1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ionians
IONIANS, the name given by the Greeks to one of the principal divisions of the Hellenic peoples. In historic times it was applied to the inhabitants of (1) Attica, where some believed the Ionians to have originated; (2) parts of Euboea; (3) the Cycladic islands, except Melos and Thera; (4) a section of the west coast of Asia Minor, from the gulf of Smyrna to that of Iasus (see Ionia); (5) colonies from any of the foregoing, notably in Thrace, Propontis and Pontus in the west, and in Egypt (Naucratis, Daphnae); some authorities have found traces of an ancient Ionian population in (6) north-eastern Peloponnese. The meaning and derivation of the name are not known. It occurs in two forms, Ἰάϝονες and Ἴωνες (compare Χάονες and Χῶνες in Epirus)—not counting the name Ἰόνιος applied to the open sea west of Greece. In the traditional genealogy of the Hellenes, Ion, the ancestor of the Ionians, is brother of Achaeus and son of Xuthus (who held Peloponnese after the dispersal of the children of Hellen). But this genealogy, though it is attributed to Hesiod, is apparently post-Homeric; and it is clear that the Ionian name had independent and varied uses and meanings in very early times. In Homer the word Ἰάϝονες occurs as a name of inhabitants of Attica, with the epithet ἑλκεχίτωνες (Il. xiii. 685 = “trail-vest”), describing some point of costume, and later regarded as imputing effeminacy. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo of Delos (7th century) describes an Ionian population in the Cyclades with a loose religious league about the Delian sanctuary.
The same word Ἰάϝων (Javan) appears in Hebrew literature of the 8th and 7th centuries, to denote one group of the “Japhetic” peoples of Asia Minor, Cyprus and perhaps Rhodes: “by these were the isles of the nations divided, in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations,” a comprehensive expression for the island-strewn regions farther west (Gen. x. 10). In Ezek. xxvii. 13, 19, Javan trades with Tyre in slaves, bronze-work, iron and drugs. Later allusions show that on Semitic lips Javan meant western traders in general. In Persian Yauna was the generic term for Greeks.
The earliest explicit Greek account of the Ionians is given in the 5th century by Herodotus (i. 45, 56, 143-145, v. 66, vii. 94, viii. 44-46). The “children of Ion” originated in north-eastern Peloponnese; and traces of them remained in Troezen and Cynuria. Expelled by the Achaeans (who seem to have entered Peloponnese about four generations before the Dorian Invasion) they invaded and dominated Attica; and about the time of the Dorian Invasion took the lead under the Attic branch of the Neleids of Pylus (Hdt. i. 147, v. 65) in the colonization of the Cyclades and of Asiatic Ionia, which in Homer is still “Carian.” Many of the colonists, however, were not Ionians, but refugees from other parts of Greece, between Euboea and Argolis (Hdt. i. 146); others looked on Attica as their first home, though the true Ionians were intruders there. The Pan-Ionian sanctuary of Poseidon on the Asiatic promontory of Mycale was regarded as perpetuating a cult from Peloponnesian Achaea, and the league of twelve cities which maintained it, as imitated from an Achaean dodecapolis, and as claiming (absurdly, according to Herodotus i. 143) purer descent than other Ionians.
In Herodotus’s account of the first Greek intercourse with Egypt (about 664 B C.) he describes “Ionian and Carian” adventurers and mercenaries in the Delta. Later the commoner antithesis is between Ionian and Dorian, first (probably) in the colonial regions of Asia Minor, and later more universally.
In the 5th century the name “Ionian” was already falling into discredit. Causes of this were (1) the peace-loving luxury (born of commercial wealth and contact with Oriental life) of the great Ionian cities of Asia; (2) the tameness with which they submitted first to Lydia and to Persia, then to Athenian pretensions, then to Sparta, and finally to Persia again; (3) the decadence and downfall of Athens, which still counted as Ionian and had claimed (since Solon’s time) seniority among “Ionian” states. In the later 4th century the name survives only (a) as a geographical expression for part of the coast of Asia Minor, (b) in European Greece as the name of that section of the Northern Amphictyony in which Athens and its colonies were reckoned.
The traditional history of Asiatic Ionia is generally accepted, and in its broad outlines is probably well founded. Common to all groups of Ionians in the Aegean is a dialect of Greek which has η for α (in Attic only partially) and (in Asiatic Ionian especially) κ for π in certain words. Herodotus states that there were four distinct dialects in Asiatic Ionia itself (i. 142) and the dialect of Attica differed widely from all other forms of Ionic. Earlier phases of Ionic forms are dominant in the language of Homer. Most Ionian states exhibit also traces of the fourfold tribal divisions named after the “children of Ion”; but additional tribes occur locally. (Hdt. v. 66, 69.) All reputed colonies from Attica (except Ephesus and Colophon) kept also the feast of Apaturia; and many worshipped Apollo Patrous as the reputed father of Ion. The few observations hitherto made on the sites of Ionian cities indicate continuity of settlement and culture as far back as the latest phases of the Mycenaean (Late Minoan III.) Age and not farther, supporting thus far the traditional foundation dates.
The theory of E. Curtius (1856-1890) that the Ionians originated in Asia Minor and spread thence through the Cyclades to Euboea and Attica deserts ancient tradition on linguistic and ethnological grounds of doubtful value. Ad. Holm supports it (Gesch. Gr., Berlin, 1886, i. 86), but A. von Gutschmid (Beitr. z. Gesch. d. alten Orients, Leipzig, 1856, 124 ff.) and E. Meyer (Philologus NF. 2, 1889, p. 268 ff.; NF. 3, 1890, p. 479 ff.) follow Herodotus with qualifications. J. B. Bury (Eng. Hist. Rev. xv. 228), though he regards the Ionian peoples as of European origin, thinks that they may have got their name from some part of the Asiatic coast. Ionian culture and art, though little known in their earlier phases, derive their inspiration on the one side from those of the old Aegean (Minoan) civilization, on the other from the Oriental (mainly Assyrian) models which penetrated to the coast through the Hittite civilization of Asia Minor. Egyptian influence is almost absent until the time of Psammetichus, but then becomes predominant for a while. Local and regional peculiarities, however, disappear almost wholly in the 5th and 4th centuries, under the overpowering influence of Athens.
histories of Greece and the references given in G. Busolt, Griechische Geschichte, i. (2nd ed., Gotha, 1893), pp. 262, 277 ff., see E. Curtius, Die Ionier vor der ionischen Wanderung (Berlin, 1855), and papers in Gott. Gel. Anz. (1856), p. 1152 f. and (1859), p. 2021 f.; Jahrb. f. kl. Philol. 83 (1860), p. 449 f.; Hermes 25 (1890), p. 141 f.; A. von Gutschmid, Beiträge z. Gesch. d. alten Orients (Leipzig, 1856), p. 124 ff.; E. Meyer, Philologus 47 (NF. 2, 1889), p. 268 ff. and 49 (NF. 3, 1890), p. 479 ff.; V. Boehlau, Aus ionischen und äolischen Necropolen (Cassel, 1897); H. W. Smyth, The Ionic Dialect (1889). P. Cauer, “De dialecto attica vetustiore quaestiones epigraphicae,” in G. Curtius, Studien z. gr. u. lat. Gramm. 8 (1875), p. 223, 399; Karsten, De titulorum Ionicorum dialecto (Halle, 1882); F. Bechtel, Die Inschriften des ion. Dialekts (Göttingen, 1877). For the political history of the Ionian Greeks see Greece: History, and Ionia; for the special history and characteristics of individual Ionian cities, therespective names.
(J. L. M.)
- Yunān is still a popular synonym for Oroum, a Greek, among the Arabs; in India Yavana was long the generic name for all foreigners from the north and west, a use dating probably from Alexander’s day and the Graeco-Bactrian monarchs.