Priene was one of the 12 cities of Ionia during the Hellenistic period. The city of Panionion was the Ionian religious and political centre; it was probably founded by Carians around the 10th century B.C. and controlled by Lydians and Persians.
The new city built in 350 B.C., was laid out on a grid system developed by the architect Hippodamus of Miletus. The town was designed to face south, which provided some protection from the sun in summer, and maximized sunlight in the winter. At the time, the city was much nearer to the sea than it is now, and had a port. Today the harbour is covered by alluvial deposits from the Meander (Menderes) River.
The temple of Athena was the most important building in the city. It was designed by the architect Pythios of Halicarnassus. There was an excellent water distribution system in the city: the water was brought from the mountains via aqueducts, stored in pools, then distributed to fountains throughout the city. Priene’s theatre was built in a classical Hellenistic design and could seat 5,000 spectators. The Bouleterion (council chamber)—one of the best-preserved buildings in the city—was near the sacrificial heart of the Prytaneion (city hall).
The houses in Priene were well planned. They were two-storey, enclosed an open atrium, and had a bathroom and toilets. The ceilings and windows were high.
The excavations were started in 1898. Today, excavations are carried out by German Archaeological Institute.