Milas and Bodrum, the treasures of Caria

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Milas and Bodrum, two of the best known and most beautiful cities in Caria, a region of Anatolia that has never stopped shining. It is no coincidence that Bodrum is the ancient Halicarnassus, home to the legendary Mausoleum, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world

The words of Ibn Battuta

“It was precisely to Milas that, having resumed our journey, we headed: one of the most beautiful and largest cities in Anatolia, full of gardens, fruit trees and waterways”

Ibn Battuta

The origins of Bodrum, the ancient Halicarnassus

The first remains found in Bodrum are Mycenaean tombs dating back to around 1500 BC, however the proximity to the kingdom of the Arzawa has meant that even today there is doubt as to which of the two actually built the first city center. Halicarnassus, however, became very quickly linked to the Greek world, adopting Anthas, son of Poseidon and Alcione, as his mythical founder. Also for this reason, the city was part of the Doric hexapolis, but was expelled when one of its citizens, victorious at the games in honor of Apollo Triopio, decided to take the trophy home, throwing infamy on the city and excluding it from the sacral confederation. The fame of the city grew more than ever with Artemisia I, the legendary queen who fought with the Persians at Cape Artemisius and Salamis, becoming one of the few great generals to save herself with the honors of Xerxes.

The legendary Artemisia I

The Ligdamide dynasty, of which Artemisia I was part, ruled all of Caria and had Milas as its capital; the ancient city was mentioned for the first time in the 7th century BC, it is however possible that it was older and it is certain that it had a version of Zeus with typical local elements as protector. However, with the previous dynasty, Milas had always been the most important center of Caria, a situation that would change, however, with the Hecatomnid dynasty.

The Hecatomnid dynasty and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

With the defeat at Salamis, in fact, the city passed under the Delian-Attic League, but was reconquered by Tissaphernes and subsequently placed under the control of Hecatomno da Milas; the latter had three sons Mausolus, Idrieus and Pixodarus and two daughters, Artemisia II and Ada, who married the first two brothers and de facto reigned over Caria for 50 years, making it famous throughout the world. Mausolus, in particular, will greatly expand the domains of his lineage, also extending into Lydia, obtaining an important role in the revolt of Chios and Rhodes against the second Delian-Attic League and, above all, moving the capital of Caria to Halicarnassus. Following his death, Artemisia II, his sister and wife, had the legendary Mausoleum of Halicarnassus built, which was considered among the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

After Artemisia came Idrieus, who completed the incredible tomb and set about restoring the temple of Zeus of Labranda; His military support for the Persian reconquest of Cyprus should also be noted, however it seems that relations with the latter were very compromised and cracked. With the death of Idrieo, the throne passed briefly to Ada, who was however expelled by Pissodaro. The younger of the brothers, unlike his predecessor, was very keen to ingratiate himself with the Persians, so much so that he gave his daughter in marriage to Orontobates, a Persian general. In reality, Pixodarus maintained at the same time a great friendship with Philip of Macedon, to the point of offering his sister in marriage to Arrhidaeus, the king’s bastard; Alexander’s desire to marry Ada in turn, however, inevitably scuttled the plan. With the (natural) death of Pixodarus, Orontobatet took the throne but, also thanks to the support of Ada, he was overthrown by Alexander the Great who, in order to have guaranteed his succession on the throne of Caria, became Ada’s adopted son. However, the siege used by the great Greek leader gave a fatal blow to Halicarnassus which, from that moment on, never fully recovered.

Milas between Romans and Christians

Following the death of Alexander, Caria no longer enjoyed a stable political situation, constantly passing between the different diadochic powers that were created. Following the Roman Civil War, Milas, now back the dominant center in the region, briefly passed under the control of Tito Labieno, becoming, once it fell under Roman rule, one of the most beautiful and multi-ethnic cities in all of Asia. In Milas it was in fact possible to find cults and temples from every place in the Empire, with statues and festivals both in honor of Sabazio (Phrygian divinity) and Nemesis, as well as of Isis and Osiris.


With the arrival of Christianity, Milas became an important episcopal center, so much so that, according to tradition, even Saint Ephrem assumed this function; also St. Xene went right here to escape an imposed marriage.

Turks and Ottomans

Milas and Caria then became part of the homonymous Byzantine thema, definitively passing into Turkish hands from the end of the 13th century. It was initially part of the beilicate of Menteşe, which was conquered by the Ottomans in 1390. It will be the arrival of Tamerlane to ruin everything in fact, with the battle of Ankara in 1402, control returned to the Menteşe. The strange alliance between Mehmed I and the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, decisive for the fate of Bodrum, dates back to this period. In fact, that same year, some Crusaders had restored Bodrum Castle (at the time called Petronium) and, with the destruction of their castle in Izmir by Tamerlane, they were officially allowed to reside and build on that territory; however, following the conquest of Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent, they were forced to move to Malta, thus becoming known as “The Knights of Malta”.


In 1420 Milas and its province were definitively reconquered by Mehmed I, who immediately moved the administrative center to Muğla, where it is still located today. Following the birth of modern Turkey and the consequent exchange of population with Greece, all its Hellenic inhabitants were moved to that country and, at the same time, the local Jews moved to Israel, always maintaining a deep bond with their ancient homeland.

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