By Catherine Tsounis
The truth few persons understand outside of Greek and intellectual circles is that Greek civilization is not confined to the small land mass of Modern Greece. It encompassed Southern Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, Turkey, the Middle East up to parts of India. Modern Greece, a looted, plundered, fire ravaged land, does not have its most valuable treasures. Persons such as Pitsa Tsakonas at the Benaki Museum, whose family were from Smyrna (Izmir), Asia Minor, are attempting to compile literature and folk lore artifacts showing Greeceʼs treasures.
Dr. Gaetano Cipolla, the internationally famous Sicilian-American intellectual, has repeatedly stated the “the Greek Cities in Sicily made the island the foremost power of the ancient world, after the fall of the Athenian Democracy.” His extraordinary Arba Sicula (Sicilian Dawn) Society tour showed unique Greek treasures in Palermo, Segesta, Agrigento and Syracuse. The Sicilian government and people are to be commended for their extraordinary effort to preserve their Ancient Greek and Byzantine heritage.
I went back to my roots: the birth place of my grandfather, Christos Demetrios Papantonakis, in Izmir (Smyrna), Asia Minor. Izmir is the second major seaport of Turkey. International, with a strong German presence in the ownership of hotels and trade, the Greek character is non-present except in one place: its museums. Everyone went shopping in the Grand Bazaar of Izmir at my late spring 2007 Sunrise Tours group from Chios, Greece. I walked three blocks alone to the Izmir Museum at Konak. I did not come to Izmir to spend money. I went to discover my familyʼs heritage. I am one of the few members of my one hundred year old American family that can read and write Modern Greek. My purpose in Turkey was to find the truth. My family must learn that our grandparents were not destitute refugees without a country. Rather, they were persons of a prosperous, unique overseas Hellenic civilization that changed the course of history.
Presenting my St. Johnʼs University Storm Identification card sent a sensational reaction at the Museumʼs door. The Director was informed and came to greet me personally with a brochure on the Museumʼs contents. I entered several buildings with the finest statues, vases, jewelry, coins and glassware from 800 B.C. to Byzantine times. A family priest said, “the plains of Izmir hold our treasures.” He was right. Unfortunately, they are not in Greek hands. In one hall, Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Modern Turkish secular nation who was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, had a startling comment inscribed on the wall. “I commend the museum for preserving our heritage…..from the Greek Cities of Asia Minor.”
The Izmir History and Art Museum is located at Kulturpark. The phone is 0232 445 7876. It is open every day, except for Monday from about 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kulturpark (Culture Park) is Turkeyʼs greatest, open air exhibition center. It was built on the former Greek and Christian neighborhoods destroyed by the ʽGreat Fire of 1922”. When one enters the area, one feels a peace and serenity. Later in the United States, I discovered its turbulent past at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_Smyrna. Destruction and annihilation of an almost 3,000 year old community is the location of one of the finest museums of the 20th century. Kulturpark is frequented most by local residents for artistic and culture activities. While I was viewing the sculpture, young artists were drawing the unique statues of Demeter and Poseidon.
The modern museum is designed with a new concept making use of the latest techniques of display. The municipality of Izmir created the indoor area of 3,820 square meters. The outdoor area is 9,500 meter. The total area is 13,320 square meters. Three museums are located on the premises. They include: Stoneworks; Ceramics and Precious Artifacts. The official Izmir Chamber of Commerce brochure states “the Izmir History an Art Museum aims to increase participation in Culture and Modern Art activities.” Lack of basic English language skills was prevalent at the site and in the municipality of Izmir in general.
The artistic treasures of the twelve cities of Ionia (Western Anatolia) are exhibited in all museums. The Stoneworks Museum known as Tarih ye Sanat Muzesi is spectacular. When he/she enters, 6th century B.C. lions are present. Other works include: Homer, 4th century B.C.; 2nd century dog, bird, 5th-6th century B.C. and dolphin mosaics; the Hermaphrodite, 2nd century A.D.; bronze athlete statue from Kyma; bronze Demeter from Halicarnassus; Eros 5th-6th century B.C. from Pergamum; wall friezes from the Hellenistic Belevi Grave Monument that is the largest tomb after the mausoleum at Halicarnassus (opposite island of Kos); gladiator statues and friezes that were popular in Ancient, Hellenistic and Roman times from Symrna and Didyma; parts of temples, theaters and Roman Baths from Teos, Miletus and Metropolis; Kori and Kouros from Temple of Apollo in Kalaros; statues of the Goddess of Destine, Athena, Hygeia sophist and others. The most spectacular statue group is that of Poseidon, Demeter and Artemas found in the Symrna Agora. On exhibit from Erythrae in Tseme (Cesme) is a monumental archaic statue of a woman with a head missing from 560-550 B.C. A Korean sculpture also found in Erythrae is one of the finest examples of large marble sculptures. This signifies that Greeks of the Erythaean peninsula (opposite the island of Chios) had trade relations with Korea over 2,500 years ago.
The Ceramics Museum has 5th and 6th century B.C. amphora and 4th century B.C. pottery from the Agora Bayrakli, Symrna. A replica of an Aegean ship of that age is on display with its contents. A significant space is dedicated from the ancient city of Erythae (modern village of Ildiri), opposite the shores of Chios. Findings from recent excavations include pottery, small offerings in bronze and ivory from 670-545 B.C. The ivory statues are of Cretan and Rhodian style. Pausanias said Erythrae was built by Cretans and inhabited by Lycians, Carians and Pamphylians. The city was destroyed by the Persians after the mid 6th century B.C. It was ruled from 9th century B.C. by Athens. Graffiti on a bowl is from 6th century B.C. indicate the offerings belonged to the Temple of Athena Polis. The small lion figurines in bronze are from the first half of 6th century B.C.. They resemble the large Lion statue from Bayindir that is in the Stoneworks Museum of Izmir. The small findings are the earliest Ionian examples of a lion type, that served as models for Etruscan artists (early Italians). The artifacts are from a trench on top of the Erythrae Acropolis.
Erythrae was one of the twelve cities of Ionia, situated 22 kiloneters north east of Tseme (Cesme). It was on a small peninsula strectching from the mountains of Mimas and Corycus, directly opposite the island of Chios. Chios was an island that lost a major portion of its inhabitants to the 1822 Turkish Massacre. During the 1914 and 1922 expulsion of Greeks from the Erythrae peninsula, many fled as refugees to Chios, Samos and Ikaria. One can swim from Chios to the Erythrae peninsula. The city of Erythrae remains hidden under fields of artichokes cultivated by villagers. Many Ionian cities and their treasures are hidden in the land of the Prefecture of Smyrna, because of a lack of funding for excavations.
The third museum of Precious Artifacts that include jewelry, coins and glassware. Glass objects and perfume bottles from Phocaea and Klazomenae in the Erythrae peninsula (Cesme) are from 700 B.C. to 400 A.D. Over 100 glass objects are displayed. I have not seen exhibits of ancient glassware in such quantity in Greece, Sicily or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. They are in excellent condition. Viewing glass objects from over 2,500 years ago was an amazing experience.
The coin exhibits from 6th century B.C. through Byzantine times were strictly from Ionia. The numerous gold jewelry and diadem collections were from the tombs of wealthy Ionian women. It was breathtaking. In Western Anatolia around 6th century B.C., the Lydians devised the idea of shaping gold and silver into bean shaped lumps of fixed weight and purity. They were stamped with official symbols. This concept of coinage spread. It was further developed by the Ionian Cities, Greek Aegean Islands and Greece. I saw such quantities of ancient coinage at the Numismatic Museum in Athens.
Walking alone in a city that was non-English speaking was an experience of courage in this time of the Iraq War. The Kulturpark complex that has the Izmir History and Art Museum is built on the former Greek neighborhoods of Symrna. Kemal Attaturk in a museum inscription of about 1932 congratulated the founders for preserving “our countryʼs history.” Throughout the museum, bold writing stated the findings were from “The Greek Cities of Ionia”. Sigmund Freud said “when observing the monuments and statues of Greece, it is great to feel that you are part of them. This creates emotional stability and the ultimate harmony of the soul.” My photos of the Izmir History and Art Museum are at http://
http://www.answers.com/topic/ionia?cat=travel- Ionia from various encyclopedias