A history of Miletos from 500 to 432 BC

Vanessa Barrett Gorman, University of Pennsylvania


The fifth century BC was a time of catastrophe and change for Miletos. It was destroyed by the Persians and resurrected as a subject of the Athenians. During this period, the physical city was rebuilt and its government reorganized. In spite of the difficulty and inadequacy of the sources, I have combined the literary, archaeological, epigraphic, and numismatic evidence about Miletos in this period in order to write its history. In addition to the obvious value of this thesis as a local history, its investigations and conclusions are of wider interest to historians in various regards. First, Miletos offers an unusual opportunity to scholars of the Greek world and of the ancient city to study the circumstances of the refoundation of a city on the same site by the same core population. The study of the physical evidence documents the fact of the destruction and rebuilding of the city, and the investigation of the continuity of the social and political institutions demonstrates that the same society occupied the city before and after its destruction. Second, fifth-century Miletos provides an early example of rigid city planning in the Greek world. The rebuilt city was laid out according to a strictly orthogonal plan that provided for the growth of the city for centuries to come. Third, and likewise of interest to students of city planning, is the examination of the evidence about the Milesian architect Hippodamos. Here I show that the prevailing modern view that Aristotle attributed the invention of the orthogonal city plan to Hippodamos is based on an erroneous interpretation from the sixteenth century. Finally, Miletos presents a case study which offers insight into the relationship between democratic Athens and its allies in the Delian League. Athens initially supported an oligarchic government at Miletos, but when that government experienced stasis and rebelled from the League, Athens moved in and imposed an Athenian-style democracy on the Milesians.

Subject Area

Ancient civilizations|Ancient languages|Classical studies

Recommended Citation

Gorman, Vanessa Barrett, "A history of Miletos from 500 to 432 BC" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9321396.