The microstructural and mechanical properties of hot-pressed Si3N4 ceramics after Si+ ion bombardment and annealing in N2 atmosphere have been investigated as a function of the ion fluence and the annealing temperature. The irradiations were carried out at target temperatures of about 80 K and 450 K with ion energies of 0.5 MeV and 1.0 MeV. In all cases the fluence range was subdivided into two regimes: a low-fluence regime with improved microhardness and fracture toughness, and a high-fluence regime with an absolute degradation of these properties. The transition fluence was found to strongly depend on the ion energy and implantation temperature. This property transition coincides with a microstructural transition from a highly damaged, but still crystalline material, to the formation of a buried amorphous layer. The amorphization results in a strong volume swelling which causes a closure of surface flaws. The latter process significantly enhances the fracture strength of the implanted material. Thermal relaxation of the modified mechanical properties was found to occur at temperatures above 800° C. The relationships between the ion-induced changes of the mechanical properties and the microstructural modifications will be discussed.