The city of Priene lies on the southern slopes of Mount Mykale overlooking the Maeander river. The city was newly built on virgin land in the 4th century BC, probably because its former location was made untenable by the advance of the Maeander delta.

As a new city, the plan follows the precepts of the famous fifth century town-planner, philosopher, political scientist and friend of Pericles of Athens, Hippodamos of Miletus. It followed a rigid square grid even though the hilly landscape required extensive terracing and steep flights of steps. Some of the flatter areas of the site were reserved for the major public buildings, including the agora, the focal, open square where people met, chatted or did business. The theatre was set into the side of the hill above the agora.

The steeply sloping topography of its site, which stretches back into wild and rocky mountain scenery contains well-preserved remains, with its temple of Athena, agora, theatre, stadium, gymnasium, fortification walls and many excavated houses, and forms one of the best examples of a small Greek polls. As the new city was being laid out, Alexander the Great paid a visit, and undertook to fund the building of the Temple of Athena. Priene was in direct competition with Miletus on the opposite side of the mouth of the Maeander. And all the time the river was continuing to extend its delta, reducing the value of both cities' locations, and increasing the pressure of competition. Priene lost out, and there is scarcely any new building work that dates to the Roman period. Most of the houses seem to have been destroyed by fire in the second half of the second century BC, and never reoccupied. Parts of the city, including many of the major public buildings, were occupied into the Roman period, and a Byzantine chapel attests occupation in that era. Hence, we are fortunate in being able to see a Hellenistic city, built to the Hellenic ideal.

The Maeander river plain. The original city is probably buried out there.

Mount Mykale.

Temple of Athena.

Temple of Athena: The five columns were re-constructed from rubble in 1965-66 and are 3 metres short of their original calculated height.


Always make sure you get the best seat at the theatre.

Theatre: Clepsydra or 'Water Thief'. This is a water clock used to limit the length of speeches. Water was poured in the top and came out of small holes at the side.

Byzantine church.

Bouleuterion or council meeting chamber.

Re-construction of Bouleuterion.