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Overview of Roman Agora, Smyrna (Izmir)

Cryptoporticus below the Roman Agora, Smyrna (Izmir)

Kiln for firing votive offerings in the Sacred Area, Morgantina, Smyrna

Detail: a Pergamene capital in the Roman Agora, Smyrna (Izmir)

Summary: A major ancient port city and archaeologically important for its Early Iron Age architectural remains.
Type: Fortified city and port
Region: Ionia


Periods:

Early Bronze Age

Middle Bronze Age

Late Bronze Age

Dark Age

Geometric

Archaic

Classical

Hellenistic

Roman

Byzantine

Modern

Physical:

The original Early Bronze Age to Archaic period settlement was at Bayrakli, on the NE side of the Gulf of Izmir. Excavations at this site have found, in addition to the remains of an early temple of Athena, the rare remains of houses and city fortification walls dating to the 9th through 7th centuries B.C.

There is no evidence for a city or single civic center during the Classical period and in the Hellenistic period a new city was founded in the area of modern Izmir, on and below Mount Pagus.

Mount Pagus served as the acropolis and from it defensive walls extended down to the shore. The 2nd century A.D. agora, which is midway between the acropolis and the harbor, has been partially excavted. With the exception of the agora, Roman theater, and sections of the Roman aqueduct, little remains of the ancient city today.

Description:

The earliest settlement at Bayrakli, ca. 4 km N of later Smyrna, dates to the Early Bronze Age or ca. 2500 B.C. The site was occupied by Aeolian Greeks at ca. 1050 B.C. and, because of its location at the northern boundary of Ionian territory, it soon became essentially an Ionian city. But it was not admitted to the Panionian League until a much later date. The early Greek city had defensive walls by the 9th century B.C. and its Archaic temple of Athena, built at ca. 625 B.C. was the earliest known Greek religious shrine in Anatolia.

Smyrna was prosperious in the 7th century B.C. and may have been the birthplace of Homer. The city was sacked by the Lydian king Alyattes at ca. 600 B.C. and again by the Persians at ca. 545 B.C. During the Classical period Smyra was an unimportant scatter of villages around the former city site and did not belong to the Delian League.

A new city of Smyrna was founded by Alexander the Great between Mount Pagus and the shore in response to advice from an oracle. Smyrna became a prosperous trade center and was known for its architectural beauty in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Under Roman control the city was favored by different emperors, including Marcus Aurelius, who donated reconstruction funds to the city after the earthquake of A.D. 178.

Smyrna continued to be an important city in the early Christian period and continued to thrive until thereatened by the Arab raids of the 7th century A.D.

Exploration:

Smyrna was a center for exploration teams of the Society of Dilettani in the mid 18th century A.D. Bayrakli was excavated by a joint British and Turkish team in 1948-1951. The Smyrna agora was excavated by a joint German and Turkish team in 1932-1941.

Sources Used:

PECS, 847-848; McDonagh 1989, 231, 237-238; Bean 1979, 20-30

Other Bibliography:

B├╝rchner, RE III A, 734ff; C.J. Cadoux, Ancient Smyrna (1938); E. Akurgal, Belleten 37 (1946) 72-80; Die Kunst anatoliens (1961) 8-16, 178-188, 282-284; AJA 66 (1962) 369-379; Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey (1970) 119-124; J. Cook, BSA 53/54 (1958/59); CAH (1961); The Greeks in Ionia and the East (1962) 1-35.