(Μίλητος, from the name of a fabled son of Apollo, who is said to have founded the city, Apollod. 3:1, 2), a city and seaport of Ionia, in Asia Minor, about thirty-six miles south of Ephesus (Cramer's Asia Minor, 2:385 sq.). The apostle Paul touched at this port on his voyage from Greece to Syria, and delivered to the elders of Ephesus, who had come to meet him there, a remarkable and affecting address (Ac 20:15-38). "In the context we have the geographical relations of the latter city brought out distinctly, as if it were Luke's purpose to state them. In the first place, it lay on the coast to the south of Ephesus. Next, it was a day's sail from Trogyllium (verse 15). Moreover, to those who are sailing from the north, it is in the direct line for Cos. We should also notice that it was near enough to Ephesus by land communication for the message to be sent and the presbyters to come within a very narrow space of time. All these details correspond with the geographical facts of the case. As to the last point, Ephesus was by land only about twenty or thirty miles distant from Miletus. There is a further and more minute topographical coincidence, which may be seen in the phrase, 'They accompanied him to the ship,' implying as it does that the vessel lay at some distance from the town. The site of Miletus has now receded tell miles from the coast, and even in the apostle's time it must have lost its strictly maritime position (Hackett, Comm. on the Acts, 2d ed. page 344; comp. Ac 21:5). In each case we have a low, flat shore, as a marked and definite feature of the scene." Miletus was a place of considerable note, and the ancient capital of Ionia and Caria (Herod. i, 142; Pliny, 5:31). It was the birthplace of several men of renown — Thales, Timotheus, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Democritus (Pomp. Mela, 1:17; Diog. Laertius, Vit. Philosoph. pages 15, 88, 89, 650). Ptolemy (Geogr. 5:2, 9) places Miletus in Caria by the sea, and it is stated to have had four havens, one of which was capable of holding a fleet. (See J.E. Rambach, De Mileto ejusque coloniis [Hal. 1790]; Soldan, Rer. Miles. Comment. [Darmst. 1829]; Schroeder, Comment. de rebus Miles. [ Strals.
1827].) "In early times it was the most flourishing city of the Ionian Greeks. The ships which sailed from it were celebrated for their distant voyages. Miletus suffered in the progress of the Lydian kingdom and became tributary to Croesus. In the natural order of events, it was absorbed in the Persian empire; and, revolting, it was stormed and sacked. After a brief period of spirited independence, it received a blow from which it never recovered, in the siege conducted by Alexander when on his Eastern campaign. But still it held, even through the Roman period, the rank of a second-rate trading town, and Strabo mentions its four harbors. At this time it was politically in the province of Asia, though Caria was the old ethnological name of the district in which it was situated. Its preeminence on this coast had now long been yielded up to Ephesus. These changes can be vividly traced by comparing the whole series of coins of the two places. In the case of Miletus, those of the autonomous period are numerous and beautiful, those of the imperial period very scanty. Still Miletus was for some time an episcopal city of Western Asia. Its final decay was doubtless promoted by the silting up of the Meander." It was noted for a famous temple of Apollo, the oracle of which is known to have been consulted so late as the 4th century (Apollodorus, De Orig. Deor. 3:130). There was, however, a Christian church in the place; and in the 5th, 7th, and 8th centuries we read of bishops of Miletus, who were present at several councils (Magdeburg, Hist. Eccles. 2:1-2; 4:86; 5:3; 7:254; 8:4). The city fell to decay after its conquest by the Saracens, and is now in ruins, not far from the spot where the Meander falls into the sea. (See Biisching, Erdbeschr. XI; 1:100; Tzschucke, ad Mel. III, 1:481.) The exact site, however, is somewhat a matter of uncertainty (Rosenmuller, Bibl. Geogr. I, 2:187), owing to the altered character of the coast in modern times; but it appears to be in part covered by the remains now called Palatia, i.e. the palace (Leake, Asia Minor, page 240). It lies in a triangular plot of ground, bounded by two branches of the river Mendere — the ancient Meander. These unite a little to the north of the ruins, and the stream thus formed disembogues through marshy ground into the sea about two miles distant. The harbor is filled up by the alluvial soil brought down by the river, which has already created a delta of no insignificant dimensions. The ruins of the ancient Miletus are even at the present time striking and picturesque, especially those of the theatre, one of the largest in Asia Minor. Seen from the south-west, it makes still a splendid object; to the south is a mosque, and farther still, in the same direction, a line of ruined arches, once forming an aqueduct. The fragments of a church remain, in which the current tradition of the place asserts that St. John preached the Gospel; but it is unquestionably of a date far later than that of the evangelist. In the plain, between the theatre and the aqueduct, are a few pillars, indicating the site of a temple, probably dedicated to Diana. See Texier, Asie Mineure, page 316 sq.
Some take the Miletus where Paul left Trophimus sick (2Ti 4:20; Auth. Vers. "Miletum") to have been in Crete, and therefore different from the above; but there seems to be no need for this conclusion. "This passage presents a very serious difficulty to the theory that there was only one Roman imprisonment. When Paul visited the place on the occasion just described, Trophimus was indeed with him (Ac 20:4); but he certainly did not 'leave him sick at Miletus,' for at the conclusion of the voyage we find him with the apostle at Jerusalem (Ac 21:29). Nor is it possible that he could have been so left on the voyage from Caesarea to Rome, for in the first place there is no reason to believe that Trophimus was with the apostle then at all; and in the second place the ship was never to the north of Cnidus (Ac 27:7). But on the hypothesis that Paul was liberated from Rome and revisited the neighborhood of Ephesus, all becomes easy, and consistent with the other notices of his movements in the pastoral epistles. (See Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul, chapter 27; Birks, Horae Apostolicae.) See further in Schmidt, Res Milesiance (Gott. 1855); Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Geogr. s.v.; Conybeare and Howson, St. Paul, 2:214 sq.; Tschihatscheff, L'Asie Mineure (Par. 1853), 1:252 sq.; Rawlinson, Herod. 1:218 sq.