The Port of Izmir is Turkey's third largest city and a major port. Lying at the head of the Gulf of Izmir on off the Aegean Sea on Turkey's west central shores, the Port of Izmir rests on the delta plain of the Kizilcullu River (known in ancient times as the Meles) about 40 kilometers southeast of the Turkish Port of Aliaga. The old citadel of the ancient Port of Izmir is located atop Mount Pagus south of the modern commercial center. In 2000, over 2.2 million people lived in the greater metropolitan area of the Port of Izmir.
Located on the site of ancient Smyrna, the classical Greek city-state, the Port of Izmir is the capital of Izmir Province, and it contains ten separate and unique metropolitan districts. The Port of Izmir was privatized in 2007, and it handles more exports than any other Turkish port. A Turkish-US joint venture established its free zone in 1990. The workforce in the Port of Izmir is a growing class of young professionals who work for an increasingly international community of companies. The Port of Izmir is regarded as one of Turkey's most progressive cities.
The Port of Izmir is one of the oldest cities in the Mediterranean region, having been inhabited and important over the past five thousand years. The archaeological sites of Yesilova Hoyuk and Yassitepe on the plain of Bornova contain evidence of settlement by the indigenous peoples of Izmir as far back as 6500 to 4000 BC. Other archaeological evidence confirms a settlement dating from the 3rd millennium BC that was contemporary with the first Troy. Pottery found at excavations attests to the presence of a Greek settlement in about 1000 BC. Greek historian Herodotus wrote about the ancient city of Smyrna (now Izmir). By the 7th Century BC, Izmir was an advanced city with huge fortifications and many two-story homes.
By 1500 BC, the area was controlled by the Hittite Empire, and writings from that culture mention Izmir in their records. In the 1200s BC, invaders from the Balkans defeated the Hittite Empire and drove the region if Izmir/Smyrna into a dark age that lasted about four centuries until the Phrygian civilization emerged. The oldest home in the Bayrakli district of Izmir and ancient Smyrna dates to 900 BC. It was about this time that city walls and ramparts began to appear. From that time, Smyrna was recognized as a city-state with about one thousand residents. Outside the Port of Izmir were olive trees and vineyards, and stonecutters and potters had workshops. It is said that Homer was born in Smyrna on the banks of the Meles stream in the 8th Century BC. As one of the twelve Ionian cities, Smyrna was one of the known world's most important cultural centers, reaching its peak between 650 and 545 BC.
Drawn by the Port of Izmir's wealth, Alyattes of Lydia captured Smyrna in about 600 BC. Soon after, the Persians destroyed old Smyrna in 545 BC as retribution for the Port of Izmir's support for Lydia in its war with Persia. The Port of Izmir then all but disappeared for three centuries until Alexander the Great re-founded it at a new site on Mount Pagus in the 4th Century BC. Soon, it was once again a major city in Asia Minor and a wealthy center of learning, medicine, and culture.
When the last king of Lydia died without an heir in 133 BC, he left his kingdom to Rome, including the city of Smyrna. Roman rule brought a new era of prosperity. It is believed that Smyrna was one of the seven cities of Asia mentioned in the Christian Book of Revelation, and Smyrna's Christians suffered at the hands of the city's Jews well into the 2nd Century AD. Rome's Emperor Hadrian visited Smyrna in the early 2nd Century AD, and he had a silo built near the docks.
In 178 AD, an earthquake leveled the Port of Izmir, and Rome did much to rebuild Smyrna. Many of modern Izmir's architectural landmarks are said to have come from that period. When Roman divided, the Port of Izmir became part of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire.
The Port of Izmir saw many conquerors over the centuries. During the Byzantine era, Smyrna/Izmir was the capital of the naval province of Samos. Unfortunately, it never returned to the level of prosperity that it enjoyed under the Western Roman Empire.
Seljuk Turks first captured the Port of Izmir in 1076, using it as a base for their maritime raids. But when their leader, Caka Bey, died in 1102, the Byzantine Empire recaptured Izmir. In 1204, the Knights of Rhodes, sponsored by Pope Clement VI, took the Port of Izmir during the Fourth Crusade.
In the early 14th Century, the Turks returned under the command of Umur Bey who used the Port of Izmir, as had Caka Bey 200 years earlier, as a naval base for raids. In 1344, the Genoese took part of the Port of Izmir, and for 60 years, an uneasy truce existed between the two powers. In 1402, Tamerlane (or Timur), the conqueror from Central Asia, beat back the Ottoman Turks and returned most of the Anatolian areas to their former rulers. He came in person to Izmir to fight his only battle against non-Muslims when he took defeated the Genoese.
Izmir became part of the Ottoman Empire in the early 15th Century. Even though it was damaged by severe earthquakes in 1688 and 1778, it continued to be a busy and prosperous Ottoman port with a large European community. The Ottomans did not value the Port of Izmir as highly as they did Istanbul or Allepo, and they allowed the inner bay to silt up until it was of no use. Despite the Ottoman's inattention, they granted trading privileges to the Port of Izmir, and allowed foreigners to settle there in the 17th Century. Foreign consulates were set up as trade centers for their countries. Each consulate built its own quay and anchored its ships in the Port of Izmir. It continued to grow as an international trade center due to its appeal to foreigners and its European atmosphere. The Port of Izmir has attracted a wide variety of people throughout its history.
In 1866, the British built a 130-kilometer rail line to Aydin, further increasing the Port of Izmir's influence. By the end of the 19th Century, the Port of Izmir had a large community of foreign merchants and immigrants from elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire.
With the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the World War I Allies intended to divide Anatolia among themselves. In 1919, Greek troops occupied the Port of Izmir and headed for central Anatolia, a disastrous move for the Greeks of Turkey. The Port of Izmir was retaken by Turkish forces led by Kemal Ataturk in 1922, ending the Greco-Turkish War. The Port of Izmir suffered bloody fighting during this period, and a fire started three days after the Turkish victory in 1922 that devastated much of the Port of Izmir. In 1923 with establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations, a part of the Laussane Treaty, resulted in the expulsion of Greek Turks and the immigration of Turkish Greeks back to Turkey.
Since the end of World War II, Izmir has grown quickly. It was selected as the headquarters for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) land forces command in southeast Europe. It is second to Istanbul only in its industrial development, with industries producing cement, textiles, foods, and petrochemicals. The Port of Izmir exports manufactured goods, carpets, and silk as well as agricultural products from the region, including tobacco, cotton, figs, and vegetables.