previous next



1. Of Chios, was one of the five Athenian tragic poets of the canon, and also a composer of other kinds of poetry; and, moreover, a prose writer, both of history and philosophy. He is mentioned by Strabo (xiv. p.645) among the celebrated men of Chios. He was the son of Orthomenes, and was surnamed the son of Xuthus : the latter was probably a nickname given him by the comic poets, in allusion to Xuthus, the father of the mythical Ion. (Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 830; Suid. Eudoc. Harpocr. s. v.) When very young he went to Athens, where he enjoyed the society of Cimon, of whom he left laudatory notices in some of his works (probably in the ύπομνήματα), which are quoted by Plutarch. (Cim. 5, 9, 16.) The same writer informs us that Ion severely criticised Pericles (Peric. 5, 28), who is said to have been his rival in love. (Ath. x. p. 436f.) Ion was familiarly acquainted with Aeschylus, if we may believe an anecdote related by Plutarch (De Profect. in Virt. 8, p. 79), but he did not come forward as a tragedian till after that poet's death. We also learn from Ion himself (in his ἐπιδηυίαι, apud Aih. xiii. p. 603e.) that he met Sophocles at Chios, when the latter was commander of the expedition against Samos, B. C. 440. His first tragedy was brought out in the 82d Olympiad (B. C. 452); he is mentioned as third in competition with Euripides and Iophon, in Ol. 87, 4 (B. C. 429-428); and he died before B. C. 421, as appears from the Peace of Aristophanes (830), which was brought out in that year. Only one victory of Ion's is mentioned, on which occasion, it is said, having gained the dithyrambic and tragic prizes at the same time. he presented every Athenian with a pitcher of Chian wine. (Schol. ad Aristoph. l.c. ; Suid. s. v. Ἀθήναιος; Ath. i. p. 3f.; Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1454, 24.) Hence it would seem that he was a man of considerable wealth.



The number of his tragedies is variously stated at 12, 30, and 40. We have the titles and a few fragments of 11, namely, Ἀγαμέμνων, Ἀλκμήνη, Ἀργεῖοι, Μέγα Δρᾶμα, Φρουροί, Φοῖνιξ Καινεύς, Φοῖνιξ δεύτερος, Τεῦκρος, Ὀμφάλη, Εὐρυτίδαι and Λαέρτης, of which the Ὀμφάλη was a satyric drama.

Longinus (33) describes the style of Ion's tragedies as marked by petty refinements and want of boldness, and he adds an expression which shows the distance which there was, in the opinion of the ancients, between the great tragedians and the best of their rivals, that no one in his senses would compare the value of the Oedipus with that of all the tragedies of Ion taken together.

Nevertheless, he was greatly admired, chiefly, it would seem, for a sort of elegant wit. Περιβόητος δὲ ἐγένετο, says the scholiast. There are some beautiful passages in the extant fragments of his tragedies. Commentaries were written upon him by Arcesilaus, Batton of Sinope, Didymus, Epigenes, and even by Aristarchus. (D. L. 4.31; Ath. x. p. 436f, xi. p. 468cd xi 634, c, e.)

Other Poetic Works

Besides his tragedies, we are told by the scholiast on Aristophanes, that Ion also wrote lyric poems, comedies, epigrams, paeans, hymns, scholia, and elegies.


Respecting his comedies, a doubt has been raised, on account of the confusion between comedy and tragedy, which is so frequent in the writings of the grammarians; but, in the case of so universal a writer as Ion, the probability seems to be in favour of the scholiast's statement.



Of his elegies we have still some remnants in the Greek Anthology. (Brunck, Anal. vol. i. p. 161.)

Prose Works

His prose works, mentioned by the scholiast on Aristophanes, are one called πρεσβευτικόν, which some thought spurious; κτίσις, κοσμολογικός, ὑπομνήματα, and some others, which are not specified. The nature of the first of these works is not known.

The κτίσις

The full title of the κτίσις was Χίου κτίσις : it was an historical work, in the Ionic dialect, and apparently in imitation of Herodotus : it was probably the same as the συγγραφή, which is quoted by Pausanias (7.4.6.)

The κοσμολογικός

The κοσμολογικός is probably the same as the philosophical work, entitled τριαγμός (or τριαγμοί, which seems to have been a treatise on the constitution of things according to the theory of triads, and which some ancient writers ascribed to Orpheus.

The ὑπομνήματα

The ὑπομνήματα are by some writers identified with the ἐπιδημίαι or ἐκδημητικός (Pollux, 2.88.), which contained either an account of his own travels, or of the visits of great men to Chios.

Further Information

Bentley, Epist. ad Joh. Millium, Chronico Joannis Malelae subjecta, Oxon. 1691, Venet. 1733; Opusc. pp. 494-510 ed. Lips.; C. Nieberding, De Ionis Chii Vita, Moribus, et Studüs Doctrinae, with the fragments, Lips. 1836; Köpke, De Ionis Poetae Vita et Fragmentis, Berol. 1836, and in the Zeitschrift für Alterthhumswissenschaft, 1836, pp. 589-605; Welcker, die Griech. Trag. pp. 938-9.58; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. ii. pp. 307, 308; Kayser, Hist. Crit. Trag. Graec. (Götting. 1845, pp. 175-190.)

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
452 BC (1)
440 BC (1)
429 BC (1)
428 BC (1)
421 BC (1)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.4.6
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: