About 540 BC - The Persians captured Smyrna.

333 BC - Having defeated the Persians Alexander the Great came to Smyrna in and re-founded it further south on the slopes of Mount Pagos, which became its acropolis.

323-280 BC - After Alexander's death, his general, Antigonus I, took control but he was defeated by Lysimachus, another of Alexander's successors, who then began a wide-scale transformation, renaming it briefly for his daughter, Euredikeia.

241 BC - Smyrna became part of the Kingdom of Pergamum and in 133 BC it was transferred to Roman authority upon the death of Attalus III, the last of Pergamum's kings. Eager to cultivate Roman ties, Smyrna built a temple to the goddess Roma (the spirit of Rome). The city never wavered in its loyalty to Rome and the emperors protected it and contributed heavily to its development. In 26 AD Smyrna won out over other area cities for the honor of building a temple to emperor Tiberius, the second Asian temple to that emperor, and from then on it became a center for emperor worship.

Smyrna was famous for science and medicine. It vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title "first city of Asia." Strabo called it "the most beautiful of all" cities and praised its excellent street plan. The Golden Street, connecting the temples of Zeus and Cybele, is said to have been the best in any ancient city. On the slope of Mount Pagos, the city's broad acropolis, was a 20,000 seat theater.

When Christianity came to Smyrna is not known. The earliest reference to Christians in the city is in the book of Revelation.

Smyrna today

google earth view of modern izmir

Smyrna, now Izmir (above), is Turkey's third largest city and its second most important port. A city of palm-lined promenades, avenues and parks set along a circular bay, Izmir has a mild climate and is a busy commercial and industrial center as well as the gateway to the Aegean Region. The coast line has been modified over the centuries by silt deposited by the Hermes river (and more recently by the expansion of modern Izmir). A large part of the ancient city lies buried beneath the modern houses and mosques.

yesilova mound earliest smyrna

The earliest traces of settlement, dated c. 6500-4000 BC, were discovered in 2003 at Yesilova Mound (above) and neighboring Yassitepe Mound, some 2-3 miles inland from the head of the Gulf of Izmir. Excavations have determined that it is the oldest known settlement in Turkey's Aegean region.

Bayrakli excavations of earliest smyrna

Above, remains of a settlement that formed the core of Old Smyrna (prior to the relocation of the city in the 4th century AD) are seen at Tepekule Huyuk (Turkish mound) in the Bayrakli neighborhood, northeast of the city of John's day. The small hill formed a peninsula at the time, but silt from the Hermus River filled the area so that it is now totally inland.

athena temple restored

Remains, dated to the 7th century BC, include walls, streets, houses with courtyards, a meeting house, a storehouse and (above) a temple to the Greek goddess Athena, now partially restored.

Izmir view

Above, Modern Izmir from Mount Pagos, the acropolis of ancient Smyrna, with the Gulf of Izmir beyond.


Above, Kadifekale (Turkish "velvet castle"), the castle on top of Mount Pagos, ancient Smyrna's acropolis. Its walls were built by Lysimachus, a successor of Alexander the Great.

kadifekale cisterns

Above, ruins of water cisterns at Kadifekale built during the Roman period and renovated during the Byzantine period.

View of Izmir Agora from acropolis

Above, view from Mount Pagos of the market square (Greek agora) built by emperor Marcus Aurelius after an earthquake destroyed Smyrna in 178 AD.

Izmir agora

Above, overall view of the restored agora with Mount Pagos beyond. The acropolis of ancient Smyrna was built by Alexander the Great in 334 BC when he relocated the inhabitants of the town from the northern to the southern part of the bay.

izmir agora

Above, the southern and eastern porticoes lie under dwellings built on the site of the ancient market. The section seen today was used as a cemetery during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Tombstones are seen in the foreground.

colonnade izmir agora

Above, western portico (Greek stoa) of the agora. This large marketplace was surrounded on three sides by porticoes and on one by a basilica.

agora support arches

Above, the agora was supported by vaulted underground passages to reduce the impact of future earthquakes.