Map of the Roman Empire - Smyrna
N-6 on the Map
Ancient Smyrna - A city of Ionia, and later of the Roman province of Asia. It was situated on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. The Bible reveals Smyrna as one of the 'seven churches' of Asia in the Book of Revelation, Rev. 1:11; 2. 8ff. Smyrna is an ancient Greek word meaning myrrh. The modern name is Izmir.
Rev. 1:11 - Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send [it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
Rev. 2.8ff. - And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Smyrna (Σμύρνα), and in some manuscripts Zmyrna. Now Smyrna (Turkish, Izmir); an ancient city of Asia Minor, the only one of the great cities on the coast that still remains of importance as a commercial port. It lay on the river Meles at the eastern end of the Sinus Smyrnaeus, whose depth allowed the largest ships to anchor at the very walls of the city. From it stretched back the great valley of the Hermus, in which lay the rich city of Sardis (q.v.), of which Smyrna served as the principal seaport. It was probably Aeolian in its origin, founded by colonists from Cymé (Herod.i. 150; Pausan. vii. 5, 1), but became a possession of the Ionians of Colophon, and from that time was politically classed with the Ionian cities. As to the time when it became a member of the Panionic Confederacy, we have only a very untrustworthy account, which refers its admission to the reign of Attalus, king of Pergamum. Its early history is also very obscure. There is an account in Strabo (p. 646) that it was destroyed by the Lydian king Sadyattes, and that its inhabitants were compelled to live in scattered villages until after the Macedonian conquest, when the city was rebuilt, twenty stadia from its former site, by Antigonus; but this is inconsistent with Pindar's mention of Smyrna as a beautiful city ( Fr. 155). Thus much is clear, however, that at some period the old city of Smyrna, which stood on the northeastern side of the Hermaean Gulf, was abandoned, and that it was succeeded by a new city on the southeastern side of the same gulf (the present site), which is said to have been built by Antigonus, and which was enlarged and beautified by Lysimachus. This new city stood partly on the sea-shore and partly on a hill called Mastusia. The streets were paved with stone, and crossed one another at right angles. The city soon became one of the greatest and most prosperous in the world. It was especially favoured by the Romans on account of the aid it rendered them in the Syrian and Mithridatic Wars. It was the seat of a conventus iuridicus. In the Civil Wars it was taken and partly destroyed by Dolabella, but it soon recovered. It occupies a distinguished place in the early history of Christianity, as one of the only two among the Seven Churches of Asia which St. John addresses in the Apocalypse without any admixture of rebuke, and as the scene of the labours and martyrdom of Polycarp. In the years A.D. 178- 180 a succession of earthquakes, to which the city has always been much exposed, reduced it almost to ruins; but it was restored by the emperor M. Antoninus. In the successive wars under the Eastern Empire it was frequently much injured, but always recovered; and, under the Turks, who took it in A.D. 1424, it has survived repeated attacks of earthquake, fire, and plague, and still remains the great commercial city of the Levant. There are but few ruins of the ancient city. In addition to her other sources of renown, Smyrna stood at the head of the seven cities which claimed the birth of Homer. The poet was worshipped as a hero in a magnificent building called the Homereum (Ὁμήρειον). Near the sea-shore there stood a magnificent temple of Cybelé, whose head decorated the coins of the city. - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.
Smyrna, " myrrh-producing," I. the capital of Ionia. on Hermius sin. There were two successive cities of the name; the elder, named after the Amazon Smyrna, was built by the Ephesians, at the mouth of Meles fl.: the second, commanded by Alexander the Great in consequence of a dream, commenced by Antigonus, and completed by Lysimachus, stood 2$ m. higher up the river, under Pagus m. The birth-place of Homer and of Quintus Calaber. Smyrna. II. the early name of Ephesus, from the Amazon Smyrna. - Classical Gazetteer
Map of the Roman Empire (Enlarged)
Click on a Location
SMYRNA (Σμύρνα: Eth. Σμυρναῖος, 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 [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.) - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.
Smyrna (Ancient Greek: Σμύρνη or Σμύρνα) was an ancient city located
at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its
advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland
connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites
within modern Izmir, Turkey. While the first site, likely to have started as a
native foundation, rose to prominence during the Archaic Period as one of the
principal ancient Greek settlements in western Anatolia, the second, whose
foundation is associated with Alexander the Great, reached metropolitan
proportions especially during the period of the Roman Empire, from which time
and particularly from after a 2nd century AD earthquake, most of the present-day
remains date. In practical terms, a distinction is often made between Old
Smyrna, the initial settlement founded around the 11th century BC, first as an
Aeolian settlement, and later taken over and developed during the Archaic Period
by the Ionians, and Smyrna proper, the new city moved into from the older one as
of the 4th century BC and whose foundation was inspired, and perhaps also
initiated, by Alexander the Great. Old Smyrna was located on a small peninsula
connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at the northeastern corner of the
inner Gulf of İzmir, at the edge of a fertile plain and at the foot of Mount
Yamanlar which had seen the earlier Anatolian settlement commanding the gulf.
New Smyrna developed simultaneously on the slopes of the Mount Pagos (Kadifekale
today) and alongside the coastal strait immediately below where a small bay
existed until the 18th century. The core of the late Hellenistic and early Roman
Smyrna forms today the large area of İzmir Agora Open Air Museum at this site.
Research is being pursued at the sites of both the old and the new cities in a
continuous manner and in a regionalized structure, since 1997 for Old Smyrna and
since 2002 for the Classical Period city, in collaboration between İzmir
Archaeology Museum and the Metropolitan Municipality of İzmir.
Roman History. At the end of the Hellenistic period, in 197 BC, the city suddenly cut its ties with King Eumenes of Pergamum and instead appealed to Rome for help. Because Rome and Smyrna had had no ties until then, Smyrna created a cult of Rome to establish a bond, and the cult eventually became widespread through the whole Roman Empire. As of 195 BC, the city of Rome started to be deified, in the cult to the goddess Roma. In this sense, the Smyrneans can be considered as the creators of the goddess Roma.
In 133 BC, when the last Attalid king Eumenes III died without an heir, his will conferred his entire kingdom, including Smyrna, to the Romans. They organized it into the Roman province of Asia, making Pergamum the capital. Smyrna, however, as a major seaport, became a leading city in the newly constituted province.
As one of the principal cities of Roman Asia, Smyrna vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title "First City of Asia." A Christian church existed here from a very early time, probably originating in the considerable Jewish colony. It was one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. Saint Ignatius of Antioch visited Smyrna and later wrote letters to its bishop, Polycarp. A mob of Jews and pagans abetted the martyrdom of Polycarp in AD 153. Saint Irenaeus, who heard Polycarp as a boy, was probably a native of Smyrna. Another famous resident of the same period was Aelius Aristides. Polycrates reports a succession of bishops including Polycarp of Smryna, as well as others in nearby cities such as Melito of Sardis. Related to that time the German historian W. Bauer wrote:
Asian Jewish Christianity received in turn the knowledge that henceforth the "church" would be open without hesitation to the Jewish influence mediated by Christians, coming not only from the apocalyptic traditions, but also from the synagogue with its practices concerning worship, which led to the appropriation of the Jewish passover observance. Even the observance of the sabbath by Christians appears to have found some favor in Asia...we find that in postapolstolic times, in the period of the formation of ecclesiastical structure, the Jewish Christians in these regions come into prominence.
In the late 2nd century, Irenaeus also noted:
Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna…always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp.
Tertullian wrote c. 208 AD.
Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this.
Hence, apparently the church in Smyrna was one of only two that Tertullian felt could have had some type of apostolic succession. During the mid-3rd century, however, changes occurred in Asia Minor, and most there became affiliated with the Greco-Roman churches. - Wikipedia
Return to the Map of the Roman Empire
Return to Bible History Online