Ionians (/aɪˈoʊniənz/; Greek: Ἴωνες, Íōnes, singular
Ἴων, Íōn) were one of the four major tribes that the Greeks
considered themselves to be divided into during the ancient period;
the other three being the Dorians, Aeolians, and Achaeans. The
Ionian dialect was one of the three major linguistic divisions of the
Hellenic world, together with the Dorian and Aeolian dialects.
When referring to populations, “Ionian” defines several groups in
Classical Greece. In the narrowest sense it referred to the region of
Ionia in Asia Minor. In a broader sense it could be used to describe
all speakers of the Ionic dialect, which in addition to those in Ionia
proper also included the populations of Euboea, the Cyclades, and many
cities founded by Ionian colonists. Finally, in the broadest sense it
could be used to describe all those who spoke languages of the East
Greek group, which included Attic.
The foundation myth which was current in the Classical period
suggested that the
Ionians were named after Ion, son of Xuthus, who
lived in the north Peloponnesian region of Aigialeia. When the Dorians
Peloponnese they expelled the Achaeans from the Argolid
and Lacedaemonia. The displaced Achaeans moved into Aegilaus
(thereafter known as Achaea), in turn expelling the
Ionians from the
Ionians moved to
Attica and mingled with the local
population of Attica, and many later emigrated to the coast of Asia
Minor founding the historical region of Ionia.
Unlike the austere and militaristic Dorians, the
Ionians are renowned
for their love of philosophy, art, democracy, and pleasure – Ionian
traits that were most famously expressed by the Athenians.
2 Ionian language
3 Pre-Ionic Ionians
4 Classical Ionia
6 Further reading
7 External links
Unlike "Aeolians" and "Dorians", "Ionians" appears in the languages of
different civilizations around the eastern Mediterranean and as far
east as the Indian subcontinent. They are not the earliest
appear in the records; that distinction belongs to the
Danaans and the
Achaeans. The trail of the
Ionians begins in the Mycenaean Greek
records of Crete.
Linear B tablet from
Knossos (tablet Xd 146) bears the
name i-ja-wo-ne, interpreted by Ventris and Chadwick as possibly
the dative or nominative plural case of *Iāwones, an ethnic name. The
Knossos tablets are dated to 1400 or 1200 B.C. and thus pre-date the
Dorian dominance in Crete, if the name refers to Cretans.
The name first appears in
Greek literature in
Homer as Ἰάονες,
iāones, used on a single occasion of some long-robed Greeks
Hector and apparently identified with Athenians, and this
Homeric form appears to be identical with the Mycenaean form but
without the *-w-. This name also appears in a fragment of the other
early poet, Hesiod, in the singular Ἰάων, iāōn.
In the Book of Genesis of the English Bible,
Javan is a son of
Javan is believed nearly universally by Bible scholars to
represent the Ionians; that is,
Javan is Ion. The Hebrew is Yāwān,
Additionally, but less surely,
Japheth may be related linguistically
to the Greek mythological figure Iapetus.
The locations of Biblical tribal countries have been the subjects of
centuries of scholarship and yet remain to various degrees open
questions. The Book of Isaiah gives what may be a hint by listing
"the nations... that have not heard my fame" including
immediately after "the isles afar off." Are the isles in apposition to
Javan or the last item in the series? If the former, the expression is
typically used of the population of the islands in the Aegean Sea.
The date of the
Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah cannot precede the date of the man
Isaiah, in the 8th century BC.
Some letters of the
Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BC record
attacks by what appear to be
Ionians on the cities of Phoenicia:
For example, a raid by the
Ionians (ia-u-na-a-a) on the Phoenician
coast is reported to
Tiglath-Pileser III in a letter of the 730's find
The Assyrian word, which is preceded by the country determinative, has
been reconstructed as *Iaunaia. More common is ia-a-ma-nu,
ia-ma-nu and ia-am-na-a-a with the country determinative,
reconstructed as Iamānu.
Sargon II related that he took the
latter from the sea like fish and that they were from "the sea of the
setting sun." If the identification of Assyrian names is correct,
at least some of the Ionian marauders came from Cyprus:
Sargon's Annals for 709, claiming that tribute was sent to him by
'seven kings of Ya (ya-a'), a district of Yadnana whose distant abodes
are situated a seven-days' journey in the sea of the setting sun', is
confirmed by a stele set up at
Cyprus 'at the base of a
mountain ravine ... of Yadnana.'
Yona and Yavana Kingdom
Ionians appear in Indic literature and documents as Yavana and Yona.
In documents, these names refer to the Indo-Greek Kingdoms; that is,
the states formed by the Macedonians, either
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great or
his successors on the Indian subcontinent. The earliest such
documentation is the Edicts of Ashoka, dated to 250 BC, within 10 or
20 years.
Before then, the Yavanas appear in the
Vedas with reference to the
Vedic period, which could be as early as the 2nd millennium BC. The
Vedas are to be distinguished from the much earlier Vedic period. In
the Vedas, the Yavanas are a kingdom of Mlechhas, or barbarians, to
the far west, out of the line of descent of Indic culture, in the same
category as the Sakas, or Skythians (who spoke Iranian), and thus
probably were already Greek. The
Ionians of the Aegean are the
identity customarily assigned to them.
Ionians appear in a number of
Old Persian inscriptions of the
Achaemenid Empire as Yaunā (𐎹𐎢𐎴𐎠), a nominative
plural masculine, singular Yauna; for example, an inscription of
Darius on the south wall of the palace at
Persepolis includes in the
provinces of the empire "
Ionians who are of the mainland and (those)
who are by the sea, and countries which are across the sea; ...."
At that time the empire probably extended around the Aegean to
Most modern Middle Eastern languages use the terms "Ionia" and
"Ionian" to refer to Greece and Greeks. That is true of Hebrew (Yavan
'Greece' / Yevani fem. Yevania 'a Greek'), Armenian (Hunastan
'Greece' / Huyn 'a Greek'), and the Classical
Arabic words (al-Yūnān 'Greece' / Yūnānī fem. Yūnāniyya pl.
Yūnān 'a Greek', probably from Aramaic Yawnānā) are used
in most modern
Arabic dialects including Egyptian and
Palestinian as well as being used in modern Persian (Yūnānestān
'Greece' / Yūnānī pl. Yūnānīhā/Yūnānīyān 'Greek') and
Turkish too via Persian (Yunanistan 'Greece' / Yunanlı 'a Greek
person' pl. Yunanlılar 'Greek people').
The etymology of the word Ἴωνες/Ἰάϝoνες is uncertain.
Both Frisk and Beekes isolate an unknown root, *Ia-, pronounced
*ya-. There are, however, some theories:
From an unknown early name of an eastern Mediterranean island
population represented by Ha-nebu, an ancient Egyptian name for the
people living there.
From ancient Egyptian 'iwn "pillar, tree trunk" extended into iwnt
"bow" (of wood?) and 'Iwntyw "bowmen, archers." This derivation is
analogous on the one hand to the possible derivation of
Dorians and on
the other fits the Egyptian concept of "nine bows" with reference to
the Sea Peoples.
Proto-Indo-European onomatopoeic root *wi- or *woi- expressing
a shout uttered by persons running to the assistance of others;
according to Pokorny, *Iawones would mean "devotees of Apollo", based
on the cry iē paiōn uttered in his worship.
Proto-Indo-European root *uiH-, meaning "power."
Ancient Greek dialects
Ancient Greek dialects and Ionic dialect
In a landmark article of 1964 Vladimir Georgiev summarized the
relationship of the three main historical dialects and gave an
estimate of their chronology as follows. Prior to the 20th century BC,
three dialects of Greek existed: Iawonic, Iawolic and Doric
(Georgiev's names). Iawonic was spoken in Attica, Euboea, East Boeotia
and the Peloponnesus.[further explanation needed]
In the 16th century BC, a new koinē was formed from Iawonic and
Mycenaean Greek language. It persisted until about 1200,
when it became the major source of Arcado-Cyprian, with some Doric
Ionians taking up the tradition of epic poetry created
Homeric Greek. Ionian descends from Iawonic.[dubious – discuss]
The literary evidence of the
Ionians leads back to mainland Greece in
Mycenaean times before there was an Ionia. The classical sources seem
determined that they were to be called
Ionians along with other names
even then. This cannot be documented with inscriptional evidence, and
yet the literary evidence, which is manifestly at least partially
legendary, seems to reflect a general verbal tradition.
Ionians who are of Athenian descent and keep the feast
He further explains:
The whole Hellenic stock was then small, and the last of all its
branches and the least regarded was the Ionian; for it had no
considerable city except Athens.
Ionians spread from
Athens to other places in the Aegean Sea:
Sifnos and Serifos, Naxos, Kea and Samos. But they
were not just from Athens:
These Ionians, as long as they were in the Peloponnesus, dwelt in what
is now called Achaea, and before
Xuthus came to the
Peloponnesus, as the
Greeks say, they were called Aegialian
Pelasgians. They were named
Ionians after Ion the son of Xuthus.
Achaea was divided into 12 communities originally Ionian: Pellene,
Aegira, Aegae, Bura, Helice, Aegion, Rhype, Patrae, Phareae, Olenus,
Dyme and Tritaeae. The most aboriginal
Ionians were of Cynuria:
The Cynurians are aboriginal and seem to be the only Ionians, but they
have been Dorianized by time and by Argive rule.
In Strabo's account of the origin of the Ionians, Hellen, son of
Deucalion, ancestor of the Hellenes, king of Phthia, arranged a
marriage between his son
Xuthus and the daughter of king
Xuthus then founded the Tetrapolis ("Four Cities") of Attica,
a rural district. His son, Achaeus, went into exile in a land
Achaea after him. Another son of Xuthus, Ion,
conquered Thrace, after which the Athenians made him king of Athens.
Attica was called
Ionia after his death. Those
Aigialia changing its name to
Ionia also. When the Heracleidae
returned the Achaeans drove the
Ionians back to Athens. Under the
Codridae they set forth for
Anatolia and founded 12 cities in Caria
Lydia following the model of the 12 cities of Achaea, formerly
Main article: Ionia
During the 6th century BC, Ionian coastal towns, such as
Ephesus, became the focus of 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. These men—Thales
and his successors—were called physiologoi, those who discoursed on
Nature. They were skeptical of religious explanations for natural
phenomena and instead sought purely mechanical and physical
explanations. They are credited as being of critical importance to the
development of the 'scientific attitude' towards the study of Nature.
^ Apollodorus I, 7.3
^ Pausanias VII, 1.7
^ Kōnstantinos D. Paparrēgopulos, Historikai pragmateiai - Volume 1,
^ Ventris, Michael;
John Chadwick (1973). Documents in Mycenaean
Greek: Second Edition. Cambridge University Press. pp. 547 in the
"Glossary" under i–ja–wo–ne. ISBN 0-521-08558-6.
^ Homer. Iliad, Book XIII, Line 685.
^ Hes. fr. 10a.23 M-W: see Glare, P. G. W. (1996). Greek-English
Leicon: Revised Supplement. Oxford University Press.
^ Book of Genesis, 10.2.
^ Bromiley, Geoffrey William (General Editor) (1994). The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume Two: Fully Revised:
E-J: Javan. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
p. 971. ISBN 0-8028-3782-4.
^ "Iapetus". The Encyclopædia Britannica: a Dictionary of Arts,
Sciences, Literature and General Information. 14 (11 ed.). Cambridge,
England and New York (printed): Cambridge University Press, Online
Encyclopedia. 1910–1911. p. 215. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah 66.19.
^ Malkin, Irad (1998). The Return of Odysseus: Colonization and
Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 148.
^ Foley, John Miles (2005). A Companion to Ancient Epic. Malden, Ma.:
Blackwell Publishing. p. 294. ISBN 1-4051-0524-0.
^ Muss-Arnolt, William (1905). A Concise Dictionary of the Assyrian
Language: Volume I: A-MUQQU: Iamānu. Berlin; London; New York:
Reuther & Reichard; Williams & Morgate; Lemcke & Büchner.
^ Kearsley, R.A. (1999). "
Greeks Overseas in the 8th Century B.C.:
Euboeans, Al Mina and Assyrian Imperialism". In Tsetskhladze, Gocha R.
Greeks West and East. Leiden, Boston, Köln: Brill.
pp. 109–134. ISBN 90-04-10230-2. See pages 120-121.
^ Braun, T.F.R.G. (1925). "The
Greeks in the Near East: IV. Assyrian
Kings and the Greeks". In Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. The
Cambridge Ancient History: III Part 3: The Expansion of the Greek
World Eighth to Sixth Centuries B.C. Cambridge University Press.
pp. 14–24. ISBN 0-521-23447-6. See page 17 for the
^ Waters, Matt (2014). Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the
Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-10700-9-608.
^ Kent, Roland G. (1953). Old Persian: Grammar Texts Lexicon: Second
Edition, Revised. New Haven, Connecticut: American Oriental Society.
p. 204. ISBN 0-940490-33-1.
^ Kent, p. 136.
^ Dagut, M. (1990). Prof. Jerusalem: Kiryat-Sefer Ltd. p. 294.
^ Bedrossian, Matthias (1985). New Dictionary Armenian-English.
Beirut: Librairie du Liban. p. 515.
^ Wehr, Hans (1971). Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Wiesbaden:
Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 1110. ISBN 0879500018.
^ Rosenthal, Franz (2007). Encyclopedia of Islam Vol XI (2nd ed.).
Leiden: Brill. p. 344. ISBN 9789004161214.
^ Elihai, Yohanan (1985). Dictionnaire de l'arabe parlé palistinien
Français-Arabe. Paris: Éditions Klincksieck. p. 203.
^ Turner, Colin (2003). A Thematic Dictionary of Modern Persian.
London: Routedge. p. 92. ISBN 9780700704583.
^ Kornrumpf, H.-J. (1979). Langenscheidt's Universan Dictionary
Turkish-English English-Turkish. Berlin: Langenscheidt.
^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp.
^ "Indo-European Etymological Dictionary". Leiden University, the IEEE
Project. Archived from the original on 27 September 2006. To
find the full presentation in H. J. Frisk's Grieschisches Woeterbuch
search on page 1,748, being sure to include the comma. For a similar
presentation in Beekes' A Greek Etymological Dictionary search on
Ionian in Etymology. Both linguists state a full panoply of "Ionian"
words with sources.
^ Partridge, Eric (1983). Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of
Modern English: Ionian. New York: Greenwich House.
^ Bernal, Martin (1991). Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of
Classical Civilization: Volume I: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece
1785-1985. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
pp. 83–84. ISBN 0-8135-1277-8.
^ "Indo-European Etymological Dictionary". Leiden University, the IEEE
Project. Archived from the original on 27 September 2006. In
Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (1959), p. 1176.
^ Nikolaev, Alexander S. (2006), "Ἰάoνες", Acta Linguistica
Petropolitana, 2(1), pp. 100–115.
^ Georgiev, Vladimir (1964). "
Mycenaean Greek among the Other Greek
Dialects". In Bennett, Emmett L. Jr. Mycenaean Studies: Proceedings of
the Third International Colloquium for Mycenaean Studies Held at
"Wingspread," 4–8 September 1961. Madison: The University of
Wisconsin Press. pp. 125–139. LC 63-8435. .
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book I, Chapter 147.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book I, Chapter 143.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 8, Section 48.1.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 8, Section 46.3.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 8, Section 46.2.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 6, Section 22.3.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 7, Chapter 94.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 1, Section 145.1.
^ Herodotus. Histories. Book 8, Section 73.3.
^ Strabo. Geography. Book 8, Section 7.1.
J.A.R Munro. "
Pelasgians and Ionians". The Journal of Hellenic
Studies, 1934 (JSTOR).
R.M. Cook. "
Ionia and Greece in the Eighth and Seventh Centuries B.C."
The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 1946 (JSTOR).
Myres, John Linton (1911). "Ionians". Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.). pp. 730–731. The reader should be aware that,
although useful, this article necessarily omits all of modern
Greek Dark Ages
Ancient Greek colonies
Antigonid Macedonian army
Army of Macedon
Sacred Band of Thebes
List of ancient Greeks
Kings of Argos
Archons of Athens
Kings of Athens
Kings of Commagene
Kings of Lydia
Kings of Macedonia
Kings of Paionia
Attalid kings of Pergamon
Kings of Pontus
Kings of Sparta
Tyrants of Syracuse
Diogenes of Sinope
Alexander the Great
Milo of Croton
Philip of Macedon
Ancient Greek tribes
Funeral and burial practices
Arts and science
Greek Revival architecture
Funeral and burial practices
Theatre of Dionysus
Tunnel of Eupalinos