Izmir, ancient Smyrna, was the capital of the historic province of Ionia in the 7th Century BC. The city is commonly accepted as the birth place of the famous poet Homer, author of the epic poems "Iliad" and "Odyssey". Izmir is also the birth place and source of inspiration of the famous "Rebetika" and "Smyrneika" music.
The 5000-year-old city, contemporary to ancient Troy (also in Turkey), is one of the oldest cities of the Mediterranean basin. According to the famous historian Herodotus (from Halicarnassus, Turkey) the city was first established by the Aeolians, but shortly thereafter seized by the Ionians who developed it into one of the world's largest cultural and commercial centers of that period. Izmir (Smyrna) later became known as one of the "Seven Churches of Asia", where the Revelations to John were sent.
Until recently, Izmir (like Istanbul) was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with a large population of Turks, Greeks, Jews, Armenians and Levantinos (Genoese Italians, Venetian Italians and Frenchmen). In September 1922 the city was largely destroyed by the worst fire of its history, losing many magnificent buildings. After the end of the Turkish-Greek War (1919-22) a population exchange accord was signed between the two parties, and the Greeks of Izmir migrated to Greece (establishing neighbourhoods in Athens like Nea Smirni) while Turks living in various parts of Greece migrated to Turkey and were largely settled in the areas around Izmir. After WWII (and the "Wealth Tax" of the 1940s) most Levantinos went to Italy and France (with large numbers of Armenians also following the same route), while most of the Jews went to Israel after the foundation of this state in 1948. Even though members of these communities still exist, their numbers have fallen sharply since the late 1940s.
Today Izmir is Turkey's third largest city and its most important port after Istanbul. Nicknamed "Occidental Izmir", it is widely regarded as the most Westernized city of Turkey in terms of values, ideology and lifestyle.
Modern Izmir also incorporates world-famous ancient cities like Ephesus, Pergamon, and Sardis.