Izmir is situated on the Aegean coast, at the head of the 50 km long Gulf of Izmir. It is the country’s third city, the second-largest port, and also one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean world.
The original site of Izmir, known then as Smyrna, was settled in the third millennium BC and is thought to have been contemporary with the first city of Troy. By 1500 BC it had become subject to the Hittite Empire. Greeks began to populate the region some 500 years later, and Smyrna is alluded to by the historian Herodotus. It is widely held that Homer may have lived in the city. Smyrna emerged as one of the most important and influential of the Ionian cities. This period of prosperity was brought to an end by the invasion of Lydia in 600 BC, when the thriving town was reduced to a village. It remained small and insignificant until the fourth century BC when a new city was built on the ancient site under the command of Alexander the Great. When Smyrna was occupied by Rome in the first century BC it was chosen as the centre of the Roman province of Asia.
Under the rule of the Byzantine emperors, Smyrna was made the capital of the naval province of Samos, and was a significant early Christian city. It became Islamic after the Seljuk conquest of the eleventh century, and was eventually incorporated into the Ottoman empire in 1415 under Sultan Mehmet Celebi. Despite suffering serious earthquakes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Izmir retained its position as an important and prosperous port.
In May 1919 the port was occupied by Greek forces, and remained subject to Greek control for 3 years until it was liberated by Turkish troops led by Kemal Atatürk. During the course of this struggle the city was virtually destroyed by a fire. After World War II Izmir began to expand once again. It was selected as the command centre for NATO’s land forces in southeast Europe. In 1955 the Aegean University was founded.
The central commercial district of Izmir is called Konak, while to the southwest lie the primarily residential areas of Karantina and Güzelyali. On the north side are the recently expanded harbour and the industrial suburbs. Izmir has petrochemical and engineering works, and produces cement, food, cotton and woollen textiles. Its major exports include figs, cotton, vegetables and tobacco.
Places of Interest
The Culture Parks contain gardens, an amusement park and a zoo, all of which are popular with visitors. The Archaeological museum houses a notable collection of antiquities including famous statues of Poseidon and Demeter.