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Smyrna was a strategic port and a nexus in which all ancient commercial routes from the East converged. To Western European travellers, it was also the starting or ending point of their tour of the interior.

For centuries, Smyrna had been the gate of the commercial route to the wealth of Anatolia, and the crossroads where all maritime routes from the West ended. It became more prominent in the 19th century and formed part of nearly every itinerary, independently of the journey's purpose (pilgrimages, diplomatic missions, business, archaeological research, art, leisure etc.)

Smyrna comes thus only second to Istanbul in travellers' preferences. A miniature of the latter, it was the begninning or the end of all tours either of the interior or of the coast and nearby islands. Travellers' texts vividly convey the singular character of the city, whose heart was the port, and paint lively pictures of a buzzing commercial life and ethnic diversity, in which the Greek element predominated.

One of the first archaeological explorations of Ionia was the voyage of J. Spon and G. Wheler (1675-6). Spon, the French physician and archaeologist, was the first to look for antiquities in situ, following the ancient sources. He was accompanied by George Wheler, who explored and made drawings of ancient remains on the Ionian coast, primarily in Smyrna (1682). The subjects of the illustrations which accompany this edition of J. Spon 's voyage (1678), which is highly significant for the author's pioneering exploration of ancient sites, are novel and groundbreaking for their time. Most of the pictures are first-ever depictions of archaeological sites and remains.  The Dutch edition of J. Spon's work (1689) includes illustrations of the places visited by Spon and George Wheler, which aim to recreate scenes from the two travellers' explorations.

The first map of the bay of Smyrna is found in a work of the same period, a splendid specimen of late-17th century Flemish engraving. Ol. Dapper's “Archipel” was published in 1688. Its texts and illustration were based on ancient Greek and Latin sources, portolani and isolaria as well as travel accounts and authoritative maps of the time (Dapper never travelled himself). The editions by J. Enderlin include copies of engravings found in earlier or nearly contemporary popular works (1686).The plates in the work by J. Sandrart (1687) show castles and other location, in their majority under Ottoman rule. Several similar works which highlight the victories of the Venetians against the Ottomans in the Sixth Ottoman-Venetian War (1684-1699) were released during the same period. The editions by J. Peeters in the late 17th century (1686 and 1690) also exalt the victories of the Holy League in the Ottoman-Venetian wars. The plates show cities, ports and other locations in Austria, Southeastern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and places in Asia all the way to India and Saudi Arabia.

The first views of the city and port of Smyrna are published in the work by C. Le Bruyn, in the early 18th century (1714). The artist and author of this travel account embellished his work with original subjects, executed in engravings of high artistic value. Le Bruyn offers the first depictions of houses, female costume (principally headwear), views of the city from the sea, tables of ancient coins etc.

The same period saw the publication of the work by J. Pitton de Tournefort (1717), following the author's travel to the Aegean sea. This edition offered a wealth of information and became an obligatory guide to travellers to the Archipelago. It also includes illustrations of Smyrna (the fortress, statues, a map of the area and a view of the city). The chronicle by P. Lucas  (1720) has engravings of ancient funerary steles from Smyrna.

The Society of the Dilettanti promoted, organized and realized archaeological expeditions to Greece and Asia Minor until 1846, and published the findings of those explorations in monumental volumes. The first documented publications on Ionian antiquities are the result of the Society's work (Al. Drummond, 1754, on Smyrna and surrounding area). The illustrations in the edition by J.A. van Egmont and J. Heymann (1759) show subjects already published in the editions by C. Le Bruyn.  The plates which illustrate Ch. Thompson's travel account (1752) are also copies of subjects already published in earlier popular travel accounts.

J. Seller was the creator of the first detailed mapping of the Mediterranean coast, titled “English Pilot...” . First published in the 17th century, it was repeatedly reissued and continued to be used down to the 19th century (here in the 1771 edition). Seller's works established the use of the English language in maritime charts and greatly influenced later cartographic editions. It includes maps of the local shores. The rich cartographic production of the late 18th century includes the remarkable maps of P.G. Chanlaire (c. 1780), here coloured over.

A few years later the monumental work by M.G.F.A. Choiseul-Gouffier expressed the love of antiquity and philhellenism in a new and original way, and at the same time established the primacy of image in travel chronicles (late 18th- early 19th century). Choiseul-Gouffier's edition includes a map and a view of Smyrna as well as tables showing ancient coins.

The large natural port and large bay of Smyrna and all its main anchorages were mapped in the port index by J. Roux (1804). In the rare album of drawings in sepia kept at the Gennadius Library (Album of 18 original drawings in sepia, c. 1800), the artist conveys the overall sensation of the landscape with intensity, at the cost of details of each monument. Military officers, itinerant traders and scenes of everyday life are depicted, albeit somewhat awkwardly, in the plates created by the painter Lachaise (1821). F.V.J. Arundel (1828), who travelled to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, made a draft of the peninsula of Erythraea.  The first half of the 19th century saw the publication of Albums, which included interesting views of the Asia Minor cities known as Seven Churches of the Apocalypse (Ch. Mac Farlane, 1832).

Otto Stackelberg was a member of a group of Danish, German and British artists,  architects and lovers of antiquity who realized archaeological excavations and explorations, and subsequently pillaged the sculptures of two major ancient monuments: the sculptures of the temple of Aphaia on Aegina island and those of the temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae. The 1826 edition by Stackelberg has excellent lithographs of the sculptures of the temple of Apollo, as well as views of the temple and its surrounding area.

By the 19th century Smyrna is part of the Grand Tour, which had become almost mandatory to wealthy Europeans, as part of one's education and as a sign of social status. Consequently this period offers abundant graphic material: Views of ancient remains, the theatre and the port (Et. Rey, 1843), a view of the bay with ships (J.H. Allan, 1843), a view of the city by J. Skene (1838-45). Also, an interesting view of the city looking towards the sea can be found in Ch.C. Frankland (1829).

Both Ch. Fellows (1839) and J.d’ Estourmel (1848) offer a view of the Caravan bridge at the entrance of the city, while Eug. Peytier (1829-33) has a drawing of a public spring. Snapshots of everyday life in the city can be found in the highly successful Album by R. Walsh / Th. Allom (1836-38). The drawings by French painting Th. Le Blanc (1833-34), made from nature, are marked by intense emotion. The popular watercolours of A. Preziosi (1852-57) show costumes and human types of the Ottoman Empire. They stand apart from similar works of the same period thanks to the vivid colours, original poses and lively expressions.

The Album of 1984 includes rare and very interesting wood engravings taken from the  pioneering weekly review  “The Illustrated London News” (1842-1885) and the similarly themed magazine “The Graphic” (1869-1885). The plates depict locations, people and events (political, social and military), from 1842 to 1885. Albums with views of cities and snapshots of everyday life of the inhabitants remained popular during the 19th century and responded to the reading public's demand for images and scenes from the East (J. Schranz, c. 1850). The artistic magazines of the 19th century also published plates with views of significant monuments of the East, accompanied by thorough explanatory texts. They sold well, and aimed both at entertaining and educating the public (M. Busch, 1869).

In his “Asie mineure: description géographique, historique et archéologique des provinces et des villes de la Chersonnèse d'Asie”(here in the 1882 reedition) Ch. Texier presented the outcome of his tour of Asia Minor and systematized all hitherto available knowledge on geography, history and archaeology of the region. He includes a view of Smyrna and an engraving showing an ancient relief on the outskirts of the city, near the Byzantine town of Nymphaion.The impressive edition authored by L.E.S.J. marquis de Laborde (1838) highlighted the richness of the ancient sites of Asia Minor and spurred the interest for archaeological explorations of the area.

Women and their costume have always been an attractive subject of representation. A female costume from Smyrna is found in the edition by A. De La Mottraye (1727, also in the edition by P. Argenti, 1953). There are also the enchanting human figures in the colour lithographs by Fr.A.A. Goupil-Fesquet (1843), typical of orientalist aesthetics, and a reprint of a painting on a similar subject (1838-42) in the album by G. Patieridis / K. Stamatis. The French cartoonist H.L. Avelot (1899) made original sketches of people and scenes of everyday life, and created  highly innovative material which pushed other artists to create similar illustrations inspired from their travels.

In the early 20th century there is a wealth of images from Smyrna (L. Launay in 1915 and Ew. Banse in 1919), due to the political and military events which took place in Asia Minor and the expansion of photography. A series of engravings and watercolours of landscapes, details of space and human types are included in the work of P. Jeancard (1919); they were based on the author's own drawings, and are reminiscent of photographic shots. The “Album” by Fr. Fr. Boissonnas (1919) includes photographs of the Greek ships in the port, the Greek army parading on the coast, picturesque moments of everyday life in Greek and Turkish neighbourhoods, the market, bridges and aqueducts in the surrounding area. These are all rare photographs of Smyrna before the Destruction of 1922.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou