2,500-year-old ship graffiti sails back to Turkey’s Izmir history

2,500-year-old ship graffiti sails back to Turkey’s Izmir history

Monitoring Desk

İZMİR: A 2,500-year-old graffiti featuring 21 ships, which was found in the basement of the civil basilica of the Agora of Smyrna, sheds light on the history of western Turkey’s Izmir.

Akın Ersoy, a faculty member of the Turkish and Islamic Archaeology department of Izmir Katip Çelebi University, stated that the graffiti is one of the most concrete documents of the historical port city of Izmir.

Izmir Katip Çelebi University Turkish and Islamic Archaeology faculty member Akın Ersoy talks about the ship graffiti found in the basement of the basilica, Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)
Izmir Katip Çelebi University Turkish and Islamic Archaeology faculty member Akın Ersoy talks about the ship graffiti found in the basement of the basilica, Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)

The excavations revealed the commercial and judicial structure of the agora, which is one of the largest ancient period agoras of the world. Agoras were open spaces serving as meeting grounds for various activities in ancient Greek cities.

The arched door in the Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)
Ancient column ruins in the Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)

He explained that after Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia who overthrew the Persian Empire, a brand-new Izmir city was built in the area where the Konak district center is now located. Stating that the area was mainly chosen because of its ability to serve as a port, he said: “The city planners wanted to ensure Izmir’s participation in the Mediterranean and Aegean trade. Also, there are many public buildings in the center of the Ancient City of Smyrna such as the civil basilica. Some of the ship depictions that we encountered in the basement of the civil basilica are made with paint while others through scraping lines.”

The ship graffiti found in the basement of basilica, Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)
The ship graffiti found in the basement of basilica, Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)

“These third-century ship graffiti indicate that Izmir was an important port city. The founders of the city constructed this agora, taking into account the port facilities, for Izmir to grow into an important city and become what it is today,” Ersoy underlined.

Izmir Katip Çelebi University, Turkish and Islamic Archaeology faculty member Akın Ersoy in the Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)
Izmir Katip Çelebi University, Turkish and Islamic Archaeology faculty member Akın Ersoy in the Agora of Smyrna, Izmir, southwestern Turkey, March 9, 2022. (DHA Photo)

Highlighting that the graffiti depicts commercial ships rather than warships, “We assume that these ships were making commercial voyages in the Mediterranean in the second, third and fourth centuries B.C. The materials were transported from Egypt and North Africa to the Aegean,” he added.

Courtesy: Dailysabah

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