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F + 9 : Thunder Storm over Ionia

Dark clouds gathered over the Meander Delta this morning when we drove towards Pirene. We could hear the sound of rolling thunder. Slowly but steadily the black clouds and the lightning moved closer. After days of oppressing heat, there was too much humidity in the air. We would see our first thunderstorm in the Aegean.

The Thunderstorm lingered over the Meander Valley the entire Day - Photo from 14.00 h


Fatima, our guide, had picked us up a little earlier from Karina Balik, a tiny beach and fishing resort on the north side of the Meander Delta. The Casa dell’ Arte had to stay at a respectful distance from the shore.

Karina Balik has a large Gendarmerie Post, a small Taverna and a good Dozen Fishing Boats


The waters near the river delta are shallow and the sea floor uneven. Over three thousand years, the sediment rich Meander not only silted the entire Bay of Miletus. It had also created a large underwater delta that makes sailing close to the shore hazardous.

Over 3'000 Years, the Meander River completely silted the Bay of Miletus


We planned to visit Pirene and Miletus, towns which were once at the heart of Greek civilization but are now so off track that hardly a tourist shows up. In Pirene, we saw only one other coach. In Miletus, there were at least three. Compared to Ephesus, which we will see tomorrow, the number of visitors is incredibly small.

Pirene's Walls were built 2'400 Years ago - they looked almost new


Both, Pirene and Miletus have a long history. Established in the late Bronze age by Carians, the indigenous people of Asia Minor, Milesians fought on Troy’s side in the Trojan War. Greek settlers then arrived in the 11thor 10th century and conquered the town. Legend says that the Greek invaders killed all the men in Miletus und force married their wives.

The Theatre of Pirene for 5'000 people could even be used for Performances today


The invaders though turned Miletus into one of Greece’s greatest and coolest town. Pirene remained a side kick and is thus better preserved. It remained the Hellenistic town of the 3rd century BC. Miletus was too successful and always changed. What we see today is the Roman town built around the 2nd century AD.

Pirene's Temple of Athene was under construction for

several hundered years and finished by 100 BC


More important than myths and fame is the fact that Miletus was the most prolific founder of colonies in ancient Greece. It is the parent town to more than 90 colonies. The new cities were not colonies in our modern way of understanding. They were independent cities which stayed in touch with their mother town but had full autonomy. Miletus was the parent to most Greek settlements around the Black Sea, but also of Naucratis in Egypt and apparently of Sybaris to the north of Crotone in Calabria. We visited Sybaris last year.

Miletus founded more colonies than any other Greek city - it did not found Byzantium though which was a colony of Megara - otherwise the Map is correct


There was a long dispute amongst historians as to why Miletus was such a colonizer. The theory that it was a trading empire does not hold. Miletus traded with many more towns than just its own colonies. It probably was the land grab by the Lydian Kingdom and then the Persians that left Miletus with insufficient agricultural land to feed its own people. The two conflicts in the 6th and 5th century BC coincide with the two waves of founding colonies. Researchers estimate that Miletus could not feed more than 35’000 people during these two existential crises. Once it was Roman and food access was unlimited, it quickly grew to 150’000 people.

The beautiful Theatre of Miletus - Romans called the Fast

Exit "Vomitorium" and gave us the word "vomit"


In the long run, the river Meander was Miletus’ and Pirene’s most pressing problem. An existential threat the two towns could not remedy. By 500 AD, the sediments of the Meander river had filled-in the entire bay and cut both harbors from the sea. Pirene is now 10 km from the shore. Miletus 6 km inland.

When Alexander the Great liberated Miletus from the

Persians in 334 BC, the Town still had Access to the Sea


As we were exploring beautiful Pirene, the thunderstorm got closer. We could already feel the cold wind gusts triggered by the rain. It was time to get into the bus. As we drove towards Miletus, torrential rain hit. And miraculously stopped as soon as we arrived 20 minutes later. Miracles do happen.

The Apollo Sanctuary in Didyma was famous for its Oracle. A sacred Road linked it to Miletus


It was not our last stop. After Miletus we went to Didyma, the sanctuary of Apollo & Artemis which was destroyed by the Persians in 494 BC. Luckily, a lot still survived. It is today one of the best-preserved ancient Greek sites in the world. The temple of Apollo with its 10 x 19 columns is massive, impressive and exquisitely built. The seams between its blocks of marble look like having been cut by laser. It is truly amazing.

The Quality of the Masonry in the Inner Sanctum of the

Apollo temple is amazing - as if it was laser but


Them there is this 20 kilometres long sacred road linking Miletus and the Apollo sanctuary. It reminds me of the 2.7 km long sacred road between the temples of Karnak and Luxor. The Egyptians flanked their sacred road with hundreds of sphinxes.

Hundreds of Sphinxes decorate the Sacred Road from

Luxur to Karnak - took the photo in March 2020


The Milesians with sphinxes, lions, griffins, other sacred animals and statues of prominent people. Am sure the Milesians got inspired by the Egyptian example. There were a lot of contacts between the two and ideas like having a sacred road travelled – even during bronze time. Sadly, the sacred road in Miletus is only partially excavated and can not be visited.

Wonder whether this Lion decorated the Sacred Road from Miletus to Didyma


Today reminded me that nothing lasts forever. Even great towns which seem to be eternal can fade. Ideas and stories though do not get lost as long as we take care of them. Maybe today excursion was a hint that we should focus more on the immaterial things in life.

The Day ended with some Swimming and Kayaking in a small Bay opposite Samos

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