Ayvalik is a safe port at the south opening of the Gulf of Edremit (Adramyteion), on the west coast of Minor Asia, in the region of ancient Aeolis.
The history of the settlement is linked to the neighboring Moschonisi (Cunda Adasi), from where pirates transferred their loot so as to promote it inside Anatolia. At the same time, permanent settlements by Christians and Muslims started. The foundation of the city is dated at the end of the 16th century with the settling of Christians from Lesbos and the construction of the Taxiarchae church. According to tradition, the name Kydonies comes from the wild quinces which were on the hill east of the city (even the present name Ayvalik comes from ayva=quince). The first written reference of the city is in a codex of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in 1653.
A river (which now is transformed into a cement road), directed from east to west, divided Kydonies into two parts: the north one, which was uphill and called “Upper Land” and the south, which was flat and called “Lower Land”. Between those parts, which were interconnected with bridges, there lied the “Middle Land” or “Middle District”, around the river. There was also the metropolitan church dedicated to the Dormition of Theotokos (“Middle Panagia”), which did not survive.
The growth of population and economy, which on a large scale is owed to the monoculture of olive, started at the beginning of the 18th century and reached its peak in 1773 when great oikonomos Ioannis Dimitrakellis (1735-1791) secured a firman from the Sultan, with which certain privileges were attributed to his hometown. The majority of the population was Greek Orthodox, who constructed churches and the Academy of Kydonies (1803). After the start of the Greek Revolution, the Turks burnt down Kydonies, Moschonisi and Genitsarochori (now Küçükköy) on 3rd of June 1821, after the blast of the Turkish two-decker in Eresos, Lesbos. Most of their inhabitants fled to Aegean Islands and Peloponnese. In 1832 the return of 20.000 citizens of Ayvalik was allowed according to a firman. The city was rebuilt fast and in the next decades, it came to be a powerful commercial, industrial, and intellectual center. Concerning the construction of the churches, it is probable that the new buildings were founded in the same location as those before their destruction in 1821 and were dedicated to the same saints.
The prosperous route that Ayvalik followed was stopped with the Asia Minor Catastrophe and with the Lausanne Treaty (1923) Muslims from Crete, Lesbos and Macedonia settled in the city.