Agora

The agora was the heart of cities in ancient times. All the industrial, political, and administrative activities of the city were concentrated here. In excavations on the slopes of Kadifekale and on the site called Namazgah now, the state Agora of Izmir was excavated in the years 1932 through 1941. In the center of the Agora which is rectangular, there is an open court surrounded by a three-storied building built on arches and columns.

Since the Agora was built on a slope, a platform had to be built on arches and substructures, and the two-story main building was erected on it.
Now let us examine the Agora in three parts, as the western, northern, and eastern structures.

The Western Structure: The floor, which is at the same time tne ceiling ot the basement and which is covered with marble slabs, was divided into three large corridors by three rows of granite columns in the north-south direction. The columns of the first row Were arranged at intervals of 2.48 meters. These intervals at the middle and back rows were twice this length. A third storey was built on the columns of the first row after horizontal beams were placed on them. The arches which rested on the columns of the third storey formed the main roof.

That part of the floor, which was at the back and was laid with mosaics forming geometrical designs, served as a passage between the Agora and the temple next to it.

The Northern Structure : A stairway with three steps leads up to this part of the Agora which is 150 meters long extending in the east-west direction. The small windows on these steps provided light for the basement. A stairway on one side leads down to the basement. The cross arches of the basement were strongly built. Despite a very busy road which goes over them in the eastern section, these arches still retain their good condition. It is likely that the water which runs in the earthenware pipes in the west corridor of the existing basement, provided some of the water supply of the city. By the watercourse, there is a small altar with walls adorned with a garland of leaves and flowers, and designs of pigs and geese to be sacrificed. This altar belongs to the late Roman age.

It we turn back, leaving this part behind, we can see a corridor of two sections with columns extending towards the east. These sections, which are 5.70 meters wide, carry the arches and are lighted by the small windows which are on the steps of the stairway which joins the Agora with the court. Through the entrance, we reach a passage covered with a vaulted roof extending in an easterly direction. In the north of this passage, are 28 cells on a straight line. These cells, which are likely to have been shops and workshops, had a second door each opening onto a road in the north.
In the northeast section of this basement, some very valuable statues, inscriptions and fragments of architectural works were unearthed.

A stairway with three steps leads up to the second storeyfrom the court of the Agora. This storey with a floor 28 meters by 147 meters, is divided into three sections by three rows of columns. The columns of the front row are closer to one another than those of the middle and the back rows. The floor is covered with large marble slabs. The adorned architraves on the column heads used to give a beautiful appearance to the building. Judging from the architectural fragments, the middle section of the structure can be taken as a basilica raised above the ground. In the north of the basilica there was the «Eksedra» which used to serve as a law court. The establishments of a basilica served as law courts, official buildings, shops and market places of a city, and they also served the religious cult.

The Agora in Izmir must have been a state agora, not a commercial one. Even Aristotle advised the separation of commercial agoras from state agoras, and preferred separate places for each. It was not allowed to store goods in state agoras. Moreover, Vitruvius made it compulsory to build commercial agoras in the port, as in Miletus. Therefore, there must have been a second agora in Izmir near the port, used as a marketplace.

The arches supporting the basilica had no structural use for the Agora. They were probably used as government depots to store the weapons of the army and non-commercial goods.

The Eastern Structure: Like the western structure, this part of the Agora had a basement, formed by three rows of columns and a storey built on the basement.
As no excavations have yet been made in the southern part of the Agora, we do not have any knowledge about its structure.

 


 

STATUES IN THE AGORA :

The Statue of the Sea God Poseidon (Neptune): The statue was found in twelve pieces, in the basilica, in the western end of the part which was under the ground. These places were later reconstructed. The statue shows Poseidon sitting on a rock, and turning to the left. He has nothing on above the waist. A rough cool breeze from the sea disturbs the smoothness of his hair. The nose is damaged. The right hand is raised and is resting on a trident. The left hand, which is holding a dolphin, rests on his left hip. A «chlamys» in wrapped round the hips and goes down to the feet on which he wears sandals.

The Statue of Demeter (Cares): The statue of Demeter, which represents fertility, was excavated in the same place where the statue of Poseidon was discovered. It was found in fragments which were later reconstructed. The goddess is depicted standing, with one foot slightly touching the ground. Her head is turned to the right. She wears a «chiton» and her «chlamys» falls down her left arm, covering her head as well. The right-arm is raised and pulls the garment over her shoulder. The left hand cavers the «chlamys». Her garment, which also covers the feet, folds about the abdomen. The face and the head of the statue are not damaged.

The Statue of Artemis : The statue was unearthed from that part of the basilica which was under the ground. We only have the lower part of the statue, and the base on which it stood. This virgin goddess of hunting wears a short garment called «chiton» and hunting boots. Formerly, there was a dog sitting on the left side of the statue.

The Half Statue of Faustina the Younger: This statue was found in the western corridor. Through the head una th<s nu^o jre fairly well preserved, the nose, the lips, and the chin are slightly damaged. Judging by the face and the hair style, the statue represents Faustina the Younger, wife of Marcus Aurelius.
Since most of the statues found in the Agora are of gods and goddesses, apparently there was a council of them here.

The foundation date of the Agora : The column heads found in the Agora are specimens belonging to the years 160-200 A.D. Taking into consideration such facts as the devastation of the city of Izmir in 178 A.D. by a terrible earthquake. The invitation by Aristides to Izmir of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius to reconstruct the city and the existance of the statue of the latter's wife, Faustina the younger, in the Agora, we can conclude that the existing structure of the Agora was built immediately after 178 A.D.

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