Mount Mycale raises high above the old site of Priene. Today, much of the forests of the mountain are preserved in a national park. A short distance to the west of the town site was where in 479 BC the Battle of Mycale occurred. Herodotus tells us that it happened the same day as the Battle of Plataea in Greece. Both battles together ended Persian attempts at adding Greece to her empire.
The stage are of the theater was reused as a church when Christianity took hold here in Priene. The former ambos - raised stand from which priest delievered his message from - is still present. The city was a seat for a bishop and Priene bishops were noted at least at two Ecumenical Councils. The remains of a synagogue has also been uncovered in Priene – one of only a couple discovered in Turkey thus far.
Carved into the slopes of Mt Mycale is the well-preserved Hellenistic theater. Five large seats for notables can be seen in the front row. The theater is thought to have been able to hold 6,000 people which would have been everyone in town and probably then some.
This is where the city’s sacred flame burned. In charge was the city’s head of state, the prytane though the flame itself was tended by a group of virginal women not unlike the Vestal Virgins of Rome. In this courtyard the important guests to the city were entertained.
The city council meeting room is thought to have been able to hold several hundred people. In the 4th Century BC, Priene was a democracy similar to that form found in Athens with whom Priene was politically aligned. The head of state was known as a prytane who was also responsible for keeping the eternal flame of the city burning next door in the Prytaneion. Both the building complexes made up the religio-political center of the city.
Just to the east of the Temple of Athena when you are walking towards the Bouleuterion, you will find a series of rooms that were religious in purpose. In one room – ninth from the west and seventh from the east; there is a tree growing in it – used to be an inscription that described the “good news” – euaggelia - about Augustus. He restored “order when everything was disintegrating and falling into chaos” – by ending the Roman Civil Wars with his defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra at Actium in 29 BC. The inscription goes on to say that in honor of Augustus, New Year’s Day would henceforth be celebrated on September 23, the birthday of Augustus. Thus, Augustus, who was already considered a god and the lord of the earth was now also a god of time and calendar and lord of history since, as the inscription goes on to note, there never was and never would be again good news – euaggelia/gospel –that could surpass that of his birth. Don’t look too hard for the inscription, however. It is hidden away in a basement of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Athena Polias is the same incarnation of the goddess Athena for which the Parthenon in Athens was erected – Athena, Protector of the People. As was the Parthenon the most important temple erected in Athens, so it was for the Temple of Athena here in Priene. As noted in the introduction, the completion of the temple – originally designed by Pythius, the constructor of the Mausoleum in Halicarnassos/Bodrum – was paid for Alexander the Great. He actually stayed here – 334 BC – while his army besieged the local Persians across the bay in Miletus. The dedicatory inscription in his honor is safely housed thousands of miles away in the British Museum, London. The temple is sited along an east-west axis. In front of the temple are the remains of an architectural beam that used to stand above the entrance. There inscribed is another dedication honoring a later period restoration: “The people dedicated it to Athena Polias and to the World-Conqueror Caesar, the Son of God, the God Augustus” One god to another.
The Temple of Athena is one of the most beautiful places in Priene.
Five gorgeous marble Ionic columns, topped by elegant scrolls, are still standing over the ruined temple.
The temple dating from the 4th century BC was designed by the renowned architect Pythius, who created the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Carved into Mt. Mycale, the wonderful preserved theatre had places for 5,000 persons.
This is one of the finest Hellenistic theaters left standing and has five armchairs carved in marble with ornate lion's paw arms and footrests, reserved for priests and other important persons.
The Boulerterion is one of Priene's buildings perfectly preserved until today.
It is said that the Boulerterion is one of the best preserved in Anatolia.
With 640 seats, the Boulerterion was the building where the city council took care of municipal business.
The walls surrounding Priene were 2 meters wide and 6 meters high.
The front and rear faces of the walls were built of squared stone blocks while the space in between was filled up with rubble and mud.
The Acropolis, located on a very steep mass of rock in the rear part (north) of the city, was also surrounded by walls and watch towers.
In the Byzantine period the walls were repaired and made more solid.
Water was supplied through aqueducts to the reservoir located on the north-eastern part of the city.
From there through an elaborated network of baked earthen pipes it was distributed to the whole city.
Priene had three gates, one on the west and the other two on the east.
The "East Gate" was the main gate of Priene, while the West Gate opened into the widest street of Priene.
The south-eastern gate was named the "Source Gate".
Priene is a perfect example of the ancient cities planning.
The city was built in accordance with the "grid system" developed by the architect Hippodamus of Miletus.
The side streets, which had 3.5 meters in width, were built in steps because of the sloping ground and crossed one to each other in right angles.
On each angle there were blocks made usually by 4 houses.
The most important buildings (temples, gymnasium, etc.) were placed in the central part of the town.
The town was usually facing southward so as the buildings were protected by the sun during summer.
Priene lies in the south-western part of Soke, within the boundaries of Gullubahce village, on the southern slopes of Mt. Mycale.
The city was bounded on the north part by the steep stretches of Mycale, on the south by the Maeander valley and on the south-east by the mountains of Latmos.
In ancient times Priene was located at 7.5 km from the sea, but today this distance is more than 15 km.