Ancient Ionia

Ionia was an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest ─░zmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements. Never a unified state, it was eponymously named after the Ionian tribe who in the Archaic Period occupied mainly the shorean islands of the Aegean Sea. Ionian states were identified by tradition and by their use of Eastern Greek. Among them was the city of Athens and its territory, Attica.

Ionia proper comprised a narrow coastal strip from Phocaea in the north near the mouth of the river Hermus, to Miletus in the south near the mouth of the river Maeander, and included the islands of Chios and Samos. It was bounded by Aeolia to the north, Lydia to the east and Caria to the south. The cities within the region figured large in the strife between the Persian Empire and the Greeks.

According to Greek tradition, the cities of Ionia were founded by colonists from the other side of the Aegean. Their settlement was connected with the legendary history of the Ionic people in Attica, which asserts that the colonists were led by Neleus and Androclus, sons of Codrus, the last king of Athens. In accordance with this view the "Ionic migration", as it was called by later chronologers, was dated by them one hundred and forty years after the Trojan war, or sixty years after the return of the Heracleidae into the Peloponnese.


Ionia was of small extent, not exceeding 90 geographical miles in length from north to south, with a breadth varying from 20 to 30 miles, but to this must be added the peninsula of Mimas, together with the two large islands. So intricate is the coastline that the voyage along its shores was estimated at nearly four times the direct distance. A great part of this area was, moreover, occupied by mountains. Of these the most lofty and striking were Mimas and Corycus, in the peninsula which stands out to the west, facing the island of Chios; Sipylus, to the north of Smyrna; 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 Mycale, a continuation of Messogis in the interior, which forms the bold headland of Trogilium or Mycale, opposite Samos. None of these mountains attains a height of more than 4,000 feet The district comprised three extremely fertile 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 some distance from the city of that name; the Caster, which flowed under the walls of Ephesus; and the Maeander, which in ancient times discharged its waters into the deep gulf that once bathed the walls of Miletus, but which has been gradually filled up by this river's deposits. With the advantage of a peculiarly fine climate, for which this part of Asia Minor has been famous in all ages, 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 abundance of fruit of all kinds, and the raisins and figs of Smyrna supply almost all the markets of Europe

The geography of Ionia placed it in a strategic position that was both advantageous and disadvantageous. Ionia was always a maritime power founded by a people who made their living by trade in peaceful times and marauding in unsettled times. The coast was rocky and the arable land slight. The native Luwians for the most part kept their fields further inland and used the rift valleys for wooded pasture. The coastal cities were placed in defensible positions on islands or headlands situated so as to control inland routes up the rift valleys. The people of those valleys were of different ethnicity. The populations of the cities were multi-cultural and received cultural stimuli from many civilizations in the eastern Mediterranean, which resulted in a brilliant society able to make contributions of world-wide and millennial significance..