Miletus was a seaport town located near the Meander River's mouth and was anciently the capital of Ionia. It is located about 36 miles south of Ephesus. Before around 500 B.C., the city was considered the greatest city of the Greeks in the east and a very prominent trading post.
Miletus played a prominent role in starting a colony of Greeks in Egypt's city of Naukratis. It is believed that, at its height, at least 75 colonies were begun by the merchants of the city.
Miletus was also known for its literary and scientific-based residents such as Anaximander, Thales and Hecataeus.
The Meander river brings with it a large amount of sediment which is deposited at its mouth. Over time the buildup of material has significantly altered the coastline and the fortune of Miletus. In Paul's day although the city was a port town it was already loosing its status as an important seaport. Today, the ruins of the city are now more than ten miles from the coast.
The apostle Paul visits Miletus twice (Acts 20:15 to 21:1, 2Timothy 4:20). His most memorable visit was toward the end of his third missionary journey in 58 A.D. It was from the city that he summoned the elders in the Ephesian church to come and meet him for what he thought would be the last time (Acts 20:17).
Paul offers the elders who journeyed to Miletus a heartfelt exhortation and warns them about the coming apostasy and splits in the church. He exhorts them to be faithful shepherds serving the people who, through the sacrifice of Christ, God has called to be one of his spiritual children.
And when they had come to him (in Miletus), he said to them, "You know how, from the first day I came to Asia, and all the time I was with you, I served the Lord with all humility and with many tears and temptations, which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; And how I did not keep back anything that was profitable, but preached to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house . . .
Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers . . . For I know this: that after my departure grievous wolves (self-centered people pretending to be believers) will come in among you, not sparing the flock (those who are truly called of God);
And from among your own selves men will rise up speaking perverse things (teachings that are contrary to the word of God) to draw away disciples . . . (Acts 20:18 - 20, 28 - 30, HBFV)
After Paul's words reach the ears of the elders, he sails away from Miletus to fulfill his destiny in Jerusalem.