The region was of considerable importance in ancient times, for it was there that Greek settlers established colonies before 1000 B.C. These colonists were called Ionians, and tradition says that they fled to Asia Minor from the mainland of Greece to escape the invading Dorians. Athens claimed to be the mother city of all the Ionian colonists, but modern scholars believe that the Ionians were actually a mixed group (mainly from Attica and Boeotia) and that after migrating they were further mixed by intermarriage with native groups such as the Carians. Nevertheless, they spoke the same distinctive form of Greek that was spoken in Attica and Euboea, and their culture was always distinguished from that of the Dorians and Aeolians.
There came to be 12 major cities—Miletus, Myus, Priene, Sámos, Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedos, Teos, Erythrae, Khíos, Clazomenae, and Phocaea. A religious league (which reached its full power in the 8th cent. B.C.) was formed, with its center at the temple of Poseidon near Mycale. Smyrna, originally an Aeolian colony, later joined the league. The fertility of the region and its excellent harbors brought prosperity to the cities. Traders and colonists traveled the Mediterranean as far west as Spain and up to the shores of the Black Sea.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.