Dafato Team | May 26, 2022

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The Ionians, or Ionians (Greek Ἴωνες, Greek Ίωνες) is one of the major ancient Greek tribes. They got their name from the legendary mythical hero Jonah, who was considered the ancestor of the tribe. According to another version, the name comes from Jonah (Greeks), son of Japheth, grandson of Noah. They occupied the territory of Attica, part of the island of Evia, the other islands of the Aegean except Lesbos, Rhodes and Tenedos. In the 11th-9th centuries BC the Ionians colonized the middle part of the western coast of Asia Minor (Ionia), and later the coasts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The Ionian dialect was widespread, and a rich literature (Homer, Herodotus, etc.) and a significant number of epigraphic monuments have been preserved in it.

The Ionians are one of the four main tribes of the Greek people, according to the tradition already formulated by Hesiod, along with the Dorians, Aeolians, and Achaeans. The tribes were descended from the sons of Hellenes - Dorus and Aeolus, and the sons of their third brother, Xufus - Achaeus and Ion. In historical development, the Aeolians and Achaeans are of little significance in comparison with the Dorians and Ionians, who are the main carriers of Greek culture. The same result is reached by linguistics, which recognizes the independent development only of the Doric and Ionian dialects.

The population of Ionia in historical times was not distinguished by purity of blood and represented a motley mixture of various elements, which gives the right, together with Herodotus and other ancients, to distinguish the Ionians proper, the product of this mixture, from the Athenians, proud of their ancient Pelasgic origin. The mixed nationality of the Ionians, besides the Ionians themselves, included the Abantes from Euboea, the Minians, the Cademites, the Dryopes, the Phocaeans, the Molossians, the Arcadian Pelasgians and the Epidaurian Dorians. According to Herodotus, the Ionians themselves, who had left Athens, arrived in Asia Minor without wives and took a Carian woman as a wife here. The noble and dynastic families in the Ionian cities were descended from Neleus, the most ancient king of Pylos of Messene, whose son was Homer's Nestor. Tradition leads these Nelides (to whom Codr was a member) also first to Athens, where they attain, in the person of Melanthus, royal power. But the Ionians themselves produced their Nelids directly from Pylos. It may be that Codr is only later interwoven into their genealogy.

The ethnographic diversity of the population of Ionia also finds expression in the fact that, along with the original Ionian phyla, there are other phyla in Ionian cities, especially the phyla of the Greeks and the Inopians. In Ephesus, where the composition of the population was especially motley, the Ionians constituted only one phyla, the Ephesians, whose subdivisions were the ancient Ionian phyla. That the Peloponnesus also gave part, and quite a considerable part, of this population to Ionia is evidenced by the leading role of Argos and Mycenae in the epic, a product of purely Ionian origin, and by the cult of Hera on Samos. Various evidence points to the deep antiquity of Ionian settlement in Asia Minor. The Asiatics, who from very early times encountered the Ionians, call them by the name of all the Greeks. The words Javan in the Hebrews (Gen. 10:2, original Hebrew יָוָן) and Dr. Pers. The Hebrews and the Hebrews are the same as the Hebrews (Gen. 10:2) and the Hebrews are the same as the Hebrews.

According to the legend, most widespread thanks to the authority of Herodotus, but hardly particularly ancient, the Ionians originally lived along the northern coast of the Peloponnese, in the historical Achaea (the Homeric catalog of ships lists this area as the possessions of Agamemnon, under the name Aegaleus, and does not mention the Ionians here). From here they were displaced by the Achaeans, in turn displaced from their original regions by the Dorians who moved to the Peloponnese. The Ionians moved to Attica. From there, two generations later, the Ionians migrated to Asia Minor, led by the sons of Codrus, who did not wish to remain in Attica after the diminution of royal power. As proof that the original homeland of the Ionians was Peloponnesian Achaea, Herodotus points out that there were 12 cities in both regions (in Asia Minor Ionia: Phocaea, Clazomenes, Erifrys, Theos, Lebed, Colophon, Ephesus, Priene, Miantus, Miletus, and on the islands: Samos and Chios). In addition, Poseidon of Helikon was worshipped here and there (although there is some doubt about the identity of the Poseidon cults in Achaea and Ionia).

The general opinion of antiquity, however, forgot about the origin of the Ionians from the Peloponnesian Aegaleum and considered them directly as colonists of the Athenians, and the main proof of the close connection between Attica and Ionia were the identical phyla of Heleonites, Oplites, Aegikoreans and Argadeans, derived from the sons of Ion.

Of the newer scholars, Ernst Curtius put forward the hypothesis of the autochthony of the Ionians in Asia, whence from time immemorial they migrated, in his opinion, through the archipelago islands to Attica (he holds on to it in all editions of his "History of Greece". This hypothesis had already been severely criticized by Gutschmid ("Beiträge zur Gesch. d. alt. Orients", Lpz., 1856) and after him was unanimously dismissed, until A. Holm resurrected it again in his "Geschichte Griechenlands" (I, 86, Berl., 1886). Now, however, the hypothesis may be regarded as having been removed, especially after the strong objections of E. Meyer ("Gesch. des Altertums" II, §§ 155-160, Stuttg., 1893), who points out, among other things, the fact that the Ionian cities stretched along the seacoast, without penetrating inland at all, as had always happened with the Greek colonies; this serves to prove best that they came from the sea. The Ionians themselves always had the consciousness that they were colonists and not natives. The very spread of the Ionians over the Cyclades and the coast of Asia Minor was considered by E. Meyer as a long and complex process which ended in the so-called Mycenaean era. Curtius objected to Meyer in an article, "Wie die Athener J. wurden" (in Hermes, No. 25, 1890). Busolt ("Griechische Geschichte", I2, 1893, p. 277 ff.) inclines to a later date of the settlement of the Ionians and especially of the Cyclades, in view of the almost complete absence of "Mycenaean style" objects in the necropolises of these places.

The Ionian cities, joined at a fairly ancient time by Aeolian Smyrna, formed an alliance whose center was the sanctuary of the Panionion on Cape Mycale. At the time of the Croesus all the Ionian cities on the mainland came under the power of Lydia and with the fall of the Lydian dominion (546 BC) came under the power of Persia. Soon the same fate befell Chios and Samos. The Persians planted tyrants (from among their own citizens) throughout the cities, who got along well with the population. Caught by the Persian yoke at the end of the 6th century B.C., Ionia was set back in its historical development. In 500 BC the Ionian revolt broke out and was suppressed after the battle of the Ionian fleet with the Persian fleet at Lada and the destruction of Miletus (494 BC).

During the Greek-Persian wars the Ionians fought alongside the Persians, but at the battle of Mycala they defected to the Greeks (479 BC). After the victory of Kimon at Eurymedonte (465 BC) the towns of the Ionians were virtually free. Whether this freedom was officially confirmed is uncertain, since the peace negotiated around 449 BC by the Athenian Callius at the Persian court (the so-called Kimon's peace), apparently, was not ratified. By the Peace of Antalcidas (387 B.C.) the towns of the Ionians again fell under Persian dependence. Then successively they came under Macedonian and Roman rule, distinguished even in the age of Greek decline by comparative prosperity and wealth.

The arts and sciences have flourished among the Ionians since ancient times; the natives of Ionia were Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Anaxagoras, Hecateus of Miletus, Anacreon, Mimnermus, Apelles, and Parrasius.


  1. Ionians
  2. Ионийцы

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