Priene was discovered by the inhabitants on the Ionian coast. The Ionians first arrived and settled here in the 11th century B.C. and the city was founded either by Aegyptus of Athens, Philotas of Thebes or Amazon queens (like Pitane, Myrina, Kyme and Ephesus.
It was situated on a peninsula close to Miletus and that it had two ports. No concrete evidince could have been determined the site of this first city. The only piece found is the electurum coin discovered in Clazomenae.
This coin which can be dated back to 500 BC, had a head of Athena on it is an evidence that Priene was attached to the Ionian League.
Priene was captured and came under the Lydian rules at the end of the 7th century BC. Bias, one of the “seven sages” was born in Priene and he put into order the law of his city. So Priene had the most prosperous era in the 6th century.
The brilliant era ended when Persian King Cyrus attacked the city in 545 BC. The city was burnt down completely and people were enslaved.
A difficult period stated for Priene and in 494 BC Priene participated in the Ionian revolt by joining the Battle of Lade with 12 ships against the Persians. However the city is sacked again as a result of the Persians completely destroyed the Ionaian fleet. But it didn’t take too long; Athens and Spartans attacked and burnt the whole Persian fleet in 479 BC. Following upon this battle and victory the “Attic - Delian Sea League” was established immediately.
The Samos – Priene war was ended with joining of Priene. Up to the mid 4th century, the city is thought that under the influence of Athens.
The Hellenistic period began with the victory of Alexander the Great over the Persians.
During this period, Alexander the Great gave the cities autonomy and abolished the excessive taxes paid to the Persians. He assigned the city to watch the unreliable city of Miletus. He also lived in the city and made a donation for the construction for the Athena Temple.
After the death of the Alexander the Great, the city came under the rule of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Kingdoms and the kingdom of Pergamum. During the period of King of Pergamum Attalus II treaties were made in 196 and 188 BC were not able to put a stop to the fight over borders between Samos and Priene. In 135 BC a dcree issued by the Senate of Rome, Dryussa was finally joined to Priene and indistinctness was over.
The lands of the King Attalus II were attached to Rome with his will after the death of him and Priene thus became part of the Roman province of Asia Minor in 129 BC. During this period Priene went through very difficult days because of the many wars, attacks of pirates, had wealth and prosperity only the reign of Emperor Augustus.
A connection to the port was provided in the 1st century by one of the arms of the Meander River, flowing out to the sea, but as the time went by the connection to the port was cut off. This caused interest of the city to lessen and Priene began to be abandoned.
Priene was a bishopric until the fall of the empire in the Byzantine period, at the end of this period the city was completely deserted.