Chios Island (Aegean) 1 Khios - Χίος

Χῖος - Chios, the fifth largest of the Greek islands, modern Khios in the Eastern Aegean
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Latitude: 38.414000
Longitude: 26.053000
Confidence: High

Greek name: Χῖος
Place ID: 384261IChi
Time period:
Region: North Aegean
Country: Greece
Department: Chios
Mod: Khios

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Search for inscriptions mentioning Chios (Χιος...) in the PHI Epigraphy database.

Modern Description: Grand and solitary, rich in architecture and flora, but tinged with a note of tragedy that lingers from the events of its long and complex history, Chios is – perhaps more than any island in the Aegean – a world to itself. Of the wealthy ancient city, with its walls of polychrome marble, which was shown to Cicero when he visited the island, little remains to be seen today; but a sense of its artistic individuality and political activity is vividly evoked in the city's Archaeological Museum. The island has an unbroken history of excellence in the visual arts. An architectural renaissance followed on from the building of the monastic complex of Nea Moni, by the Emperor in Byzantium in the early 11th century. It dates from only a few decades earlier than the Monastery of St. John on Patmos, but the two buildings could not be more different. Stylised and sophisticated, with rich decoration and a cleverly modulated and dramatic interior, Nea Moni influenced over the following centuries the building of a number of other unusual churches around the island – Aghii Apostoli in Pyrgi, and the rural churches of the Panaghia Krina and Panaghia Sikelia – all of which are later meditations and variations on the great 11th century church. The refined mosaics of Nea Moni – large parts of which somehow survived the Turkish devastations of 1822 and the earthquake of 1881 – are amongst the most important in Greece.
An exceptional fall of snow on the island accompanied the birth of Chios, the son of Poseidon, after whom the island was subsequently named, according to legend. But Isidoros the historian adds that the name ‘Chios' is actually of Phoenician origin, meaning ‘mastic'. This is very likely true, since many of the Aegean Island names are of Phoenician rather than Greek origin.
Human settlement appears to have begun on Chios in the 6th millennium BC. Several prehistoric sites have been located near the north and south coasts. The earliest is the cave-settlement at Aghio Gála in the extreme northwestern corner; but the most extensively explored is at Emporeio on the southeast coast, where habitation was continuous from the Late Neolithic (5th millennium BC) through to the first destruction or abandonment of the site at the end of the Myceneaean era in the 12th century BC. The site, however, proved to be of greater longevity: it was re-settled in early historic times and remained occupied through until the Early Christian period. Ionians from Histiaia in Euboea migrated to Chios and colonised the island under the leadership of Amphicles who is mentioned as the island's first king. It was in this period – the 9th century BC – that the site of the city of Chios also was settled.
Under what may have been an enlightened oligarchy enshrined in a mid-6th century constitution, the city came to prominence rapidly as a wealthy trading centre, always to some extent in competition with Erythrae on the mainland opposite.. It traded its goods and its renowned wine far into the Black Sea and west into the Mediterranean, and it appears to have participated in the creation of the Greek trade-emporion of Naucratis in the Nile Delta. It was also one of the earliest Greek cities to engage in the slave trade – a source of considerable wealth to the island, as it was also later to be to Delos. The Chiots appear to have had more domestic slaves than any other Greek state except for Sparta by the end of the 5th century BC. The city's quality of life became proverbial, giving rise to expressions such as ‘the Chian life' or ‘Chian laughter'. Thucydides (Peloponnesian War, VIII. 24) meanwhile extolled the prosperity and prudence of the islanders.
Chios was one of the twelve cities which comprised the Ionian League, whose common sanctuary and meeting place was the ‘Panionium' on the promontory of Mycale opposite Samos. Here, the Panionia or great national assembly of the confederacy was held. The League was a vital strategic union which gave rise to commercial power, a high standard of living, and a ferment of cultural and intellectual activity among its members. Though not uninflenced by the close proximity of a great and ancient Persian cultural presence, this activity had a new, free-thinking and importantly Greek character to it. Many of the greatest thinkers and artists of the Archaic and Early Classical periods hailed from the cities of the confederacy – the philosophers Thales of Miletus, Heraclitus of Ephesus, and Pythagoras of Samos, the poet Anacreon of Teos, and the painters Apelles of Colophon, Zeuxis of Heracleia (Miletus), and Parrhasius of Ephesus. On Chios, in particular, was a celebrated school of sculpture, in which Pliny cites Achermos and his family as important masters; and according to Herodotus (Histories I. 25), Glaucus (fl. 490 BC) of Chios is said to have invented the art of soldering metals. The tragic poet Ion, the historian Theopompus, and the sophist Theocritus were also from Chios. But the island's greatest claim of all was to have given birth to Homer.
Out of pragmatism Chios established good relations with Croesus, King of Lydia between 560-546 BC, but it later came under the control of Harpagus, the general of Cyrus, King of Persia. When, in 499 BC, the Ionians revolted against Persian domination, instigated primarily by Aristagoras, Governor of Miletus, Chios played an important role, sending 100 ships to the Battle of Lade in 494 BC and fighting with notable valour. The Greek fleet was defeated, Miletus was sacked and Chios appears also to have suffered some destruction. Later, after the final defeat of the Persian invasions, Chios encouraged Athens to set up the Delian League, and remained a member of it until 412 BC. Thucydides iimplies (Peloponnesian War, III. 10) that Lesbos and Chios saw themselves in a privileged position in the League, as allies of Athens rather than as subordinates as the other members – including even Miletus – were. At first, Chios remained a loyal ally of Athens – even through difficult times; but in 412 BC, joined by Alcibiades who had defected to Sparta and by other Ionian cities including Miletus, Teos and Mytilene, the island broke free from Athens. The uprising failed, and as a consequence the Athenians captured Oinoussai and established a naval stronghold at Delphinio on the northeast coast. When Athens was subsequently defeated by Sparta at the battle of Aigos Potami, Sparta took control of Chios, destroyed her ship-yards and expropriated her fleet.
In 383 BC, Chios was once again allied with Athens and five years later joined the Second Athenian Confederacy. With the aid of King Mausolus of Halicarnassus it seceded in 357 BC and finally gained its autonomy. In the febrile world of the 4th century BC, autonomy was virtually impossible for a city of any wealth to maintain, and Chios was divided between pro-Persian and pro-Macedonian factions. The island was captured by a general of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. It appears from the preserved and engraved epistle from Alexander to the people of the island (exhibited in the Archaeology Museum in Chios) that he restored the democratic regime, imposed a penalty of twenty triremes, and ordered the return of political exiles. This restored the island's trade for a substantial period and helped it to grow wealthy once again – something which attracted the unwanted attention of the infamous Roman Legate and Pro-Quaestor,Verres, who pillaged the island. Chios, as an ally of Rome in the war with Antiochus, suffered a yet worse destruction in 86 BC at the hands of Zenobios, the general of Mithridates VI: it is recorded that the Chians were delivered up to their own slaves, to be carried away captive to Colchis. Athenaeus considered this a just punishment for their wickedness in first introducing the slave-trade into Greece. From this, the ancient proverb arose, “The Chian hath bought himself a master.” After the re-capture of the island by Sulla, Chios was once again given its independence, which was initially respected by the Roman Emperors. After the earthquake of 17 BC, Tiberius, who visited the island twice, contributed towards its rehabilitation. With the administrative reforms of Diocletian, Chios (c.300 AD) became part of the Provincia Insularum.
St. Paul appears to have visited the island (Acts XX. 15) in 58 AD. By the 4th century a small Christian community was well-established on the island, whose patron saint was St. Isidore, a 3rd century Roman military martyr of the reign of Decius. Imperial Byzantine interest in the building of Nea Moni in 1042, brought an architectural and religious golden age to the island. This period was briefly interrupted by occupation at the hands of the Turkish emir of Smyrna, Çaka, or ‘Zachas', until the island was freed again in 1092 by Alexander Comnenus. In 1125 the Venetians removed the relics of St. Isidore to Venice, and in 1172 the island was taken by Doge Vitale Michiel. The partition of Byzantine territories in 1204 after the 4th Crusade, awarded Chios to the Latin emperor in Constantinople, who proved unable to hold it. The treaty of Nymphaion in 1261 put it officially under Genoese control for the first time: by the middle of the 14th century, Genoese domination of the whole island was secure under the aegis of the Giustiniani family. In 1344 they formed the Moana, a chartered company which administered the island and was responsible for its defence.
Chios gained considerable wealth once again through the trade in mastic resin. It was to favour and protect the trade of this valuable product that the Genoese embarked on an impressive project of fortifying the whole island with castles and towers, and securing, as fortified settlements, the villages that produced the mastic crop. Wine was also an important element of the economy as it had been in antiquity. As early as 1513 an English chargé d'affaires was appointed to look after the Levant Company which was engaged in trading cloth for wine. The Turks captured Chios from the Genoese in 1566. Under Ottoman dominion the island enjoyed commercial priveleges and some autonomy, in acknowledgement of the importance of its mastic production and trade which was now managed from Istanbul.
At the beginning of the War of Greek Independence in 1821 the Samians fatally pressed the undecided Chiots to join them in their revolt against Turkish dominion. In 1822 the Turks – alarmed by the prospect of losing their most valuable possession in the Aegean – inflicted a dreadful and disproportionate vengeance: it is said that they massacred over 20,000 islanders and deported or enslaved twice that number. Only the Mastic Villages were spared. The brutality of the reprisals caused dismay throughout Europe.
Chios never fully recovered from the events of 1822. In June of the same year the Greek admiral Constantine Kanaris from Psará avenged his compatriots by destroying the Turkish flagship with its commander, Kara Ali, aboard. What was left of the city was again ravaged: but those Chiots who had managed to escape the April massacre had already fled abroad. The more fortunate of the refugees from the island later made a name for themselves as merchants in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Paris, Marseille, Trieste, Livorno, Palermo, Odessa, Alexandria, and even in India. Less than sixty years later, a powerful earthquake in 1881 killed more than 3,500 islanders, and again destroyed a large amount of the city and the island's architectural heritage.
In 1912 the island was liberated by the Greek fleet. The rugged and hidden spaces of the island's interior facilitated the endurance of a fierce resistance to German occupation during the Second World War. Chios has a millennial tradition of seamanship, and a number of Greece's most successful and best known shipping families, which still dominate the international mercantile navy, originate from the island.
Wikidata ID: Q160483

Info: McGilchrist's Greek Islands

(From McGilchrist’s Greek Islands, © Nigel McGilchrist 2010, excerpted with his gracious permission. Click for the books)


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