Ionic Greek
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Ionic Greek
Ionic Greek
RegionCircum-Aegean, Magna Graecia
Erac. 1000-300 BC
Early form
Greek alphabet
Language codes
Distribution of Greek dialects in Greece in the classical period.[1]
Distribution of Greek dialects in Magna Graecia (Southern Italy and Sicily) in the classical period.

Ionic Greek (Ancient Greek: , romanizedHell?nik? I?nik?) was a subdialect of the Attic-Ionic or Eastern dialect group of Ancient Greek.


The Ionic dialect appears to have originally spread from the Greek mainland across the Aegean at the time of the Dorian invasions, around the 11th century BC during the early Greek Dark Ages.

By the end of Archaic Greece and early Classical Greece in the 5th century BC, the central west coast of Asia Minor, along with the islands of Chios and Samos, formed the heartland of Ionia proper. The Ionic dialect was also spoken on islands across the central Aegean and on the large island of Euboea north of Athens. The dialect was soon spread by Ionian colonization to areas in the northern Aegean, the Black Sea, and the western Mediterranean, including Magna Graecia in Sicily and Italy.

The Ionic dialect is generally divided into two major time periods, Old Ionic (or Old Ionian) and New Ionic (or New Ionian). The transition between the two is not clearly defined, but 600 BC is a good approximation.

The works of Homer (The Iliad, The Odyssey, and the Homeric Hymns) and of Hesiod were written in a literary dialect called Homeric Greek or Epic Greek, which largely comprises Old Ionic, with some borrowings from the neighboring Aeolic dialect to the north. The poet Archilochus wrote in late Old Ionic.

The most famous New Ionic authors are Anacreon, Theognis, Herodotus, Hippocrates, and, in Roman times, Aretaeus, Arrian, and the Lucianic or Pseudo-Lucianic On the Syrian Goddess.

Ionic acquired prestige among Greek speakers because of its association with the language used by both Homer and Herodotus and the close linguistic relationship with the Attic dialect as spoken in Athens. This was further enhanced by the writing reform implemented in Athens in 403 BC, whereby the old Attic alphabet was replaced by the Ionic alphabet, as used by the city of Miletus. This alphabet eventually became the standard Greek alphabet, its use becoming uniform during the Koine era. It was also the alphabet used in the Christian Gospels and the book of Acts.



Proto-Greek ? > Ionic ?; in Doric, Aeolic, ? remains; in Attic, ? after e, i, r, but ? elsewhere.[2]

  • Attic ??? ne??s, Ionic ??? ne??s "young man"
  • original and Doric ? (?) h? > Attic-Ionic ? h? "the" (feminine nominative singular)
  • original and Doric ?? m?t?r > Attic-Ionic ?? m?t?r "mother"

Proto-Greek e, o > East/Central Ionic ei, ou:[note 1] compensatory lengthening after loss of w in the sequences enw-, erw-, onw-, orw-. In Attic and West Ionic, e, o are not lengthened.[3] ("East" refers to the Ionic of Anatolia, "Central" refers to the Ionic of the Cyclades, and "West" refers to the Ionic of Euboea.)

  • Proto-Greek *kórw?[4] > Attic ?? kór?, East Ionic ?? koúr? "girl"
  • *órwos > óros, oúros "mountain"
  • *ksénwos > ? xénos, ? xe?nos "guest, stranger"

East Ionic generally removes initial aspiration (Proto-Greek hV- > Ionic V-).[5]

  • Proto-Greek *h?wélios > Attic h?lios, Homeric (early East Ionic) ?élios "sun"

Ionic contracts less often than Attic.[6]

  • Ionic génea, Attic ? gén? "family" (neuter nominative plural)


Proto-Greek *k? before o > Attic, West/Central Ionic p, some East Ionic k.

  • Proto-Greek *hók??s > East Ionic ?? k?s, Attic ?? p?s "in whatever way, in which way"

Proto-Greek * > East/Central Ionic ss, West Ionic, Attic tt.[7] This Ionic feature made it into Koine Greek.

  • Proto-Greek *tá > Ionic ? ss?, Attic ? tt? "I arrange"


Word order

  • Ionic had a very analytical word-order, perhaps the most analytical one within ancient Greek dialects.[]


See also


  1. ^ Among Greek dialects, Ionic was the fondest of long vowels and was thus considered especially suited to solo singing; the more austere, broad-sounding Doric was preferred in choral singing.


  1. ^ Roger D. Woodard (2008), "Greek dialects", in: The Ancient Languages of Europe, ed. R. D. Woodard, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 51.
  2. ^ Smyth, par. 30 and note, 31: long a in Attic and other dialects
  3. ^ Smyth, par. 37 note: Ionic compensatory lengthening after loss of w
  4. ^ ?. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek-English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  5. ^ Smyth, par. 9 note: early loss of rough breathing in Ionic of Asia Minor
  6. ^ Smyth, par. 59 note: contraction in dialects
  7. ^ Smyth, par. 112, 78: ky, khy > tt; = ss in non-Attic dialects
  8. ^ Athenaeus Deipnosophists 10 425c


  • A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity by A. Panayotou; Ionic and Attic
  • A Grammar of the Greek Language by Benjamin Franklin Fisk; Ionic

Further reading

  • Bakker, Egbert J., ed. 2010. A companion to the Ancient Greek language. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Christidis, Anastasios-Phoivos, ed. 2007. A history of Ancient Greek: From the beginnings to Late Antiquity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Colvin, Stephen C. 2007. A historical Greek reader: Mycenaean to the koiné. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Horrocks, Geoffrey C. 1987. "The Ionian epic tradition: Was there an Aeolic phase in its development?" Minos 20-22: 269-94.
  • ----. Greek: A history of the language and its speakers. 2nd ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Palmer, Leonard R. 1980. The Greek language. London: Faber & Faber.
  • West, Martin L. 1974. Studies in Greek elegy and iambus. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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