Size Third largest city in Turkey
Altitude Sea level
Industry Textiles, cigarettes, soap and food processing plants
Agriculture Wheat, barley, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, olives, grapes, figs
Animal husbandry Not very common
History Aeolian, Ionian, Lydian, Persian, Alexander the Great, Lysimachus, Roman, Arab, Seljuk, Ottoman and Turkish Republic

Izmir (formerly Smyrna) is a city in west central Turkey on the Aegean Sea at the eastern end of the Gulf of Izmir. The ancient name Smyrna was believed to be the name of an Amazon woman warrior. The epic poet Homer was born in Smyrna.

The excellent port facilities and the introduction of the railroad contributed to early industrialization.

Agricultural products and carpets are major exports. The city is the home of the Aegean University (1955) and an archaeological museum. There are not many archeological remains to see except an agora, the ancient aqueducts and the exhibits in the Museum of Archeology. The splendid beaches in the Izmir area attract lots of tourists to the city.

At the end of World War I Izmir was occupied by Greek forces and the Treaty of Sévres (1920) awarded the city and its surroundings to Greece. Turkish nationalist forces captured the city in September 1922 and its large Rum population fled. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) gave Izmir to the new Turkish Republic.

Smyrna, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

(Revelation 2:8-11)

(8) “To the leader of the church in Smyrna write this letter:

“This message is from him who is the First and Last, who was dead and then came back to life.

(9) “I know how much you suffer for the Lord and I know all about your poverty (but you have heavenly riches!). I know the slander of those opposing you, who say that they are Jews —the children of God—but they aren’t, for they support the cause of Satan. (10) Stop being afraid of what you are about to suffer—for the devil will soon throw some of you into prison to test you. You will be persecuted for “ten days.” Remain faithful even when facing death and I will give you the crown of life—an unending, glorious future. (11) Let everyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: He who is victorious shall not be hurt by the Second Death.

Homer was the author of the earliest and finest epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Although modern scholars hold conflicting theories on the authorship of these poems, the ancient world believed that a blind poet named Homer had composed them. Tradition has it that he lived in the 12C BC, around the time of the Trojan War, in an Ionic settlement, Smyrna, where he made his living as a court singer and storyteller.

Modern archaeological research has uncovered artifacts similar to those described in the poems, providing evidence that Homer wrote at a later date. Because the poems display a considerable knowledge of the East or Ionia and are written in the dialect of that region, most scholars now think that Homer was Ionian of the 8-9C BC. Homer wrote nothing of himself in his poems.

The question of how the poems were composed remains a matter for debate. It is likely that Homer and his audience were members of a preliterate, oral culture and that his poems were written down long after their original composition. 19C scholars argued that one person could not memorize so long a text and that the poems must have been compiled by an editor, who merged several independent works into a consistent whole. This view is supported by scholars’ opinions concerning the occasional inconsistencies of narrative and awkward transitions from subject to subject.

The 20C studies of preliterate societies have shown, however, that lengthy works can be composed orally by poets whose recitations belong to a long tradition of storytelling. Homer was probably a practitioner of an inherited art, retelling a story that his audience had heard many times before. Differences of language and style between the Iliad and the Odyssey have led some critics to argue that each is the work of a different poet.

A literary critic suggested, however, that the Iliad was the work of Homer’s youth and the Odyssey of his maturity.

The Iliad portrays a universe marred by moral disorder, but the Odyssey shows gods punishing men for their sins and granting a good man his just reward. His influence on later literature may be traced from Hesiod to the present day.

Sardis was an ancient political and cultural center of Anatolia, and the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia. The King of Lydia was Croesus and he was very rich. He is even referred to in the saying “as rich as Croesus”. Much of the wealth of Sardis is thought to have come from a gold-bearing stream that ran through the city called the Pactolos River (Sartcay).

History of Sardis
Sardis was the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia. After prosperous days of Lydian period, Sardis fell to Cyrus the Great of Persia in 546 BC. The city continued to flourish through the periods of Alexander the Great, Romans and Byzantines until it was inhabited by the Turks and then deserted. It was here at Sardis that one of the “Seven Churches” had been founded. Investigations begun in 1910 by an American expedition exposed a well-preserved temple of Artemis along with a series of Lydian tombs dating from the 7C BC and later. Since 1958 ongoing archaeological research at the site has uncovered, in addition to important Lydian-period finds, several later monuments, notably a gymnasium and synagogue of the 2-3C AD and several Byzantine shops. Sardis also became the westernmost terminus of the Royal Road from Susa.

Sardis, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

(Revelation 3:1-6)

(1) “To the leader of the church in Sardis write this letter:

“This message is sent to you by the one who has the seven-fold Spirit of God and the seven stars.

“I know your reputation as a live and active church, but you are dead. (2) Now wake up! Strengthen what little remains—for even what is left is at the point of death. Your deeds are far from right in the sight of God. (3) Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly and turn to me again. Unless you do, I will come suddenly upon you, unexpected as a thief and punish you.

(4) “Yet even there is Sardis some haven’t soiled their garments with the world’s filth; they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. (5) Everyone who conquers will be clothed in white and I will not erase his name from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that he is mine.

(6) “Let all who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The Site

The ruins of Sardis can be divided into four areas: the Acropolis on Bozdag (Mount Tmolos), the Pactolos Valley where the Artemis Temple was built, the city located on both sides of the modern highway between Ankara and Izmir and finally Bintepeler (the Thousand Hills) consisting of hundreds of Lydian tombs.

The ruins to the north of the highway are what were then public toilets, gymnasium and a synagogue. To the south of the synagogue was the main road of the city which had various shops, including a hardware store and a paint shop. The road once formed the westernmost stretch of the Royal Road. These ruins are of Byzantine period and have been dated to the 4C AD.

The Synagogue is from the 3C AD and once was a part of the gymnasium and restored to be a synagogue. Sardis has the largest known ancient synagogue. Its size and grandeur are a testimony to the prosperity of the Jews in Sardis during Roman times and to their eminent position in the city. It was probably not originally planned to be a synagogue as it has a very different layout. It faces the direction of Jerusalem and the entrance is also from the same side through three gates, which open from the courtyard into the main assembly hall. After entering, one has to turn back to see the two shrines between the gates. At the opposite end of the hall there is a semicircular apse with three rows of marble seats which were thought to be for the elders. The floors were mostly covered with mosaics.

The Gymnasium is a large complex consisting of a palaestra next to the synagogue, colonnades on three sides and the main building with the recently-restored ornate facade. According to its inscription, it was dedicated by the people of Sardis to Geta and Caracalla, the sons of Septimus Severus and to their mother Julia Domna.

It was a complex of symmetrically arranged rooms.

The Artemis Temple is located in the Pactolos Valley and was one of the seven largest ancient temples with eight columns at each end and twenty along each side. It was believed that an altar dedicated to Artemis had existed there as early as the 5C BC. The temple was built in stages, the first part being constructed in 300 BC. Later further construction took place in the 2C BC. Again only part of the project was completed. The third stage started in the 2C AD. At this stage the cella was divided into two halves by an internal cross-wall, the western half dedicated to Artemis and the other half to the Empress Faustina, who was deified after her death.

The fact that many Artemis temples in the Aegean region face west is testimony to Ekrem Akurgal’s conclusion that all these temples were connected to each other by an earlier Anatolian religious cult.

Ruins of a small building at the southeastern corner of the temple belong to a 4C AD church. According to some sources it is referred to as one of the Seven Churches of the Revelation. However, this cannot be correct as congregations not the actual buildings were meant by churches at that time.

Philadelphia was founded by Attalus II of the Kingdom of Pergamum in 189 BC. It was a relatively young city when compared to similar cities of Anatolia. It was built upon an elevated terrace above the valley which lay on the Persian Royal Road.Because of its founder’s love and loyalty for his brother Eumenes II, the city was called Philadelphia which meant “city of brotherly love”.

There is not much to see from the early days of the city except some ruins of city walls composed of rough stone blocks of coarse workmanship and a basilica. The workmanship, the type of arches and materials used in the construction indicate that the building dates from the late Byzantine period.

Philadelphia achieved its fame as one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Philadelphia, One of the Seven Churches of Revelation

Philadelphia and Smyrna were the only two churches about which nothing negative was said by John.

(Revelation 3:7-13)

(7) “Write this letter to the leader of the church in Philadelphia:

“This message is sent to you by the one who is holy and true and has the key of David to open what no one can shut and to shut what no one can open.

(8) “I know you well; you aren’t strong, but you have tried to obey and have not denied my Name. Therefore I have opened a door to you that no one can shut.

(9) “Note this: I will force those supporting the causes of Satan while claiming to be mine (but they aren’t—they are lying) to fall at your feet and acknowledge that you are the ones I love.

(10) “Because you have patiently obeyed me despite the persecution, therefore I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation and temptation, which will come upon the world to test everyone alive. (11) Look, I am coming soon! Hold tightly to the little strength you have—so that no one will take away your crown.

(12) “As for the one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; he will be secure and will go out no more; and I will write my God’s Name on him and he will be a citizen in the city of my God— the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from my God; and he will have my new Name inscribed upon him.

(13) “Let all who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

0s because of the intensive migration from the rural areas to the urban centers.

Only 40% of the current population of Istanbul and 60% of Ankara or Izmir consist of people who were originally born in those cities. These figures also include the children of newly migrated people.

From the religious point of view, although there is no official religion, 99% of the people living in Turkey are Moslems, the majority of whom are Sunnis. The remaining 1% are of different religions or indeed irreligious.Under the frames of the Lausanne Peace Treaty signed on July 24, 1923, the definition of the minorities was made as “non-Moslems” and their rights were granted as follows:

  • The freedoms of living, religious beliefs and migration
  • The rights of legal and political equality
  • Using the mother tongue in the courts
  • Opening their own schools or similar institutions
  • The holding of religious ceremonies

Minorities enjoy equal legal rights under the Constitution, which describes Turkey as a secular state and guarantees “freedom of conscience, religious faith and opinion” to all citizens, each of whom is legally a Turkish citizen.

a) Armenians of Anatolia

Armenians have lived in Istanbul since 1197 AD. New settlements appeared in Kumkapi, Yenikapi and Samatya after Mehmet II’s conquest of the city (1453).

The Armenians started to emigrate worldwide from 1896 onwards, however many returned after the inauguration of the first Turkish Parliament (1908) and took part in political life. Their population fell from around 240,000 in the 1850s to 150,000 at the turn of the century.

Today a total of 55,000 Armenians live within the boundaries of Turkey. They contribute to the country’s culture, science and the arts by continuing their traditions, intermarriages and trades (particularly as printers, jewelers and coppersmiths).

b) Jews of Anatolia

The history of the Jews in Anatolia goes back to the 4C BC. Some ancient synagogue ruins have also been found in Sardis, dating from 220 BC.

When the Ottomans captured Bursa in 1324 and made it their capital, they found and welcomed a Jewish community which had been oppressed under Byzantine rule.

The Balkan Jews were aware of the Ottoman tolerance towards other religions and migrated to Murat I’s territories. Later Ashkenazi Jews fled to Anatolia, followed by Byzantine Jews and received by Mehmet II. It was Bayezit II who offered safety for the refugees of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

Throughout history, Jews have not only found religious asylum in Turkey, but also become part of its society and assumed important roles in different fields.

Today 26,000 Jewish people live in Turkey. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a community of about 2,500 in Izmir and other smaller groups are located mainly in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Canakkale, Iskenderun and Kirklareli.

The Jewish minority is more complex than other minorities because it lacks homogeneity in language and history.

Most Jews are Sephardic whose ancestors fled from the Inquisition or were expelled from Spain and Portugal during and after 1492. In general they speak different mother tongues, such as Turkish, Ladino or French.

c) Rums (Greeks of Anatolia)

Rums in Turkey today are of Byzantine origin. In the 1970s they formed the largest non-Moslem minority in the country. Their number, however, is decreasing and according to recent estimates there are less than 25,000 Rums most of which are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Istanbul Rums are successfully engaged in business and finance and some live on the two islands of Gokceada and Bozcaada, off the entrance to the Dardanelles.

Anatolia, an Ethnic Mosaic
As previously discussed, Anatolia has been a melting pot of racially and culturally distinct groups since early prehistoric times. Throughout history, because of its location and fertility of the land, it has always attracted the attention of various peoples. These people, with different origins, have always lived in peace providing a good example for other countries.The policies of the National State, without taking into consideration the ethnical or historical differences, encourage people to unite under a “national identity”. In other words, the ethnic-historical identity will not always be identical to the official-national identity.

The number of the ethnic groups that take part in today’s Turkey is about 50. The major ethnic groups are Turks, Kurds, Circassians, Laz people of the northern coast, Caucasians, Georgians, Bosnians and Albanians.

The majority of these ethnic groups have lost their ethnic identity within the unity of Anatolia. However, there are some who still continue to preserve and nurture their identities, traditions and language.

A Regional Problem
The largest of the ethnic groups after the Turks is the Kurds. An estimated 5-10 million people are ethnically Kurdish. The majority of these people speak Turkish and they do not live solely in the east or southeast but in all regions of Turkey.However, the Kurdish terrorist organization, PKK which has been active in the southeast of Turkey, claims:

1. The majority of people living in the southeast of the country are originally Kurds and therefore the region should be granted autonomy.

2. Kurds in Turkey are treated as second class citizens.

3. Kurds cannot use their mother tongue.

4. Kurds in Turkey are deprived of their political rights.

Their mottoes are “Freedom for the Kurdish Nation” and “War on behalf of Identity and Freedom”. Since the beginning of terrorism by the PKK in 1984, thousands of citizens and security staff have been killed or wounded. Thousands of terrorists have been caught.

This outlawed separatist terrorist organization, under the pretense of fighting for freedom, does not recognize any international laws and in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by conducting attacks, killing infants, women, men, old and young. They have also set hospitals and schools on fire and have killed teachers and doctors. The Turkish Armed Forces try to prevent attacks and protect civilians.

The PKK managed to give a false impression both to some people in the region and to the world at large. However this impression is not accepted by many countries and the PKK has been declared internationally as a terrorist organization and all activities of the PKK have been banned in those countries today. It is generally thought that the PKK is a separatist group which should not be confused with the Kurdish people and it is not considered representative of the Kurds.

The 10th article of the Turkish Constitution states that “All citizens are equal before the law with no discrimination as to language, race, color, political leanings, philosophy, religion and similar factors.” All citizens have the right to vote and to be elected. As a result, there have been many Kurdish generals, professors, politicians and citizens of prominence. The eighth Turkish president, Turgut Ozal, was of Kurdish origin.

Speaking Kurdish, publishing books, magazines and newspapers or the singing of Kurdish songs are not prohibited. But for the sake of unity and considering the richness of ethnic origins, the official language is Turkish.

Turks as Citizens of Other Countries
Turks living in other countries can be summarized as follows:

People who, from Central Asia, have not come to Anatolia with others.

People who have stayed out of the borders after the Republic.

People who have gone to other countries as workers.

When the borders of the Ottoman Empire became smaller after World War I and the foundation of the new Republic, many Turkish people chose to stay outside Turkey’s borders. Since then, some of them have migrated to Turkey but there are still many ethnically Turkish people living in different countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Syria and Iraq. Among these are Turkish Cypriots who form a problem on the island.

The Cyprus Problem
The island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean is the homeland of two distinct peoples, one is Turkish the other is of Greek origin. The majority of these are Greek and they are the descendants of the people who came to the island in the year 1100 BC. The Turkish people on the island consist of those who came during the Ottoman Empire, 16C and those who migrated afterwards. These two peoples have different national, linguistic, cultural, social and religious characteristics. In 1960, independence and sovereignty were transferred to a joint bi-communal State on the basis of a contractual constitution, which created an equal partnership between the two peoples.

This partnership came to a violent end three years later as a result of disagreements between the two peoples.

The intervention of Greece and Turkey took place in the following years. In 1974, the military junta in Athens instigated a coup in Cyprus in an attempt to unite the country with Greece. Turkey used military force on the island to protect the Turkish population and war between Greece and Turkey was narrowly averted.

In the present political situation, there are two independent governments and administrations belonging to Greek and Turkish Cypriots in each the north and south of the island.

The core of the problem in Cyprus is the relationship between the Turkish and Greek Cypriots, which is not one of majority or minority, but one of equal partnership.

The question to which an answer is sought today is this: “Can the Turkish and Greek Cypriots form a new political partnership in federal form through which they will peacefully share power on the basis of political equality?”

Emigration reached its peak between the years 1960-1970. In the beginning it was in the direction of Western Europe but later also to some Arabic countries. The number of people who have emigrated from Turkey, including their families is around 2.5-3 million. 1.6 million of these people live in Germany today.In order to contribute to the postwar reconstruction of Europe, the Turkish people were invited as “guest” workers. Those who were mostly from the so-called backward areas of Turkey did not always create a favorable image of Turkey in the countries to which they went.

Most immigrants in Western Europe are first generation and regard where they live as their home rather than as a temporary place of abode. For the second generation, the tendency to regard Europe as their home is understandably stronger.

Although they are increasingly becoming an important factor in the economies of those countries, in many instances they have not yet been given the right to stand or even vote in local elections.