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History of Ancient Smyrna
Smyrna is the ancient name of Izmir which the third largest city of Modern Turkey. Located 600km south of Istanbul, the largest city of Modern Turkey. The ancient name Smyrna was believed to be the name of an Amazon woman warrior like many other cities in the Aegean coastline.
For some historians, Phyrigian King Tantalos and his family were the legendary founders of the city. The daughter of Tantalos; Niobe had 7 sons and 7 daughters. Leto who had only 2 children got embarrassed by Niobe. The twins of Leto; Artemis and Apollo killed 14 children of Niobe. Niobe was so upset that she want over to Mt. Spylos and turned into a stone.
Tantalos was very much liked by the gods. One day he invited them to a feast. To check their power he had his son Pelops cooked and served to the gods. Demeter who was upset with loss of her daughter; Persephone was the only one who ate. After this event the gods punished Tantalos and sent him to Hades. His punishment was to be thirsty in the middle of a lake. While he tried to drink water, the lake became dry. Gods gave Pelops his life back. After a while Pelops sacked from Spylos and founded Pelopenessos.
First settlement of the area goes back to 3rd millennium BC in Bayrakli today. It was an Aiolian settlement during the 10th century BC migrations from Greece. Later it became an Ionian city. The Ionian refugees took the control while the Ailoian inhabitants were away for celebrations of a feast. Aiolians of Smyrna were welcomed by other Aiolian cities. The city was attacked and ruined by Alyattes of Lydia and was under the Lydian rule till the Persians came to the area in 546 BC. In 334 BC Alexander defeated the Persians in the Battle of Granikos near today's Canakkale. Alexander stayed in the city for a few days. While he was hunting in Mt. Pagos, he fell a sleep and in his dream, saw 2 goddesses saying him to move the city to where he is now. Like before the founders of the all ancient cities, inhabitants consulted to an Apollo Temple. They went to Claros for approval. According to Strabon the new city was built by Antigonos and Lysimachos following him. Lysimachos named the city of his daughter "Eurydike". However, this name did not last long. Strabon also mentioned that Smyrna was the most beautiful among the cities. Homer, the author of the earliest and finest epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey lived in Smyrna in the 8th century BC. He made his living as a court singer and storyteller.. According to Strabon there was a temple constructed after the death of Homeros, named as "Homerion".
Today from the remains of Ancient Smyrna, travelers can only see the remains of the Roman Agora. Agora was built after the earthquake in 178AD by the Roman Emperror Marcus Aerelius and was dedicated to his wife Faustina. It was one of the largest agoras of the Roman World. Romans named Agora as Forum. The basement of the Agora is quite impressive. The basement was used as shops and their storages. There is also a cistern which was able to provide water for 7.000 people. Grafittis in Ancient Greek can be seen by the travelers.
Church of Smyrna
Smyrna is among the 7 churches of Asia Minor mentioned in the book of Revelations. It is the second church mentioned in the Book of Revelation after Ephesus. Among the 7 churches, Like Philadelphia Smyrna was among the two churches which was not criticized of their faith. In the letter to Smyrna. The message speaks of false Jews and impending persecution, but encourages perseverance which will be rewarded.
The strong allegiance to Rome plus a large Jewish population which was actively hostile to the Christians made it exceptionally difficult to live as a Christian in Smyrna. The most famous martyrdom of the early church fathers was of the elderly Polycarp, the 'twelfth martyr in Smyrna', St. Polycarp was one of the diciples of John the Apostle. He is considered to be the first bishop of S,yrna. In 155AD St. Polycarp refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord, was placed upon a pyre to be burned at the ancient theater of Smyrna by the Romans. First he was thrown to the lions. But since the lions were full, they did not eat him. Afterwards the Roman prosecutors tried to burn St. Polycarp, but that did not work out too. Last he was killed by a Roman soldier.
Smyrna, the physically persecuted church. The Christian community in Smyrna was considered as a poor community and without prestige and political power. While in contrast richly adorned temples to the pagan deities. There is no Christian commonwealth; they were a tiny minority in the community devoted to a multitude of gods. The Contrast between the city and the church is marked. The Church in Smyrna had suffered but had been faithful. Physically the church in Smyrna suffered from persecution from the Jews, and they were poor, they had few luxuries and possessions, yet spiritually they were rich in the sight of Christ. Jesus sees their affliction, he knows about it, this must be of comfort to this persecuted church. The Jewish community outside the church spoke of evil of the Christian community. John promised the Christians as a result of faithfulness even unto death, they would receive a crown of life.
In the ancient times Smyrna was famous with its wine called "Pramnos". This wine was mixed with cheese, flour and honey. They used honey to sweeten the wine and added water before drinking. Drinking wine without adding water considered as a barbaric behavior. Pramnos wine of Smyrna was mentioned by Homer.
The name Smyrna may also have been taken from the ancient Greek word for myrrh, which was the chief export of the city in ancient times. Myrrh is a gum-resin extracted from a tree. Myrrh resin was used as a perfume, incense, medicine and embalming body. Myrrh is mentioned in the New Testament as one of the three gifts that the Wise Men "from the East" presented to the Christ Child. Myrrh was also present at Jesus' death and burial. Jesus was offered wine and myrrh at his crucifixion. According to John's Gospel, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea brought a 100-pound mixture of myrrh and aloes to wrap Jesus' body The Gospel of Matthew relates that as Jesus went to the cross, he was given vinegar to drink mingled with myrrh. The Romans often added the myrrh to wine to prevent it from vinegarizing (turning sour), which also provided a narcotic to deaden pain.
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