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SMYRNA (Σμύρνα: Eth. Σμυρναῖος, Eth. Smyrnaeus: Smyrna or Izmir), one of the most celebrated and most flourishing cities in Asia Minor, was situated on the east of the mouth of the Hernus, and on the bay which received from the city the name of the Smyrnaeus Sinus. It is said to have been a very ancient town founded by an Amazon of the name of Smyrna, who had previously, conquered Ephesus. In consequence of this Smyrna was regarded as a colony. of Ephesus. The Ephesian colonists are said afterwards to have been expelled by Aeolians, who then occupied the place, until, aided by the Colophonians, the Ephesian colonists were enabled to re-establish, themselves at Smyrna. (Strab. xiv. p.633; Steph. B. sub voce Plin. Nat. 5.31.) Herodotus, on the other hand (1.1.50), states that Smyrna originally, belonged to the Aeolians, who admitted into their city some Colophonian exiles,; and that these Colophonians afterwards, during a festival which was celebrated outside the town, made themselves masters of the place. From that time Smyrna ceased to be an Aeolian city, and was received into the Ionian confederacy (Comp. Paus. 7.5.1.) So far, then as we are guided by authentic history, Smyrna belonged to the Aeolian confederacy until the year B.C. 688, when by an act of treachery on the part of the Colophonians it fell into the hands of the Ionians, and became the 13th city in the Ionian League. (Herod. l.c.; Paus. l.c.) The city was attacked by the Lydian king Gyges, but successfully resisted the aggressor (Hdt. 1.14; Paus. 9.29.2.) Alyattes, however, about B.C. 627, was more successful; he took and destroyed the city, and henceforth, for a period of 400 years, it was deserted and in ruins (Hdt. 1.16; Strab. xiv. p.646), though some inhabitants lingered in the place, living κωμηδόν, as is stated by Strabo, and as we must infer from the fact that Scylax (p. 37) speaks of Smyrna as still existing. Alexander the Great is said to have formed the design of rebuilding the city (Paus. 7.5.1); but he did not live to carry this plan into effect; it was, however, undertaken by Antigonus, and finally completed by Lysimachus. The new city was not built on the site of the ancient one, but at a distance of 20 stadia to the south of it, on the southern coast of the bay, and partly on the side of a hill which Pliny calls Mastusia, but principally in the plain at the foot of it extending to the sea. After its extension and embellishment by Lysimachus, new Smyrna became one of the most magnificent cities, and certainly the finest in all Asia Minor. The streets were handsome, well paved, and drawn at right angles, and the city contained several squares, porticoes, a public library, and numerous temples and other public buildings; but one great drawback was that it had no drains. (Strab. l.c.; Marm. Oxon. n. 5.) It also possessed an excellent harbour which could be closed, and continued to be one of the wealthiest and most flourishing commercial cities of Asia; it afterwards became the seat of a conventus juridicus which embraced the greater part of Aeolis as far as Magnesia, at the foot of Mount Sipylus. (Cic. p. Flacc. 30; Plin. Nat. 5.31.) During the war, between, the Romans and Mithridates, Smyrna remained faithful to the former, for which it was rewarded. with various grants and privileges. (Liv. 35.42, 37.16, 54, 38.39.) But it afterwards suffered much, when Trebonius, one of Caesar's murderers, was besieged there by Dolabella, who in the end took the city, and put Trebonius to death. (Strab. l.c.; Cic. Phil. 11.2; Liv. Epit. 119; D. C. 47.29.) In the reign of Tiberius, Smyrna had conferred upon it the equivocal honour of being allowed, in preference to several other Asiatic cities, to erect a temple to the emperor (Tac. Ann. 3.63, 4.56). During the years A.D. 178 and 180 Smyrna suffered much from earthquakes, but the, emperor M. Aurelius did much to alleviate its sufferings (D. C. 71.32.) It is well known that Smyrna was one of the places claiming to be the birthplace of Homer, and the Smyrnaeans themselves were so strongly convinced of their right to claim this honour, that they erected a temple to the great bard, or a Ὁμήρειον, a splendid edifice containing a statue of Homer (Strab. l.c.; Cic. p. Arch. 8): they even showed a cave in the neighbourhood [p. 2.1017]of their city, on the little river Meles, where the poet was said to have composed his works. Smyrna was at all times not only a great commercial place, but its schools of rhetoric and philosophy also were in great repute. The Christian Church also flourished through the zeal and care of its first bishop Polycarp, who is said to have been put to death in the stadium of Smyrna in A.D. 166 (Iren. iii. p. 176). Under the Byzantine emperors the city experienced great vicissitudes: having been occupied by Tzachas, a Turkish chief, about the close of the 11th century, it was nearly destroyed by a Greek fleet, commanded by John Ducas. It was restored, however, by the emperor Comnenus, but again subjected to severe sufferings during the siege of Tamerlane. Not long after it fell into the hands of the Turks, who have retained possession of it ever since. It is now the great mart of the Levant trade. Of Old Smyrna only a few remains now exist on the north-eastern side of the bay of Smyrna; the walls of the acropolis are in the ancient Cyclopean style. The ancient remains of New Smyrna are more numerous, especially of its walls which are of a solid and massive construction; of the stadium between the western gate and the sea, which, however, is stripped of its marble seats and decorations; and of the theatre on the side of a hill fronting the bay. These and other remains of ancient buildings have been destroyed by the Turks in order to obtain the materials for other buildings; but numerous remains of ancient art have been dug out of the ground at Smyrna. (Chandler's Travels in Asia, pp. 76, 87; Prokesch, Denkwürdigkeiten, i. p. 515, foll.; Hamilton, Researches, i. p. 46, foll.; Sir C. Fellows, Asia Minor, p. 10, foll.)



hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.14
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.16
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.5.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.29.2
    • Cicero, For Flaccus, 30
    • Cicero, For Archias, 8
    • Cicero, Philippics, 11.2
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.63
    • Tacitus, Annales, 4.56
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 54
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 42
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