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Smyrna Dig Reveals Ancient Greek and Roman Past

The excavation of a 2nd-century BC theater in Smyrna has revealed finds from Hellenistic and Roman times. Credit: Izmir Metropolitan Municipality

Archaeological excavations in Smyrna, today’s Izmir in Turkey, have uncovered exciting traces from the ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods, Hurriyet reports.

According to the Turkish newspaper, excavations at the Smyrna Agora and the Smyrna Theater found a Satyros relief and a body part of the Herakles statue. Findings relating to the culinary culture of Smyrna over the millennia also came to light.

Smyrna was once one of the most illustrious of all ancient and Hellenistic-era Greek cities. One of the main centers of Greek settlement in western Anatolia, it had a temple dedicated to Athena and was the residence of the epic poet Homer.

Rebuilt during the Hellenistic era, it flourished for some time, becoming a hub of Armenian and Greek culture for many years even after the Turkish occupation of the area centuries later. It remained a commercial and cultural hub of Asia Minor until the cataclysmic destruction of the city in 1922 at the hands of the Turks.

Associate Professor Akın Ersoy,  head of the Smyrna ancient city and Agora Theater excavation committee, stated that during the last two years, the remains of a gymnasium had been found in the Smryna Agora.

Finds from Greek and Roman periods of Smyrna

Archaeological excavations carried out on an area of 193 hectares have revealed thousands of objects from various periods. The artifacts provide information about the social and commercial life of the period.

Ersoy stated, according to Hurriyet, that Smyrna changed its location three times in a span of 8,500 years and said, “The third displacement is represented by the archaeological finds in Konak in the last 2,500 years. There are Byzantine, Beylics, Ottoman and Republican eras.”

The Turkish archaeologist stated that they have been working for six years to reveal the 20,000-people capacity Smyrna Theater on the outskirts of Kadifekale. “We have so far uncovered the 5,000-people capacity section.”

The seats of the ancient theater, which was abandoned after serving for 700 years in the 4th century, were buried for hundreds of years. They were finally unearthed, becoming the first revelations of the theater, perched on a rocky hill with a magnificent view of Smyrna that is yet to be fully unveiled.

A restroom with running water used by actors in the theater was recently discovered.

The latrine, for use by actors in the theater only, was constructed in the second century AD. Archeologists believe this makes the facilities the first of their kind anywhere in the Mediterranean.

The Turkish archaeologist told Hurriyet that traces and finds are related not only to architectural works but also to Ottoman cuisine, culture and lifestyle in Smyrna.

Smyrna, with its Levantine and other communities, was a multi-ethnic city during the Ottoman era. “We see that materials for every taste were sold. A part of this is European ceramics. These ceramics, especially from Italy and France, were fondly used on the tables of the houses,” Akın Ersoy said.


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