Ayvalık (Turkish) is a seaside town on the northwestern Aegean coast of Turkey. It is a district of Balıkesir Province. The town center of Ayvalık is surrounded by the archipelago of Ayvalık Islands, which face the nearby Greek island of Lesbos.

It was an ancient Aeolian port-town, called Kydonies (Greek: Κυδωνίες) and it served surrounding Greek Aeolian cities, such as Pergamos; since the Ottoman era, the name of the city changed to Ayvalik, the town remained predominantly Greek, and although the Turks used its Turkish name, its Greek population used indiscriminately its ancient name Kydonies and its new name Hellenized to Aivali

Ayvalık was located in the ancient region named Aeolis in antiquity. The ruins of three important ancient cities are within a short driving distance away from Ayvalık: Assos and Troy are to the north, while Pergamon is to the east. Mount Ida (Turkish: Kaz Dağı) which plays an important role in ancient Greek mythology and folk tales (such as the cult of Cybele; the Sibylline books; the Trojan War and the epic poem Iliad of Homer; the nymph Idaea (wife of the river god Scamander); Ganymede (the son of Tros); Paris (the son of Priam); Aeneas (the son of Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite) who is the protagonist of the ancient Roman epic poem Aeneid of Virgil) is also near Ayvalık (to the north) and can be seen from numerous areas in and around the town center.


Various archeological studies in the region prove that Ayvalık and its environs were inhabited as early as the prehistoric ages. Joseph Thacher Clarke believed that he had identified it as the site of Kisthene, mentioned by Strabo as a place in ruins at a harbour beyond Cape Pyrrha.[3] Kisthene was further identified by Engin Beksaç of Trakya University, as Kız Çiftlik, near the centre of Gömeç.

The Ayvalık Region was studied by Beksaç in his survey of the Prehistoric and Protohistoric settlements on the Southern Side of the Gulf of Adramytteion (Edremit). The survey showed different settlements near the centre of Ayvalık which appear generally to relate to the Early Classical Periods.[citation needed] However, some settlements near the centre of Altınova were related to the Prehistoric Period, especially the Bronze and Iron Ages. Kortukaya, identified by Beksaç in his survey project in the 1990s and early 2000s, aids understanding of the interaction between the peoples of the interior and of the coast. Kortukaya is one of the most important settlements, along with another settlement, Yeni Yeldeğirmeni, near the centre of Altınova.

Traces of a hillfort were identified by Beksaç on Çıplak Island or Chalkys. Some Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Pottery fragments related to the Aeolians were found on the same island. Two tiny settlements, near the centre of Ayvalık, were settlements in the Peraia of Mytilene.

Pordoselene, near the centre of Ayvalık, was also an important settlement in Antiquity. The remnants were on the eastern part of Cunda Island, near the sea. All the archaeological data was related to the Classical and Medieval Ages.

The constant threat posed by piracy in the region during the previous ages did not allow the islet settlements to grow larger and only Cunda Island (alternatively known as Alibey Island, known among the Greeks as Moschonisia, literally "The Perfumed Island") could maintain a higher level of habitation as it is the largest and the closest islet to the mainland.

After the Byzantine period, the region came under the rule of the Anatolian beylik of Karasi in the 13th century and was later annexed to the territory of the Ottoman beylik (principality), which was to become the Ottoman Empire in the following centuries. The locals contributed with their economies to the Greek struggle for independence, including the famous Psorokostaina.

In 1821, following riots, the male population was massacred, and women and children were sent into slavery. As reported by the them British Ambassador Lord Strangford, Osman Pasha, having accepted the submission of the Aivaliotes, carried his indulgence so far as to permit them to retain their arms – that matters remained perfectly tranquil in the town, till the sudden appearance in the offing, of a large squadron of the Greek insurgents, induced the inhabitants to hope that it had come to their succor, and that they might make another attempt at revolt with better success. They accordingly rose en masse, and butchered about fifteen hundred Turks. But the squadron (the appearance of which in the bay had been merely accidental) having in the meantime sailed away, the Turks recovered their courage, and an indiscriminate massacre of the Greeks.

As of 1920, the population was estimated at 60,000.[4] It had a small port, exporting soap, olive oil, animal hides and flour.[4] The British described Aivali (Ayvalık) and nearby Edremid (Edremit) as having the finest olive oil in Asia Minor.[4] They reported large exportations of olive oil to France and Italy.[4] However, the oil industry in Ayvalık suffered during the First World War due to the deportation of Christian populations in the area (some of whom fled to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea), who were the primary makers of olive oil.[4] Alarmed at the decline of the industry, the Turkish government brought back 4,500 Greek families to the area in order to resume olive oil production.[4] However, although these repatriated Greeks were receiving wages, they were not allowed to live in their own homes, but were kept under official surveillance [4]

Until 1922, Ayvalık was almost entirely populated by Greeks. Anecdotal evidence indicates that, immediately after the defeat in the naval Battle of Chesma (Çeşme), the Ottoman admiral (later Grand Vizier) Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Pasha and his men from the ships who survived the disaster were lodged on their way back to the capital by a local priest in Ayvalık, who did not know who they were. Hasan Pasha did not forget the kindness shown to his sailors in the hour of need, and when he became Grand Vizier, he accorded virtual autonomy to the Greeks of Ayvalık, paving the way for it to become an important cultural center for that community in the Ottoman Empire during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The town was controlled by the Greek Army on 29 May 1919 and consequently taken again three years later by Turkish forces under the command of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 15 September 1922. A part of the population managed to depart to Greece. However, a significant part of the local males were seized by the Turkish Army and died during death marches in the interior of Anatolia. Among the victims was the Christian clergy and the local metropolitan bishop, Gregory Orologas.[5][6] Following the Turkish War of Independence, the Greek population and their properties in the town were exchanged by a Muslim population from Greece, and other formerly held Ottoman Turkish lands, under the 1923 agreement for the Exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey. Most of the new population that replaced the former Greek community were Muslim Turks from Mytilene, Crete and Macedonia. One could still hear Greek spoken in the streets until recently. Many of the town's mosques are Greek Orthodox churches that have been converted into Muslim mosques.

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