Ancient Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 2: War, Trade and Adventure: Struggles of the Ionian Greeks

Ancient Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 2: War, Trade and Adventure: Struggles of the Ionian Greeks

Ancient Warfare Vol VIII, Issue 2: War, Trade and Adventure: Struggles of the Ionian Greeks

The Ionian Greeks inhabited the shores of the Aegean (especially the eastern and northern shores), Athens, and found colonies scattered around the Mediterranean, most famously Massalia (modern Marseilles). They gave their name to Ionia, on the south-western shores of Anatolia, where they brushed up against the various powers of Asia.

There is often a faintly judgemental attitude taken to the Ionian Revolt, with a feeling that it was irresponsible and triggered a prolonged period of conflict between Greeks and Persians that might not otherwise have happened. With that in mind it is useful to get a better idea of the timeframe involved. The last of the long-independent Ionian cities to lose its independence was Ephesus, which fell to Croesus of Lydia after 560 BC. Cyrus the Great's career began at about the same time, and Lydia fell to him in the 540s. The Ionian Revolt of 499-493 BC thus came within 50 years of the Persian appearance in western Anatolia, just about within living memory of the conquest. There is also a tendency to see the Persian Empire as an all-powerful force whose victory in Anatolia was almost inevitable, rather than as a very recent creation, ruled by only its third monarch at the start of the revolt.

The themed articles help paint a much more rounded picture of the Ionians, from their early appearances in the Archaic period to the struggle against Persia (where a typical inability to cooperate doomed them to defeat). I found the article on the Phocaeans particularly interesting, reminding us how precarious live could be in the Ancient world. When the city was threatened with Persian conquest the citizens decided to evacuate their city and migrate en-mass to a colony on Corsica, before eventually moving the southern Italy. Presumably their earlier colony at Massalia was too powerful to be taken over by the Phocaean emigrants!

Away from the main theme there are two articles that demonstrate the difficulties of ancient history. The first looks at the dexiobaloi, 'right-carrying' legionaries that are only mentioned three times in ancient sources (the most famous mention coming in Acts). The author comes up with their own convincing definition of the word, but also looks at the historical debate that accompanies it, the alternative words sometimes used in early translations of the same texts and the various possible translations that have been suggested over time. This is an interesting topic in its own right, but also provides a good example of the limited sources that are sometimes available to us.

The second asks if the Romans ever invaded Ireland. It isn't much of a spoiler to say that the answer is almost certainly not, but the real interest here is in the examination of all of the possible ancient mentions of such an expedition (sparse at best, and almost certainly referring to something else), then a look at the work of later historians, examining the way they used and misused the original sources. This article is a valuable reminder of how important it is to base our work on the original sources as much as possible.

Struggles of the Ionian Greeks: Historical Introduction
Pirates, raiders and soldiers of fortune: Ionian Greeks in the Archaic Period
The hunger of lions: Conflicts between Ionians and Lydians
Ionians of the West: Adventures of the Phocaeans
The reenactor: A toxarchos from the Nereid Monument
Battle of Lade, 494 BC: Triremes and treachery
Athens, Sparta, Persia, and the Greeks of Asia: Between Great Powers
Alexander, Miletus and the Branchidae: A master strategist
What did 'right-carrying' legionaries carry? Literal dexiobaloi
Did the Romans invade Ireland? Roman soldiers in Ireland

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