The Ionian coast was first colonized by Greek-speakers in the twelfth century BC and the culture reached its zenith during the seventh and sixth centuries BC when it was at the forefront of the newly emergent sciences, philosophy and the arts. Enormous advantages accrued to those who chose to settle here: an amenable climate, fertile, well-watered terrain, and a strategic location between the Aegean – with its many fine harbours – and inland Anatolia. Local development was only temporarily hampered by the Persian invasions, Alexander the Great’s contrary campaigns, and the chaos following his death, and under the Romans and the Byzantines the region perked up again. Indeed, urban life here might have continued indefinitely were it not for the inexorably receding coastline – thanks to the two silt-bearing rivers of Küçük and Büyük Menderes. By mid-Byzantine times virtually all of the Ionian cities had been abandoned, and with the declaration of Christianity as the state religion, religious centres and oracles met a similar fate.
Today’s inhabitants have found the silver lining to the cloud of the advancing deltas, cashing in on the rich soil brought down from the hills. Vast tracts of cotton, tobacco, sesame and grain benefit from irrigation works, while groves of pine, olive and cypress, which need no such encouragement, adorn the hills and wilder reaches. And the sea, though more distant than in former times, still beckons when tramping the ruins palls. Indeed, tourism is now threatening to outstrip agriculture as a means of making a living.Read More