Symposium introduction

Smyrna, with its very special geographical position, has been a meeting place between the European and Asian cultures since its foundation by Aeolian Greeks at the end of the second millennium BC. This integration was occasionally determined by long-lived prosperous economies, privileged and fruitful cultural interactions as well as by tragedies that were commonly faced. All these aspects formed the identity of the city, and still elaborate the peaceful and balanced components of the city’s history.

The term transfer may be interpreted in several ways. The large scope of the term may be observed in the transportation of trade goods, e.g. Persian incense exported to Sardis, Ottoman cotton exported to Marseille. It is also witnessed in the sudden displacement of people following the disasters that dramatically effected the history of the city in various means, e.g. the siege of Alyattes, king of Lydians at the end of the 7thcentury BC., replacement of Smyrnians from Old Smyrna (Bayraklı) to their new home, Kadifekale, and the exodus of Greeks from Turkey and Turks from Greece in 1922. Among all of these forms of cultural transfers the most sophisticated one throughout Smyrna’s history is the “transfer” practiced in the city’s urban life: eclectic fashions, hybrid musical forms, meeting of diverse cultures of distict ethnic origins that are unlikely to meet from the Homers period and onwards – Greek, Lydian, Byzantine, Persian, Seljuk, Levantine, Hebrew, Armenians, and etc.

The use of long distant routes between East and West for long periods of time may be apparent in various aspects: The Persian Royal Road was previously used by Phrygians and later during the political and militaryturmoil of the Hellenistic period as well as by the European travelers who came to Asia Minor, such as Choiseul Gouffier,who visited the region and described the cities where the past mingled to present. He is also the first person to discover the Pergamon Altar or terracottas of Myrina.

The dynamism of recent studies gives us the opportunity to have a look at this special field of cultural transfer studies that is composed by the help of successive stratigraphical sequences attested in Smyrna. Ancient Ionian Smyrna was initially unearthed in the first half of the twentieth century at Bayraklı by Ekrem Akurgal who was the founder of new Turkish archeology. The current field director of Bayraklı Excavations is Cumhur Tanrıver. The new Hellenistic and Roman Smyrna includes the area of agora. The current excavations are carried out by Akın Ersoy.

It will also be interesting to create an opportunity to introduce less- known periods such as Byzantine and Ottoman periods. This will be an interest for of art historians of the two universities of Izmir as well as from other universities. In addition to this, some important buildings in terms of architectural importance in the urban life of Izmir are still visible despite despite successive destructions. Thanks to recent programs reevaluating and restoration of the ancient buildings we are able to see some of the fine buildings of famous people, such as that of Gustave Eiffel.

The conference will also include several other events, such as those coordinated by Jean-Luc Maeso at the Cultural Foundation of Arkas. The exhibition of "The 18th and 19th centuries Smyrna: from the Western point of view" (Izmir, 2013) was an opportunity to gather a considerable amount of archives and unpublished documents on the Ottoman period and introducing this documentation to public. Through the partnership with the French School of Athens among other Schools, we have an access to the rich literature of Asia Minor Studies. This center and other research centers offer recent studies on ethnic identities of both ancient and modern Izmir.

From an archaeological perspective, which is very active in İzmir, the conference will benefit from the help of the specialists of Smyrna, the architect Didier Laroche and colleagues of the two universities (Ege University and 9 September University), the directors of the excavations of the ancient and the new Smyrna and of several large neighboring Ionian cities, and the İzmir Archaeological Museum. The mythological traditions of Homer between Aeolis and Ionia, the ambiguous relationship of Lydian and Persian worlds have been among the recent philological works of interest that have not achieved the interest they deserved. The conference will be an opportunity to get the focus on these fields. We will also have the chance to explore the society of more recent periods, especially the periods where we observe the eclectic life of multi-cultural societies of Turkish, Greek, Jewish, Armenian, Levantine and other communities that characterize the old life of Smyrna.