Izmir, Turkey

An Antipodean travel company serving world travellers since 1983

İzmir Konak Square

Izmir, Turkey

Izmir is the location of the ancient Smyrna situated in the Gulf of Izmir on the Aegean Sea. This city only recently lost to Istanbul, after 1400 years, the honour of being the largest export port of Asia Minor. With a population of just under 4 million people, it is the third largest city of the modern Republic of Turkey and is the capital of Izmir Province.

Izmir City panoramic view from building in city. Izmir is the third biggest city of Turkey.

The city has a 5,000-year history. It was here that Alexander the Great built a fortress “Pearl of the Aegean” and it was also the hometown of Homer, author of the great epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Like Pergamum, Sardis and Ephesus, Smyrna was one of the seven churches of Asia in Revelations having “the church that would suffer persecution”.

Sardis, located east of Izmir, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, and the metropolis of the province Lydia in later Roman times and during the Byzantine. At the Sardis site the bath-gymnasium complex, the synagogue and Byzantine shops are all clearly visible as is the on-going excavation of the site supported, as in the past, by universities from USA. The discovery of the Sardis synagogue reversed previously held assumptions about Judaism in the later Roman Empire.

Ephesus (Efes) is south of Izmir and is visited on the way to Kusadasi. It was established in ancient times as a port and used to be the most important commercial centre located in the fertile valley of the River Maeander. Over time flood deposits from the river silted up the harbour so that the sea front is now several kilometres to the west of Ephesus. With the demise of the harbour, Ephesus’ importance as a commercial centre declined. Ephesus, near the modern town of Selcuk, is considered to be the best-preserved classical city of the Eastern Mediterranean. This most impressive site is easily accessible, especially by tourists visiting the port of Kusadasi by ship, and so is extremely busy and popular. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis completed around 550 BC, which was destroyed in 263 BC. Although there was partial rebuilding of the city, earthquakes destroyed the city in later times. One estimate suggests that only 15% of the site has been excavated with work to date revealing the Roman Baths, the Temple of Hadrian, Celsus Library, two agoras and a theatre with a seating capacity of 44 000 people.

There are many connections and relationships between sites in the Selcuk area and early Christianity, with it being claimed that St John the Evangelist brought the Virgin Mary here in 37 AD and that she spent the last years of her life here in a modest stone house.

On our Ancient Turkey tour and first full day in Izmir with your tour guide, we visit the ancient world Sardis archaeological site and ruins and then Izmir History & Art Museum. The next day is left free for you to explore Izmir on your own, without your usual tour guide. On the way to Çanakkale we visit the Pergamum and Asclepion archaeological sites.

The Library of Celsus, built in A.D. 135, in the ancient city of Ephesus.

Set on a hill high above the modern town of Bergama are the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Pergamum (or Pergamon) and the first excavations here were between 1878 and 1886. Sometimes referred to as the Acropolis, this city, built by one of Alexander’s generals, had its golden age in the Roman Period 281 – 133 BC. On the site are several palaces, the library, two agora temples along with two outstanding structures, the Sanctuary of Trajan and the exceedingly steep Hellenistic Theatre. Many of the smaller treasures and the Altar of Zeus have unfortunately been exported and are now found as museum exhibits in Berlin.

Pergamon, ruins of the roman city

Close to Bergama is the Asclepion named after the health god. There was a connecting road between Pergamum and the Asclepion, a place of medicine and healing that was founded in the 4th century BC. Claudius Galenus, who is better known as Galen of Pergamon and who was a very prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher, established his reputation in Pergamum. Excavation started here in 1927 with the most recent between 1969 and 1971.

Odyssey’s Turkey tour will take your small group tour to Izmir for 3 nights.