In the classical period, Miletus was one of the wealthiest and most significant Ionian cities in terms of commerce and colonization. Beginning around 780 BC, Miletus began colonizing the Propontis, later expanding into Thrace with a total of 75–90 colonies (Pliny, Natural History 5.31; see also Crouch 277), making it possibly “the greatest of Greek mother cities” (Graham, Colony and Mother City in Ancient Greece, 98).
Miletus remained a significant trade city, and in the seventh and sixth centuries it became an intellectual center for the Mediterranean world (Graham, Colony and Mother City in Ancient Greece, 106; Crouch, Geology and Settlement, 186).
Miletus sat on the edge of the western coast of Asia Minor near the mouth of the river Maeander, near the modern-day city of Balat, Turkey. Until the late second century BC, Miletus was the leading center for commerce and art in the Mediterranean world (Trebilco, “Asia,” 361). Increasing silt deposits from the river Maeander gradually closed off Miletus’ port access (Crouch, Geology and Settlement, 278). Since the city could no longer compete with the commercial center of Ephesus, it decreased in importance (Trebilco, “Asia,” 361).
Miletus was destroyed during the Persian war of 500–495 BC but rebuilt itself as a flourishing commercial center soon after.
Alexander the Great took Miletus in his bid against the Persian Empire less than a century later. Miletus remained a Greek city until annexed into the Roman province of Asia in 133 BC. By this time, the city had waned as a thriving commercial center and was no longer the most important seaport in the Mediterranean.
MILETUS (Μίλητος, Milētos). A declining center of commerce on the western coast of Asia Minor during the New Testament period.