Phocaea

The ancient Ionian city of Phocaea is situated north of Izmir, on the shores of the Aegean, just at the mouth of the Bay of Izmir. From Izmir, turn toward the west just north of Menemem. This will take you to the end of the peninsula at Foca. Though this was Aeolian territory, Phocaea remained an Ionian settlement.

 

HISTORY OF PHOCAEA

Phocaea is thought to have been settled during the 11th century B.C., the initial period of Ionian movements into Asia Minor. It was the most northern of the Ionian colonies, and was settled on land presented by the citizens of Cyme. Tradition has it that the settlers came from Phocis in Greece led by two Athenians. Later inhabitants came to the new city from Teos and Erythrai. It was then incorporated into the confederacy of twelve towns including Ephesus and Miletus. In the sixth century B.C., during the time of the Marmnadea these Ionian cities were ruled by the Lydian king. Then, after the Persian conquest, Phocaea was required to pay a tribute to the Achaemenids. A revolt against their Persian oppressors was planned during 499 B.C. by several members of the confederacy, including Phocaea.

The attempt was futile, however, and help in terms of liberation did not reach Ionia until the arrival of Alexander the Great. At this time, in 334, Phocaea became a part of the Seleucid empire. Later it fell under the control of the Kingdom of Pergamum. Phocaea enjoyed a great deal of prosperity during the Roman period and in the Byzantine period primarily through trade with the Genoese. In 1275, the Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus handed the city over to the Genoese as a fief. The main center of the city was moved in 1300, when the alum mines gave out. At this time the city was moved further to the northeast. It became known as New Phocaea and the former site became Old Phocaea. In the middle of the fourteenth century, the city was occupied by Andronicus III. It was attacked and bombarded by the Venetians later in that same century, then was taken by the forces of Tamerlane in the beginning of the fifteenth century. The area became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1455.

The inhabitants of early Phocaea gained great fame and prestige as mariners and navigators. The typical Phocaean vessels were highspeed craft, unlike the bulky cargo boats used by most other ancient peoples. They were propelled by means of fifty oars, and were reputed to have carried as many as 500 passengers. Phocaean merchants and traders developed routes to Egypt, the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. The city established many colonies in the western area of the Mediterranean Sea which included Elea in Southern Italy, Alalia in Corsica. Massalia or Marseilles, and Emporion in Spain. Elea became famous as one of the greatest philosophic centers of western Greece. The fifth century Eleatic school of philosophy is known primarily for two early thinkers, Zeno and Parmenides. Zeno is known for his ideas concerned with motion, primarily with the paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise.

After Phocaea came under the control of the Persians a great deal of the city's prosperity came to an end. Many of the inhabitants left for other areas, and the abundant coinage seems to have been Siopped. The city's contribution to the Delian League amounted to only a third of what the neighboring Cyme was paying. In the fifth century, the city began issuing coins made of electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, but it seems that these were not widely accepted.

A great wall was built around Phocaea with financial support given by King Argonthonius of Tartessos in Andalusia. This was originally constructed to serve as an adequate defense against the Persians in the 5th century Herodotus tells us that the Persian general Harpagos was able to scale the fine wall by putting up a high mound of earth in front of it. Nothing is left of the wall today. The Romans battered it in several places when they took the city in 190 B.C. The Phocaeans were able to repel the first Roman attack, but decided to make a deal so that they might save their city from destruction. The city gates were opened on the Roman promise that neither the city nor the inhabitants would suffer. The Roman commander Alemilius was not able to control his men, however, and Phocaea was sacked and plundered. It was later restored to its inhabitants and given its freedom.

 

RUINS OF PHOCAEA

The site of the ancient city was discovered by French archaeologist in the early twentieth century. A later investigation of Phocaea revealed a temple on the rocky area near the end of the peninsula. Most of the city's remains, however, lie beneath the structures of modern man. In fact, the only surviving monuments are two tombs.

Seytan Hamam? Tomb: Outside the site, to the south is a chamber tomb carved from the natural rock. The Turks have given this the name of Seytan Hamam? or Devil's Bath. The entrance Is formed by an archway and is reached by a passage in the rock. Notice the recesses in front of the door at either side. The interior is composed of the funerary chambers, one in front of the other. These are connected by another arched entranceway. In each chamber are two graves in the floor. The design and fashion are similar to some of the Lydian rock-cut tombs. Greek sherds uncovered inside the chambers reveal that the tomb dates from around the fourth century B.C.

Tas Kule Tomb: The other of Phocaea's pair of remaining ruins is known as the Tas Kule, a tomb located some seven kilometers to the east of Phocaea. This is an impressive structure, standing four and a half meters high, that also dates to the fourth century B.C. The Tas Kule or Rock Tower consists of a base measuring nearly ten meters by seven, upon which is a square tower. The whole is carved out of a single rock in the same tradition as those in Lydia and Phrygia. It is similar to Lycian tombs, as well, in that two levels or storeys are incorporated into the structure. The entranceway leads to a small forechamber opening onto the funerary chamber on the right. This differs from the Lycian tombs which had the burial chamber on the second storey. Four steps lead from the top of the tombs main base, to tower. Whatever had originally topped the square tower has since been destroyed. This may have been a stepped-pyramid or other form of commemorative monument.

Former Monuments : At one time there stood a temple, probably to Athena, on the high rocky spot at the point of the peninsula. This is the site of the present school building and was the most obvious and ideal location for a temple. Athena was the principle deity of Phocaea. The temple, which is thought to have been erected during the sixth century B.C., was Hellenistic and constructed of porous white stone. Most of the architectural fragments and remains of the temple are kept in the museum at Izmir. The large capital in the school yard is presumed to have been part of the temple. Other ancient structures and buildings of Phocaea lie buried beneath the modern houses of the town.

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