Priene is an ancient Hellenistic city located just to the north of Miletus in western Turkey. It was an ancient Greek holy city and the home of an important temple of Athena.Priene's picturesque ruins include several columns of the Temple of Athena, much of the city wall, a well-preserved theater and a council chamber.


What to See


The ruins of Priene are well worth a visit. They are in a peaceful, sheltered location and feature a number of unique side streets and structures. Its well-preserved remains are a major source of information about ancient Greek town planning.

Long stretches of the Hellenistic city wall have remained intact, in some places 6 feet wide and 18 feet tall. Inside, the city's remains lie on successive terraces that rise from a plain to a steep hill, upon which stands the Temple of Athena (see below).

Priene was laid out in an orderly grid plan, unlike the more sprawling arrangement of most ancient cities. Six main streets run east-west and 15 streets cross at right angles, all evenly spaced. The town was thus divided into about 80 blocks, or insulae, each averaging 150 by 110 feet (46 by 34 m). This impressive layout can be appreciated from the vantage point of the nearby cliffside.


About 50 of the insulae are devoted to private houses. The better-class insulae had just four houses apiece, but most had many more. A Priene private house usually consisted of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by living quarters and storerooms and opening to the south onto the street by way of a small vestibule. Ruins of several houses can be seen today, including the "Alexander House."


Five columns (from the original 66) of the great Temple of Athena Polias still stand. Built on the orders of Alexander the Great around 333 BC and designed by Pythius, architect of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the wonders of the ancient world), the Temple of Athena is considered a classic example of the pure Ionic style. The temple enclosed a smaller (23 ft/7 m) high version of the statue of Athena that was in the Parthenon.

Near the temple in the center of town is the agora, stoa and theater. Theaters are common around these parts, but this one boasts a set of five armchair seats, some with lion-paw armrests. The stage buildings of Priene's theater are also more intact than most. Originally built in the 4th century BC by the Greeks, the theater was expanded by the Romans in the 2nd century AD to hold 6,000 spectators.


Other ruins at Priene include the well-preserved seating and altar of the 2nd-century-BC bouleuterion (city council chamber, which could hold 650 people), more temples, the stadium (2nd century BC; 190 m long) and a Upper and Lower Gymnasium.

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