In ancient times Foça was known as Phocaea. The name of Foça comes from ancient name Phocaea and the word of Phokaia comes from “seal” (in ancient Greek: Phoke). Foça is one of the 12 Ionian cities and is located in the Aeolian area. There are various opinions on its establishment. According to ancient authors,Phokaians living in Central Greece and the Athenian commanders Phligones and Damos ,with a permit from the city Kyme(nearby Aliaga) which ruled the area at that time, established Phocaea on the area ,where Foça is located today. By the ancient excavations it was found out that , Phocaea’s first inhabitants were Aeolians who established the city in 11th century BC and Ionians lived there since late 9th century BC.
According to ancient author Pausanias, Phocaea was founded by the people from Teos and Erythrai. However, recent excavations showed that the oldest known history of Phocaea dates to the Bronze Age (3th century BC). It was found out that the first locals of the city founded on southern side of Foça had a close relationship with Mycenaean (Akhas from Greece) in the second half of 2th century BC. With the good relations between locals and Aeolians coming in 11th century BC and Ionians, the city experienced a period of rapid rise in 7th century BC. According to Herodotus “Father of History”, Phokaians showed a great improvement in sailing. Phokaians using fast boats with 50 schovels and 500 passenger capacity were the first Hellens to set out on long sea voyages. They introduced Adriatic, Etruria, Iberia and Tartessos to the world of Hellens.
”The Royal Road” starting from the city of Susa in Iran in 7th century BC comes up to Sardis and here joined to the road coming from Phocaea and Kyme. According to the famous traveler Ramsay there were also Sardis Smyrna and Sardis-Ephesus roads. Thereby Ephesus and Smyrna could join to the Royal Road.
Another road from Ephesus probably reached to Phocaea through Smyrna. Between Ephesus, Smyrna, Phocaea and Sardis, the valley of Hermosa was located and the valley’s commercial dominance belonged to Smyrna. The contribution of this road to richness of Smyrna living its golden age in 7th century BC was great. After the fall of Smyrna by the king of Lydia Alyattes in 600 BC, Phocaea took over the commercial domination of Hermosa Valley. This domination is also marked by enrichment of Phocaea coins.
Phocaea lived its golden age in the first half of 600 BC. That golden age came to the end with the occupation of Sardis by Persians 546 BC. As many other West Anatolian cities, Phocaea was destroyed by Persians. According to Herodotus, the Persian commander Harpagos seized this city by putting up earth mounds in front of the city walls. After the encompassment of Phocaea and Persian occupation, most of Phokaians migrated to the colonies in the Mediterranean. Some of them came back later.
Phocaea was one of the first cities to mint “electronic coins” in Ionia. These coins reached the Mediterranean and Egypt via sea trade. The cities minting electronic coins which were an expensive alloy gave up minting it and started to mint silver and golden coins at the end of 600 BC.Phocaea and Mytilen were the only cities minting electron coins till the end of 400 BC. On the back side of most Phokaian coins there was a depiction of griffon. Griffon is a sophisticated creature from East mitology. Altough the name of Phocaea comes from seal, the symbol of the city was griffon. The walls of Archaic Period Temple of Athens were also encrusted with griffon protomes.
Phocaea was known as two talent tax giving member of Delos Union. In 412 BC it got up against and left the Union.
With Minor Asia Voyage of Alexander the Great in Hellenistic period, like many other Western Anatolian cities, Persian occupation in Phocaea ended. Later the city was ruled by commanders of Alexander the Great, Seleucid, Attalos and the Kingdom of Pergamo. By joining of the Kingdom of Pergamon to the Roman Empire in 133 BC, Phocaea shared the same fate. Despite the fact that Phocaea was in cooperation with rebelling leader from Pergamon , Aristonikos in 132 BC, it avoided falling down with help of the city of Massalia founded in 600 BC. Pompeius gave the Phocaea freedom.
At Early Christianity Period Phocaea was a bishopric center in Byzantine Empire’s “Thrakesio’s Theme” region. The city remained as an unimportant Byzantine habitation till 11th century.
At the beginning of 11th century, lands on the east part of Phocaea had slowly started to get under the domination of Seljuq Empire. Phocaea became a Venetian trading colony in 1082. At this period in Candarli in Western Anatolia, İzmir, Kuşadası and in Marmaris Venice colonial fortresses were built.
Having conflicts with Byzantine Empire, naval commander of Seljuq Empire Çaka Bey seized Smyrna in 1086 and later on he seized Khios, Klazomenai, Çeşme ve Phocaea.
During the Crusades (1096-1291), Latins had an active role in administration and business of Byzantine Empire.They established a new Roman Empire in 1204 and they joined the Northwest Anatolia to this empire in 1204.
In the 13th century the Byzantine Empire supported Genoese against the Venetians. Byzantin Emperors of shared sovereignty Mikhael VIII and Andronikos II (1272-1282) gave the city of Foça to a Genoese called Manuel Zaccaria in 1275. With trading of alum mine in Foça, Manuele Zaccaria gained a great amount of money because alum mine in Foça could only compete with a kind of alum found in Blacksea Region. This mine was used in medicine, leather and textile industry. Yeni Foça was a Genoese Fortress built for the alum trade. City wall in Foça was also renovated at this time.
Around 1300s when most of the Anatolia was under the domination of Turks, cities like İznik, İzmit, Bursa, Sardes, Manisa, Karadeniz Ereğlisi, İzmir ve Foça gained importance for Turks.
During the period of Ottoman Sultan I. Bayezit (1389-1402) Seigniories of Saruhan, Menteşe, Aydın joined to Ottoman Empire but Timur defeated I. Bayezit, occupied İzmir and held Foça and Chios to ransom.
The Ottoman Empire strengthening in the 15th century,with Ottoman fleet under the command of “ Captain of the Sea” Yunus Paşa annexed Yeni Foça and Foça to Ottoman Empire in 1455. Fatih the Conqueror attached Foça to the state of Manisa.
After this date, the production of alum didn’t stop; but it continued in the domestic market. The reason for this was that, in 1461 a new alum mine was found in Tolfa near Rome.
In 17th century Foça was one of the port cities providing Ottoman Empire’s east-west connections. Iran silk was coming to Foça through East and Central Anatolia and was loaded to the ships and sent to England, Spain, France and other European countries. European states were paying taxes to Ottoman Empire for this connection. In the middle of 17th century Foça lost this connection role because of the usage of Indian Ocean.
In the middle of 17th century Foça was one of the three port cities such as İzmir and Edremit that had the most important connections to Istanbul. Submitted products were rock alum, grindstone and dried fruits. In particular, raisins demand of the palace kitchen was covered from this region.
In the 17th century banditry was common in the Aegean region. According to traveler Fermanel (1630), North African pirates were dominant in Foça. At this time İzmir was still a small center of population.
In the late of 17th century Foça consisted of the peninsula called “Kaleiçi” (Old Town). In the beginning 19th century settlement spread outside of the walls. According to a English traveler visited Foça in 1835, in each thousand residence, there were 400 Greeks and 600 Turks. In the second half of 19th century there was an intense domestic migration from Aegean Islands to Western Anatolia. Most of the immigrants were Turks.
In 1867 Foça and its sub-district Yeni Foça combined to the state of Manisa. It was under the invasion of Greeks from May 15th, 1919 till September 11th, 1922. Since this date, Foça has been under domination of Turks and today it is a district of Izmir.