The Ionian coast was first colonized by Greek-speakers in the twelfth century BC. 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 settled here: an amenable climate, fertile, well-watered terrain, and a strategic location between the Aegean – with its many fine harbours – and inland Anatolia. Partly thanks to the silting up of local rivers, the coastline soon began to recede, and by mid-Byzantine times virtually all of the Ionian cities had been abandoned; 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 with the sea, though more distant than in former times, still beckoning when tramping the ruins palls, tourism is now threatening to outstrip agriculture.