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The city of Smyrna rises like an amphitheatre on the gulf which bears its name. It is the capital of the vilayet of Aïdin and the starting-point of several railways; it has a population of at least 300,000, of whom 150,000 are Greeks. There are also numerous Jews and Armenians and almost 10,000 European Catholics. It was founded more than 1000 years B.C. by colonists from Lesbos who had expelled the Leleges, at a place now called Bournabat, about an hour's distance from the present Smyrna. Shortly before 688 B.C. it was captured by the Ionians, under whose rule it became a very rich and powerful city (Herodotus, I, 150). About 580 B.C. it was destroyed by Alyattes, King of Lydia. Nearly 300 years afterwards Antigonus (323-301 B.C.), and then Lysimachus, undertook to rebuild it on its present site. Subsequently comprised in the Kingdom of Pergamus, it was ceded in 133 B.C. to the Romans. These built there a judiciary conventus and a mint. Smyrna had a celebrated school of rhetoric, was one of the cities which had the title of metropolis, and in which the concilium festivum of Asia was celebrated. Demolished by an earthquake in A.D. 178 and 180, it was rebuilt by Marcus Aurelius. In 673 it was captured by a fleet of Arab Mussulmans. Under the inspiration of Clement VI the Latins captured it from the Mussulmans in 1344 and held it until 1402, when Tamerlane destroyed it after slaying the inhabitants. In 1424 the Turks captured it and, save for a brief occupation by the Venetians in 1472, it has since belonged to them.

Christianity was preached to the inhabitants at an early date. As early as the year 93, there existed a Christian community directed by a bishop for whom St. John in the Apocalypse (1:11; 2:8-11) has only words of praise. There are extant two letters written early in the second century from Troas by St. Ignatius of Antioch to those of Smyrna and to Polycarp, their bishop. Through these letters and those of the Christians of Smyrna to the city of Philomelium, we know of two ladies of high rank who belonged to the Church of Smyrna. There were other Christians in the vicinity of the city and dependent on it to whom St. Polycarp wrote letters (Eusebius, Church History V.24). When Polycarp was martyred (23 February), the Church of Smyrna sent an encyclical concerning his death to the Church of Philomelium and others. The "Vita Polycarpi" attributed to St. Pionius, a priest of Smyrna martyred in 250, contains a list of the first bishops: Strataes; Bucolus; Polycarp; Papirius; Camerius; Eudaemon (250), who apostatized during the persecution of Decius; Thraseas of Eumenia, martyr, who was buried at Smyrna. Noctos, a Modalist heretic of the second century, was a native of the city as were also Sts. Pothinus and Irenaeus of Lyons. Mention should also be made of another martyr, St. Dioscorides, venerated on 21 May. Among the Greek bishops, a list of whom appears in Le Quien, (Oriens Christ., I, 737-46), was Metrophanes, the great opponent of Photius, who laboured in the revision of the "Octoekos", a Greek liturgical book.

The Latin See of Smyrna was created by Clement VI in 1346 and had an uninterrupted succession of titulars until the seventeenth century. This was the beginning of the Vicariate Apostolic of Asia Minor, or of Smyrna, of vast extent. In 1818 Pius VII established the Archdiocese of Smyrna, at the same time retaining the vicariate Apostolic, the jurisdiction of which was wider. Its limits were those of the vicariates Apostolic of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Constantinople. The archdiocese had 17,000 Latin Catholics, some Greek Melchites, called Alepi, and Armenians under special organization. There are: 19 secular priests; 55 regulars; 8 parishes, of which 4 are in Smyrna; 14 churches with resident priests and 12 without priests; 25 primary schools with 2500 pupils, 8 colleges or academies with 800 pupils; 2 hospitals; and 4 orphanages. The religious men in the archdiocese or the vicariate Apostolic are Franciscans, Capuchins, Lazarists, Dominicans, Salesians of Don Bosco, Assumptionists (at Koniah), Brothers of the Christian Schools, and Marist Brothers (at Metellin). Religious communities of women are the Carmelites, Sisters of Charity (13 houses with more than 100 sisters), Sisters of Sion, Dominicans of Ivrée, Sisters of St. Joseph, and Oblates of the Assumption.

About this page

APA citation. Vailhé, S. (1912). Smyrna. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Vailhé, Siméon. "Smyrna." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Lucia Tobin.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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