WHERE DOES THE NAME OF FOCA COME FROM?
Foca connected to Izmir with a 70 kilometer highway was established on a peninsula, 3 sides of which are surrounded by sea and where it is between Candarli and the Gulf of Izmir. There are islands called as Incir, Orak and Fener across it. They make Foca a natural harbor.
There are various arguments about establishment of Foca. For instance; according to Pausanias, people coming from Teos and Erythrai established Foca. According to Herodotus, Strabo and Nikolaos of Damascus who are ancient writers, Phocaeans living in Peloponnese Peninsula in Central Greece came to Anatolia and established Phocaea with a permission given by Kyme city which ruled the region at that time.
GEOGRAPHY OF FOCA
Location: It is one of 28 districts of İzmir. It is surrounded by Menemen in east side, Candarli in north side, Aegean Sea in west side and the Gulf of İzmir in south side. Its surface area is 228 km2. Its area consists of 50, 6% forest, 8,9% pasture, 4,7% settlement, 14% other places and 21% agriculture.
There are settlements such as Yenifoca, Gerenkoy, Bagarasi which are close to district center. Yenifoca is 22 km away, Gerenkoy is 16 km away and Bagarasi is 10 km away from the district center. Also, there are some villages around the district center. Yenibagarasi village is 10 km away, Ilipinar village is 18 km away, Yenikoy village is away and Kozbeyli village is away from the district center.
Climate: Foca is one of the districts of İzmir with the least rainfall. Northeaster and west winds can be seen in almost every season. July and August are the hottest months. The temperature may exceed 35° degree.
It has the Mediterranean climate prevailing. Foca is one of the districts of İzmir with the least rainfall:
- The number of rainy day: 54,8 day/year
- The average annual precipitation: 780 mm
- The humidity rate: 64%
The district is on the 1st degree earthquake zone.
Landforms: The surface area of Foca is 5 m. Its highest hills are: Saphane Hill (450 m), Kartal Hill (435 m) and Kizildag Hill (352 m).
Rivers/Lakes: The most important river of Foca is Gediz River which forms a border with the district of Menemen.
Population: According to the results of address-based population registration system which are published by İzmir District Office of Türkiye Statistical Institute on 31 December 2010, the population of Foca is 44.500 at total. While city population is 40.592, total population of the villages is 3.908. Literacy rate is above 90%.
Most of the people living in Foca are people who came there due to exchange and decided to reside, soldiers and civil retired people.
ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURE OF FOCA
In Foça, there are 1 Municipality and 4 Villages (these villages are in the statue of forest village).
HISTORY OF FOCA
Foca (Phocaea) was one of the most important settlements of Ionia. Present western civilization was founded in Ionia in 6th century BC. Ionia at that time led the fields of philosophy, architecture and sculpture. Telephanes of Phocaea (5th century BC) was such a successful sculptor that he decorated to Persian palaces with his work. Theodoros (4th century BC) was a famous architect. Dionysos, a commander who led the Battle of Lade, was from Phocaea. This commander was named after ‘God of Wine’- Dionysos who is one of the biggest heroes of mythology.
Named after the seals that live on the islands surrounding the city, Phocaea was established by Aeolians in 11th century BC. Ionian settlement started in 9th century BC. Phocaeans were expert seamen. They had boats with 50 paddles that were able to get 500 people. Thanks to their superior-high intelligences for engineering and successes in marine, they found a lot of colonies by sailing to Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea. Most important colonies established by Phocaeans are Amysos in Black Sea (present-day Samsun); Lampsacus in Dardanelles (present-day Lapseki); Methymna in Lesbos Island (present-day Molyvos); Elea in South Italy (present-day Velia); Alalia in Corsica; Massalia (present-day Marseilles), Nice and Antibes in South France, Ampuria in Spain. Their expertise in marine enabled them to be successful in trading.
Due to their success, Phocaea was one of points to be needed to destroy for many civilizations and it was the first Ionian city destroyed by Persians in 546 BC. When magnificent age of the city finished because of Persian invasion, most of Phocaeans left the city. And then, Alexander the Great came there and abolished Persian sovereignty. This was the beginning of a new period. After his death, Phocaea came under the domination of Seleucids, Pergamon Kingdom and Romans respectively. It was a center of diocese in early Christianity period.
Yenifoca, the sub-district of Foca at the present time, was established by Genoese and they ran an alum mine there.
There are various arguments about establishment of Foca. For instance; according to Pausanias, people coming from Teos and Erthrai established Foca. According to Herodotus, Strabo and Nikolaos of Damascus who are ancient writers, Phocaeans living in Peloponnese Peninsula in Central Greece came to Anatolia and established Phocaea with a permission given by Kyme city which ruled the region at that time.
Thanks to an Aiol grey ceramic found during excavations under the leadership of Dis. Prof. Dr. Ekrem AKURGAL, it is confirmed that first residents of the city were Aeolians and the city was founded by them in 11th century BC. At this period, ‘Geometric’ ceramic was found in the excavations and it was concluded that Phocaea was an Ionian settlement since the end of 9th century BC.
Ceramic found in recent excavations in Foca and belonging to 2000 BC leads us to Bronze Age before the establishment of Phocaea. It shows that the settlement has survived to the present day. Phocaeans was famous for marine; according to Herodotus, they were using fast boats with 50 paddles that had carrying capacity for 500 passengers instead of using big-bodied transport ships. They sailed until Adriatic, Etruria, Iberia and Tartessos in Spain. They had an important role for expanding Ionian sea trade. They traded with Naucratis city in Egypt. Also, they pioneered for establishments of Lampsacus in Dardanelles (Lapseki) and Amysos in the coast of Black Sea (Samsun).
In 620 BC, they went to Tartessos located in Andalusia in Spain; in 600 BC, they established to colonial cities such as Massalia (Marseilles) in South France, Emporion (Ampurios) in Spain, Alalia in Corsica, Elea (Velia) in South Italy and Methymna in Lesbos. In 7th century BC ‘Royal Road’ starting from Susa in Iran, reached to Sardes where it was united with a road from Phocaea and Kyme. In addition, the Road passed through Smyrna on another road that started from Ephesos and it reached Phocaea.
This road significantly contributed to the wealth of Smyrna in 7th century BC. After the fall of Smyrna by Lydian King Alyattes, commercial domination passed to Phocaea. This domination is obvious thanks to the enrichment of Phocaean coins. Phocaea developed significantly at the first half of 600 BC. It is one of the cities that minted electron coins for the first time in Ionia. These coins reached to Mediterranean and Egypt through sea trade. There were portraits of Zeus, Hera, Heracles and Hermes in the front sides of these coins and portraits of griffon, seal, bull and ram in the back side.
When Persians captured Sardes in 546 BC, they made an end of the golden era of Phocaea. Although the city was surrounded by water before, according to Herodotus, Persian commander Harpagos took possession of these cities by massing little hills in front of city walls. When Phocaea was laid siege, most of Phocaeans migrated to their colonies in Mediterranean. Afterwards, some of them returned. In Hellenistic period, Alexander the Great ended the Persian sovereignty in Anatolia.
After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was shared by his generals and new states appeared. Phocaea was governed by Seleucids, Attalus and Pergamon Kingdom. When Pergamon Kingdom was linked with Roman Empire in 133 BC, Romans captured Phocaea. With the help of the colonial city- Massalia, Phocaea was escaped from the fall. It was a center of diocese of Byzantine Empire in early Christianity period. It became a Venice Trade colony in the beginning of 11th century.
In the 1300s, when Anatolian Turks captured Foca, it became an important city like other cities. It came under the domination of Ottoman Empire. It was one of the ports ensuring a connection between east and west in 17th century. In the second part of 19th century, there was an intense internal migration from Aegean Islands to the settlements of West Anatolia. Most of the migrating people were Turks.
Archaeological excavations are divided into three periods. First excavations were led by French archeologist Felix Sartiaux between 1913-14 and 1920. By Dis. Prof. Dr. Ekrem AKURGAL, excavations of the second period were led uninterruptedly between 1952 and 1955, later these excavations were continued periodically until 1974. Excavations of the third period have been conducted since 1989 by Prof. Dr. Omer OZYIGIT who is a professor in the department of Archaeology in Ege University.
It is considered that the large part of the city is under the present settlement as well as the acquired important ruins of Foca Ancient Period. There are important works which have been acquired from the excavations until today. Many ruins have been unearthed thanks to the excavations that have been still conducted.
The place called as Seytan Hamami (Devil’s Bath) and located in southwestern of Eski (Old) Foca is not a bath but a tomb carved into ancient rocks. It was formed of a long dromos and two burial vaults. There was an arched door between these burial vaults and in each burial vaults, there were two tombs done by carving the subsoil. Acquired ceramic ruins show that the tomb was built in the end of 4th century BC.
During excavations conducted by Dis. Prof. Dr. Ekrem AKURGAL, Temple of Athena was located and many findings were discovered about the temple. The Temple was located in the area of old secondary school building. Many architectural pieces such as column drums, bed plates (altliklar) and crossbeams (basliklar) were discovered during the excavations. The Temple of Athena might have been built at the beginning of 6th century. The first temple repaired many times was able to survive to Roman Era according to the results of excavations. Archaeological excavations have been still conducted.
In the light of the results of latest excavations and surface explorations, it was found that in 590-580 BC Phocaea was surrounded by a city wall, it had a vast area in the city in Ancient Period, its borders exceeded the peninsula and it was one of the biggest cities at the first half of 6th century BC. Archaic wall called as the Wall of Herodotus was located in the north of present cemetery. It was understood that the length of this wall exceeded to 5 km and the wall surrounded to the whole city. Although the wall was able to survive in a tumulus, which was covered by soil after formed by massing stones; it was demolished seriously during a roadwork in 1970. It is concluded that the city was surrounded by pretty strong walls in the light of the ruins which belong to Genoese and have been able to survive to Medieval Age in Phocaea.
Monument of Persian tomb known as Tas Kule (Stone Tower) and located on the road of Foca has been restored and landscaped. The monument which is the historical document of Persians capturing Phocaea is dated to the end of 5th century BC to the beginning of 6th century. This monumental tomb is the only surviving structure from Persians in Eolia.
Siren Kayaliklari (Siren Rocks) are in Epic of Homer and are said to be rocks hit by seamen that lost their way. Siren Kayaliklari are located in northwest of the island of Orak which is the biggest one of the islets resembling seals. Siren Kayaliklari were mentioned in the Greek mythology. People believed that there were creatures with a bird body and very beautiful female heads. Also, there was a belief about these creatures before. The belief is that they pulled people to the rocks with the music they made, and then the sailors, who were under the influence of this music, crashed into the rocks. The rocks, which are completely volcanic, have been eroded for centuries and have taken supernatural shapes.
TURKISH SOVEREIGNTY PERIOD
According to the acquired sources, the castle in southwest of Foca, which was also used for defensive purposes before and called as ‘Dis Castle or Genoese Castle’, was built in a strategic point to protect the region in 1678. The place used as an outdoor theatre in Beskapilar is a boathouse belonging to Ottoman Empire today. According to scripture written on entrance door of the castle, repair of it was done by armorer- Iskender Aga in 1538-1539. Two separate repairs of the castle were carried out by Ministry of Culture in this part of the castle in 1983 and 1993.
Two mosques from Ottoman Empire whose names are Foca Fatih Mosque and Foca Kayalar Mosque, a well-protected inscription, sepulchral monuments with plastic ornaments are other important historical works in Phocaea. Ottoman Cemetery located in the south of Foca might give information about the history and density of Turkic settlement.
Foca was under the domination of Chaka Bey from Turkic Beyliks in 13th century and then was under the domination of Beylik of Saruhan. Mehmet the Conqueror incorporated Foca in Ottoman territory in 1455.
Foca and its sub-district Yenifoca (New Foca) were connected to Manisa province in 1867. It was in Greek sovereignty from 15 May 1919 to 11 September 1922. In War of Independence, Atatürk entered to Foca and in 11 September 1922 and that day (11 September 1922) was started to be celebrated as liberation of Foca.
HISTORICAL PLACES IN FOCA
Temple of Athena:
It is one of the earliest examples of Ionian temples whose construction was started in 590-580 BC in the name of Athena who is a mother goddess of Phocaea city. Excavation of the Temple of Athena was started in 1998-1999 and it has still been conducted. It overlooks to the city and is located in the center of Phocaea. The main entrance is towards the east. There was an altar that ex-votos brought for Athena were put in front of east side of the temple. It was surrounded by a beautiful wall of podium of the Temple.
People have been working to reveal this podium wall in current excavations. Many architectural temple pieces were found on the wall of podium. Sanctuary of Athena was also used as a living place in 17th and 18th centuries. Many architectural and ceramic findings from this period were discovered.
Kybele Outdoor Temple (Kybele Acikhava Tapinagi):
The building, dated to 580 BC, contained statues and reliefs of the goddess Kybele in five niches of various sizes. Small niches made to put lanterns and the votive pool carved into the rock show that those coming from the sea worshipped here. Archaic walls were built without mortar. While lime mortar was used in the Roman walls, Horasan Mortar consisting of lime mortar, sand, brick fragments and brick dust was used in the walls of the Genoese and Ottoman periods.
The origins of Athens go back to Babylonian queen Izdar. Kybele is a mother goddess of Anatolia. Kybele has been respected since archaic period.
The theatre dated to 340-330 BC was discovered in recent excavations. IT IS THE OLDEST THEATRE OF ANATOLIA. The excavation was carried out in two separate parts. In first part, Analemna Wall was unearthed in a well-preserved situation (its height is 4, 5 m); in second part, four separate steps were found. It was seen that there is a Fuyte Oyta script in these steps. The theatre was used as a ceramic dump site in 1st century AD and as a Necropolis (cemetery) in 2nd century. It was made of tufa, which is not a kind of stones and is referred as ‘Foca Stone’.
Archaic Wall & Wall of Herodotus
It was found in recent excavations that Foca had 5 km rampires in archaic period. Rampires dated to 590-580 BC were found in the excavations in the hill of Maltepe tumulus. Since Herodotus mentioned about them, they have been referred as ‘The Wall of Herodotus’. Persian arrows and spearheads, broken amphoras and old cannonballs of catapult unearthed in the excavations have showed that there was a big war in 546 BC. The war between army of Persian Commander Harpagos and Phocaeans resulted with victory of Harpagos’ army.
The castle in southwest of Foca called as ‘Dis Castle or Genoese Castle’, was built in a strategic point to protect the region by Ottomans in 1678. The castle located in a headland was separated from mainland with a ditch for the purposes of defense in the east. During Underwater Archeology explorations, cannonballs were found at the bottom of the castle off the sea. It is thought that these cannonballs were thrown to hostile ships with the help of catapult from the castle. There are ruins of Turkish bath in the inner part of it.
Stone House (Tas Ev):
It is a monumental tomb made by being under the influence of Persian, dated to 4th BC and located in dry stream bed in the east of Foca.
Settlement stratas belonging to Archaic, classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods were unearthed in recent excavations. One of bottom mosaics of Roman villa dated to 5-4th AD and unearthed in the excavations in 1933 is undamaged. The other one of them was found as nearly damaged. After undamaged part of it was repaired, it was brought to İzmir Archeological Museum.
Devil’s Bath (Seytan Hamami):
The structure in the form of rock tomb located in Can Dede Hill is known as Seytan Hamami (Devil’s Bath) and it is 2 km away from downtown. It is a family grave made by carving rocks in Ancient Age. The grave consists of a long way and two burial vaults. A ceramic found during the excavations shows that it belongs to 4th century BC.
Rampire and Beskapilar:
This antique castle was given to Genoese Manuel Zacharna by Michel Paleok in 1275 and it was repaired by Genoese in time. After Phocaea was incorporated in Ottoman territory in 1455, the repaired rampires were decorated with towers, 9 of which are distinguishable now. Beskapilar is the part of boathouse of the castle of Ottoman period. According to the inscription, it was repaired during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538-1539. Beskapilar was restored in 1983 and 1994. Scientific excavations have been conducted in Beskapilar. The boathouse of the castle is used as an Outdoor Theatre today.
Windmills (Yel Degirmenleri):
There is a mountain called as the mountain of Top and located to the left of the slope that you go down while coming to Foca. There are historical windmills on this mountain. They are dilapidated today but they both remind you of history and allow you to witness a fascinating view. Their restorations have been planned soon.
It is located in the Eski Adliye Street within the castle. It is the most important structure of Foca belonging to the Turkic period. There are two inscriptions in the building. The inscription on the courtyard gate is dated to 1531. According to the inscription, the Courtyard Gate was built by a person named Mustafa Aga. According to the inscription on the main entrance, it was rebuilt by the order of Suleiman the Magnificent. It was understood from the inscriptions that the mosque was built by Mehmet the Conqueror after the conquest of Foca and was surrounded by a courtyard in 1531, and was reconstructed in 1569-1570 only after the death of Suleiman the Magnificent.
It is inside the castle. It is a rectangular mosque covered with a flat ceiling. It is believed to have been built in the 15th or 16th century. Its minaret was built in the 19th century. Spoiled material from the Byzantine period was used, and the wooden ceiling covering it was renewed.
Hafız Suleiman Masjid: The building, which is known as Suleiman Aga Masjid among the people, was built in 1548 by Kurt Haci Mustafa, castle-guard of Foca Castle, according to the inscription on the entrance opening. It took its present form in the 18-19th century. The mosque, which was closed to worship in 1917, was reopened in 1992.
It is understood that it was open for funerary from 16th to the end of 19th century. There are herbal motives stylized with rose, cypress tree, bunch of grapes, pomegranate, date palm and more in tombstones.
Foca is one of the few coastal settlements in the Aegean that has been able to preserve its old texture relatively. It is a two-part district as Old and New Foca. The preserved one is Old (Eski) Foca. Old Foca is a place that mesmerizes people at first sight. When you look at the sea, you can see a beautiful bay with fishing boats in front, blue sea at the back and tiny islets in the distance. In the land, you can see a beautiful little town with its narrow stone streets, old houses and beautiful people. All of these are called Foca and they bundle the human up at first sight.
A story is told in Foca and the story suits Foca very well. There was a "Karatas (Black Stone)" in Foca, everyone knows this and nobody knows where it is. Anyone stepping on this stone while wandering around definitely comes back to Foca even if the person goes somewhere.
Anyone coming Foca once looks for this stone by walking around the streets when (s)he hears this story. People hope to stay in this beautiful place when stepping to Karatas. In our opinion, Karatas is everywhere in Foca. It is impossible not to like Foca and not to come back after you see it.
The people of Foca now symbolize their cities with cute Mediterranean seals that face the danger of extinction, but the symbol of the old Foca was rooster. The rooster, the symbol of well-being and early awakening! When you enter Foca, you will see a rooster statue. Hundreds of years ago, Phocaeans, the former inhabitants of Foca, put wooden rooster sculptures in their assemblies, temples and the noses of their ships. It is believed that there is a golden rooster somewhere in Foca today. A lot of people have been searching for the golden rooster for years, and if they get the opportunity for this, they excavate at somewhere. In real, there is a golden rooster in the Foca. It is Foca itself.
Foca and its environs have gorgeous natural beauties. The striking ones are Siren Kayaliklari (Siren Rocks) and Islands of Foca. According to an epic, mermaids used to live in these islets and they were the reason why sailors lost their way and sank their ships. You can boat to the islands, the largest of which is the island of Orak and if you are lucky, you can encounter a seal. Interestingly, the silhouette of these islands resembles a seal. Those who are interested in historical structures feel happy in Foca. The rock monumental tomb Stone House, which is 10 km away from Foca, the Devil's Bath, which is also a rock tomb, Beskapilar Castle and baths from the Ottoman times are some of the historical buildings you can visit in Foca. Another feature of Foca is Foca houses. It consists of three groups: traditional Foca houses, tower houses, houses in the form of row housing and uniform houses. Of these, tower houses are referred to as they are high. The houses in the form of row housing can be understood from the name; they are built side by side and are taken directly to the street through their doors. Plus, walking around the stone houses of Foca and watching the fishermen in the port give people the feeling of traveling in time. The people of Foca have been already living off fishing for centuries.
SIREN KAYALIKLARI (SIREN ROCKS):
Sirens (seirens) and siren rocks appear for the first time with Homer's Odyssey epic. Sirens with their wide wings were creatures with a bird body and very beautiful female heads. With their enigmatic sounds, the most beautiful music murmurs and sensual moans, they blew men’s minds. In Homer's Odyssey epic, King Odysseus’s return from the Trojan War is told. Although it had been nearly 10 years since the war ended, the King of Ithaka could not return to Odysseus. He had been imprisoned on an island for years. The gods eventually let him return home. Odysseus set off with his twelve ships and comrades, struggling in the seas for three years. According to legend, Odysseus approached the shores of Phocaea in the Aegean Sea, the island of sirens described by sorcerer Kirke. The voices of the sirens, who lived on the rocks of this island (west of Orak Island in Foca), fascinated the sailors passing through it, and the sailors who heard this voice would stay there and die. While Odysseus was passing through the rocks, he remembered the sorcerer’s warn about sirens. Afterwards, in order not to get caught in the magical screams of the sirens, he also had himself tie to the mast of the ship with ropes; he got his mouth covered with a sponge, and got the ears of his crew clogged with wax. Thus, he would be the only person who could hear the sound coming from the rocks. Then; while passing by the sirens, he wanted to give orders to his crew to stay in this gulf forever and could not do it because his mouth was closed. Odysseus’s ship passed through this magical world while the sounds of the siren rocks were mingling with the hum of the wind and the joy of the waves, hitting the shore of the bay. He finally returned to his wife who had been waiting for him in Ithaka for 20 years. This return takes on completely different meanings with Kavavis’ lines. Returning to Ithaka! It is a kind of symbol of an effort to reach a goal, a country, a place, a hope, a love.
‘Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.’
Ithaka: a Greek island in Ionian sea (a destination, a goal in mythology).
(Ithaka, Constantine Cavafy) (Source: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems)
MEDITERRANEAN SEAL (MONACHUS MONACHUS)
Mediterranean Seal (Monachus Monachus) is one of the world’s rare twelve mammals. 400 seals live in the world and 100 seals live in Türkiye. Factor threatening Mediterranean seal are kills, suffocate by getting caught in fishing net, decrease in their foods, over-housing in the shores and being bothered in their caves by divers. The Mediterranean seal is a good swimmer which is capable of traveling 60 km a day. Seals that love calmness and silence live in places without industrialization, settlement and marine pollution. As an example of these kinds of places in Türkiye, Foca has been selected as a pilot region for the protection of the Mediterranean Seal.
Mediterranean seal, which has an economic value since its oil and leather were used for different purposes in ancient times, is a creature that also has a place in mythology. The seals were believed to be under the protection of Poseidon and Apollo. During the excavations at Phocaea, the northernmost member of the Ionian Union that consists of 12 city-states, we come across coins with seal figures dating back to 500 BC. The ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean seal as the word phoka (foka), which means plump animal. Today, it is believed that the name of the ancient city of Phocaea, on which today Foca is located, comes from seals.
FOÇA SPECIAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AREA
12 areas in Türkiye are special environmental protection areas. These areas are Foca, Gokova, Datca - Bozburun, Koycegiz - Dalyan, Fethiye - Gocek, Patara, Kekova, Belek, Delta of Goksu, Pamukkale, Golbasi, Ihlara. 56th article of the constitution states that: ‘Everyone has the right to live in a healthy, balanced environment. The world where we live in is non-expanding world with limited sources and it is ours.’ Foça Special Environmental Protection Area is quite important in terms of natural beauties. The importance of the area stems from seals living there.
ECONOMIC SITUATION OF FOCA
Tourism and fisheries in Foca and agriculture and livestock in its villages are the main sources of income. Small industrial enterprises based on Tourism, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Agriculture are the primary sources.
Industry and Trade: Industry has not developed in the district. The current industry also operates as small enterprises based on agriculture.
Agriculture and Livestock: It is located in the last part of the district Gediz plain. It has an economy based on agriculture and livestock in Bagarasi, and Gerenkoy, Ilipinar, Kozbeyli, Yenikoy and Yenibagarasi villages, fishing and tourism in the district center and Yenifoca. The surface area of the district is 22,800 hectares. Of agricultural land; 57.5% [mostly over 90% irrigated by DSI (State Hydraulic Works)] is irrigated agricultural land and 42.5% is dry agricultural land.
Banking: 6 bank branches serve in Foca.