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Izmir, the ancient city of Smyrna – Part I

on 09/04/2015

Izmir Center

         Izmir, located on the Aegean coast, is the third largest city of Turkey with over 3 million inhabitants and the second largest harbour of the country.

Its history dates back to 3000 BC when Smyrna, its ancient name, was founded by the Leleges, an autochthonous Anatolian tribe. It is believed that its name derived from an eponymous Amazon queen. It then became part of the Hittite realm and was later occupied by the Aeolians before being conquered by the Ionians.

Smyrna reached its first peak of glory during the Ionian period. It had indeed previously been destroyed by the Persians and it is Alexander the Great himself who ordered its restauration. The work was started by Antigonus I Monophthalmus, a Macedonian general, and completed by Lysimachus, another officer who later became king of Thrace.

Smyrna also played an important role in Christian history. Its first bishop, Polycarp, was appointed during the early Roman period and the city became home to one of the Seven Churches of Asia.

After belonging to the Byzantines, Smyrna then became the richest city of the Ottoman Empire. The 

Levantine, Greek, Jewish and Armenian communities cohabited with the Turks. In the 19th century it was called the “small Paris”. The first two Ottoman railway lines built in 1856, as well as the harbour built in 1870 by the company Dussaud made it a futuristic city.

Today it is home to the headquarters of NATO land forces.

Every year at the end of August an important international industrial fair takes place in the Culture Park, the green lung of the city.

We hope you enjoyed this short historical introduction. We will present further aspects of Izmir in our next article.


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