top of page

Panorama of Smyrna by the Marquis de Laborde (1838)

Smyra (modern İzmir) is a city on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, once part of the province of Asia. Its late antique history is obscure, with only a few epigrams providing evidence for construction or maintenance of public works. The city walls were restored by Arcadius and Heraclius. Muawiyah devastated the city in 654, and the Arabs occupied it in 672/3. Smyrna was a major naval base that gained importance as the harbor of Ephesus silted up. According to Constantine VII, Smyrna was a city of the Thrakesion theme and at the same time capital of the theme of Samos. The city also had an archon, apparently a maritime governor. 
Smyrna played a more significant role after Alexios I recaptured it from Tzachas in 1097 and made it a naval base for operations in Asia Minor. It was then put under a doux; by 1133 it was again a city of Thrakesion. Smyrna had considerable importance under the Laskarids, for whom it was the major military and commercial port, as well as a center of silk production and of education. John III Vatatzes built the powerful upper fortress, still well preserved. Smyrna was then administered by a katepano, later by a prokathemenos. The documents of the Lembiotissa Monastery reveal considerable information about the region in this period. By 1261 Smyrna had a Genoese colony that prospered into the 14th C. After 1304, the city was capital of Thrakesion but was practically surrounded by the Turks of Aydın, who captured its fortress in 1317. A joint fleet of the Hospitallers, Venetians, Cypriots, and some other Latin rulers of Aegean islands took Smyrna by surprise in. 1344, and the city remained in the hands of the Latins until it was seized by Timur after the battle of Ankara in 1402. 
In 1415, Sultan Mehmet I Celebi incorporated Smyrna into the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman rule, which was to last almost exactly five centuries, brought renewed stability and prosperity to Smyrna (now called İzmir), and the city regained its former prominence—even though Mehmet’s successors were confronted with repeated Venetian efforts to take the town in the late fifteenth century. Many Jews expelled from Spain after 1492 settled in Smyrna, taming a large and lasting Sephardic community. Izmir would remain an important commercial and cosmopolitan port through Ottoman rule, and almost every major international mercantile power established a community there. Much of the city was destroyed in a fire of 1922 during the Greco-Turkish War.
It was one of the seven churches of the province of Asia listed in the Book of Revelations. Long a suffragan of Ephesus, Smyrna became autocephalous in 451-57 and metropolis in the 9th C. It had only three suffragans. 

 Section under construction 


Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium

International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe

bottom of page