MILETUS (mī-lē'tŭs, Gr. Milētos). In KJV once Miletum (
The disaster ended Miletus’ long prosperity, until then damaged only by the factional strife that was endemic in all ancient Greek cities. In the sixth century Milesian scholars flourished—savants like Thales (statesman, philosopher, physicist, and astronomer), Anaximander and Anaximenes (physicists and astronomers), and Hecataeus (geographer). Industry flourished, and Milesian woolen goods were famous. After Persia’s defeat at Mycale in 479, Miletus regained her freedom and joined the Delian League, Athens’ security organization, leaving it in 412 in the day of Athens’ decline and disaster, only to fall under Persia again. In the fourth century the city was under Caria, from which her first founders had come. Aspasia (blue-stocking mistress of Pericles), Hippodamus (who planned the Piraeus), and Timotheus (the poet) belong to this second period of Milesian vigor.
The rest of her history was undistinguished. A silting harbor, the common bane of that coast, ended her sea power and sea-borne commerce. At the time of Paul’s visit (
MILETUS mī lē’ təs (Μίλητος, G3626). Ancient city of Asia Minor, on the shore of the Mediterranean near the mouth of the River Maeander.
Miletus was one of the great Ionian cities in Asia Minor. It was colonized first by Cretans, and later by Greeks. During the great period of colonization (750-550 b.c.) when the Greeks extended their influence to every corner of the Mediterranean area, Miletus was most active, being credited with the establishment of about ninety colonies, chiefly in the Black Sea region, among them Abydos, Cyzicus, and Sinope. It also led the way in the Gr. penetration of Egypt, being largely responsible for the founding of Naucratis in the 7th cent. b.c., the first permanent Gr. settlement in the country. Situated favorably, with four good harbors, Miletus became a great sea power and dominated the Black Sea trade, from which it became exceedingly wealthy. Luxury items from Miletus played a part in Athenian economic activity in the 6th cent. The kings of Lydia found a strong rival in Miletus, until a treaty was concluded in which Miletus evidently acknowledged Lydian rule, but enjoyed a privileged position esp. under Croesus. This relationship continued after the Pers. conquest in the mid 6th cent. Throughout this same time Ephesus was distinguished for its literary and scientific accomplishments. It was the home of the first Gr. philosopher, Thales, who sought to understand the world in terms of one basic substance, water. His successors, Anaximander and Anaximenes, belonged to the so-called Milesian school of philosophy, which sought to explain things without recourse to supernatural intervention. Anaximander is distinguished as the first person to draw a map of the world. Toward the end of the 6th cent. Hecataeus founded a school of antiquarian historians known as the logographers, which had a great influence on the development and work of Herodotus, who is acknowledged as the “Father of History.” Until 500 b.c. Miletus was the greatest of the eastern Gr. cities.
This period of material and cultural prosperity came to an end with the involvement of Miletus in the Ionian revolt, beginning in 499 b.c. Persia proved too strong, and after the naval disaster at Lade (494 b.c.) the city was captured and the inhabitants sold into slavery. Then began a slow recovery. The city was rebuilt on a new grid plan invented at this very time by a native son, Hippodamus. It became part of the Athenian confederacy in about 450 b.c. and in 412 revolted and ultimately fell again under Persia. Toward the end of the 4th cent. it was conquered and rebuilt by Alexander. Under the Hel. kings it retained some importance as a commercial town, and some great buildings were built by these rulers. In 133 b.c. the city passed into Rom. hands as part of the province of Asia, and received special attention from Augustus and Trajan because of its commercial importance. However, the harbors slowly silted up, and the city became a typical small Rom. provincial town. In a.d. 263 the Goths came and destroyed the great temple of Artemis. By the time of Justinian (6th cent. a.d.) it was a small village, and is now deserted. Excavations and investigations have been in progress from the 16th cent. on, and today the classical town may be seen, containing extensive remains of both private and public buildings covering the period from the 5th cent. b.c. to Rom. imperial times.
The Apostle Paul stopped at Miletus on his journey from Greece to Jerusalem, and spoke to the elders of the Ephesian church whom he asked to meet him there (
Oxford Classical Dictionary; Pauly-Wissova, Real-Encyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, XV2 (1932), 1586-1622; CAH Passim; IDB (1962).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A famous early Ionian Greek city on the coast of Caria, near the mouth of the Meander River, which, according to