Why were the Ionian Greeks called the Ionians Greeks when the Sea of Ionia is on the other side of Greece?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-03 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics

To elaborate on Niko Vasileas’ answer and Michael Anderson’s answer:

Nominative Iōn, Genitive Iōn-os, Adjective Iōn-ikos or Iōn-ios refers to the tribe of Ionians.

Adjective Iŏn-ios refers to the sea, and is traditionally derived from the lover of Zeus, Io (mythology): Nominative , Genitive Ious < *Iŏ-os. Io, transformed into a cow, is supposed to have crossed both the Bosphorus (“ox passage”) and the Ionian Sea, before being restored to human form.

Io (mythology) – Wikipedia: Juno, Jupiter and Io by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout.

Grammatically, I’m not convinced by Io; Sardŏnios ‘Sardonic, Sardinian’ is derived from Sard-ō, -ous “Sardinia”, but Sardō did also have a Sard-ŏnos genitive. So as Nikos says, it’s potentially something else. At any rate, it is unlikely to have anything to do with the Ionian tribe.

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