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THE CITY OF IZMIR

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Izmir (Turkey)

THE CITY OF IZMIR

Izmir is situated on the west of the Anatolia peninsula on the coast of the Aegean Sea. It is the third largest city in Turkey and is the main port of the Aegean Region. It is a cosmopolitan city that has been enriched by many cultures both recent and ancient. In fact, the latest excavations of the “Ye┼čilova Tumulus” near the district of Bornova, have revealed that the earliest inhabitants of Izmir date back to 8500 BC.

The rebuilding of the city of Izmir in 334 BC was in large part due to Alexander the Great, who, according to legend, had a dream as he slept under a plane tree after hunting on Mt. Pagus (present-day Kadifekale at the top of the hill in the city center). In his dream, the goddess Nemesis requested that Alexander create a new city and bring the citizens of the old city there. Upon waking, Alexander shared his dream with the Oracle of Claros. The Oracle’s reply was simple:  “The citizens of Smyrna who move and settle on the hillside of Mt. Pagus by the Sacred Meles Stream shall be four times happier than before”.

The city of Izmir, was a leading center of commerce, art and culture of the ancient world. The oldest name given to the city was Smyrna, after the Amazon warrior-queen of Hellenistic mythology. The Hellenistic people founded Smyrna, on the tumulus known nowadays as Tepekule.  This city was home to Homer, the poet-writer of the greatest epic of the world, The Iliad, the first written masterpiece of western civilization.

Throughout ancient history, Izmir served as the cradle of the Hittite, Hellenistic, Lydian and Persian civilizations; as well as acting as the corner stones of the Pergamum, Byzantine, Seljuk, Venician, Genoese, Germianids civilizations and the Ottoman Empire too.

Below are some memorable historic notes regarding Izmir and environs:
- The first all-marble temple of the world was constructed in Ephesus;
- The oldest and the longest street of the Hellenic world was the 120-meter Athena Avenue used during the 7– 4 BC;
- The Iliad, the first written masterpiece of western civilization, was sung by Homer in Izmir, at the banks of the Meles stream, between 750-700 BC;
- In 1841, the first theater, Euterpe, was founded;
- In 1850, Garko, a doctor in Izmir, formulated a medicine for diabetes, using herbs of the Aegean region;
- The first private newspaper in Turkey, the “Spectateur Oriental”, was printed in Izmir, in French on March 24, 1881 by Alexander Balcque;
- The first football team in Turkey was assembled in Izmir, in 1890).

In more recent years the city thrived as such a commercial and cultural center that the first railway lines providing access inland were laid here. Turks, Levantines (Italian, French and English tradesmen) and Greeks; in other words Moslems, Christians, Greek Orthodox and Jews lived together in harmony as citizens of this benevolent city. This ethnic diversity helped instill the warmth and friendliness the city offers today.