Ancient History & Civilisation

5. Chios, Smyrna, Phocaea

From Teos the mainland staggers westward in vacillating bays and promontories until, across ten miles of sea, the traveler reaches Chios. Here, amid groves of figs and olives, and Anacreontic vines, Homer may have spent his youth. Wine making was a major industry in Chios, and used many slaves; in 431 the island had 30,000 freemen, 100,000 slaves.67 Chios became a clearinghouse for slaves; slave dealers bought the families of insolvent debtors from their creditors, and purchased boys to make eunuchs of them for the palaces of Lydia and Persia.68 In the sixth century Drimachus led his fellow slaves in revolt, defeated all armies sent against him, established himself in a mountain fastness, levied toll upon the richer citizens by discriminating robbery, offered them “protection” for a consideration after our own fashion, terrified them into dealing more justly with their slaves, gave his voluntarily severed head to his friends so that they might claim the reward that had been promised for it, and was worshiped for centuries afterward as the patron deity of slaves:69 here is an excellent epic for some Spartacus of the pen. Art and literature flourished amid the wealth and bondage of Chios; here the Homeridae, a guild and succession of bards, had their seat; here Ion the dramatist and Theopompus the historian would be born; here Glaucus (tradition said) discovered, about 560, the technique of welding iron; here Archermus and his sons, Bupalus and Athenis, made the finest statuary in sixth-century Greece.

Returning to the mainland, the traveler passes by the sites of Erythrae and Clazomenae—birthplace of Pericles’ teacher and friend, Anaxagoras. Farther east, on a well-sheltered inlet, is Smyrna. Settled by Aeolians as far back as 101570 it was changed by immigration and conquest into an Ionian city. Already famous in the days of Achilles, sacked by Alyattes of Lydia about 600 B.C., destroyed again and again, and recently by the Greeks in A.D. 1924, Smyrna, rivaling Damascus in age, has known all the vicissitudes of history.* The remains of the ancient town suggest its rich and varied life; a gymnasium, an acropolis, a stadium, and a theater have been dug out of the earth. The avenues were broad and well paved; temples and palaces adorned them; the main street, called Golden, was famous throughout Greece.

The northernmost of Ionia’s cities was Phocaea, still functioning as Fokia. The river Hermus connected it almost with Sardis itself, and gave it a lucrative advantage in the commerce of the Greeks with Lydia. Phocaean merchants undertook distant voyages in the search for markets; it was they who brought Greek culture to Corsica, and founded Marseilles.

Such were the Twelve Cities of Ionia, seen superficially as if in an hour’s flight through space and time. Though they were too competitive and jealous to form a union for mutual defense, their citizens acknowledged some solidarity of background and interest, and met periodically on the promontory of Mycale near Priene, in the great festival of the Panionium. Thales begged them to form a sympolity in which every adult male would be a citizen both of his city and of a Panionian union; but commercial rivalries were too strong, and led rather to internecine wars than to political unity. Hence, when the Persian attack came (546-5), the alliance improvised for defense proved rootlessly weak, and the Ionian cities came under the power of the Great King. Nevertheless this spirit of independence and rivalry gave to the Ionian communities the stimulus of competition and the zest of liberty. It was under these conditions thatJonia developed science, philosophy, history, and the Ionic capital, while at the same time it produced so many poets that the sixth century in Hellas seems almost as fertile as the fifth. When Ionia fell her cities bequeathed their culture to the Athens that had fought to save them, and transmitted to it the intellectual leadership of Greece.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!