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Author: Laxman Burdak, IFS (R).
Map of Anatolia ancient regions

Ionia was an ancient region on the central part of the western coast of Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements. Never a unified state, it was named after the Ionian tribe who, in the Archaic Period (600–480 BC), settled mainly the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. Ionian states were identified by tradition and by their use of Eastern Greek.

Variants of name


Ionia proper comprised a narrow coastal strip from Phocaea in the north near the mouth of the river Hermus (now the Gediz), 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.


Ancient demographics are available only from literary sources. Herodotus states that in Asia the Ionians kept the division into twelve cities that had prevailed in Ionian lands of the north Peloponnese, their former homeland, which became Achaea after they left.[2] These Asian cities were (from south to north) Miletus, Myus, Priene, Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedos, Teos, Erythrae, Clazomenae and Phocaea, together with Samos and Chios.[3] Smyrna, originally an Aeolic colony, was afterwards occupied by Ionians from Colophon, and became an Ionian city — an event which had taken place before the time of Herodotus.[4]

These cities do not match those of Achaea. Moreover, the Achaea of Herodotus' time spoke Doric (Corinthian), but in Homer it is portrayed as being in the kingdom of Mycenae, which most likely spoke Mycenaean Greek, which is not Doric. If the Ionians came from Achaea, they departed during or after the change from East Greek to West Greek there. Mycenaean continued to evolve in the mountainous region of Arcadia.


From the 18th century BC the region was a part of the Hittite Empire with possible name Arzawa, which was destroyed by invaders during the 12th century BC together with the collapse of the Empire. Ionia was settled by the Greeks probably during the 11th century BC. The most important city was Miletus (the Millawanda/Milawata of Hittites). Several centuries later Ionia was the place where western philosophy began and was the homeland of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Heraclitus. They were natural-philosophers of the Ionian school of philosophy and tried to explain the phenomena according to no-supernatural laws. They also searched a simple material-form behind the appearances of things (origin) and this conception had a great influence on the early archaic art in Greece.

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.[5][6]

There is no record of any people named Ionians in Late Bronze Age Anatolia but Hittite texts record the Achaeans of Ahhiyawa, of location not completely certain, but in touch with the Hittites of that time. Miletus and some other cities founded earlier by non-Greeks received populations of Mycenaean Greeks probably under the name of Achaeans. The tradition of Ionian colonizers from Achaea suggests that they may have been known by both names even then. In the absence of archaeological evidence of discontinuity at Miletus the Achaean population whatever their name appears to have descended to archaic Ionia, which does not exclude the possibility of another colonizing and founding event from Athens.

In the Indian (e.g.: Tamil) historic literary texts, the Ionians are referred to as "yavanar" or "yona", and are described as wearing leather and wielding whips. In modern Turkish, the people of that region were called "yunan" (plural "yunanlar") and the country that is now Greece is known as "Yunanistan".

Herodotus expresses some impatience at the ethnic views of his countrymen concerning Ionia: "for it would be foolishness to say that these are more truly Ionian or better born ...."[7] He lists other ethnic populations among the settlers: Abantes from Euboea, Minyans from Orchomenus, Cadmeians, Dryopians, Phocians, Molossians, Arcadian Pelasgians, Dorians of Epidaurus, and others. The presence of Doric Ionians is somewhat contradictory, but Herodotus himself, a major author of the Ionic dialect, was from a Doric city, Halicarnassus. Even " the best born of the Ionians", the Athenians, married girls from Caria. "Yet since they set more store by the name than the rest of the Ionians, let it be granted that those of pure birth are Ionians."[8]

During the late 13th century BC the peoples of the Aegean Sea took to marauding and resettling as a way of life and were called by the Egyptians the Sea Peoples.[citation needed] Mycenaean Greeks must have been among them. They settled lightly on the shores of Luwian Anatolia often by invitation. In the background was the stabilizing influence of the Hittites, who monitored maritime movement and suppressed piracy. When that power was gone the Luwian people remained in the vacuum as a number of coastal splinter states that were scarcely able now to defend themselves. Ionian Greeks took advantage of opportunities for coastal raiding: an inscription of Sargon II (ca 709–07,recording a naval expedition of 715) boasts "in the midst of the sea" he had "caught the Ionians like fish and brought peace to the land of Que Cilicia and the city of Tyre". For a full generation earlier Assyrian inscriptions had recorded troubles with the Ionians, who escaped on their boats.[9]

Caria and Lycia came to the attention of Athens, most powerful state remaining in Greece, which also had lost its central government ruling from Mycenae, now burned and nearly vacant. Ionians had been expelled from the Peloponnesus by the Dorians and had sought refuge in Athens. The Athenian kings decided to relieve the crowding by resettling the coast of Lydia with Ionians from the Peloponnesus under native Athenian leadership.

They were not the only Greeks to have such a perception and reach such a decision. The Aeolians of Boeotia contemporaneously settled the coast to the north of the Ionians and the newly arrived Dorians of Crete and the islands the coast of Caria. The Greeks descended on the Luwians of the Anatolian coast in the 10th century BC. The descent was not peaceful and the Luwians were not willing.

Pausanias gives a thumbnail sketch of the resettlement.[10] Miletus was the first city attacked, where there had been some Mycenaean Greeks apparently under the rule of Cretans. After overthrowing the Cretan government and settling there the Ionians widened their attack to Ephesus, Samos and Priene. Combining with Aeolians from Thebes they founded Myus. Colophon was already in the hands of Aeolians who had arrived via Crete in Mycenaean times. The Ionians "swore a treaty of union" with them. They took Lebedos driving out the Carians and augmented the Aeolian population of Teos. They settled on Chios, took Erythrae from the Carians, Pamphylians (both Luwian) and Cretans. Clazomenae and Phocaea were settled from Colophon. Somewhat later they took Smyrna from the Aeolians.

About 700 BC Gyges, first Mermnad king of Lydia, invaded the territories of Smyrna and Miletus, and is said to have taken Colophon as his son Ardys did Priene. The first event in the history of Ionia for which there is a trustworthy account is the inroad of the Cimmerii, who ravaged a great part of Asia Minor, including Lydia, and sacked Magnesia on the Maeander, but were foiled in their attack upon Ephesus. This event may be referred to the middle of the 7th century BC. It was not until the reign of Croesus (560–545 BC) that the cities of Ionia fell completely under Lydian rule.

The defeat of Croesus by Cyrus the Great was followed by the conquest of all the Ionian cities in 547 BC.[11] These became subject to the Persian monarchy with the other Greek cities of Asia. In this position they enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy, but were for the most part subject to local despots, most of whom were creatures of the Persian king. It was at the instigation of one of these despots, Histiaeus of Miletus, that in about 500 BC the principal cities ignited the Ionian Revolt against Persia. They were at first assisted by the Athenians and Eretria, with whose aid they penetrated into the interior and burnt Sardis, an event which ultimately led to the Persian invasion of Greece. But the fleet of the Ionians was defeated off the island of Lade, and the destruction of Miletus after a protracted siege was followed by the reconquest of all the Asiatic Greeks, insular as well as continental.

The victories of the Greeks during the great Persian war and the liberation of Thrace, Macedon, and Ionia from the Persian Empire had the effect of enfranchising their kinsmen on the other side of the Aegean; and the Battle of Mycale (479 BC), in which the defeat of the Persians was in great measure owing to the Ionians, secured their emancipation. They henceforth became the dependent allies of Athens (see Delian League), though still retaining their autonomy, which they preserved until the Peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC once more placed them as well as the other Greek cities in Asia under the nominal dominion of Persia.

Ionian cities appear to have retained a considerable amount of freedom until the liberation of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great.

After the battle of the Granicus most of the Ionian cities submitted to the rule of Alexander III of Macedon and his Diadochi. As such Ionia enjoyed a great prosperity during the Hellenistic times with the notable exception of Miletus, which, being the only city of the Ionian League to deny to pay homage to Alexander, was finally leveled after a long siege at 334 BC, and never restored to its previous splendor.

Ionia became part of the Roman province of Asia.

Jat History

V. S. Agrawala[12] writes that Panini’s reference to the Yavana Yavanānī writing, possesses distinct value for his date. The term Yauna (=Sanskrit Yavana) for Ionia and the

[p.466]: the Ionian Greeks is first used in inscriptions of Darius I (516 BC). It must have been after this that the term Yavana came into circulation in parts of India which also formed part of the Achaemenian empire. It would not be right to suppose that the Macedonian Greeks who first came into India with Alexander about two centuries later first became known as Yavanas. In fact the Yavanas had been known much before Alexander who already found in the Kabul Valley a colony of Nysian Greeks. In the old-persian Inscriptions of Darius (521-485 BC) we find the term Yauna denoting Ionia and an Ionian, and Yaunā, Ionians corresponding to Sanskrit Yavanaḥ and Yavanāḥ (Sukumar, Old Persian Inscriptions, p.223).

Both Ionia and Gandhara, the home of Panini, formed part of the empire of Darius and also continued under the reign of Xerxes, who recruited to his army a contingent of Indians from Gandhara in his expedition against Greece about the year 479 BC. Thus was furnished a first hand opportunity for the Indians to become acquainted with the Greeks even before Alexander. As Prof Keith has observed : ‘If it is born in mind that Panini was a native of Gandhara according to Xuanzang, a view confirmed by the references in his grammar, it will not seem far fetched to consider that it was most probably from the older tradition that the name Yavanani was derived'. The word lipi borrowed from the Achaemenian dipi meaning edict is conspicuous by absence in the Buddhist canonical works and seems to have been borrowed from Achaemenian Iran. It may further be assumed that the Yavanani lipi was known only in Gandhara and the north-west at that time (ante, p.312).


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[14] ने लेख किया है ...पारस (AS, p.549) ईरान या फारस का प्राचीन भारतीय नाम है. पारस निवासियों को संस्कृत [p.550]: साहित्य में पारसीक कहा गया है. रघुवंश 4,60 और अनुवर्ती श्लोकों में कालिदास ने पारसीकों और रघु के युद्ध और रघु की उन पर विजय का चित्रात्मक वर्णन किया है, 'भल्लापवर्जितैस्तेषां शिरोभिः श्मश्रुलैर्महीं। तस्तार सरघाव्याप्तैः स क्षौद्रपटलैरिव (4.63) आदि. इसमें पारसीकों के श्मश्रुल शिरों का वर्णन है जिस पर टीका लिखते हुए चरित्रवर्धन ने कहा है--'पाश्चात्या: श्मश्रूणि स्थापियित्वा केशान्वपन्तीति तद्देशाचारोक्ति:'अर्थात ये पाश्चात्य लोग सिर के बालों का मुंडन करके दाढ़ीमूछ रखते हैं. यह प्राचीन ईरानियों का रिवाज था जिसे हूणों ने भी अपना लिया था.

कालिदास को भारत से पारस देश को जाने के लिए स्थलमार्ग तथा जलमार्ग दोनों का ही पता था--'पारसीकांस्ततो जेतुं प्रतस्थे स्थलवर्त्मना । इन्द्रियाख्यानिव रिपूंस्तत्त्वज्ञानेन संयमी' (4.60)

पारसीक स्त्रियों को कालिदास ने यवनी कहा है--'यवनीमुखपद्मानां सेहे मधुमदं न सः । बालातपं इवाब्जानां अकालजलदोदयः (4.61)

यवन प्राचीन भारत में सभी पाश्चात्य विदेशियों के लिए प्रयुक्त होता था यद्यपि आद्यत: यह आयोनिया (Ionia) के ग्रीकों की संज्ञा थी. कालिदास ने 'संग्रामस्तुमुलस्तस्य पाश्चात्यैरश्वसाधनैः । शार्ङ्गकूजितविज्ञेयप्रतियोधे रजस्यभूथ् (4.62) में पारसीकों को पाश्चात्य भी कहा है. इस पद्य की टीका करते हुए टीकाकार, सुमिति विजय ने पारसीकों को 'सिंधुतट वसिनो मलेच्छराजान्' कहा है जो ठीक नहीं जान पड़ता क्योंकि रघु. 4,60 में (देखें ऊपर) रघु का, पारसीकों की विजय के लिए स्थलवर्त्म से जाना लिखा है जिससे निश्चित है कि इनके देश में जाने के लिए समुद्रमार्ग भी था. पारसीकों को को कालिदास ने 4,62 (देखें ऊपर) में अश्वसाधन अथवा अश्वसेना से संपन्न बताया है.

मुद्राराक्षस 1,20 में 'मेधाक्ष: पंचमो-अश्मिन् पृथुतुरगबलपारसीकाधिराज:' लिखकर, विशाखदत्त ने पारसियों के सुदृढ़ अश्वबल की ओर संकेत किया है. कालिदास ने प्राचीन ईरान के प्रसिद्ध अंगूरों के उद्यानों का भी उल्लेख किया है--'विनयन्ते स्म तद्योधा मधुभिर्विजयश्रमं । आस्तीर्णाजिनरत्नासु द्राक्षावलयभूमिषु (4.65).

विष्णु पुराण 2,3,17 में पारसीकों का उल्लेख इस प्रकार है-- 'मद्रारामास्तथाम्बाष्ठा:, पारसीका दयास्तथा'.

ईरान और भारत के संबंध अति प्राचीन हैं. ईरान के सम्राट दारा ने छठी सदी ईसा पूर्व में पश्चिमी पंजाब पर आक्रमण करके कुछ समय के लिए वहां से कर वसूल किया था. उसके नक्शे-रुस्तम तथा बहिस्तां से प्राप्त अभिलेखों में पंजाब को दारा के साम्राज्य का सबसे धनी प्रदेश बताया गया है. संभव है गुप्त काल के राष्ट्रीय कवि कालिदास ने इसी प्राचीन कटु ऐतिहासिक स्मृति के निराकरण के लिए रघु को पारसीकों पर

[p.551] विजय का वर्णन किया है. वैसे भी यह ऐतिहासिक तथ्य है कि गुप्त सम्राट महाराज समुद्रगुप्त को पारस तथा भारत के पश्चिमोत्तर अन्य प्रदेशों से संबद्ध कई राजा और सामंत कर देते थे तथा उन्होंने समुद्रगुप्त से वैवाहिक संबंध भी स्थापित किए थे. आठवीं सदी ई. के प्राकृत ग्रंथ गौडवहो (गौडवध) नामक काव्य में कान्यकुब्ज नरेश यशोवर्मन की पारसीकों पर विजय का उल्लेख है.


  1. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/7a, Ch.9, f.n.9
  2. Herodotus, 1.145.
  3. Herodotus, 1.142.
  4. Herodotus, 1.143, 1.149–150.
  5. Smith, William (1857). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography: Volume II Iabadius-Zymethus. London: Walton and Maberly. pp. Ionia pages 60–61.
  6. "Ionia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911.
  7. Herodotus, 1.146.
  8. Herodotus, 1.147.
  9. Sargon's inscription in A. Fuchs, Die Inschriften Sargons II aus Khorsabad (1994:40) noted in Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, 2008:29f.
  10. Guide to Greece Book 7 Sections 5–7.
  11. "Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece".
  12. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.465-466
  13. An Inquiry Into the Ethnography of Afghanistan:H. W. Bellew, p.55
  14. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.549-551