The ancient city of Priene is famous for its dramatic setting on flat table land overlooking the broad expanse of the Meander River flood plain with the steep rock of Mount Mykale at its back (map).
It’s worth visting today for its situation, its well-preservedtheater and bouleuterion (council chamber), and the remains of its grand Temple of Athena, a work of Pythius of Halicarnassus, the architect of the famed Mausoleum (see Bodrum).
Other ruins abound, including a gymnasium, stadiumand Byzantine church. It’s an interesting place.
Priene, 30 km south of Kuşadası, 35 km south of Selçuk(Ephesus), was among the first cities in the world to have its streets laid out on a grid plan, an idea that its planners borrowed from neighboring Miletus.
The city was laid out on several levels. The flat, fertile fields you see today in the Meander River (Büyük Menderes Nehri) flood plain were in fact covered by the Aegean Sea in ancient times, allowing ships to sail right to Priene’s harbor.
Portions of the great walls 7 feet (2 meters) thick that surrounded the city are still easily visible. The gymnasium and stadium were on the lower slopes of the hill, below the table land. The acropolis was farther up the slopes of Mount Mykale.
Drive up a ramp to the parking area, buy your ticket, then walk uphill for about 10 minutes along a stone-paved street by the city walls to reach the table land. Toilets and simple snacks are usually available by the parking lot. Nearby Güllübahçe has shady tea houses, simple restaurants and a few small pensions.
Founded by the legendary Aegyptus, Priene prospered around 550 BC, but was captured by Cyrus of Persia in 545 BC. It was a center for activities of the Ionian League around 300 BC. It later became a Roman city, then Byzantine, and was still active when captured by the Turks in the late 1200s.
After you’ve explored Priene, head for Miletus, 22 km (14 miles) south across the Meander flood plain.
—by Tom Brosnahan