(Acts 20:16-38; Possibly 2 Tim. 4:20)
The southern most Ionian port,
Miletus stood at the mouth of the Meander River. It had a long and glorious
history. In the C8-C6 BCE it was strong enough a power to settle new colonies in
areas as far away as the Black Sea, and maintained an important and profitable
trade relationship with Egypt.
Famous personalities were
associated with the city that was dubbed “the birthplace of Greek philosophy”.
The great “father of philosophy” named Thales lived in the city (640-546 BCE),
and was followed by other important philosophers, such as the so called
“father of geography” Anaximander (611-547 BCE), Hecataeus the chronicler
and Anaximenes (550-500 BCE). Pharoah Neco made an offering at the Milesian
Temple after his victory at Megiddo and recapture of Carchemish (608 BCE, cp. 2
Kings 23:29; 2 Chron. 35:20). The offering did not help him from being
overwhelmed a few years later by Nebuccadnezzar II (605 BCE).
The Persians destroyed the the
original harbor in 495 BCE, and the whole area was reconstructed in 479 BCE.
This new improved city suffered a crushing blow at the hands of Alexander the
Great (334 BCE) during his campaign through the region. Rebuilt again, the city
boasted four harbors and three agora (market) areas from the Hellenistic through
Roman times (325 BCE to 325 CE).
The city was taken by Rome in 130
BCE, and somewhat redesigned. During Roman times, the harbor was silting slowly
(now creating an inland lake five miles from the coast). This problem was
causing constant problems and gradually forcing the city into an economic
decline. Another market force also hurt the city. The major export was likely
superior wool called “Milesia Vellera” which sold in markets in Rome and
Alexandria in the early Roman period, but also declined when the Romans bred the
variety in their homeland. A city of former glory, it experienced the decline
that eventually befell Ephesus.
Paul visited the city some thirty
five miles from Ephesus (a two day journey on foot), allowing some time for the
Apostle to strengthen the Milesian faithful, and to prepare for a moving moment
with his beloved disciples arriving from Ephesus. He loved them, but he dared
not stop in Ephesus if he was going to keep to his vow to visit Jerusalem by
Shavuot. His heart for them as he ended this Third Mission Journey is easily
spotted in the record of the sermon (Acts 20:22ff).
Among the remains of the city is an impressive theatre that visitors can enjoy today. The original seated about 15,000 people. Found among the stones in the excavation between the third and sixth row of seats, was an inscription that read: “Place of the Jews, also called the God fearing”.