TURKEY: The ancient city of Priene
Ephesus, or Efes, is well known all over the world for its architectural marvel. It can easily be explored in a day. If you plan to stay in the western area of Turkey or if you live nearby, consider exploring other ancient nearby cities: Miletus, Didyma, and Priene. Priene is the northernmost of the three ancient sites.
After our visit to Doganbey and lunching by the sea with the IWAI ladies, we made a quick stop to Priene Ancient City on our return to Izmir. Priene Ancient City is less visited but arguably one of the more beautiful archeological sites, especially on a sunny, cool day. The ancient city of Priene is famous for its panoramic view and the steep rock of Mount Mykale behind it. Plus, most of the ruins are shaded by tall mature trees.
Just like Ephesus, Priene use to be a port city for the Aegean Sea. Overtime time the waters recessed and left a fertile plain land. This popular city on the hill that once overlooked the sea eventually died out. The ruins included a well-preserved amphitheater and council chambers, gymnasium, and even an Byzantine church. The layout of the city shows it to be one of the first grid-plan cities. More impressive are portions of the still standing great city walls measure 7 feet (2 meters) thick. The gymnasium and stadium were on the lower slopes of the hill, below the table land. The acropolis was farther up the slopes of Mount Mykale.
Priene was around long ago as a Hellenistic city in 8 BC and part of the Ionia League because it held the League’s central shrine, the Panionion. Later it became a holy city for Greeks because of the temple of Athena, and it was thriving with activities by 550 BC. So much so that in 545 BC it was captured by Cyrus of Persia. The city was under control of the persians until Alexander the Great and later became a Roman city.
Then during the Byzantine times, Priene had a large Christian community during and was the seat of a bishop. The decline of the sea and silting of the Meander River, plus the later captured by the Turks in the late 1200s eventually led to the abandonment of the city on the hill and settled in the present day city of Güllübahçe. Interestingly enough, Priene never had a large population and maxed out around 5,000 people.
How to get there:
From the town of Güllübahçe (54 km/33 miles south of Selçuk city near Ephesus), drive up a ramp to the parking area near Priene Ruins. While it is easiest to drive to, there are always buses to the nearby city of Güllübahçe then a taxi from there.
After purchasing your ticket, walk uphill for about 10 minutes either via the steps or along a stone-paved street by the city walls to reach the main city.
Entrance tickets are 5 TL per person (or use your muze cart if you have one).
How much time to allow:
Set aside at least 2 hours here because it is a very large area. Don’t be deceived by first appearances, make sure to explore beyond the theater and church area! We definitely did not spend more than 30 minutes there and missed a lot of the cities ruins.
Toilets and simple snacks are usually available by the parking lot. Down the hill from the parking lot are several shady tea houses, simple restaurants and a few small pensions.
Questions for the readers:
Had you heard about the ancient city of Priene before?
Have you been to Priene? If so, what did you think?
*** Read about the first part of the day trip to Doğanbey and the Ottoman Costume Museum!