Ionia (Ancient Greek: Ἰωνία, Ionía or Ἰωνίη, Ioníe) was
an ancient region on the central part of the western coast of Anatolia
in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was
historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of
Ionian League of Greek settlements. Never a unified state, it was
named after the Ionian tribe who, in the Archaic Period (600–480
BC), settled mainly the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. Ionian
states were identified by tradition and by their use of Eastern Greek.
Ionia proper comprised a narrow coastal strip from
Phocaea in the
north near the mouth of the river
Hermus (now the Gediz), to Miletus
in the south near the mouth of the river Maeander, and included the
Chios and Samos. It was bounded by Aeolia to the north,
Lydia to the east and
Caria to the south. The cities within the region
figured large in the strife between the Persian Empire and the Greeks.
According to Greek tradition, the cities of
Ionia were founded by
colonists from the other side of the Aegean. Their settlement was
connected with the legendary history of the Ionic people in Attica,
which asserts that the colonists were led by Neleus and Androclus,
sons of Codrus, the last king of Athens. In accordance with this view
the "Ionic migration", as it was called by later chronologers, was
dated by them one hundred and forty years after the Trojan War, or
sixty years after the return of the
Heracleidae into the
3.2 Brief autonomy
3.3 Under the last Anatolian empire
3.4 Satrapy of the Achaemenids
3.5 Autonomy under the Athenian empire
3.6 Satrapy again
3.8 Under Rome
5 Literary references
6 See also
Ionia was of small extent, not exceeding 150 kilometres (90 mi)
in length from north to south, with a breadth varying from 60 to 90
kilometres (40 to 60 mi), but to this must be added the peninsula
of Mimas, together with the two islands. So intricate is the coastline
that the voyage along its shores was estimated at nearly four times
the direct distance. A great part of this area was, moreover, occupied
by mountains. Of these the most lofty and striking were Mimas and
Corycus, in the peninsula which stands out to the west, facing the
island of Chios; Sipylus, to the north of Smyrna, Corax, extending to
the south-west from the Gulf of Smyrna, and descending to the sea
between Lebedus and Teos; and the strongly marked range of Mycale, a
continuation of Messogisin the interior, which forms the bold headland
of Trogilium or Mycale, opposite Samos. None of these mountains
attains a height of more than 1,200 metres (3,940 ft). The
district comprised three extremely fertile valleys formed by the
outflow of three rivers, among the most considerable in Asia Minor:
Hermus in the north, flowing into the Gulf of Smyrna, though at
some distance from the city of that name; the Caster, which flowed
under the walls of Ephesus; and the Maeander, which in ancient times
discharged its waters into the deep gulf that once bathed the walls of
Miletus, but which has been gradually filled up by this river's
deposits. With the advantage of a peculiarly fine climate, for which
this part of
Asia Minor has been famous in all ages,
Ionia enjoyed the
reputation in ancient times of being the most fertile of all the rich
provinces of Asia Minor; and even in modern times[update], though very
imperfectly cultivated, it produces abundance of fruit of all kinds,
and the raisins and figs of
Smyrna supply almost all the markets of
Northern Ionia, view from space.
The geography of
Ionia placed it in a strategic position that was both
advantageous and disadvantageous.
Ionia was always a maritime power
founded by a people who made their living by trade in peaceful times
and marauding in unsettled times. The coast was rocky and the arable
land slight. The native
Luwians for the most part kept their fields
further inland and used the rift valleys for wooded pasture. The
coastal cities were placed in defensible positions on islands or
headlands situated so as to control inland routes up the rift valleys.
The people of those valleys were of different ethnicity. The
populations of the cities came from many civilizations in the eastern
Ancient demographics are available only from literary sources.
Herodotus states that in Asia the
Ionians kept the division into
twelve cities that had prevailed in Ionian lands of the north
Peloponnese, their former homeland, which became
Achaea after they
left. These Asian cities were (from south to north) Miletus, Myus,
Priene, Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedos, Teos, Erythrae,
Phocaea, together with
Samos and Chios. Smyrna, originally an
Aeolic colony, was afterwards occupied by
Ionians from Colophon, and
became an Ionian city — an event which had taken place before the
time of Herodotus.
These cities do not match those of Achaea. Moreover, the
Herodotus' time spoke Doric (Corinthian), but in
Homer it is portrayed
as being in the kingdom of Mycenae, which most likely spoke Mycenaean
Greek, which is not Doric. If the
Ionians came from Achaea, they
departed during or after the change from East Greek to West Greek
there. Mycenaean continued to evolve in the mountainous region of
There is no record of any people named
Ionians in Late Bronze Age
Hittite texts record the Achaeans of Ahhiyawa, of
location not completely certain, but in touch with the
Miletus and some other cities founded earlier by non-Greeks
received populations of Mycenaean
Greeks probably under the name of
Achaeans. The tradition of Ionian colonizers from
Achaea suggests that
they may have been known by both names even then. In the absence of
archaeological evidence of discontinuity at
Miletus the Achaean
population whatever their name appears to have descended to archaic
Ionia, which does not exclude the possibility of another colonizing
and founding event from Athens.
In the Indian (e.g.: Tamil) historic literary texts, the
referred to as "yavanar" or "yona", and are described as wearing
leather and wielding whips. In modern Turkish, the people of that
region were called "yunan" (plural "yunanlar") and the country that is
now Greece is known as "Yunanistan".
Herodotus expresses some impatience at the ethnic views of his
countrymen concerning Ionia: "for it would be foolishness to say that
these are more truly Ionian or better born ...." He lists other
ethnic populations among the settlers: Abantes from Euboea, Minyans
from Orchomenus, Cadmeians, Dryopians, Phocians, Molossians, Arcadian
Dorians of Epidaurus, and others. The presence of Doric
Ionians is somewhat contradictory, but
Herodotus himself, a major
author of the Ionic dialect, was from a Doric city, Halicarnassus.
Even " the best born of the Ionians", the Athenians, married girls
from Caria. "Yet since they set more store by the name than the rest
of the Ionians, let it be granted that those of pure birth are
Greek settlements in western Asia Minor, Ionian area in green.
From the 18th century BC the region was a part of the Hittite Empire
with possible name Arzawa, which was destroyed by invaders during the
12th century BC together with the collapse of the Empire.
settled by the
Greeks probably during the 11th century BC. The most
important city was
Miletus (the Millawanda/Milawata of Hittites).
Several centuries later
Ionia was the place where western philosophy
began and was the homeland of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and
Heraclitus. They were natural-philosophers of the Ionian school of
philosophy and tried to explain the phenomena according to
no-supernatural laws. They also searched a simple material-form behind
the appearances of things (origin) and this conception had a great
influence on the early archaic art in Greece.
Main article: First Greek colonisation
During the late 13th century BC the peoples of the
Aegean Sea took to
marauding and resettling as a way of life and were called by the
Egyptians the Sea Peoples. Mycenaean
Greeks must have
been among them. They settled lightly on the shores of
often by invitation. In the background was the stabilizing influence
of the Hittites, who monitored maritime movement and suppressed
piracy. When that power was gone the
Luwian people remained in the
vacuum as a number of coastal splinter states that were scarcely able
now to defend themselves. Ionian
Greeks took advantage of
opportunities for coastal raiding: an inscription of
Sargon II (ca
709–07,recording a naval expedition of 715) boasts "in the midst of
the sea" he had "caught the
Ionians like fish and brought peace to the
land of Que
Cilicia and the city of Tyre". For a full generation
earlier Assyrian inscriptions had recorded troubles with the Ionians,
who escaped on their boats.
Lycia came to the attention of Athens, most powerful state
remaining in Greece, which also had lost its central government ruling
from Mycenae, now burned and nearly vacant.
Ionians had been expelled
Peloponnesus by the
Dorians and had sought refuge in Athens.
The Athenian kings decided to relieve the crowding by resettling the
Ionians from the
Peloponnesus under native
The site of Miletus, once coastal, now inland. The plain was a bay in
They were not the only
Greeks to have such a perception and reach such
a decision. The
Boeotia contemporaneously settled the
coast to the north of the
Ionians and the newly arrived
Crete and the islands the coast of Caria. The
Greeks descended on the
Luwians of the Anatolian coast in the 10th century BC. The descent was
not peaceful and the
Luwians were not willing.
Pausanias gives a thumbnail sketch of the resettlement. Miletus
was the first city attacked, where there had been some Mycenaean
Greeks apparently under the rule of Cretans. After overthrowing the
Cretan government and settling there the
Ionians widened their attack
Samos and Priene. Combining with
Aeolians from Thebes they
founded Myus. Colophon was already in the hands of
Aeolians who had
Crete in Mycenaean times. The
Ionians "swore a treaty of
union" with them. They took
Lebedos driving out the Carians and
augmented the Aeolian population of Teos. They settled on Chios, took
Erythrae from the Carians, Pamphylians (both Luwian) and Cretans.
Phocaea were settled from Colophon. Somewhat later they
Smyrna from the Aeolians.
Main articles: Ionian League, Panionium, and Delos
The Ionian cities formed a religious and cultural (as opposed to a
political or military) confederacy, the Ionian League, of which
participation in the Panionic festival was a distinguishing
characteristic. This festival took place on the north slope of Mt.
Mycale in a shrine called the Panionium. In addition to the Panionic
festival at Mycale, which was celebrated mainly by the Asian Ionians,
both European and Asian coast
Ionians convened on
Delos Island each
summer to worship at the temple of the Delian Apollo.
But like the
Amphictyonic league in Greece, the Ionic was rather of a
sacred than a political character; every city enjoyed absolute
autonomy, and, though common interests often united them for a common
political object, they never formed a real confederacy like that of
the Achaeans or Boeotians. The advice of
Miletus to combine
in a political union was rejected.
The colonies naturally became prosperous.
Miletus especially was at an
early period one of the most important commercial cities of Greece;
and in its turn became the parent of numerous other colonies, which
extended all around the shores of the
Euxine Sea and the Propontis
from Abydus and
Cyzicus to Trapezus and Panticapaeum.
Phocaea was one
of the first Greek cities whose mariners explored the shores of the
western Mediterranean. Ephesus, though it did not send out any
colonies of importance, from an early period became a flourishing city
and attained to a position corresponding in some measure to that of
Smyrna at the present day.
Under the last Anatolian empire
About 700 BC Gyges, first Mermnad king of Lydia, invaded the
Smyrna and Miletus, and is said to have taken Colophon
as his son Ardys did Priene. The first event in the history of Ionia
for which there is a trustworthy account is the inroad of the
Cimmerii, who ravaged a great part of Asia Minor, including Lydia, and
sacked Magnesia on the Maeander, but were foiled in their attack upon
Ephesus. This event may be referred to the middle of the 7th century
BC. It was not until the reign of
Croesus (560–545 BC) that the
Ionia fell completely under Lydian rule.
Satrapy of the Achaemenids
The defeat of
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great was followed by the conquest
of all the Ionian cities in 547 BC. These became subject to the
Persian monarchy with the other Greek cities of Asia. In this position
they enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy, but were for the most
part subject to local despots, most of whom were creatures of the
Persian king. It was at the instigation of one of these despots,
Histiaeus of Miletus, that in about 500 BC the principal cities
Ionian Revolt against Persia. They were at first assisted
by the Athenians and Eretria, with whose aid they penetrated into the
interior and burnt Sardis, an event which ultimately led to the
Persian invasion of Greece. But the fleet of the
Ionians was defeated
off the island of Lade, and the destruction of
Miletus after a
protracted siege was followed by the reconquest of all the Asiatic
Greeks, insular as well as continental.
15th-century map showing Ionia.
Autonomy under the Athenian empire
The victories of the
Greeks during the great Persian war and the
liberation of Thrace, Macedon, and
Ionia from the Persian Empire had
the effect of enfranchising their kinsmen on the other side of the
Aegean; and the battle of
Mycale (479 BC), in which the defeat of the
Persians was in great measure owing to the Ionians, secured their
emancipation. They henceforth became the dependent allies of Athens
(see Delian League), though still retaining their autonomy, which they
preserved until the peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC once more placed
them as well as the other Greek cities in Asia under the nominal
dominion of Persia.
Ionian cities appear to have retained a considerable amount of freedom
until the liberation of
Asia Minor by Alexander the Great.
After the battle of the Granicus most of the Ionian cities submitted
to the rule of Alexander III of
Macedon and his Diadochi. As such
Ionia enjoyed a great prosperity during the
Hellenistic times with the
notable exception of Miletus, which, being the only city of the Ionian
League to deny to pay homage to Alexander, was finally leveled after a
long siege at 334 BC, and never restored to its previous splendor.
Ionia became part of the
Roman province of Asia.
Ionia has a long roll of distinguished men of letters and science
(notably the Ionian School of philosophy) and distinct school of art.
This school flourished between 700 and 500 BC. The great names of this
school are Theodorus and Rhoecus of Samos;
Bathycles of Magnesia on
the Maeander; Glaucus of Chios, Melas, Micciades, Archermus, Bupalus
and Athenis of Chios. Notable works of the school still extant are the
famous archaic female statues found on the Athenian Acropolis in
1885–1887, the seated statues of Branchidae, the Nike of Archermus
found at Delos, and the objects in ivory and electrum found by D.G.
Hogarth in the lower strata of the Artemision at Ephesus.
The Persian designation for Greek is Younan (یونان), a
transliteration of "Ionia", through Old Persian Yauna. The same is
true for the Hebrew word, "Yavan" (יוון) and the
"yavana". The word was later adopted in Arabic, Turkish, and Urdu as
well as in other places, such as Meniscus.
Ionia appears as the major setting in these novels:
Ionia Sanction (2011), by Gary Corby
The Ionian Mission
The Ionian Mission (1981), by Patrick O'Brian
Ancient regions of Anatolia
Regions of ancient Greece
List of traditional Greek place names
Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
^ Smith, William (1857). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography:
Volume II Iabadius-Zymethus. London: Walton and Maberly.
Ionia pages 60–61.
^ "Ionia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911.
^ "Ionia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911.
^ Herodotus, 1.145.
^ Herodotus, 1.142.
^ Herodotus, 1.143, 1.149–150.
^ Herodotus, 1.146.
^ Herodotus, 1.147.
^ Sargon's inscription in A. Fuchs, Die Inschriften Sargons II aus
Khorsabad (1994:40) noted in Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the
Epic Age of Homer, 2008:29f.
^ Guide to Greece Book 7 Sections 5–7.
^ "Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece". Retrieved 31 December 2014.
^ Lindner, Rudi Paul. Explorations in Ottoman Prehistory. Michigan:
University of Michigan Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-47209-507-0.
The name "Yunan" comes from Ionia; cf. Old Persian "Yauna" (...)
A. D. Godley (translator), Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1920; ISBN 0-674-99133-8. Online version at the
Perseus Digital Library.
Jan Paul Crielaard, "The
Ionians in the Archaic period: Shifting
identities in a changing world," in Ton Derks, Nico Roymans (ed.),
Ethnic Constructs in Antiquity: The Role of Power and Tradition
(Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2009) (Amsterdam
Archaeological Studies, 13), 37–84.
Alan M. Greaves, The Land of Ionia: Society and Economy in the Archaic
Period (Chichester/Malden, MA, Wiley–Blackwell, 2010).
Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Coordinates: 38°12′N 27°30′E / 38.2°N 27.5°E / 38.2;
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