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The Ionians (//; 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 Aegilaus. When the Dorians invaded the 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 Aegilaus. 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.
Name of the Ionians
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 Greeks to 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.
A fragmentary 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 attacked by 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 Japheth. Javan is believed nearly universally by Bible scholars to represent the Ionians; that is, Javan is Ion. The Hebrew is Yāwān, plural Yəwānīm.
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" (God's) including Javan and 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 cannot precede the date of the man Isaiah, which was the 8th century BC.
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 at Nimrud.
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 Citium in Cyprus 'at the base of a mountain ravine ... of Yadnana.'
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 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 northern Greece.
Most modern Middle Eastern languages use the terms "Ionia" and "Ionian" to refer to Greece and Greeks. This is true of Hebrew (Yavan 'Greece' / Yevani fem. Yevania 'a Greek'), Armenian (Hunastan 'Greece' / Huyn 'a Greek'), while 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').
- 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.
- From a 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.
- From a Proto-Indo-European root *uiH-, meaning "power."
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.
In the 16th century BC, a new koinē was formed from Iawonic and Iawolic: the Mycenaean Greek language. It persisted until about 1200, when it became the major source of Arcado-Cyprian, with some Doric influence. The Ionians taking up the tradition of epic poetry created Homeric Greek. Ionian descends from Iawonic.
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.
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.
These Ionians, as long as they were in the Peloponnesus, dwelt in what is now called Achaea, and before Danaus and Xuthus came to the Peloponnesus, as the Greeks say, they were called Aegialian Pelasgians. They were named Ionians after Ion the son of Xuthus.
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 Erechtheus of Athens. Xuthus then founded the Tetrapolis ("Four Cities") of Attica, a rural district. His son, Achaeus, went into exile in a land subsequently called 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 Ionians colonized 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 and Lydia following the model of the 12 cities of Achaea, formerly Ionian.
During the 6th century BC, Ionian coastal towns, such as Miletus and 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, 1858
- 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. p. 155.
- 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 66.19.
- Malkin, Irad (1998). The Return of Odysseus: Colonization and Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-520-21185-5.
- 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. p. 360.
- Kearsley, R.A. (1999). "Greeks Overseas in the 8th Century B.C.: Euboeans, Al Mina and Assyrian Imperialism". In Tsetskhladze, Gocha R. Ancient 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 quote.
- 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. ISBN 9651701722.
- 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. ISBN 2252025115.
- 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. ISBN 0340000422.
- R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, pp. 608–609.
- "Indo-European Etymological Dictionary". Leiden University, the IEEE Project. 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. ISBN 0-517-41425-2.
- 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. In Pokorny's 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 scholarship.