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The Ionian Thinkers

Thinkers usually referred to today as philosophers, but who could equally well be described as theoretical scientists studying the physical world, gave impetus to new ways of thinking in the late Archaic age. These thinkers, who came from the city-states of Ionia1 along the eastern Aegean coast, were developing radically new explanations of the world of human beings and its relation to the world of the gods. In this way began the study of philosophy in Greece. Ionia's geographical location next to the non-Greek civilizations of Anatolia, which were in contact with the older civilizations of Egypt and the Near East, meant Ionian thinkers were in a position to acquire knowledge and intellectual inspiration from their neighbors2 in the eastern Mediterranean area. Since Greece in this period had no formal schools at any level, thinkers like those from Ionia had to make their ideas known by teaching pupils privately and giving public lectures. They also used writing to record their doctrines, and some of them developed prose in Greek to express their new ways of thought. Some Ionian thinkers composed poetry as well to explain their theories and gave public recitations of their works. People who studied with these thinkers or heard their presentations would then help to spread knowledge of the new ideas.

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