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What is Smyrna?
        (myrrh), a city of Asia Minor named in Scripture as containing one of the seven churches of Asia. Rev 1:11; Rev 2:8-11. Situation. - Smyrna is on the AEgean Sea, at the bottom of the Hermaean Gulf, the entrance to which is opposite the island of Mitylene. The modern town is situated 2 1/2 miles from the ancient one of the same name, partly upon the slopes of Mount Pagus, and partly on the low ground at its foot. The city was about 40 miles north of Ephesus. History. - Some piratical Greeks built a fortification on Mount Pagus about b.c. 1500; Theseus built a city and called it Smyrna, after his wife, b.c. 1312. It was on the border-line between Ionia and AEolia, and was possessed by both parties alternately in the times of the Trojan war. The king of Sardis destroyed it, B.c. 628; Alexander the Great built a new city, b.c. 320. From this time Smyrna became an important commercial place. It was subject to the Romans and was famous for its beauty, Antigonus calling it "the beautiful." Christianity was early planted there, and the church is commended in the Revelation of John. Polycarp, a pupil of St. John, suffered martyrdom at Smyrna, a.d. 1o5, in extreme old age, perhaps illustrating the prophecy, "Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Rev 2:10. His grave, with a plain monument, is shown on a hill. The city sent a bishop to the Council of Nice, a.d. 325; it was captured by the Turks, a.d. 1313, and is still in their possession. It has several times suffered from fires and earthquakes. Present Condition. - The modern city of Smyrna has a population of about 180,000 to 190,000, of which not a fourth are Turks. There are many Europeans, and several Greek, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches are sustained. Prof. A.H. Sayce, of Oxford, England, speaks of the new quay of the city, in 1880, as a busy centre of trade, and when its cafes are lighted up at night the traveller may imagine himself in fairy-land. "The enchantment is rudely dispelled if we turn down one of the narrow alleys which lead into the back streets of the town. Dark, dirty, and noisome, full of uptorn stones and deep holes into which the unwary passenger may fall at any moment, they produce an impression of cheerless insecurity. And the impression is not diminished by the sight of the few wayfarers that timidly and hurriedly pick their way through them. Each man is armed to the teeth, and seldom walks through the streets at night except in company with two or three friends. In fact, Smyrna, with all its trade, its wealth, and its prosperity, is an eminently unsafe place. Police, in the true sense of the word, there are none, and the number of desperadoes that crowd to it from all parts of the Levant makes midnight wanderings extremely dangerous. During the day it is possible to pass from the quay to the principal street, which runs parallel with it, through a number of passages and arcades. The gates of these, however, are closed at nightfall, and the courts and houses within them made secure from the intruder. Even during the day, except on the quay, walking in Smyrna is not an agreeable pastime. The streets are so wretchedly paved - or, rather, unpaved - that it is as fatiguing to walk through them as over a bed of granite boulders. . . . The shops of Smyrna, however, are good and numerous: and if we wander on to the bazaar in the Turkish quarter, we may purchase in abundance Turkey carpets and Persian rugs at higher prices than we should have to give for them at home, or antiquities of all kinds, especially coins, which are mostly local forgeries." Concerning the people Prof. Sayce adds: "Creeds and nationalities of all kinds jostle one against the other at every turn. There is the stately Turk, in baggy trousers, scarlet waistband, and blue jacket, his head covered with a fez, or, if he claim descent from the prophet, with a green turban; the consular kavass, strutting along in the proud consciousness of self-importance, his yataghan clashing behind him; the Egyptian, in a long gown of colored silk; the Arab, in cotton robe and white head-dress; the Armenian, with keen eye and dark visage:or the multitudinous swarm of Europeans, of every country and race, among whom the Greek naturally predominates. Presently there is a pressure of the crowd toward one side of the road as a long train of camels, tied to one another by a rope and led by a donkey, comes solemnly along, their heads bent stupidly down and their backs laden with the wares of the East." Ruins of the City. - A graphic description of the interesting ancient ruins of Smyrna is given by Prof. Sayce in The New York Independent, 1880, which we condense: "At the foot of Mount Pagus are the remains of the seats of the Greek theatre, though their place has been taken by Jewish graves, and the marble blocks which once clothed them have been converted into Jewish tombstones. The whole side of the hill, in fact, has become a vast Jewish cemetery. The ancient temple of Zeus and a ruined watchtower are also found on the side of the hill, and extensive fortifications crown the top of Pagus. Court after court of ruined masonry, crumbling towers, and broken walls are seen along the ridge. Here we come across a huge vaulted chamber of Roman brickwork, there solid walls of Macedonian construction, there again the irregular building of the Middle Ages. In one spot is a ruined mosque, once a Christian temple, in which, according to the legend. Polycarp preached. Below flows the thin and narrow stream of the Meles, spanned by two aqueducts, one of Pioman, the other of Turkish, workmanship. "Perhaps even more famous among guides and tourists than the fortifications with which the mount is crowned are the beds of oyster-shells which are passed on the way back into the town. Speculations have been various about them, but a morning's examination was sufficient to reveal their origin. Plentifully mixed with the shells I found fragments of Macedonian and Roman pottery and the bones of animals. These beds, therefore, are the kitchen-middens, or refuse-heaps, belonging to the houses of wealthy Greeks and Romans which once occupied the slope of the hill. The oyster-shells are the remains of banquets enjoyed, it may be, two thousand years ago." Such is Smyrna, the home of that little band of Christians to whom the writer of the Apocalypse promises a crown of life in spite of tribulation and poverty. The city was not more than four hundred years old when St. John the Divine saw his vision in Patmos. It had been built by Lysimachus, the general of Alexander the Great, of whom the Macedonian wall on Mount Pagus is a lasting memorial. Of the other structures which adorned the Greek city - the temples of Cybele and Nemesis, the townhall, the public library and public hospital, the Homerium, or monument of Homer - not a vestige remains. As already noted, the city was once destroyed and rebuilt. The more ancient ruined town is thus described: "There was an older city than the Smyrna of the Apocalypse. It was the quick eye of Alexander the Great that chose the present site. For four hundred years previously no Smyrna had existed. The ancient city had been destroyed by the Lydians, and its inhabitants scattered through the villages of the plain. That ancient city stood on the steep hill which forms part of the range of Sipylus and rises above Burnabat on the northern side of the bay. It was discovered by the French explorer Texier, who imagined he had found in it the relics of the half-fabulous Tantalus. Here he uncovered some remarkable tombs, built of Cyclopean masonry and hidden under vast cairns of unshaped stones. The largest of these, erected on one of the points of the hill, he surnnmed the Tomb of Tantalus. It is built of large stones, beautifully cut and fitted together without cement, in the shape of an arched corridor, the arch being formed by the gradual overlapping of the successive layers of stones. Still higher, through the prickly shrubs and dry grass, is the ancient Acropolis, surrounded by a wall of Cyclopean workmanship, and entered by a gateway whose lintel and posts are single blocks of stone. Below, on the western side, are the foundations of a temple, probably that of the great Asiatic goddess Cybele. From time to time new tombs are found on this steep and rocky site. Sometimes they are cut in the rock, like rectangular couches; sometimes they consist of terra-cotta sarcophagi, into which the bodies of the dead have been made exactly to fit. Some tombs of the latter kind were discovered lately, and in them several archaic ornaments of gold which take us back to an early period in the history of Greek art. ... It was this primeval city which was besieged in vain by Gyges, the founder of the last Lydian dynasty, the Gog of the O.T., and its origin was traced back to the Amazons - the mythical companions of the Asiatic goddess. I believe that the legends of the Amazons in Asia Minor mark the presence of Hittite conquest and culture and the worship of the Assyrian goddess of love and war which the Hittites brought with them from their capital, Carchemish. If so, we may see in Old Smyrna an ancient Hittite outpost, or, at all events, a city which owed its origin to the civilization carried, in a remote epoch, by Hittite chieftains from the banks of the Euphrates to the far West."

Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'smyrna' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". - Schaff's

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