S. Mausolus (Oxford 1982), Sherwin-White, S.M., "Ancient archives: The edict of Alexander to Priene: a reappraisal", JHS 105 (1985), pp. 69-89.
12. Apart from the above-mentioned, see Carter, J.C., "Pytheos" στο Akten des 13. internationalen Kongresses für klassische Archäologie, Berlin 1988 (Mainz 1990), pp. 129-136.
13. An outline bibliography for the Byzantine period would include: Brandes, W., Die Städte Kleinasiens im 7. und 8. Jahrhundert, Amsterdam 1989; Cheynet, J.-C., Pouvoir et contestations à Byzance (963-1210), (Byzantina Sorbonensia 9, Paris, 1990); Jones, A., The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces, Ahrweiler, H., "L’ histoire et la géographie de la region de Smyrne entre les deux occupations torques (1081-1317) particulièrement aux XIIIe siècle", TM 1 (1965), 1-204; Foss, C., "Archaeology and the “Twenty Cities” of Byzantine Asia", AJA 81, (1977), 469-86; Müller-Wiener, W., "Mittelalterliche Befestigungen im südlichen Ionien", IM 11, (1961), 46-56; Orgels P., "Sabas Asidénos, dynaste de Sampsôn", Βυζάντιον 10 (1935), pp. 67-80