1902 Encyclopedia > Ionia


IONIA, in ancient geography, was the name given to a portion of the west coast of Asia Minor, adjoining the iEgean Sea, and bounded by Lydia towards the east. Like the adjoining districts of iEolis on the north and Doris on the south, it was not a country or region marked out by any natural boundaries, but merely consisted of a strip of land near the coast, of comparatively small breadth, which, together with the adjacent islands, was occupied by Greeks of the Ionic race, and was thus permanently distinguished from the interior district, which was inhabited by the Lydians.

According to the tradition universally received among the Greeks, the cities of Ionia were founded by emigrants from Greece on the other side of the iEgean, and their settlement was connected with the legendary history of the Ionic race in Attica and other parts of European Greece, by the statement that the colonists were led by Neleus and Androclus, the two sons of Codrus, the last king of Athens. In accordance with this view a definite date was assigned to the Ionic migration, as it was called by later chronologers, who placed it one hundred and forty years after the Trojan war, or sixty years after the return of the Heraclidas into the Péloponnèse. It is hardly necessary to remark that no reliance can be placed upon this chronological state-ment; and it is altogether improbable that the colonization of the whole of this important district took place at the same period. All aualogy would lead us to suppose that the foundation of the different cities which ultimately constituted the Ionic League took place at different times, and was perhaps spread over a long period of time. It is, however, not improbable that the great Dorian invasion cf the Péloponnèse, which gave rise to such extensive changes in the population of European Greece, may have given the first impulse to the migration of a large part of the Ionian inhabitants to the opposite shores of the iEgean. Nor is there anything unlikely in the fact that a body so composed should have put themselves under the command of a leader or cekist from Athens, which was generally looked upon as the special representative of the Ionian race. But Herodotus himself tells us (i. 146) that they were very far from being of unmixed Ionic descent, and comprised settlers from many different tribes and cities of Greece (a fact indicated also by the local traditions of the different cities), as well as by intermarriage with the native races whom they found in possession of the country. A striking proof of this was to be found in the fact that so late as the time of the historian several distinct dialects were spoken by the inhabitants of different cities within the limits of so restricted an area.

Some modern critics have supposed that the population of this part of Asia was originally of Ionic race, and that the settlers from Greece found the country in the possession of a kindred people. But no trace is found in any ancient writers of such a fact, or of the distinction established by these modern scholars between the so-called Old Ionians and New Ionians. All that we know upon anything like historical evidence is that at the earliest period when we hear of any Greek population as existing on the east coasts of the iEgean we find there a large group of cities, distinct in dialect and institutions from those to the north and south of them, and generally regarded both by themselves and their neighbours as derived by direct immigration from the people who bore the name of Ionians in European Greece. Of the period of their settlement in Asia we have no trustworthy evidence; but it appears to have been anterior to the rise of the Lydian monarchy, which gradu-ally became their most formidable neighbour.

The cities comprised under this name in historical times were twelve in number,—an arrangement copied as it was supposed from the constitution of the Ionian cities in Greece, which had originally occupied the territory in the north of the Peloponnese subsequently held by the Achaians. These were (proceeding from south to north)— Miletus, Myus, Priene, Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedus, Teos, Erythrae, Clazomenae, and Phocsaa, together with the two important islands of Samos and Chios. Smyrna, which subsequently assumed so prominent a position among the cities of this part of Asia, was originally an Aeolic colony, but was afterwards occupied by a band of Ionians from Colophon, and became thenceforth an Ionian city,—an event which had taken place before the time of Herodotus. But at what period it was admitted as a member of the Ionian League we have no information.

The cities above enumerated unquestionably formed a. kind of league or confederacy among themselves, of which-their participation in the Pan-Ionic festival was the distin-guishing characteristic. But, like the Amphictyonic League in Greece itself, this was rather of a sacred than a political character; every city, as usual among the Greeks, 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 Achaians or Boeotians; and the advice of Thales of Miletus to combine in a more intimate political union found no approval among them.

The territory thus occupied was of small extent, not exceeding 90 geographical miles in direct length from north to south, with a breadth varying from 20 to 30 miles, but to this must be added the remarkable peninsular promon-tory of Mimas, together with the two large islands. So-

intricate indeed is the coast-line that the periplus or voyage along its shores was estimated at 340 geographical miles, or nearly four times the direct distance. A great part of this area was, moreover, occupied by mountains, none of them attaining to any great elevation, but filling up a con-siderable space. Of these the most loftyand striking were— Mounts Mimas and Corycus, in the peninsula which stands out to the west, facing the island of Chios; Mount Sipylos, to the north of Smyrna; Mount 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 Mount Mycale, which is in fact a kind of continua-tion of the chain known as Mount Messogis in the interior, and forms the bold headland of Trogilium or Mycale, op-posite to the island of Samos. None of these mountains attain a height of more than from 3000 to 4000 feet; but they for the most part form abrupt and detached ranges, intersecting the country in different directions. Confined as it thus was, the narrow district in question had the advantage of comprising three broad valleys, formed by the outflow of three rivers, among the most considerable in Asia Minor:—-the Hermus in the north, flowing into the Gulf of Smyrna, though at a considerable distance from the city of that name; the Cayster, which flowed under the walls of Ephesus; and the Mseander, which in ancient times discharged its waters into the deep gulf that bathed the walls of Miletus, which has been gradually filled up by its continued action. These valleys were all of them extremely fertile, and besides them many smaller tracts were to be found between the mountains and the sea, of great fertility, and enjoying the advantage of a peculiarly fine climate, for which this part of Asia Minor has been famous in all ages. The consequence is that 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, though very imperfectly cultivated, it produces abun-dance of fruit of all kinds, and the raisins and figs of Smyrna supply almost all the markets of Europe.

The colonies founded in such a favoured land speedily rose to opulence and prosperity. 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 and the Propontis, from Abydus and Cyzicus to Trapezus and Panticapseum. _______ also was one of the first Greek cities whose mariners explored the distant shores of the western Mediterranean, where they founded on the coast of Gaul the important colony of Massflia. Ephesus also, though it did not send out any colonies of importance, from an early period became a flourishing and opulent city, and gradually attained to a position in this part of Asia corresponding in some measure to that of Smyrna at the present day.

The first event in the history of these Ionian cities of which we have any trustworthy account is the invasion, or rather inroad, of the Cimmerians, a nomad people from beyond the Euxine, who ravaged a great part of Asia Minor, including the neighbouring Lydia, and even sacked Magnesia on the Mseander, hut were foiled in their attack upon Ephesus. This event may be referred to the middle of the 7th century _._. A more formidable danger soon threatened the Ionian Greeks from the rising power of the Lydian monarchy. Gyges, the first king of the Mermnad dynasty (about 700 B.C.), already invaded the territories of Smyrna and Miletus, and is even said to have taken Colophon, as his son Ardys did Priene. But neither conquest was durable, and it was not till the reign of Croesus (560-545 _._.) that the cities of Ionia successively fell under the dominion of the Lydian monarch. The defeat of Croesus by Cyrus was followed by the conquest of all the Ionian cities by the Persian general Harpagus, and they henceforth became subject to the Per-sian monarchy, in common with all the other Greek cities of Asia. In this position they enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy, but were for the most part subject to the rule of local despots. It was at the instigation of one of these, Histiseus of Miletus, that in about 500 B.C. the principal cities broke out into insurrection against Persia, in which they were at first assisted by the Athenians, with whose aid they even penetrated into the interior, and burnt the important city of Sardis, an event which ultimately led to the Persian invasion of Greece. But this first success was of little avail; the fleet of the Ionians was defeated in a great battle off the little island of Lade, and the capture and destruction of Miletus, after a long protracted siege, was followed by the reconquest of all the Asiatic Greeks, insular as well as continental (494 B.C.).

The victories of the Greeks during the great Persian war had the effect of enfranchising their kinsmen on the other side of the ^gean ; and the battle of Mycale (479 B.C.), in which the defeatof the Persians was in great measure owing to the revolt of the Ionians, secured their emancipation from the Persian yoke. They hence-forth became, like most of the inhabitants of the islands, the de-pendent allies of Athens, though still retaining their autonomy, which they preserved until the peace of Antalcidas in 388 B.C. once more placed them, as well as the other Greek cities in Asia, under the nominal dominion of Persia. They appear, however, to have retained a considerable amount of freedom until the invasion of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great brought about a fresh change. After the battle of the Granicus most of the Ionian cities submitted at once to the conqueror ; Miletus alone held out, and was not reduced till after along siege, 334 B.C. From this time they passed successively under the dominion of the Macedonian rulers of Asia, but continued to enjoy a state of great prosperity, both under these Greek dynasties and after they had been united as a part of the province of Asia with the all-absorbing empire of Borne.

There was indeed one striking exception to this prosperity. Mi-letus, so long one of the chief cities of Ionia, gradually sank into complete decay, a circumstance owing not so much to political as to physical causes, the mass of alluvial matter brought down by the river Mseander having gradually filled up the Latmian Gulf, on which it was situated, so that the island of Lade was ultimately joined to the riainland, and Miletus itself altogether ceased to be a seaport. The same cause has at a later period produced the same effect, though in a less degree, with the city of Ephesus ; while the continually advancing deposits of the Hermus threaten, at no dis-tant period, unless prevented by the skill of modern engineers, to close up the still more extensive Gulf of Smyrna.

It has been mentioned that the Ionian cities were accustomed to celebrate in common a festival called the Pan-Ionia; the sanctuary at which this was celebrated, and which was also called the Pan- Ionium, was situated on the northern slope of Mount Mycale, in the territory of Priene. But, besides this common religious centre, Ionia contained also two of the most celebrated shrines in all Asia, the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and that of Apollo at Branchidea near Miletus. It is probable that both sites were connected with local centres of more ancient religious worship, and were adopted by the Ionian Greeks when they first settled in Asia. (E. H. B.)


Concerning the Ionian race in Greece, the reader is referred to the article GREECE, vol. xi. p. 90.

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