The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

The Market Gate of Miletus

Market Gate of Miletus in the Pergamon Museum

The Market Gate of Miletus is a large marble monument from the 2nd century AD. The gate came from Miletus which was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia. Before the Persian invasion in the middle of the 6th century BC, Miletus was considered the greatest and wealthiest of Greek cities. Below is a map of Ancient Lydia showing the location of Miletus relative to other important cities in the ancient borders of Lydia during the middle 6th century. Its ruins are located near the modern village of Balat in Aydın Province, Turkey.

Map of Lydia ancient times-en

Miletus’ wealth and splendour was reached a high during the Hellenistic era (323–30 BC) and again later during the Roman Empire. The gate was erected during the reign of Emperor Hadrian in about 120 to 130 AD. The Market Gate of Miletus acted as a gateway between two large centres in the town. The Agora outside the walls and the market in the centre of the rich trade city.

The two-story gate was later incorporated into the expanded city wall, under Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great. In an earthquake prone area the city of Miletus was destroyed in an earthquake in the 10th or 11th century. The gate incorporated sculptures such the emperor in military armour with a barbarian female at his feet.

Statue of an emperor or hero from the Market Gate of Miletus, early 2nd century AD (reign of Hadrian 120-130 AD), Pergamon Museum Berlin (8404261155)

As shown above, the other major statue recovered is of a nude hero figure holding the horn of plenty. Both of these statues were shattered and had to be reconstructed from fragments.

Detail of the Market Gate of Miletus, Pergamon Museum Berlin (8405352160)

In the early 1900s, it was excavated from its original location and the initial reconstruction of the gate took place in 1928 – 1929 to become a major feature at the new Pergamon Museum, which opened in 1930.

Only fragments had survived from the original and reconstruction involved the introduction of significant new material to assemble a holistic architectural monument. Today approximately 60% original stonework is from Miletus. The gate was again damaged in World War II and underwent restoration in the 1954 and a further series of restorations more recently.

Essential Facts:

  • Name:                         The Market Gate of Miletus
  • Material:                    Marble
  • Created                      2nd century AD
  • Period/culture:        Roman
  • Original Location:  Miletus
  • Material:                   Marble
  • Dimensions:             W: 98 feet (30m), H: 52 feet (16m), D: 16 feet (5m)

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“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” Aldous Huxley

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Photo Credit: 1) By Rafael Rodrigues Camargo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Original: User:RokeSVG: User:NektoEnglish: User:WillemBK [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 3) By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 3) By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons