History of Chios

 

The history of Chios begins in prehistoric times when it was settled by the Pelasgi, followed by the Kares, Leleges, Avantes and finally the Ionians. At Agio Galas and Emporios archaeological finds provide information about the early Neolithic era (6000-5000BC)

There are several theories as to how the island got its name. According to most, it was named after Chios, the son of Poseidon or Oceanus. Other names used for the island over the centuries include Ofiousa, on account of the large number of snakes on the island, Pityousa, for the large number of pine trees in the northern part of the island, Ariousa, on account of a tree called "arion", a kind of dwarf oak, Arethousa, Ethali.

In the middle of the 11th century BC the Ionians began to colonize Chios and gradually developed into competent sailors and traders, as well as pioneers in art and literature. The island's fertile soil in combination with other factors made the wine of Chios famous.

In 493 BC the island is conquered by the Persians, who take many captives. It is finally liberated in 479 BC and for the next two millennia follows the fortunes of the rest of Greece coming first under Roman rule and then becoming part of the Byzantine empire.

Then in 1346, it is the turn of the Genovese to conquer Chios and this occupation lasted for two centuries. Despite their severe oppression of the islanders, the Genovese organized and developed the mastic and citrus trade.

In 1566 the island is taken over by the Turks though the locals retain a number of privileges thanks to the importance of mastic production.

In 1822 the islanders join the Revolution against Turkish rule. Then the Turkish fleet sails to Chios to suppress the rebellion. In the end, more than forty thousand people were killed or enslaved in the ensuing massacre, while the burning, sacking and looting of the island lasted for forty days. The event marked the history of the island and became known everywhere as the Chios Massacre, inspiring artists such as Eugene Delacroix, Victor Hugo and others.

Chios was finally liberated from the Turks on the 11th November 1912, which is a local holiday.

In 1922, the Christian populations of Asia Minor flee their lands to escape the Turkish Army. Of the two million refugees entering Greece, some settle on Chios and gradually become integrated, creating new districts, such as Varvasi.

A number of distinguished Greeks originate from Chios, among whom are writers, politicians, businessmen and national benefactors.