“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2:8-11 ESV

Smyrna; What’s left

Smyrna stands at the foot of a range of mountains which enclose it on three sides. The only ancient ruins are upon the mountains behind the town, and to the south. Upon the highest summit stands an old dilapidated castle, which is supposed by some to mark the previous (but not the most ancient) site of the city; frequent earthquakes having dictated the necessity of removing it to the plain below, and to the lower declivities of the mountains. Mr. Arundell says, “Few of the Ionian cities have furnished more relics of antiquity than Smyrna; but the convenience of transporting them, with the number of investigators, has exhausted the mine. It is therefore not at all wonderful that of the stoas and temples the very ruins have vanished; and it is now extremely difficult to determine the sites of any of the ancient buildings, with the exception of the stadium, the theater, and the Temple of Jupiter Acraeus, which was within the acropolis”. Of the stadium here mentioned the ground plot only remains, it being stripped of its seats and marble decorations. It is supposed to be the place where Polycarp, the disciple of John, and probably “the angel of the Church of Smyrna” (Joh_2:8), to whom the Apocalyptic message was addressed, suffered martyrdom. The Christians of Smyrna hold the memory of this venerable person in high honor, and go annually in procession to his supposed tomb, which is at a short distance from the place of martyrdom. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

History

Smyrna, a large ancient city on the western coast of Asia Minor, at the head of a gulf which reaches 30 miles inland, was originally peopled by the Asiatics known as the Lelages. The city seems to have been taken from the Lelages by the Aeolian Greeks about 1100 BC; there still remain traces of the cyclopean masonry of that early time. In 688 BC it passed into the possession of the Ionian Greeks and was made one of the cities of the Ionian confederacy, but in 627 BC it was taken by the Lydians. During the years 301 to 281 BC, Lysimachus entirely rebuilt it on a new site to the Southwest of the earlier cities, and surrounded it by a wall. Standing, as it did, upon a good harbor, at the head of one of the chief highways to the interior, it early became a great trading-center and the chief port for the export trade. In Roman times, Smyrna was considered the most brilliant city of Asia Minor, successfully rivaling Pergamos and Ephesus. Its streets were wide and paved. Its system of coinage was old, and now about the city coins of every period are found. It was celebrated for its schools of science and medicine, and for its handsome buildings. Among them was the Homerium, for Smyrna was one of several places which claimed to be the birthplace of the poet. On the slope of Mt. Pagus was a theater which seated 20,000 spectators. In the 23 AD year a temple was built in honor of Tiberius and his mother Julia, and the Golden Street, connecting the temples of Zeus and Cybele, is said to have been the best in any ancient city. Smyrna early became a Christian city, for there was one of the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation (Rev_2:8-11). There Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was martyred, though without the sanction of the Roman government. It seems that the Jews of Smyrna were more antagonistic than were the Romans to the spread of Christianity, for it is said that even on Saturday, their sacred day, they brought wood for the fire in which Polycarp was burned. His grave is still shown in a cemetery there. Like many other cities of Asia Minor, Smyrna suffered frequently, especially during the years 178-80 AD, from earthquakes, but it always escaped entire destruction. During the Middle Ages the city was the scene of many struggles, the most fierce of which was directed by Timur against the Christians. Tradition relates that there he built a tower, using as stones the heads of a thousand captives which he put to death, yet Smyrna was the last of the Christian cities to hold out against the Mohammedans; in 1424 it fell into the hands of the Turks. It was the discovery of America and the resulting discovery of a sea route to India which ruined the Smyrna trade. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

What a Past

Smyrna has a deep interest to Christians from this fact. During one of the Roman persecutions many Christians suffered the most dreadful torments here. They were put to death at the stake, or by wild beasts in the amphitheater; and the only test applied to them was whether they would throw a few grains of incense into the fire as a sacrifice to the genius of the emperor, or whether they would refuse. A circular letter addressed to the churches in the Christian world from that of Smyrna gives a most interesting account of Polycarp’s death, and Neander has admirably translated, abridged, and systematized it. The proconsul before whom Polycarp was accused did all he could to save the venerable bishop, now in his ninetieth year; and when, like Pontius Pilate before him, he found it impossible to restrain the popular fury, he refused to allow any wild beasts to be let loose, and Polycarp, abandoned to the populace, was fastened to a stake and soon surrounded with flames. An old tradition states that the flames formed an arch above the head of the martyr, and left him uninjured; seeing this, a Roman soldier pierced him to the heart with a spear, and the fire then did its office, and consumed the lifeless body. It is, however, as Neander observes, more rational to believe that Polycarp died as Ridley and Latimer have done in more modern times. It is by no means improbable that Polycarp was confined in some one of the arched vaults within the acropolis, which remain to this day. An ancient mosque is also standing, which is said to have been the Church of St. John; but tradition is not much to be depended upon for assigning the correct site to such buildings, and the edifices of Smyrna are constructed of a white and peculiarly friable marble not adapted for great permanency. The Apocalyptic message to the Church at Smyrna is one which conveys no reproach, and, it has been often brought forward as a proof of the inspiration of the book in which it is found, that Smyrna has been always a flourishing city, and that there has been, ever since the days of the apostle, a numerous congregation of Christians among her inhabitants. This, however, has not been, strictly speaking, the case, and it is easy to carry such a mode of proving the truth of Scripture too far; but it is satisfactory to know that true religion is greatly on the increase in this important city, and that the labors of Protestant missionaries have been abundantly successful. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Smyrna/Izmir Now:

Izmir/Smyrna is the third largest city in Turkey with a population of around 4 million, the second biggest port after Istanbul, and a very good transport hub. The fact that almost half of its population of 4 million are under the age of 30, makes İzmir a city full of life. The city hosts tens of thousands of university students, educates scientists, artists, business leaders and academics. Several railroads follow the courses of the ancient routes into the distant interior. In its harbor ships from all parts of the world may be seen. The ancient harbor of Paul’s time has been filled in, and there the modern bazaars stand. The old stadium has been destroyed to make room for modern buildings, and a large part of the ancient city lies buried beneath the modern houses and many mosques of which the city boasts. The better of the modern buildings, belonging to the government and occupied by the foreign consuls, stand along the modern quay. Traces of the ancient walls are still to be found. West of Mt. Pagus is the Ephesian gate, and the Black-gate, as the Turks call it, is near the railroad station. The castle upon Mt. Pagus, 460 ft. above the sea, dates from Byzantine times. The prosperity of Smyrna is due, not only to the harbor and the port of entry to the interior, but partly to the perfect climate of spring and autumn – the winters are cold and the summers are hot; and also to the fertility of the surrounding country. Figs, grapes, valonia, opium, sponges, cotton and licorice root are among the chief articles of trade. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Wiki Travel

Getting to Know Him

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Citations:

Esword

“Sword: Free Bible Study for the PC.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, e-sword.net/.

Bible Gateway

 “BibleGateway.” BibleGateway.com: A Searchable Online Bible in over 150 Versions and 50 Languages., http://www.biblegateway.com/‎.

ESV

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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