"Velvet Castle"

kadif1Old name: Mt Pagus

Dominating the view in central İzmir is Kadifekale (Velvet Castle, 186m), the hilltop fortress dating back to Byzantine times that forms a backdrop to Basmane and Konak. The remains of the fort itself are not especially exciting, but the views over the Gulf of İzmir are spectacular. 

Not a lot seems to be known about the castle's history but a story recounted by Pausanias in the 2nd century recounted how Alexander the Great had fallen asleep under a plane tree in front of a Temple to Nemesis. In a dream the goddess advised him to build a new city on the slopes of Mt Pagus, a suggestion endorsed by the oracle of Apollo at Claros. Presumably the original fortifications would have been part of the new city although they will have been rebuilt many times over the centuries. 

Originally there were 24 towers attached to the walls, all of them named after figures from Ancient Greek mythology such as Artemis and Leto. Today half a dozen still stand and from one of them there are panoramic views out over the city and the Gulf of İzmir. kadife1View from the Castle. The large patch of green in the middle is the site of the Fuar built over the Greek quarter annihilated by fire in 1922.

Recently the hillside around it is has been cleared with a view to improving the landscaping. During the course of this work the remains of the old Roman hillside theatre came to light. It is thought that it would have been able to accommodate an audience of 16,000 people and it seems likely that it was here that Izmir's patron saint, Polycarp, was put to death in c. 160 (he was burnt at the stake, then stabbed to death).

Inside the ruined walls of the city are the remains of cisterns which were probably linked to the Agora and from which water would have been carried to the town centre. 

Today women from Mardin and Midyat can usually be seen here weaving colourful strips of carpet on unusual horizontal looms.

Looking out on the inland side of the castle you will see a giant head of Atatürk seemingly carved into the rock beside the road to Selçuk although in fact it was actually built onto the rockface using scaffolding. 

ataturkbustTransport info

You can take a bus from Konak to the entrance of Kadifekale and then walk back down again. Until recently this was a poor area where visitors sometimes attracted the wrong sort of attention. Hopefully this situation will now improve as more visitors are drawn in.

Dolmuşes also run from in front of the Agora ruins on Anafartalar Caddesi to the castle. The stop says Kadifekale but the dolmuşes read "Mezarlıkbaşı"!


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