The first establishments in Priene go back till 2000 BC. According to ancient documents, these first settlers were the Banians who mixed with the Ionians. In the Archaic period, the city’s location may have been nearer to Miletos on the delta of the Buyuk Menderes (Meander). Later the city moved in the direction of the Mykale Mountains’ slope.
The name “Priene” is thought to have a pre-Greek origin when the Cretan islands, ”Praisos and Prianson” had relations with Priene. Before becoming one of the 12 members of the Ionian Confederation and participating to the “Ionian Rebellion”, Priene had first been a Lydian dominion for several centuries.
As the Ancient city of Priene had been demolished, its restoration has been planned by the famous city planner and architect, Hippodamos, who used for the first time the “Grating System”: all the constructions were turned to the south in order to benefit a maximum of the day light. The roads were crossing perpendicularly to give the best ventilation system to the city.
Approx. 283 BC, a border quarrel arose between Priene and the Greek island Samos. It was only solved one century later when both parties accepted to become Roman vassals. Since then, Priene was under control of the Bergamian King, Attalos II, who was to return the city to the Romans after his death.
Temple of Athena, located on the culminating point of the city, rose over a wide terrace of rocks and the defense walls, and was the oldest, the most important, the largest and the must magnificent building in Priene.
It is believed that the construction of the Athena Temple of Priene was begun at the same time as the founding of Priene (4th century BCE). The architect of the building was Pythius, who also constructed the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, counted as one of the seven wonders of the world. The Temple is accepted as being a classical example of the Anatolian¬Ionian architectural style.
The horseshoe-shaped theatre at Priene represents one of the best-preserved and earliest forms of Hellenistic theatre constructions in Turkey. It dated back 340 BC. Due to endless wars and the alluviums that were invading the city, Priene was worn out and abandoned completely in the XIIIth century AD.
It is believed that the name of Priene is not Greek but is related to pre – Greek names of Cretan origin, such as Praisos and Priansos. In recent years, the theory gains weight that Priene was one of the cities of the Kingdom of Ahhiyava, which is believed to have been founded in the Miletus region, and that its name also derives from that origin. Therefore, our knowledge of the initial foundation of the city, whose existence goes back to the 2nd millennium BC, rests on hypotheses. The fact that the location of the pre – 4th century BC Priene has not yet been able to be determined up to the present day, plays an important role in this.
According to the information gathered from ancient sources, Pausanias has written that Priene was founded by Aipythos, son of Neleus of Athens, and by Philotas of Thevai, and that the native population was Carian, whereas Strabo gave the information that the city was founded by Philatos and that it was then called Kadme.
It’s the northernmost of the three ancient sites (Priene, Miletus and Didyma) you can visit on a day trip from Kusadasi (Ephesus) orKuşadası.