MAGNESIA, in ancient geography the name of two cities in Asia Minor and of a district in eastern Thessaly, lying between the Vale of Tempe and the Pagasaean Gulf.
(1) MAGNESIA AD MAEANDRUH, a city of Ionia, situated on a small stream flowing into the Maeander, 15 Roman miles from Miletus and rather less from Ephesus. According to tradition, reinforced by the similarity of names, it was founded by colonists from the Thessalian tribe of the Magnetes, with whom were associated, according to Strabo, some Cretan settlers (Magnesia retained a connexion with Crete, as inscriptions found there attest). It was thus not properly an Ionic city, and for this reason, apparently, was not included in the Ionian league, though superior in wealth and prosperity to most of the members except Ephesus and Miletus. It was destroyed by the Cimmerii in their irruption into Asia Minor, but was soon after rebuilt, and gradually recovered its former prosperity. It was one of the towns assigned by Artaxerxes to Themistocles for support in his exile, and there the latter ended his days. His statue stood in its market-place. Thibron, the Spartan, persuaded the Magnesians to leave their indefensible and mutinous city in 399 B.C. and build afresh at Leucophrys, an hour distant, noted for its temple of Artemis Leucophryne, which, according to Strabo, surpassed that at Ephesus in the beauty of its architecture, though inferior in size and wealth. Its ruins were excavated by Dr K. Humann for the Constantinople Museum in 1891-1893; but most of the frieze of the temple of Artemis Leucophryne, representing an Amazon battle, had already been carried off by Texier (1843) to the Louvre. It was an octostyle, pseudo-dipteral temple of highly ornate Ionic order, built on older foundations by Hermogenes of Alabanda at the end of the 3rd century B.C. The platform has been greatly overgrown since the excavation, but many bases, capitals, and other architectural members are visible. In front of the west facade stood a great altar. An immense peribolus wall is still standing (20 ft. high) , but its Doric colonnade has vanished. The railway runs right through the precinct, and much of Magnesia has gone into its bridges and embankments. South and west of the temple are many other remains of the Roman city, including a fairly perfect theatre excavated by Hiller von Gartringen, and the shell of a large gymnasium. Part of the Agora was laid open to Humann, but his trenches have fallen in. The site is so unhealthy that even the' Circassians who settled there twenty years ago have almost all died off or emigrated. Magnesia continued under the kings of Pergamum to be one of the most flourishing cities in this part of Asia; it resisted Mithradates in 87 B.C., and was rewarded with civic freedom by Sulla; but it appears to have greatly declined under the Roman empire, and its name disappears from history, though on coins of the time of Gordian it still claimed to be the seventh city of Asia.
See K. Haumann, Magnesia am Maeander (1904).
(2) MAGNESIA AD SIPYLUM (mod. Manisa, q.v.), a city of Lydia about 40 m. N.E. of Smyrna on the river Hermus at the foot of Mt Sipylus. No mention of the town is found till 190 B.C., when Antiochus the Great was defeated under its walls by the Roman consul L. Scipio Asiaticus. It became a city of importance under the Roman dominion and, though nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Tiberius, was restored by that emperor and flourished through the Roman empire. It was one of the few towns in this part of Asia Minor which remained prosperous under the Turkish rule. The most famous relic of antiquity is the " Niobe of Sipylus " (Suratlu Task) on the lowest slopes of the mountain about 4 m. east of the town. This is a colossal seated image cut in a niche of the rock, of " Hittite " origin, and perhaps that called by'Pausanias the " very ancient statue of the Mother of the Gods," carved by Broteas, son of Tantalus, and sung by Homer. Near it lie many remains of a primitive city, and about half a mile east is the rock-seat conjecturally identified with Pausanias' " Throne of Pelops." There are also hot springs and a sacred grotto of Apollo. The whole site seems to be that of the early " Tantalus " city. (D. G. H.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)