About Smyrna (Izmir)
Smyrna used to be one of Turkey’s most popular summer towns with a history that extends back to ancient times. It was a very wealthy and powerful seaport during the Hellenistic period, competing with Ephesus and Pergamum over the title of “first city of Asia”.
Right in the heart of the ancient city of Smyrna is its agora or the centre of the area’s artistic, commercial, judicial and political life. The ancient remains include the basilica gate, stoa and marketplace. The agora was ruined in an earthquake in AD 178 but soon rebuilt by order of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. It remains as one of the best-preserved structures of the Roman World. The basement of the agora was used as shops and their storages.
The Suffering Church
Smyrna was the second of the Seven Churches to a letter from Apostle John. The church was not criticised of their faith. Refusing to worship pagan gods or the Roman emperors as well as facing strong opposition from the Jewish population, the church of Smyrna experienced pressure, poverty and persecution.
Points of Interest
The agora is now an open-air museum and a history park. The reconstructed Corinthian colonnade and Faustina Gate are stunning. The vaulted chambers and cisterns in the basements of the two basilicas give visitors an idea of how this rectangular-shaped, multi-level marketplace would have looked in its glory days.
- Ionia is the name given during ancient times to the central part of Anatolia’s Aegean shore in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey, one of the most important centres of the Greek world.
- Tradition has it that Polycarp was a personal disciple of Apostle John and considered to be the first bishop of Smyrna who was later martyred.
- Homer, the author of the earliest and finest epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, lived in Smyrna in the 8th century BC.