1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Smyrna

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SMYRNA (Ismir), in ancient times one of the most important and now by far the greatest of the cities of Asia Minor, has preserved an unbroken continuity of record and identity of name from the first dawn of history to the present time.

1. The Ancient City.—It is said to have been a Lelegian city before the Greek colonists settled in Asia Minor. The name, which is said to be derived from an Amazon called Smyrna, is indubitably Anatolian, having been applied also to a quarter of Ephesus, and (under the cognate form Myrina) to a city of Aeolis, and to a tumulus in the Troad. The Aeolic settlers of Lesbos and Cyme, pushing eastwards by Larissa and Neonteichus and over the Hermus, seized the valley of Smyrna. It was the frontier city between Aeolis on the N. and Ionia on the S., and was more accessible on the S. and E. than on the N. and W. By virtue of its situation it was necessarily a commercial city, like the Ionian colonies. It is therefore not surprising that the Aeolic element grew weaker; strangers or refugees from the Ionian Colophon settled in the city, and finally Smyrna passed into the hands of the Colophonians and became the thirteenth of the Ionian states. The change had taken place before 688, when the Ionian Onomastus of Smyrna won the boxing prize at Olympia, but it was probably then a recent event. The Colophonian conquest is mentioned by Mimnermus (before 600 B.C.), who counts himself equally a Colophonian and a Smyrnaean. The Aeolic form of the name, Σμύρνα, was retained even in the Attic dialect, and the-epithet " Aeolian Smyrna " remained long after the conquest. The situation of Smyrna on the path of commerce between Lydia and the west raised it during the 7th century to the height of power and splendour. It lay at the head of an arm of the sea, which reached far inland and admitted the Greek trading ships into the heart of Lydia. One of the great trade routes which cross Anatolia descends the Hermus valley past Sardis, and then diverging from the valley passes S. of Mt Sipylus and crosses a low pass into the little valley, about 7 m. long and 2 broad, where Smyrna lies between the mountains and the sea. Miletus, and later Ephesus, situated at the sea end of the other great trade route across Anatolia, competed for a time successfully with Smyrna, but both cities long ago lost their harbours and Smyrna remains without a rival.

When the Mermnad kings raised the Lydian power and aggressiveness Smyrna was one of the first points of attack. Gyres (c. 687–652) was, however, defeated on the banks of the Hermus; the situation of the battlefield shows that the power of Smyrna extended far to the E., and probably included the valley of Nymphi (Nif). A strong fortress, the ruins of whose ancient and massive walls are still imposing, on a hill in the pass between Smyrna arid Nymphi, was probably built by the Smyrnaean Ionians to command the valley of Nymphi. According to Theognis (about 500 B.C.), " pride destroyed Smyrna." Mimnermus laments the degeneracy of the citizens of his day, who could no longer stem the Lydian advance. Finally, Alyattes III. (609–560) conquered the city, and Smyrna for 300 years lost its place in the list of Greek cities. It did not cease to exist, but the Greek life and political unity were destroyed, and the Smyrnaean state was organized on the village system (ᾠκεῖτο κωμηδόν). It is mentioned in a fragment of Pindar, about 500 B.C., and in an inscription of 388 B.C. A small fortification of early style, rudely but massively built, on the lowest slope of a hill N. of Burnabat, is perhaps a fortified village of this period. Alexander the Great conceived the idea of restoring the Greek city; the two Nemeses who were worshipped at Smyrna are said to have suggested the idea to him in a dream. The scheme was, according to Strabo, carried out by Antigonus (316–301), and Lysimachus enlarged and fortified the city (301–281). The acropolis of the ancient city had been on a steep peak about 1250 ft. high, which overhangs the N.E. extremity of the gulf; its ruins still exist, probably in much the same condition as they were left by Alyattes. The later city was founded on the modern site partly on the slopes of a rounded hill called Pagus near the S.E. end of the gulf, partly on the low ground between the hill and the sea. The beauty of the city, clustering on the low ground and rising tier over tier on the hillside, is frequently praised by the ancients and is celebrated on its coins.

The " crown of Smyrna " seems to have been an epithet applied to the acropolis with its circle of buildings. Smyrna is shut in on the W. by a hill now called Deirmen Tepe, with the ruins of a temple on the summit. The walls of Lysimachus crossed the summit of this hill, and the acropolis occupied the top of Pagus. Between the two the road from Ephesus entered the city by the " Ephesian gate," near which was a gymnasium. Closer to the acropolis the outline of the stadium is still visible, and the theatre was situated on the N. slopes of Pagus. The line of the walls on the E. side is unknown; but they certainly embraced a greater area than is included by the Byzantine wall, which ascends the castle hill (Pagus) from the Basmakhane railway station. Smyrna possessed two harbors—the outer, which was simply the open roadstead of the gulf, and the inner, which was a small basin, with a narrow entrance closed by a rope in case of need, about the place now occupied by bazaars. The inner harbour was partially filled up by Timur in 1402, but it had not entirely disappeared till the beginning of the 19th century. The modern quay has encroached considerably on the sea, and the coast-line of the Greek time was about 90 yds. farther S. The streets were broad, well paved and laid out at right angles; many were named after temples: the main street, called the Golden, ran across the city from W. to E., beginning probably from the temple of Zeus Akraios on the W. side of Pagus, and running round the lower slopes of Pagus (like a necklace on the statue, to use the favourite terms of Aristides the orator) towards Tepejik outside the city on the E., where probably the temple of Cybele, the Metroon; stood. Cybele, worshipped under the name of Meter Sipylene, from Mt Sipylus, which bounds the Smyrna valley on the N., was the tutelar goddess of the city. The plain towards the sea was too low to be properly drained and hence in rainy weather the streets were deep with mud and water.

The river Meles, which flowed by Smyrna, is famous in literature and was worshipped in the valley. The most common and consistent tradition connects Homer with the valley of Smyrna and the banks of the Meles; his figure was one of the stock types on Smyrnaean coins, one class of which was called Homerian; the epithet “Melesigenes” was applied to him; the cave where he was wont to compose his poems was shown near the source of the river; his temple, the Homereum, stood on its banks. The steady equable flow of the Meles, alike in summer and winter, and its short course, beginning and ending near the city, are celebrated by Aristides and Himerius. The description applies admirably to the stream which rises from abundant fountains, now known as Diana’s bath, E. of the city, and flows into the S.E. extremity of the gulf. The belief that the torrent, almost dry except after rains, which flows by Caravan bridge, is the ancient Meles, flatly contradicts the ancient descriptions.

In the Roman period Smyrna was the seat of a conventus which included S. Aeolis and great part of the Hermus valley. It vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title “First (city) of Asia.” A Christian church existed here from a very early time, having its origin in the considerable Jewish colony. Polykarp was bishop of Smyrna and was martyred there A.D. 155. The bishops of Smyrna were originally subject to the metropolitan of Ephesus; afterwards they became independent (αὐτοκέφαλοι) , and finally were honoured with metropolitan rank, having under them the bishops of Phocaea, Magnesia ad Sipylum, Clazomenae, Sosandrus (Nymphi?), Archangelus (Temnos?) and Petra (Menemen?).

When Constantinople became the seat of government the trade between Anatolia and the W. lost in importance, and Smyrna declined apace. A Turkish freebooter named Tsacha seized Smyrna in 1084, but it was recovered by the generals of Alexius Comnenus. The city was several times ravaged by the Turks, and had become quite ruinous when the emperor John Ducas Vatatzes about 1222 rebuilt it. But Ibn Batuta found it still in great part a ruin when the famous chieftain Aidin had conquered it about 1330 and made his son Amur governor. It became the port of the Aidin amirate. Soon afterwards the Knights of Saint John established themselves in the town, but failed to conquer the citadel. In 1402 Timur stormed the town and massacred almost all the inhabitants. The Mongol conquest was only temporary, but Smyrna was resumed by the Seljuks of Aidin and has remained till the present day in Mahommedan hands. Until the reign of Abdul Mejid it was included for administrative purposes in the eyalet of Jezair (the Isles) and not in that of Anadoli. The representative of the Capitan Pasha, who governed that eyalet, was, however, less influential in the city than the head of the Kara Osman Oglu’s of Manisa (see Manisa). From the early 17th century till 1825, Smyrna was the chief provincial factory of the British Turkey Company, as well as of French, Dutch and other trading corporations. The passages with gates at each end within which most Frank shops in modern Smyrna lie, are a survival of the semi-fortified residences of the European merchants.

2. The Modern City, capital of the Aidin vilayet, and the most important town of Asia Minor. Pop. more than 250,000, of which fully a half is Greek. It is one of the principal ports of the Ottoman empire, and has a large trade, of which the greater part is with Great Britain. The chief items of export are figs, tobacco, valonia, carpets, raisins and silk, to the value of some three million sterling. The imports are estimated at a million more. About 7006 steamships visit the port annually. Until 1894 the two railways from Smyrna to the interior belonged to British companies; but in 1897 the Smyrna-Alashehr line passed into the hands of a French syndicate, which completed an extension to Afium Kara-hissar and virtually (though not actually) effected a junction with the Anatolian railway system. This line has branches to Burnabat and Soma. The Smyrna-Aidin line has been extended to Dineir, and powers have been obtained to continue to Isbarta and Egerdir. It has branches to Buja, Seidikeui, Tireh, Odemish, Sokia, Denizli and Ishekli.

Modern Smyrna is in all but government a predominantly Christian town (hence the Turks know it as giaour Ismir). There is a large European element (including about 800 British subjects), a great part of which lives in two suburban villages, Burnabat and Buja, but has business premises in the city. The European and Greek quarters rapidly increase, mainly to the N.; while the fine quays, made by a French company, are backed by a line of good buildings. The streets behind, though clean and well kept, are very narrow and tortuous. A fine new Konak (government offices) has been built, and another important new structure is the pier of the Aidin Railway Co. at Point. The development of this railway is the most conspicuous sign of progress.

Smyrna is a headquarters of missions of all denominations and has good schools, of which the International College is the best. There is a British consul-general, with full consular establishment, including a hospital.

See general authorities for Asia Minor, especially the travellers, almost all of whom describe Smyrna. Also B. F. Slaars, Étude sur Smyrne (1868); and W. M. Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches (1904) and article in Hastings’s Dict. of the Bible (1902).  (W. M. Ra.; D. G. H.)