The first stop in this fun amazingly epic day is to the ancient city of Priene. This huge city was famous for many things, amongst them was the development of the first '"street grids". Bring your camera as it is a photographers adventure land.
When entering the site of our second stop, Miletus, you’ll know you are someplace special just by seeing the gigantic Hellenistic Theatre. It has been called the “most impressive theatre structure of Anatolian history”. The theatre held between 5,000 to 24,000 patrons of theatre plus gladiator fights, depending on the era. Feel free to walk around the theatre and see how many similarities there are to today’s arenas.
This city has a firm foothold in ancient history. A Mycenaean settlement was there from 1,500 B.C. One of the Seven Sages of Greece, the “founder of science”, Thales of Miletus (6th- 5th century B.C.) was from here, as well as Isidore of Miletus, who changed the course of architecture with his design of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Plus, St Paul met with the elders of the church of Ephesus (the Ephesians). You see, based on the great geographical location, having a harbor and great sea trade, Miletus had the advantage to become a wealthy and the most powerful of the twelve Ionian cities in the 6th and 7th centuries BC. Their 90 colonies spread as far as Egypt and the Black Sea. However, by the 4th century AD, the harbor was completely silted and thus the inevitable decline in trade, wealth, and it’s population.
Also, in Miletus is the Hellenistic gymnasium, the Byzantine Church of St. Michael, A Mosque of Ilyas bey and a Synagogue. To cool off after the tour, try an invigorating fresh-squeezed orange juice at the souvenir area. Then back to the A/C vehicles and head on to lunch before the last stop of legendary Didyma.
Didyma, only 10 miles south of Miletus, which in the ancient times was connected by a sacred road lined with statues of lions, sculptures, sarcophagi and sphinx Didyma was the former “cult center" for Miletus and was centered on a sacred holy spring and grove. As Miletus in those days was “seaside”, the Pilgrims arrived by boat and then would walk the Sacred Way to the “oracle” of Apollo. In all of Asia Minor this, was “the” most important oracle site having given pronouncements to King Croesus, Alexander the Great and other great leaders that literally “altered” the course of human history! There were 124 columns 20 meters high (one weighs 70 tons). The marbled walls were 20 meters high and reaching 25 meters high in the courtyard. As you stand next to the next to the 2.4 meter wide columns you will feel dwarfed by the massive complex.
When you are walking around taking photos of the giant remains, please remember that this, the “Oracle of Apollo”, was the third largest religious structure in the ancient world only being surpassed in size by the Temple of Hera on the island of Samos and the Temple of Artemis, Artemision, in Ephesus which was one of the 7 Wonders of the World and 4 times the size of the Parthenon in Athens Greece). Interestingly, the architects that designed the Temple of Artemis as well designed the Oracle of Apollo.