Agora, which is a Greek word, means '' gathered place, city square, bazaar, market'' . In ancient times , it is known that apart from their economical , political and religious functions , agoras was also the place where art is concentrated and social events occur . In ancient times, each city had at least one agora. Some big cities usually had 2 agoras . One of them is the state agora , where state affairs are seen and various public buildings are gathered, and the other is the trade agora, where commercial activities are concentrated.
İzmir agora is located on the northern slope of Pagos (Kadifekale), where the ancient city of Smyrna was relocated in the 4th century BC . This building, surrounded by important public buildings of the period, is the state agora of the city.
Most of the surviving remains in the agora, which were founded in the Hellenistic Period, were found after the 178 AD earthquake, belongs to the Roman Period agora, which was rebuilt with the support of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The Smyrna agora is a rectangular building, has a wide courtyard in the middle and galleries surrounded by columns. (Stoa ) The north and west stoa unearthed by the excavations rise above the basement floor. North stoa is a basilica in terms of plan features.
The basilicas are structures with large and high planes in the middle bv nand narrow and low planes in the form of thin long corridors. The Roman period basilicas, which pioneered Christian churches in terms of plan features, are kinds of courthouses in which the city's legal affairs are seen . On the other hand, basilicas were preferred for the activities of the merchants and bankers who direct the commercial life of the city.
The basilica on the north wing of the agora has a rectangular plan measuring 165 x 28 meters from the outside. According to its dimensions, the basilica of Smyrna agora is the largest known Roman basilica.
The vaults located on the east and west of the magnificent basement floor are among the best examples of Roman architecture.
On the northern facade of the basilica, one of the two monumental gates which opened to the basement on the west side were completely unearthed in our day .
Towards the end of the Roman period, the vaulted shop lines showing that the state agora was increasingly gaining commercial meaning were unearthed on the northern front of the basilica.
The western stoa consisting of naves (galleries) separated by three rows of columns was also rising on a basement like basilica. Today, it is understood that the western stoa, which has arched basement floors, is a two-storey building rising above the basement floor in antiquity. The ground floor which can be accessed from three steps from the courtyard and the wooden based second floor were the places where people took shelter from sun and the rain and took a stroll .
Probably the cisterns which were built at the end of the Roman Period with some walls of the basement galleries were the most beautiful examples of this.
The first floor columns of the western stoa facing the courtyard were raised in the 1940s. These columns and some of the architectural errors are being restored with the contribution of İZTO.
Faustina Gate and Ancient Street
One of the parallel streets in the east-west direction of the city of Smyrna, which is grill-planned, was passing through the agora. There is a magnificent door at the place where the agora is divided into two equal parts and the street enters the agora on the west side.
The portrait relief of Faustina, the wife of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, is located in the center of the northern arch of the gate which is thought to be two-eyed. In the second eye underneath the street, which is in use today, probably a portrait of Marcus Aurelius. Since these two names rebuilt the agora, which was destroyed by the earthquake in MS.178, Smyrnali paid their respects with this door.
The arched door which was repaired in the 1940s with faulty dimensions has been restored in 2004 according to its original .
The graffities consisting of wall drawings and writings were made on the plasters located on the wall and the bases of the arches in the basement of the basilica . Besides the ones drawn by ink , made of the mixture of iron and oak roots , there are also examples made by scraping off .
Graffiti, especially in the Roman period, give very important information about daily social life. In graffiti, it has been found that there are many different subjects from love games to gladiatorial struggles, from sexuality to sailing pictures, from beloved names to birds, ships and riddles. It is possible to observe that the competition between the three cities of Pergamon, Ephesus and Smyrna, which are the shining stars of Western Anatolia during the Roman Period, has been manifested even among the people in the slogans seen in graffiti.
The graffiti revealed in the basement of Smyrna Agora is unique in many respects. Firstly, these finds are the oldest graffiti made with a material containing iron and oak root. On the other hand, while the sources of the ancient antiquity researches have been offical and religious in nature, the graffiti of the Smyrna Agora, written in Greek, reflects the daily life of the people. The basilica graffities also gives hints about the early days of Christianity. Another important feature of these graffities are that they are the most comprehensive graffities in the world in the means of portrayal . In terms of these features, these graffiti have a unique place in world archeology literature.
Archaeological excavations which were started in Smyrna between 1933 and 1941 by the partnership of Directorate of İzmir Museum and Historical Society were carried out in Agora. Excavations started around the preserved columns of the basilica and expanded to the West Stoa and then to the East Stoa.
Today, most of the Western Portico in Agora and a small part of the Eastern Portico and the whole of the Basilica in the north have been unearthed. It is expected that there will be South Portico structure in the area to the south of the ruins used as green area. The excavations in recent years have identified the presence of a Bouleuterion / Odeion adjacent to the Western Portico . Another urban finding uncovered by the excavations is the street called North Street which extends in the east-west direction just north of the agora. Although the inscription on an architrave block within the finds indicates the presence of a temple of Nemesis in or near the agora expressed by other ancient sources, it has not yet been possible to determine the location of this temple.
Agora of Smyrna is one of the first excavations conducted by Republic of Türkiye and Izmir Museum Directorate between 1941 and 1933 . A short report of the excavations done by R Naumann were published and then again a more comprehensive article was published by R. Naumann and S. Kantar .
The works in Agora stopped for a long time and then the excavations were carried out between 1996 and 2006 with the support of the Izmir Museum, Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and Izmir Chamber of Commerce under the direction of the Izmir Museum.
Smyrna Ancient City Excavations, which are carried out since July 2007
by a team formed under the leadership of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Akın Ersoy on
behalf of İzmir Katip Çelebi University within the status of
Presidential decision, still continue in some other parts of the city
apart from Agora Ruins.Recent excavations are still going on at Smyrna Agora, Basmane Altinpark and Kadifekale and Smyrna Theater.