is located in the Aegean province, which, of all the seven geographical regions of Turkey,
enjoys the finest climate. In population it is the third city in Turkey.It is located in
an area whose magnificent history has made it a tourist centre. It lies at the centre of
the most important land, air and sea communication network in the ancient Aegean region.
THE LEGENDARY ORIGIN OF
The wife of Cinyras, King of Cyprus, foolishly
claimed that her daughter, Smyrna, was more beautiful than Aphrodite herself. This so
enraged the goddess that she made Smyrna fall in love with her own father and one night
Smyrna's nurse having made the king drunk, she climbed into his bed. When he finally awoke
from his drunken slumber, the king drew his sword and drove his daughter from the palace,
pursuing her into the countryside.Just as he was about to overtake her and kill her with
his sword, Aphrodite took pity on the girl and turned her into a myrrh tree.
descended, the king's sword split the myrrh-tree and ADONIS tumbled out. And thus Adonis
According to famous ancient travelers such as
Aristides, Strabo, Pliny and Pausanias, Izmir was founded around 1450 B.C. by TANTALUS,
King of Manisa (Spilos) to the north-east of the present-day city.
There is also a legend to the effect that it was
founded by the Amazons. The one certain thing is that Izmir is not a Greek word and would
appear to be derived from an autochthonous language.
The excavations carried out in 1948 by the
British Archaeological Institute of Athens and, after 1960, by the Turkish Historical
Association under Prof. Ekrem Akurgal have shown that the first settlement, known as
Bayraklı, can be dated as far back as the Bronze Age (3500-1000 B.C.)
The remains of the earliest layer are
contemporary with the Troy II civilization. This settlement was known as Smurna, written
as Smyrna in ancient Greek.In the 11th century B.C. the coastal city of Smyrna was
inhabited by Ionians and Aeolians.
The mudbrick defense walls, which have been dated
to the 8th century B.C.,indicate that Izmir was already a city state at that time. The
Temple of Athena, thought to have been built between the years 725-700 B.C., is the most
ancient example of Greek architecture in the East.
Also to be found here is the oldest specimen of a
Greek house, with courtyard in front, and five rooms on two storeys. Smyrna also boasts
the oldest example of a cobbled street in Greek civilisation.
The tomb of TANTALUS (Tholos) on Mt Yamanlar is
one of the oldest examples of a circular tomb.
In the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. the region came
under the rule of the Phrygians and Lydians. The city, which had been destroyed during
that period, was captured by the Persians in the 6th century and once again destroyed. In
333 B.C. it fell into the hands of Alexander the Great.
The city could no longer be contained within its
old defense walls and was refounded on Mt Pagos, now known as Kadifekale. By the 1st
century B.C. only a small part of the city remained on Mt Pagos, the greater part lying in
the vicinity of the harbour.In 288 B.C. the city became subject to the Kingdom of Pergamon
and, on the death of King Attalos III in 133 B.C. it became part of the Roman Empire in
accordance with the terms of Attalos' will.In the 7th century A.D. it was exposed to raids
by the Arabs.
By the 9th century the city had become a
Byzantine naval base with a dockyard. Under the Nicaean Empire (1204-1260) it was an
important international port.
The first Turkish conquest of the city took place towards the end of the 11 th century
during the reign of Kutalmışoğlu Süleyman Shah, and in 1426 it was incorporated into
The fort on the shore was rebuilt by Mehmed the
Conqueror after an attack by the Venetians in 1472 .
The first textile factory was opened in the 18th
century and the first paper factory in the 19th.
On 15 May 1919 the occupation of the city by the
Greeks sparked off the Turkish national struggle for Independence.
On its liberation in 1922 three-quarters of the
city was destroyed by fire. The industrialisation and urbanisation that characterised the
years following the proclamation of the Republic destroyed the lovely landscape that the
city had formerly possessed. Today, the old city slumbers in oblivion in a growing and
rapidly changing Izmir, but those really interested can still find old houses with bay
windows hidden away in narrow streets, old Ottoman hans and magnificent Levantine
mansions, as well as old mosques, synagogues and churches.
At the beginning of the 20th century Izmir was a
centre of commerce and entertainment rivaling Istanbul and Salonica in the hierarchy of
Ottoman cities and famous for its raisins and seedless grapes, its almonds, its horsedrawn
phaetons, its spring festival, its "gold drop'' Eau de Cologne and nargiles or
water-pipes. The population of 200,000 at the turn of the century has now grown to 3
million. All types of cottons and textiles, together with agricultural produce such as
tobacco, grapes, figs, olives and olive oil are exported from Izmir to all four corners of
the world. Today the city retains its importance as the largest export harbour in Turkey.
Places of interest:
Photographs by:Erdal Yazici,Gungor
Ozsoy,Haluk Ozozlu,Tahsin Aydogmus