Ancient city at the modern site of Izmir, Turkey. Smyrna surrounded a well-protected harbor on the Aegean Coast at the outlet of the Hermus River. The city lay at the foot of Mount Pagus and is located about 35 miles north of Ephesus. Extensive trade to and from Asia passed through the city. During the first century A.D. Smyrna reigned as one of the grandest cities of all Asia. Strabo (64 B.C- A.D. 20s), the Greek geographer, called Smyrna “the most beautiful city of all” cities along this coast. A large temple there, dedicated to Emperor Tiberius, boasted Smyrna’s close alliance with the Empire.
Numerous other temples dedicated to a wide range of Roman deities as well as scores of beautifully adorned public buildings decorated Smyrna. High reliefs of the god Poseidon and the goddess Demeter from the second century A.D. were found in the agora. The head of Athena was unearthed at smyrna, too. But perhaps the most fascinating discovery in Smyrna was that of the Temple to Athena. It was first erected in the late seventh century B.C. and was then destroyed around 600 B.C. It was rebuilt and enlarged only to be destroyed again in 545 B.C. Part of this temple has been reconstructed by archaeologists.
The state agora or forum is among the best preserved ruins of Smyrna. The city was virtually destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 178, and Emperor Marcus Aurelius helped to rebuild the agora. A portrait carving of Faustina II, his wife, is found on one of the arches on the west side of the agora. A fountain is located in the basement area to the north end of the west portico. Several shops were located in this area in the north; they had two stories and a basement supported by vaulted arches.
Smyrna was the second of the seven churches of Asia addressed by the risen Christ in Revelation (1:11; 2:8-11). The Lord gave assurance that He knew about the affliction and poverty they were experiencing. Nevertheless, He noted they were rich. Christ also communicated His knowledge that Smyrna’s Christians were suffering at the hands of some who claimed to be Jews but were form the synagogue of Satan. The Lord warned that some Christians would soon be thrown in prison, and He encouraged this church to remain faithful until death that they might gain a crown of life.
Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna in the fist half of the second century A.D. He knew John the apostle and other eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. According to tradition, John ordained Polycarp, who became one of the first martyrs of the church. His death is detailed in the Martydom of Polycarp, a letter from the Smyrnaeans to the Church of Philomelium in Phrygia and to all Christian congregations in the world.