İzmir is a large metropolis in the western extremity of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey, after Istanbul andAnkara. İzmir’s metropolitan area extends along the outlying waters of the Gulf of İzmir and inland to the north across Gediz River’s delta, to the east along an alluvial plain created by several small streams and to a slightly more rugged terrain in the south. The ancient city was known as Smyrna (Greek: Σμύρνη Smyrni), and the city was generally referred to as Smyrna in English, until the Turkish Postal Service Law of 28 March 1930 made “İzmir” the internationally recognized name.
The city of İzmir is composed of several metropolitan districts. Of these, Konak district corresponds to historical İzmir, this district’s area having constituted the “İzmir Municipality” (Turkish: İzmir Belediyesi) area until 1984, Konak until then having been a name for a central neighborhood around Konak Square, still the core of the city. With the constitution of the “Greater İzmir Metropolitan Municipality” (Turkish: İzmir Büyükşehir Belediyesi), the city of İzmir became a compound bringing together initially nine, and more recently eleven metropolitan districts, namely Balçova, Bayraklı, Bornova, Buca, Çiğli, Gaziemir, Güzelbahçe,Karabağlar, Karşıyaka, Konak and Narlıdere. Almost all of these settlements are former district centers or neighborhoods which stood on their own, with their own distinct features and temperament. In an ongoing processus, the Mayor of İzmir was also vested with authority over the areas of additional districts reaching from Bergama in the north to Selçuk in the south, bringing the number of districts to be considered as being part of İzmir to twenty-one under the new arrangements, two of these having been administratively included in İzmir only partially.
İzmir has almost 4,000 years of recorded urban history (see Timeline of İzmir) and possibly even longer as an advanced human settlement. Lying on an advantageous location at the head of a gulf running down in a deep indentation midway on the western Anatolian coast, the city has been one of the principal mercantile cities of the Mediterranean Sea for much of its history. Its port is Turkey’s primary port for exports in terms of the freight handled and its free zone, a Turkish-U.S. joint-venture established in 1990, is the leader among the twenty in Turkey. Its workforce, and particularly its rising class of young professionals, concentrated either in the city or in its immediate vicinity (such as in Manisa andTurgutlu), and under either larger companies or SMEs, affirm their name in an increasingly wider global scale and intensity. Politically, it is considered a stronghold of theRepublican People’s Party. İzmir hosted the Mediterranean Games in 1971 and the World University Games (Universiade) in 2005. It had a running bid submitted to the BIE to host the Universal Expo 2015, in March, 2008, that was lost to Milan. Modern İzmir also incorporates the nearby ancient cities of Ephesus, Pergamon, Sardis and Klazomenai, and centers of international tourism such as Kuşadası, Çeşme, Mordoğan and Foça. When the Ottomans took over İzmir in the 15th century, they did not inherit compelling historical memories, unlike the two other keys of the trade network, namely Istanbul andAleppo.
Its emergence as a major international port by the 17th century was largely a result of the attraction it exercised over foreigners, and the city’s European orientation The modern name “İzmir” derives from the former Greek name “Smyrna” (Σμύρνη), most probably through the first two syllables of the phrase “is Smirnin” (Greek: “εἰς Σμύρνην”), which means “to Smyrna” in Greek. A similar etymology also applies for other Turkish cities with former Greek names, such as İznik, from the phrase “is Nikaean” meaning “to Nicaea”, Isparta, from “is Spartin” (“to Sparta”), and Istanbul, from “is tin Polin” or “(in)to the City”. It even seems to apply for the Greek island of Kos, called “İstanköy” (< is tin Ko) in Turkish. In ancient Anatolia, the name of a locality called Ti-smurna is mentioned in some of the Level II tablets from the Assyrian colony in Kültepe (first half of the 2nd millennium BC), with the prefix ti- identifying a proper name, although it is not established with certainty that this name refers to modern day İzmir. The region of İzmir was situated on the southern fringes of the “Yortan culture” in Anatolia’s prehistory, the knowledge of which is almost entirely drawn from its cemeteries, and in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, in the western end of the extension of the yet largely obscure Arzawa Kingdom, an offshoot and usually a dependency of the Hittites, who themselves spread their direct rule as far as the coast during their Great Kingdom. That the realm of the 13th century BC local Luwian ruler who is depicted in Kemalpaşa Karabel rock carving at a distance of only 50 km (31 mi) from İzmir was called the Kingdom of Myra may also leave ground for association with the city’s name.
The newest rendering in Greek of the city’s name we know is the Aeolic Greek Μύρρα Mýrrha, corresponding to the later Ionian and AtticΣμύρνα (Smýrna) or Σμύρνη (Smýrnē), both presumably descendants of a Proto-Greek form *Smúrnā. Some would see in the city’s name a reference to the name of an Amazon called Smyrna who would have seduced Theseus, leading him to name the city in her honor.Others link the name to the Myrrha commifera shrub, a plant that produces the aromatic resin called myrrh and is indigenous to the Middle East and northeastern Africa, which was the city’s chief export in antiquity. The Romans took this name over as Smyrna which is the name that is still used in English when referring to the city in pre-Turkish periods. In English, the city was called Smyrna until the Turkish Postal Service Law of 28 March 1930, upon which the name Izmir (sometimes İzmir) was also adopted in English and most foreign languages.