Ion of Chios – The Historian of the Island of Chios

Ion of Chios was a Greek writer, poet, philisopher and daramatist, who lived in the time of 490 until 423 BC. He is considered to be on par with the three most famous tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, as well as the historian of Chios island.

His unusual name originates from the name „Ion“, a mythical figure, who was supposed to be the founding father of the tribe of the Ionians, one of the four tribes that is said Greece was devided by in ancient times. Early in his life, in the age of fifteen, Ion left Chios island, as he was send by his father, Orthomenis, to the capital city of Athens for an apprenticeship. During his time in the metropolis, he had contact to various know historical figures, such as the politicians Kimon, Themistokles and Perikles, as well as the philosopher Sokrates and artists like Sophokles and Aischylos.

His first real display of skill was in the year 429 BC, when he competed with one of the last famous classic Greek writer of tragedy, Euripides, in a poetic contest. Though Ion could only claim the third place with his tetralogy (a compound work of three tragedies and one satyre play) in this year, he was able to win in the following year. As a sign of gratitude it is said that he spend every of the citizens of Athens (already around 20.000 people in this time) a glas of wine from his place of birth, Chios.

At his time Ion was greatly admired for his elegant wit, and some of his elegies even found their way into the Greek Anthology. Sadly, there are not many pieces of Ion extant for the posterity, and various sources claim different numbers of his total writings, of which today only 11 either in fragments or complete are known. Amongst those are supposed to be dithyrambs (an ancient Greek hymn), lyrical songs, comedies, epigrams, paeans (a poem of triumph or thanksgiving), hymns, skolions (a song sung by guests at a banquet), encomiums (an eulogy) and elegies.

For us most interesting is the so called 'Η Ιστορία της Χίου' (History of Chios), which tells the myth of the colonization of the island of Chios. According to his tale, the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, fathered with a sylph his son on the island. He gave him the name Chios (greek for „snow“), as it began to snow during the labor of the mother. Later Ion also chronicles the invasion of the island by the Carians and the apperently historical persons of Amphiklos and the emperor Hektor.

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