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Any ancient Greek inhabitant of Ionia, from the time of the collapse of Mycenae. Ionian cities colonized southern Italy and opened up the Black Sea from c. 700 BC. Their contributions to Greek culture included the epics of Homer and the earliest elegiac and iambic poetry. They began the study of geography, philosophy, and historiography in the 6th century. After Alexander the Great their literary language was the basis of Koine, or common speech, the language of practically all Greek writing to the present day.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Ionian, visit Britannica.com.