THE IONIAN THINKERS
Ionians who assembled at the panionion founded their cities under the most beautiful sky
and in the finest climate in the known world Herodotus of Halicarnassus
Ionia; the cradle of empirical science
Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı
"The Fisherman of Halicarnassus". 20th century
I O N I A
According to the "Parian Marble", an
inscription on the island of Paros giving the dates of events from the earliest
mythological times up to 264 B.C., the Ionian migration took place in 1077 B.C., 301 years
before the first Olympic games, while consideration of historical events and written
documents allow this migration of the Ionians to Anatolia to be dated to 1200-1050 B.C.
Prior to the Aegean migrations, Western Anatolia had been inhabited by indigenous peoples
known as the Lelegians, Pelasgians and Carians. A number of settlements had been founded
on the coast from Troy to Halicarnassus. It would appear that the Troiad was peopled by
the Aeolıans and the Halicarnassus region by the Dorians, with the Ionians in the central
regions. According to ancient Greek sources, the Ionians were led by Androclus, the son of
Codrus, king of Athens, who is also regarded as the founder of the city of Ephesus.
According to traditional sources, the Athenians, who formed the main body of the migrants,
met with fierce resistance from the local inhabitants and were able to settle in Anatolia
only after a series of very bloody wars.
The Ionian cities comprised Priene,
Teos, Chios, Clazomenae, Myus, Samos, Phocaea, Lebedus,
Ephesus, Colophon and Erythrae.
According to Herodotus, they all spoke the same language but employed four different
dialects. The most southerly of the Ionian towns was Miletus, next came Myus and
all three in Caria and all three speaking the same dialect. Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedus,
Teos, Clazomenae and Phocaea were in Lydia and shared a common dialect quite different
from that spoken at the above-mentioned places. Chios and Erythrae spoke the same
language, and Samos a peculiar one of its own." The Ionian cities were ruled first of
all by kings and later by oligarchies, but, in the course of time, some of the cities
succeeded in winning popular political rights. During this period the goddess Artemis
become the must important goddess of western Anatolia, whereas Athena played a parallel
role in contemporary Greece. At that time, the economy was based on agriculture and
animal-raising. In his verses Homer mentions vineyards, orchards, vegetable gardens and
olive groves, and it would appear that olive oil was used both for cooking and
illumination. We learn that Colophon was famed for horse breeding. The first city states
(poloi) known to history were founded in Ionia, and by the time Homer wrote his epics they
had come to dominate the whole of Ionia. The lacelike coastline of Western Anatolia with
its series of bays and coves offered ideal harbours for maritime traffic.
The Phocaeans were pre-eminent in maritime trade,
their fifty-oar vessels keeping them in commercial contact with Egypt, while at the same
`time they founded colonies on the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. They later spread as
far as the coasts of Italy, Spain and southern France, carrying Ionian culture with them
wherever they went. Ports with sheltered harbours soon developed into important centres of
trade and commerce. At the beginning of the 8th century B.C. commercial contacts with the
Phoenicians led to familiarity with the Phoenician script. The Ionian alphabet was the
most important of the eastern branches of the old Greek alphabet and the form employed in
the city of Miletus was adopted as the official alphabet in Athens in 403 B.C. In the
middle of the 4th century B.C. this became the twenty-four letter Greek alphabet of the
classical period. At the same time, remarkable progress was made in oral literature. These
epics, handed 0n by word of mouth from one generation to the next, finally gave rise, in
the middle of the 8th century, to works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, in which Homer,
a native of Smyrna, employed a mixture of the Ionian and Aeolian dialects. Ionia also
developed as one of the most influential centres of oracular prophecy in the Greek world
with the fame of the temples of Claros and Didyma spreading throughout the whole of the
Mediterranean region. The greatest contribution made by the Lydians, who dominated the
region in the 7th and 6th centuries, was the introduction of coinage as a means of
Coinage of electrum (an alloy of 60% gold and 40%
silver) made its way through the Ionian and Aegean regions, reaching as far as Greece
It was in Ionia that rule by tyrants first
emerged. The word "tyrant" is derived from the Lydian language, where it means
"lord". From this time on, Ionia was the most important centre of the various
branches of philosophy, literature and art, while at the same time cultural activities
ceased to be the monopoly of the aristocracy and began to spread amongst the common
The music of Lydia and Phrygia played an
important role in the development of the lyrical poetry of the 7th century B.C., and lyric
poems began to be sung throughout the Greek world to the accompaniment of the lyre and the
flute. In the 6th century, philosophy began to be cultivated in intellectual circles and
scientific laws began to be formulated for the explanation of natural phenomena, thus
laying the foundation of modern science.
The Ionic order appeared in the field of
architecture and the Ionic style soon spread far beyond the borders of Ionia to the shores
of Greece and the southern Mediterranean and even Persia, the influence of Ionian
architecture being clearly visible in the Persian palaces. Temples in the Ionic style are
characterised by tall, slender columns, with fluted shafts.
The most magnificent example of this style of
architecture was to be found in the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. The defeat of the Lydian
monarchy by the Persians led to a radical shift in the balance of political power in
Western Anatolia and in 545 B.C. all the coastal cities came under Persian hegemony.
I 0 N I A N T H I N K E R
In the 6th century B.C. Ionia produced a number
of thinkers who devoted themselves to the study of the universe and the discovery of the
laws of nature. In this way they broke the chains of religion and bigotry which had
existed up to that time and showed that natural phenomena were governed, not by mysterious
forces but by natural laws. Thus it was in Ionia that the first signs appeared of an age
of enlightenment in Anatolia. These thinkers have come to be known as the "Ionian
natural philosophers ".
HERACLEITUS (540-480 B.C.)
Heracleitus was born and brought up in Ephesus. He concentrated on the problem of
existence. He believed that fire was the essence of the universe, and also believed in the
transitory nature of all things, the apparent permanence and stability of things within
this actual transitoriness being mere illusion. The appearance of permanency arises from
the fact that change is governed not by chance but by certain laws and takes place in
accordance with a certain order. Heracleitus named this order "LOGOS". The
universe is governed by law and it is the task of reason to discover this law.
A native of Clazomenae (Güladası), Anaxagoras was one of the most important of
the 5th century thinkers. In 462 he went to Athens, where he spent the next thirty years
of his life. He won fame as a mathematician, while at the same time making some very
important discoveries in astronomy. He explained the problem of the light from the moon
and of the eclipse of the sun and moon.
According to Anaxagoras there were many elements
distinguished by different qualities produced not by the entry into the compound of new
elements but by the separation of elements in the compounds.
He introduced the idea of the atom and its
possible separation. He was sentenced to death in Athens for denying the divinity of the
sun and moon and declaring that they consisted of masses of material.
XENOPHANES (5ü9-477 B.C.)
A contemporary of Heracleitus, Xenophanes was a native of the city of Colophon.
He might be regarded as a religious teacher rather than a philosopher.
He opposed the anthromorphic approach to the
gods. He believed in a single god of a wholly intellectual nature, a philosophical
approach that constituted the first step on the road towards monotheism.
DEMOCRITUS (460-390 B.C.)
Democritus was a native of Teos. Only a few fragments of his works have survived.
He declared that a single scientific discovery was worth more than being King of Persia.
According to Democritus, nothing disappears or changes its form, it always remains the
same. But besides being, there is also non-being, i.e. empty space. According to
Democritus, matter is composed of indivisible, invisible particles distinguished in form,
position in space, size and weight. These particles Democritus called "atoms".
Democritus thus laid the foundations of a
mechanist approach to natural philosophy, but in ancient times his views were to remain
undeveloped. His approach to natural philosophy was taken up again only at the beginning
of the modern age. He was the first to discover the law of cause and effect.
THALES (625-545 B.C.)
Thales is recognized as the founder of Western philosophy. He believed that water
formed the essence of matter, and is renowned for having forecast the eclipse of the sun
that took place on the 28 May 585 B.C. He died at the age of seventy-eight during the 58th
Olympic Games. None of his writings have survived. He advised sailors to take their
bearings from the LITTLE DIPPER rather than the BIG DIPPER formed by the northern stars.
He is said to have used geometry to calculate the height of the Egyptian pyramids and the
distance of a ship from the shore. He is universally agreed to have foreseen the eclipse
of the sun which brought the battle between the Lydian King Alyattes and Cyaxares, King of
the Medes, to an end. He was the discoverer of a number of geometrical theorems.
- The diameter divides the circumference into two
- The two angles at the base of an isosceles
triangle are equal,
- The opposite angles at the point of intersection
of two straight lines are equal.
- Two straight lines from a point on the
circumference of a circle to the ends of the diameter form a right angle.
Thales' material approach to the universe
constituted a break with traditional mythological explanations. Both sides in the battle
mentioned above broke off hostilities in the belief that this was a sign from the gods.
Thales had calculated the time of the eclipse beforehand and informed the Lydians
- Do not enrich yourself by shameful means.
- Expect as much help in your old age as you
yourself have given to your parents in your youth.
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