The theater of Miletus was built in the 4th century B.C. after Alexander the Great defeated the Persians who controlled the city. In its first phase in the Hellenistic period, the theater could seat 5,300. After being enlarged in the Roman period, it held 25,000.
Situated at the mouth of the Meander river in the south of the
province of Ionia in Western Anatolia, the ancient city of Miletus was
the oldest and the most powerful of the twelve Ionian cities in Asia
Minor. It also founded over ten colonies on the shores of the Marmara
and the Black Sea, while its commercial activities extended as far as
Miletus was destroyed (along with Didyma) by the Persians in 499 BC, and Ephesus surpassed Miletus as the the most important city in the region.
But Miletus was rebuilt, and its streets were laid out according to the plan of Miletus native Hippodamus, inventor of the "Hippodamian grid." His plan was first applied in Piraeus and Rhodes, and later in the northern part of his native city. Other famous citizens of ancient Miletus included Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes, all philosophers of nature and the universe; the historian and geographer Hekataios, who first used the word "history" in its modern sense; and Isidorus, one of the designers of the Hagia Sophia.
About 499 BC the Milesians led the Ionian revolt that sparked the
Greco-Persian Wars; Miletus was stormed and sacked by the Persians in
494. After the Greeks defeated the Persians in 479, Miletus joined the
Athenian-dominated Delian League, but in 412 BC Miletus sided with
Sparta against Athens.
Miletus was weakened by internal divisions when Alexander the Great seized it in a great battle (c.334 BC), ushering in a new era of trade and prosperity. After Alexander's death, Miletus was ruled by his general Lysimachus, who made generous donations to the city.
The Romans annexed the area in 133 BC and added several monumental structures to the city. The Emperor Trajan (2nd century AD) built the Sacred Way from Miletus to Didyma.
After the 3rd century, Miletus began to decline. By the 6th century, the silting of the Meander River had destroyed the city's harbors and attracted malaria. By the Ottoman period, the once-proud city was just a small village. The site was finally abandoned in the 17th century.