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Ionia (Ἰωνία)
Ancient region of Anatolia
Mount Mycale
Roman province

Ionia (

Izmir. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements. Never a unified state, it was named after the Ionians who had settled in the region before the Archaic period

Ionia proper comprised a narrow coastal strip from

Maeander, and included the islands of 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 significantly in the strife between the Persian Empire
and the Greeks.

Ionian cities were identified by mythic traditions of kinship and by their use of the

Clazomenae and Phocaea, together with the islands of Samos and Chios.[2] Smyrna, originally an Aeolic colony, was afterwards occupied by Ionians from Colophon, and became an Ionian city.[3][4]


Asia Minor
, Ionian area in green.

Ionia was of small extent, not exceeding 150 kilometres (90 mi) in length from north to south, with the cities located on a narrow band between the sea and the mountains, which varies in width from 60 to 90 kilometres (40 to 60 mi). So intricate is the coastline that the voyage along its shores was estimated at nearly four times the direct distance. The location of the eastern border with Lydia and Caria was vague in antiquity.[5]

The region comprised three extremely fertile valleys formed by the outflow of three rivers, among the most considerable in Asia Minor: the

, which in ancient times discharged its waters into a deep gulf between Priene and Miletus, but which has been gradually filled up by this river's deposits.

Two east-west mountain ranges divide the region and extend out into the Aegean as peninsulas. The first begins as Mount Sipylus between the Hermus and Caÿster river valleys and continues out as the Erythrae peninsula, which faces the island of Chios. The second is the Messogis range between the Caÿster and Maeander ranges, which becomes the Mycale peninsula, which reaches out towards the island of Samos. None of these mountain ranges exceed 1,200 metres (3,940 ft).

Ionia enjoyed the reputation in ancient times of being the most fertile region of Asia Minor.[3] Herodotus declares "in terms of climate and weather, there is no fairer region in the whole world."[6][7]


From the 18th century BC the region was a part of the

Hittite texts record contact with Ahhiyawans ("Achaeans") without being clear on their location. Miletus and some other cities founded earlier by non-Greeks received populations of Mycenaean Greeks


Greek settlement of Ionia seems to have accelerated following the

Bronze Age collapse
, but the lack of contemporary sources makes the sequence of events unclear.

The ancient Greeks believed that the Ionians were the descendants of

migrated from Greece to Asia Minor in mythic times.[8] The story is attested from the Classical period. 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.[9] However, the story of the migration is recounted most fully by the Roman-period authors Strabo and Pausanias.[10][11] They report that the Ionians were expelled from the Peloponnese by Achaians, and were granted refuge in Athens by King Melanthus.[12] Later, when Medon was selected as King of Athens, his brothers, the "sons of Codrus", led a group of Ionians and others to Asia Minor. Simultaneously, the Aeolians of Boeotia settled the coast to the north of the Ionians and the Dorians settled in Crete, the Dodecanese and in Caria

According to Pausanias, the sons of Codrus were as follows:

Pausanias reports that other cities were founded or became Ionian later:

Archaic period

In the Archaic period, "the Ionian poleis were among the cultural, intellectual, and political leaders of the Greek world."[28]

Ionian League

The twelve Ionian cities formed a religious and cultural (as opposed to a political or military) confederacy, the

Ionian migration are first attested. All of these initiatives were probably aimed at emphasising Ionian distinctiveness from other Greeks in Asia.[29]

But the Ionian League was primarily a religious organisation rather than a political one. Although they did sometimes act together, civic interests and priorities always trumped broader Ionian ones.

Thales of Miletus to combine in a political union was rejected.[3] In inscriptions and literary sources from this period, Ionians generally identify themselves by their city of origin, not as "Ionians." [28]

Ionians overseas

The cities became prosperous.

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.[3]

In the eighth century Ionian Greeks are recorded in Near Eastern sources as coastal raiders: 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".[30] For a full generation earlier, Assyrian inscriptions had recorded troubles with the Ionians, who escaped on their boats.[30]

Lydian rule

About 700 BC Gyges, first Mermnad king of Lydia, invaded the territories of Smyrna and Miletus, and is said to have taken Colophon. His son Ardys conquered Priene. In the middle of the 7th century, the Cimmerii ravaged a great part of Asia Minor, including Lydia, and sacked Magnesia on the Maeander, but were defeated when they attacked Ephesus. It was not until the reign of Croesus (560–545 BC) that the cities of Ionia fell completely under Lydian rule.[3]

First Achaemenid rule

The defeat of Croesus by Cyrus the Great was followed by the conquest of all the Ionian cities in 547 BC.[31] These became subject to the Persian monarchy with the other Greek cities of Asia, forming part of the satrapy of Lydia. In this position they enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy, but were subject to local despots (called "tyrants"), who were loyal to the Persian king.

Art and archaeology show that Ionia was characterised by "openness and adaptability" towards the Lydians, Persians, and their eastern neighbours in this period. Lydian products and luxury objects were widespread.[28]

The Persians used "Yaunā" (Ionian) as a catch-all term for all Greeks, dividing them into "Yaunā of the mainland" in Asia Minor, "Yaunā dwelling by the sea" in the Aegean islands, "Yaunā dwelling across the sea" in the Greek mainland, and "Yaunā with shields on their heads" in Macedonia.[28]

Ionian revolt

It was at the instigation of one of the tyrants,

Histiaeus of Miletus, that in about 500 BC the principal cities ignited the 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.[3]

Athenian empire

Athenian tribute list
for 454/3 BC.

The victories of the Greeks during the

Athenian tribute lists, one of the regions of the empire is the Ionikos phoros, a region that includes the cities of Ionia, but also Aeolis and Mysia to the north. Caria to the south was initially its own region, but was folded into the Ionikos phoros in 438 BC.[7]

The Athenians advanced an expansive definition of Ionian identity, which included most of the communities under their control and emphasised common descent from Athens. This was probably intended to legitimise their rule over the region. It clashed with the restrictive definition of Ionian identity that was maintained by the Ionian League.[32]

Herodotus, who came from

Dryopians, Phocians, Molossians, Arcadian Pelasgians, Dorians of Epidaurus, and others. Even "the best born of the Ionians" had married girls from Caria. He defines Ionians as all peoples who were descended from Athenians and celebrated the Apaturia festival,[34] which aligns with the expansive Athenian definition of Ionian identity.[32]

Satrapy (387–335 BC)

The Spartans dissolved the Athenian Empire at the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. The Spartans installed harmosts (governors) in the cities, but had to withdraw them because they had promised Ionia and the other Greek communities in Asia to the Persians.[35][36] In 401, the Ionian cities and Sparta supported Cyrus the Younger, the Persian overlord of Asia Minor, in his attempt to seize the throne from his brother, King Artaxerxes II but he failed.[37] Artaxerxes tasked Tissaphernes, the satrap of Lydia and Caria, with retaking the Ionian cities, and the Spartans opposed him.[38]

In 396 BC,

Agesilaus led a large expedition to Asia Minor to defend the cities and attack the Persians, which landed in Ephesus. From there he invaded Phrygia and Lydia, sacking Sardis in 395 BC. But the outbreak of the Corinthian War
forced him to withdraw in 395 BC.

The region was under Persian control by about 390 BC, when the Persian satrap arbitrated a boundary dispute between Miletus and Myus.[39] Sparta, Athens, and the other mainland Greek states formally acknowledged Persian possession of Ionia and the other Greek cities in Asia Minor in the Peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC.[3][40][41][42] In this period, Ionia was a separate satrapy, rather than part of Lydia - the only time in the region's history that formed an administrative unit.[39] Ionian cities appear to have retained a considerable amount of autonomy until the conquest of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great in 335 BC.[3]

Hellenistic period

Inscription from the Temple of Athena Polias at Priene, identifying Alexander the Great
as the temple's funder.

Ephesus was conquered by Philip II of Macedon in 336 BC in preparation for the invasion of Persia, which took place under his son Alexander the Great. After the battle of the Granicus in 334 BC most of the Ionian cities submitted to Alexander, except for Miletus, which was taken only after a long siege. Alexander presented his invasion as a liberation of the Greeks of Asia and therefore treated the Ionians generously, granting them freedom, autonomy, and tax-free status.

In the

Ptolemaic kingdoms. Cities were regularly forced to switch allegiance from one monarch to another,[43] but they were also able to play the kings off against one another in order to get better terms for themselves.[44] Despite the political situation, the Ionian League continued to operate throughout the period.[43]

Following their victory in the

Attalid Kingdom
, which retained the region until it was annexed by Rome in 133 BC.

One of the major theatrical associations of the Hellenistic period was the Synod of the Dionysiac Artists of Ionia and the Hellespont, which was established around 250 BC and had its headquarters successively in Teos, Ephesus,

Myonnesus, and Lebedus.[45]

Roman empire

The Library of Celsus in Ephesus was built in 114–117, during the Roman Imperial period.[46]

Ionia became part of the

conventus districts that were totally distinct from the traditional ethnic divisions of the region.[48]
However, the Ionian League continued to function in this period.

The geographer

metonym for the whole province of Asia.[51]

Decreased political agency for the Greek cities under Rome, led to increased focus on cultural identity as a source of civic prestige. In the fierce rivalries that raged between the cities of the Province of Asia in the Roman Imperial period, Ionian cities emphasised their Ionian identity as "one of the purest, 'primordial' forms of Greekness,"

era dating like most other cities in Asia Minor.[53] Distinctive Ionian personal names remained common.[53]

Medieval and modern history

Greeks continued to live in Ionia through the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires but were forced to vacate the region in 1922 with the population exchange between Turkey and Greece. The suburbs of Nea Ionia and Nea Smyrni were primarily settled by refugees from Ionia and still maintain an Ionian identity.[54]


From the 7th century BC, Ionia, and in particular

Thales and his student Anaximander, pioneered a revolution in traditional thinking about Nature. Instead of explaining natural phenomena by recourse to traditional religion/myth, the cultural climate was such that men began to form hypotheses about the natural world based on ideas gained from both personal experience and deep reflection. According to physicist Carlo Rovelli, this was the "first great scientific revolution" and the earliest example of critical thinking, which would come to define Greek, and subsequently modern, thought.[55]

Ionia has a long roll of distinguished men of letters and science (notably the

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.[3]


as well as in other places.

Literary references

Ionia appears as the major setting in these novels:

See also


  1. ^ Ancient Greek: Ἰωνία [i.ɔː.ní.aː], Iōnía or Ἰωνίη, Iōníē; Turkish: İyonya
  2. ^ Herodotus, 1.142.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainBunbury, Edward Herbert; Hogarth, David George (1911). "Ionia". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 727–728.
  4. ^ Herodotus, 1.143, 1.149–150.
  5. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 20.
  6. ^ Herodotus 1.142
  7. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 25.
  8. ^ Pausanias 7.1
  9. ^ Herodotus, 1.145.
  10. ^ MacSweeney 2013, pp. 157–73.
  11. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 3, 12.
  12. ^ Pausanias 7.1
  13. ^ Pausanias 7.2
  14. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 31.
  15. ^ Pausanias 7.2.8-9
  16. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 30.
  17. ^ Pausanias 7.2.10-11
  18. ^ Pausanias 7.3.3
  19. ^ Pausanias 7.3.5
  20. ^ Pausanias 7.3.6
  21. ^ Pausanias 7.3.7
  22. ^ Pausanias 7.2.10-11
  23. ^ Pausanias 7.3.8
  24. ^ Pausanias 7.3.10
  25. ^ Pausanias 7.4.1-3
  26. ^ Pausanias 7.4.8-10
  27. ^ Pausanias 7.5.1
  28. ^ a b c d Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 17.
  29. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 18.
  30. ^ a b 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.
  31. . Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  32. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 18-19.
  33. ^ Herodotus, 1.146.
  34. ^ Herodotus, 1.147.
  35. ^ Hamilton, Sparta's Bitter Victories, p. 27.
  36. ^ Hamilton, Agesilaus, p. 87.
  37. ^ Hamilton, Sparta's Bitter Victories, pp. 104–107.
  38. ^ Hamilton, Agesilaus, p. 88.
  39. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 26-27.
  40. .
  41. .
  42. ^ Xenophon, Hellenica 5.1.31
  43. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 27.
  44. ^ Ma 1999.
  45. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 37.
  46. ^ Mark Cartwright. "Celsus Library". World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  47. OCLC 230191195
  48. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 39.
  49. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 28-30.
  50. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 30-32.
  51. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 38.
  52. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 14-17.
  53. ^ a b Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 13.
  54. ^ Hallmannsecker 2022, p. 1-2.
  55. .
  56. . The name "Yunan" comes from Ionia; cf. Old Persian "Yauna" (...)


Coordinates: 38°12′N 27°30′E / 38.2°N 27.5°E / 38.2; 27.5