SMYR'NA (smur'na; "myrrh"). A rich and prosperous city of Ionia, forty miles N of Ephesus, at the mouth of the small river Meles. Anciently it was one of the finest cities of Asia and was called "the lovely-the crown of Ionia-the ornament of Asia." It is now the chief city of SW Turkey, with a population of more than 1 1/2 million. It is referred to in Rev 2:8-11 as the seat of one of the seven churches. To its credit the church at Smyrna was still faithful, and against her no word of reproach was uttered. It was Polycarp's field of Christian usefulness, and here he suffered martyrdom, around A.D. 169.

The modern city of Izmir covers NT Smyrna and little archaeological work can be done there. A good part of the Roman marketplace has been excavated, however. Remains unearthed date to the second century A.D. restoration after a great earthquake. Near the modern city a fairly well preserved Roman aqueduct may be seen. Ancient Smyrna, a few miles away, had its beginnings in the first half of the third millennium B.C. and may have been the residence of Homer. Excavations there under the direction of Ekrem Akurgal are proving to be fruitful.  H.F.V.

 (From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)



A city on the coast of Ionia, at the head of the gulf, having a well sheltered harbour; N. of Ephesus; beautified by Alexander the Great and Antigonus, and designated "the beautiful." Still flourishing, and under the same name, after various vicissitudes, and called "the Paris of the Levant," with large commerce and a population of 200,000. The church here was one of the seven addressed by the Lord (Rev 2:8-11). Polycarp, martyred in A.D. 168, 86 years after conversion, was its bishop, probably "the angel of the church in Smyrna." The Lord's allusions to persecutions accord with this identification. The attributes of Him "which was dead and is alive" would comfort Smyrna under persecution. The idol Dionysus at Smyrna was believed to have been killed and come to life; in contrast to this lying fable is Christ's title, "the First and the Last, which was dead and is alive" (Rev 2:8).

As death was to Him the gate of life, so it is to His people. Good "works," "tribulation," "poverty" owing to "spoiling of goods," while she was "rich" in grace (contrast Laodicea, "rich" in her own eyes and the world's, poor before God), were her marks. The Jews in name, really "the synagogue of Satan," blasphemed Christ as "the Hanged One." At Polycarp's martyrdom they clamoured with the pagan for his being cast to the lions; the proconsul opposed it, but, impotent to restrain the fanaticism of the mob, let them He him to the stake; the Jews with their own hands carried logs for the pile which burned him. The theater where he was burned was on a hill facing the N. It was one of the largest in Asia. Traces of it may be seen in descending from the northern gateway of the castle. A circular letter from the church of Smyrna describes his martyrdom. When urged to recant he said, "four-score years and six I have served the Lord, and He never wronged me; how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?" The accuser, the devil, cast some of the Smyrna church into prison, and "it had tribulation ten days," a short term (Gen 24:55; Num 11:19), whereas the consequent joy is eternal (many Christians perished by wild beasts or at the stake because they refused to throw incense into the fire to sacrifice to the genius of the emperor): a sweet consolation in trial.

Ten is the number of the world powers hostile to the church (Rev 13:1). Christ promises Smyrna "a crown of life" (compare James 1:12; 2 Tim 4:8 "of righteousness," 1 Peter 5:4 "of glory") in reward for "faithfulness unto death." The allusion is to the crown-wearing (stephanophori), leading priests at Smyrna It was usual to present the superintending priest with a crown at the end of his year of office; several persons of both sexes are called "crown bearers" in inscriptions. The ferocity of the populace against the aged Polycarp is accounted for by their zealous interest in the Olympian games celebrated here, in respect to which Christianity bore an antisocial aspect. Smyrna (= myrrh) yielded its perfume in being bruised to death. Smyrna's faithfulness is rewarded by its candlestick not having been wholly removed; from whence the Turks call it "infidel Smyrna." Persecuted Smyrna and PHILADELPHIA (which see) are the only churches which the Lord does not reprove.

(from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)



(smur'-na) (Smurna): Smyrna, a large ancient city on the western coast of Asia Minor, at the head of a gulf which reaches 30 miles inland, was originally peopled by the Asiatics known as the Lelages.

1. Ancient: The city seems to have been taken from the Lelages by the Aeolian Greeks about 1100 BC; there still remain traces of the cyclopean masonry of that early time. In 688 BC it passed into the possession of the Ionian Greeks and was made one of the cities of the Ionian confederacy, but in 627 BC it was taken by the Lydians. During the years 301 to 281 BC, Lysimachus entirely rebuilt it on a new site to the Southwest of the earlier cities, and surrounded it by a wall. Standing, as it did, upon a good harbor, at the head of one of the chief highways to the interior, it early became a great trading-center and the chief port for the export trade. In Roman times, Smyrna was considered the most brilliant city of Asia Minor, successfully rivaling Pergamos and Ephesus. Its streets were wide and paved. Its system of coinage was old, and now about the city coins of every period are found.

It was celebrated for its schools of science and medicine, and for its handsome buildings. Among them was the Homerium, for Smyrna was one of several places which claimed to be the birthplace of the poet. On the slope of Mt. Pagus was a theater which seated 20,000 spectators. In the 23 AD year a temple was built in honor of Tiberius and his mother Julia, and the Golden Street, connecting the temples of Zeus and Cybele, is said to have been the best in any ancient city. Smyrna early became a Christian city, for there was one of the Seven Churches of the Book of Rev (Rev 2:8-11). There Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was martyred, though without the sanction of the Roman government. It seems that the Jews of Smyrna were more antagonistic than were the Romans to the spread of Christianity, for it is said that even on Saturday, their sacred day, they brought wood for the fire in which Polycarp was burned. His grave is still shown in a cemetery there. Like many other cities of Asia Minor, Smyrna suffered frequently, especially during the years 178-80 AD, from earthquakes, but it always escaped entire destruction. During the Middle Ages the city was the scene of many struggles, the most fierce of which was directed by Timur against the Christians. Tradition relates that there he built a tower, using as stones the heads of a thousand captives which he put to death, yet Smyrna was the last of the Christian cities to hold out against the Mohammedans; in 1424 it fell into the hands of the Turks. It was the discovery of America and the resulting discovery of a sea route to India which ruined the Smyrna trade.

2. Modern: Modern Smyrna is still the largest city in Asia Minor, with a population of about 250,000, of whom half are Greek and less than one-fourth are Mohammedans. Its modern name, Ismir, is but a Turkish corruption of the ancient name. Even under the Turkish government the city is progressive, and is the capital of the Aidin vilayet, and therefore the home of a governor. Several railroads follow the courses of the ancient routes into the distant interior. In its harbor ships from all parts of the world may be seen. The ancient harbor of Paul's time has been filled in, and there the modern bazaars stand. The old stadium has been destroyed to make room for modern buildings, and a large part of the ancient city lies buried beneath the modern houses and the 40 mosques of which the city boasts. The better of the modern buildings, belonging to the government and occupied by the foreign consuls, stand along the modern quay. Traces of the ancient walls are still to be found. West of Mt. Pagus is the Ephesian gate, and the Black-gate, as the Turks call it, is near the railroad station. The castle upon Mt. Pagus, 460 ft. above the sea, dates from Byzantine times. The prosperity of Smyrna is due, not only to the harbor and the port of entry to the interior, but partly to the perfect climate of spring and autumn-the winters are cold and the summers are hot; and also to the fertility of the surrounding country. Figs, grapes, valonia, opium, sponges, cotton and liquorice root are among the chief articles of trade. See also CHURCHES, SEVEN.  E. J. BANKS

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)



[SMER nuh] (myrrh)-a city in western Asia Minor (modern Turkey) where one of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation was situated (Rev 1:11; 2:8-11). Smyrna's superb natural harbor made the city an important commercial center. In spite of keen competition from the neighboring cities of Ephesus and Pergamum, Smyrna called itself "the first city of Asia."

As early as 195 B.C., Smyrna foresaw the rising power of Rome and built a temple for pagan Roman worship. In 23 B.C., Smyrna was given the honor of building a temple to the Emperor Tiberius because of its years of faithfulness to Rome. Thus, the city became a center for the cult of emperor worship-a fanatical "religion" that later, under such emperors as Nero (ruled A.D. 54-68) and Domitian (ruled A.D. 81-96), brought on severe persecution for the early church. The apostle John encouraged the persecuted Christians of Smyrna to be "faithful unto death" and they would receive a "crown of life" (Rev 2:10).

Smyrna, known today as Izmir, is the chief city of Anatolia and one of the strongest cities in modern Turkey. Excavations in the central part of Izmir have uncovered a Roman marketplace from the second century A.D.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)