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An Early Byzantine Area in the Necropolis of Miletus

Philipp Niewöhner, Istanbul Department, German Archaeological Institute, Turkey, Summer Fellow 2011

I studied a walled square that I excavated recently in the necropolis of Miletus. The square dates from the fifth century BC and contains contemporary as well as earlier burials. One of them seems to have been venerated, and in the sixth century half of the square was built up with a church and martyrium. Originally, the square seems to have been conceived as an exclusive Christian cemetery or area, as they are known from Rome and elsewhere, but so far not from Anatolia.

Such areae were often surrounded by arcaded porticoes, and this seems to have been the case at Miletus, too. The interior was not necessarily plastered with graves, but typically contained a martyrium, and a church was often built in or next to the area. Some such examples in Greece are closely comparable to Miletus and date from the late fourth and the fifth century, when areae may have been a common feature on Christian necropoleis around the Aegean. No area that has come to my knowledge was built after the fifth century.

It remains to be determined whether areae were more frequent in coastal cities of western Asia Minor, and whether they also occurred beyond the Aegean littoral, along the southern coast as well as in central Anatolia. A German version of my research forms a chapter in my book on the Byzantine basilicas of Miletus; this fellowship gave me the opportunity to finish that manuscript.