The West Portico is one of the columned galleries which surrounded the courtyard of the Agora. It is not possible today to see clearly what kind of building it was. But from architectural traces and fragments that have been retrieved through excavation it is understood that in the Roman period it was built, at courtyard level, as a two-storied structure and that there was a basement storey underneath. It is thought that the portico continues further south beyond the gate called the Gate of Faustina. Work done in the portico revealed the foundations of three monumental doors. These connected the Portico to the Salon with Mosaics and to the City Council Building.
The Gate of Faustina
Immediately in front of you are the Gate of Faustina and the ground floor row of columns. The gate takes its name from a high relief portrait located on the keystone. The portrait is thought to be that of Faustina Minor, wife of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It is said that in order to express their feelings of gratitude towards Marcus Aurelius, who gave great aid to the city after a massive earthquake which hit Smyrna in 178 A.D., the Smyrnaeans put the portrait of the Empress Faustina upon this monumental gate. The gate must originally have been double-arched; the other arch is thought to be
buried under the modern street.
The Gate of Faustina was located at a point where a street or avenue serving the harbor quarter reached the Agora. According to the account of the orator Aelius Aristides, who lived in Smyrna in the 2nd century A.D., once when the men of Smyrna left the city to go to a temple on the summit of a mountain (the Temple of Dionysus) some people of Chios attacked Smyrna with the intention of capturing it, but the folk of Smyrna detected and defeated them.
Afterwards, to commemorate this victory, the people of the city began to carry a sacred trireme (an ancient type of ship) around the Agora during the Festival of Dionysus. This ritual re-enacted the setting sail of the Chiotes towards Smyrna. Most probably the ritual began at the harbor and, following the Harbor Avenue, reached the Gate of Faustina.
The marble flooring of the monumental entrance has been preserved. In front of the gate a section of the original courtyard paving of marble can be seen.