Once known as Cirkince (“ugly), the village was built by the Greeks around 800 years ago and since the population exchange in 1924 has since been inhabited by Muslims from Thessalonica. Indeed its habitants gave this name on purpose as they did not want to be bothered by foreigners not to share the beauty of their village.
The village has a few guest-houses and restaurants, and is popular with foreign and Turkish tourists to experience a taste of traditional village life in a peaceful environment.
Sirince stands at the end of the valley which goes along the Cirkince mountain-pass from Seljuk to the east. The river flowing in the valley was called Klasseas in antiquity. The mountains in the north are called Elemen. Selahattin Mountain is the current name given to the hills stretching to the east. Beylik Hill, 508 meters high, is to the west of Sirince, overlooking the sea and the Seljuk plain.
The hills around Sirince are covered with pine trees and on the rocky cliffs with scrub. Marshmallows with violet flowers are the most striking plants on the climb to Sirince. The town is surrounded by olive groves, vineyards, and tangerine and fig gardens.
The village of Sirince referred in ancient sources as the “Ephesus on the Mountain” suggests long established settlement. Although there seems to be no direct evidence of how it came onto the stage of history, the dominant theory is that a small group of people resettled on the mountain, following the fall of the city of Ephesus and its harbour being moved to Kusadası (Scala Nova). The people might have preferred to move and settle in the mountains due to problems caused by the silting and the flooding of the river Meander.
The village legend says that this new village in the mountain of Cirkince, was named “rather ugly”, to divert attention and interest of outsiders, thus ensuring security. One of the principal tell-tales about naming of the village says that a group of Byzantine Greeks who were freed from the dominion of Aydinogullari and sent away to be re-settled, were asked by the neighbouring villagers whether the new place they had settled in was nice or not. The answer was “rather ugly”.
The oldest building in Sirince is from the Hellenistic period, initially built as a tower, and most likely dates from the Lysimakhos period, the time when the city of Ephesus was founded. It was a part of a spread signal system built in the Klasseas Valley which was of strategic importance. The building has undergone some reconstructions during the Byzantine period and presumably, was used as a monastery.
A ceramic seal with the name of Georgios, which was used to brand bread in a bakery, was found in a peach garden indicates the existence of a community life in the region in the Byzantine period.
The oldest travel notes about Kirkica are in the book of memories “A Visit to Turkey and Return to Britain”, after a scholar priest Edmund D. Chishull who lived in Izmir during 1698-1702. Leaving Tire, Chishull reached the ancient city of Ephesus in April 30, 1699. As the book narrates, the place to stay for the overnight around Ephesus was the village of Kirkidje. Chishull and his guide arrived in the village at around 8 o’clock in the evening wandering through the Klasseas Valley in the east of Ayasuluk Hill. This is how Chishull describes it:
“ ... Accompanied by our guide and on horseback, we went along a river with small springs, a long but pleasant journey of about an hour and a half, riding between the two hills below the Ephesus fortress and accompanied by the cooling shadows of myrtles, oleanders, Judas trees, Scots brooms, lilacs and others.”
Spending the night in the tents of the muleteers, they visited the village on the next day, on May 1. Chishull states that all the inhabitants were Christian.
“ ... The village priest wanted to show us the supposedly hand-written pages of the Bible. It was a Bible believed to have been written by Prochorus who was one of the seven assistant priests mentioned in the book called “The Achievements of the Apostles”. We examined it and found out that it was either a copy of the Bible or a prayer book from the 6th or 7th centuries.”
It is recorded that Chishull and the group left Kirkinca village for Ephesus the same day in the afternoon.
Kirkinca was a village of 1800 households of Byzantine Greeks during the Ottoman reign in the 19th century.
World War I started in 1914 with all its violence in Anatolia. The Ottoman government recruits the young Byzantine Greeks of Kirkica Village to the Workmen Battalion. However, those abandon the battalion either escaping to the mountains and live as a gang of brigands or take refuge in Greece. Those who managed to survive the war returned to their village when the war ended. Dido Sotiriou reflects about those years in her novel “Farewell Anatolia”:
“The Germans had left behind their munitions stores in the ancient Ephesus. The Turkish gendarme appointed by the Mondros Armistice to hand them over to the allies had run away. Following the night fall, the villagers of Kirkinca carried all the weapons and explosive materials to the village pacing the roads of Ephesus. It was then that they felt independent. Hunchbacks immediately became straight.”
When the Greek Army occupied Izmir on May 15, 1919 it was welcomed with excitement in the village of Kirkica. Identifying themselves as Greek, the young people of Kirkica, Urla, Bornova and Kusadasi enrolled to the independent regiments lead by Greek officers. The Treaty of Sèvres signed in August 10, 1920 inspired those young people with the hope to share the eastern Anatolia with the allies. However, the success of the Great Assault forced the Greek Army from Izmir in September 9, 1922 and ended the Turkish Independence War. The population of the most Byzantine Greek villages was forced to flee to the Greek islands leaving the area deserted, with only few elderly inhabitants left behind.
In 1924, a Population Exchange Agreement was signed between Turkish and Greek governments. Thus, the post-war Kirkica was revitalized with Turkish newcomers from Thessaloniki, Kavala and Provost. The words of Kazim Dirik Pasha, the governor of Izmir at the time, about the name of the village are still quoted in the region. During the first years of the Turkish Republic, he visited the village and suggested changing its name from Cirkince -meaning “rather ugly”- to Sirince – meaning “charming”, saying “such a nice place should not be called “ugly”, but could only be called “pretty”.
Main Historical Sites & Destinations Around Izmir & Kusadasi
♦ The Archaeological Museum of Izmir exhibits an impressive collection of pre-Roman and Roman artefacts recovered from area
excavations, including Bergama, Iasos, Bayrakli and Izmir's Agora… more
♦ Ephesus Open Air Museum - contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated… more
♦ Ephesus Archaeological Museum was reopened in November 2014 after extensive renovations. It houses finds from the nearby
Ephesus excavation site… more
♦ Basilica of St. John was built in the 6th century AD, under emperor Justinian I, over the supposed site of the apostle's tomb. It was
modelled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople… more
♦ Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood 137 m x 69 m with 127 marble pillars each 18 m high. The temple earned the city the title Servant of the Goddess… more
♦ The House of Virgin Mary. Located on the top of Nightingale mountain, the House of the Virgin Mary
Turkish: Meryemana), is located in a nature park between Ephesus and Seljuk, and is believed to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. The peaceful site is sacred to both Christians and Muslims, and is visited by many tourists and pilgrims… more
♦ Village of Sirince. Once known as Kirkince, the village was built by the Greeks around 800 years ago and since the population
exchange in 1924 has since been inhabited by Muslims from Thessalonica. Indeed its habitants gave this name on purpose as they did
not want to be bothered by foreigners not to share the beauty of their village.… more
♦ The Site of Ancient Pergamum – City of Science & Satan…? Perched atop a windswept mountain along the Turkish coastline and gazing proudly over the azure Aegean Sea... more
♦ Didyma - Priene - Miletus - the three towns of Priene, Miletus, and Didyma make up part of Ancient Ionia, homeland of many of the ancient world’s greatest artistic and scientific minds, and each endowed with haunting ruins... more
♦ Pamukkale & Ancient Hierapolis. Deriving from springs in a cliff almost 200 m high overlooking the plain of Curuksu in south-west
Turkey, calcite-laden waters have created an unreal landscape, made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced
basins given the name of Pamukkale (Cotton Palace)... more
♦ Aphrodisias is one of the oldest sacred sites in Turkey. The site has been sacred since as early as 5.800 BC, when Neolithic farmers came here to worship the Mother Goddess of fertility and crops... more