Context: Smyrna
Type: Fortification
Summary: Fortification wall surrounding perimeter of earliest settlement on tell, later including the expanded city within its circuit.
Date: ca. 850 BC - ca. 350 BC

Wall 1 was ca. 4.75 m. thick at its base; Wall 2 was ca. 9 m. thick at its base. Wall 3 may have been as much as 15 m. thick at its base; its socle of andesite blocks is preserved in areas to a height of ca. 5 m. The height of the superstructure of the wall in all three phases is uncertain, as the mudbrick is not preserved. Wall 4, which in some areas acted as a simple terrace wall, was ca. 1.5 m. thick.

Region: Ionia
Period: Geom./Arch./Clas.


Circuit wall consisting of lower socle zone surmounted by a mudbrick superstructure. Bastions or towers flanked the north-east city gate; in the second construction phase, a second city gate, of overlap type without towers, may have existed in the south east of the city.

Date Description:

The walls are dated on the basis of associated ceramic finds and burials within the debris. The dating of Wall 1 to the mid-ninth century B.C. is based on the evidence of Protogeometric and Monochrome ware sherds. Parts of Wall 2 are dated to ca. 775-725 B.C. on the basis of the evidence of imported Corinthian pottery sherds, and the change in brick size. Finds from associated occupation levels at the site confirm the earthquake destruction date of ca. 700 B.C. Burials of children in amphorae, in the debris of the intermediate phase between Walls 2 and 3, are dated to ca. 675 B.C. After these earliest burials, Wall 3 was constructed. Its destruction, due to siege by King Alyattes of Lydia, is attested archaeologically on the evidence of associated weapons and ceramic finds (Early Corinthian and the absence of Attic). Herodotus' reference to the capture of Smyrna by King Alyattes can also be dated to ca. 600 B.C. Hdt. 1.16.2. The dating of Wall 4 is less certain: the excavators state that the only material dating its construction were some sherds of classical date and a fragment of classical tile.


Four major construction phases of the city fortifications are identified by the excavators, Walls 1, 2, 3 and 4. Wall 1, the Middle Geometric wall dating to ca. 850-800 B.C., enclosed the tell which formed the earliest settlement of the peninsula site. In the Late Geometric period, the wall was entirely rebuilt, with construction covering the period ca. 775-725 B.C. Wall 2 collapsed suddenly in ca. 700 B.C., probably the result of earthquake. Throughout the seventh century B.C., the city expanded beyond the original tell, and may have been largely unfortified. Some repairs to the destroyed Wall 2 took place in the seventh century, although it was not until the end of the seventh century that Wall 3 was completed. Wall 3 may have been built in response to the threat of attack from the Lydian King Alyattes, who built a massive siege mound at the north-west of the fortifications, and captured Smyrna in ca. 600 B.C. After the sack, the fortifications lay in ruins. Wall 4, the final series of fortifications at Smyrna, dates to the fourth century B.C. The site was abandoned in the third quarter of the fourth century B.C.

Sources Used:

Nicholls 1958, 35-137; Winter 1971, passim; Akurgal 1983, 25, 46, 54.