Izmir, the ancient Smyrna, was erected on a much older city. It is at Bayrakli near Izmir that we see the traces of the first settlements. The excavations carried out in this place have proved that the initial settlements here dated back to the 3rd century BC.

At the time, the city possessed wide frontiers. The ceramics of foreign origin discovered in the excavations indicate that the city flourished, particularly in maritime trade.

Smyrna was captured and destroyed by Alyattes, king of Lydia, in 600 and later was reconstructed and restored. Following the defeat of the Lydians by the Persians, the latter seized it before it was eventually taken by Alexander the Great in 334 BC.

It is said that Alexander, while on an hunting expedition in the surroundings of Kadifekale, felt tired, wanted to take a rest, and fell asleep. The dream he dreamed, as told by Pausanias, inspired him to lay the foundations of a new city on the slopes of Kadifekale. The population of the old city had to move to this new place. Lysimachos proved faithful and had walls erected which still bear his name. The city grew and became an important center.

Smyrna, taken by the king of Pergamon after Alexander the Great, passed to the hands of Rome after the fall of Pergamon. Strabo wrote in the 1st century BC. that the most beautiful city of Ionia was Smyrna. Herodotus had the following to say: “I have been all around the world and realized that the most beautiful part of the earth and the most beautiful sky of the universe are in lonia. That must have been the reason for its being the cradle of civilizations.”

Tiberius, Hadrian and Caracalla took a close interest in Smyrna , which was highly regarded by Rome, and granted it certain privileges. The city, destroyed in I78 AD was reconstructed later by Marcus Aurelius and decorated with many beautiful structures. It became an archdiocese in Christian times, and flourished during 5th and 6th centuries AD.

However the city had to undergo the ill-starred consequences of the Arab raids and eventually became an ordinary city. Today excavations are under way at Bayrakli with the aim of uncovering the ancient Smyrna lying beneath the modern city. However it should be born in mind that the ancient city is nearly impossible to unearth. Some 30-40 years ago the theater and the stadium could still be seen but today even thls is no longer possible.

The road, referred to as the “Sacred Road”, of 10 meters width that crossed Smyrna and to which Strabo referred as the most beautiful road he had ever seen, was decorated with porticoes that have since been discovered during the excavations in the environs of Esref Pasa. We know that Smyrna, which was one of the important centers of trade, possessed under the Romans an agora near the harbor. This agora, of which some of the columns have now been redressed, is still to be seen.

The agora measuring 80 by I20 meters was discovered in 1932 by Prof. Numan. On the eastern and western facades there stood a two-storied stoa, which was decorated with two rows of columns. On the northern side there is a section 28 meters wide. Beneath the columns to the north, we see stylobates upholding the arches. A section of 72 meters in the western portico with gates has just been discovered. The agora was built towards the middle of 2nd century AD and was destroyed by an earthquake in I78 AD it was reconstructed by Marcus Aurelius. The portraits figuring now on the western arches of Marcus Aurelius and of his wife Faustina bear witness to this. Ancient authors say that an altar dedicated to Zeus stood in the middle of the Agora in 150 AD.

The artifacts unearthed in the excavations in the environs of Izmir were taken to the Archeological Museum of Izmir, which is the oldest museum in the Aegean region. This museum has now moved to its new premises at Konak. This museum must be seen for a pro Per understanding of ancient Aegean civilizations.