Struggle for Chios

Chios has a vast history, to which the inhabitants look back with both pride and grief. There are many famous people who call Chios their home or place of birth, and its rich culture is admirable. Here an overview over the history of Chios.

The First Colonialist on Chios

Earliest inhabitant and first King according to tradition, was Inopion, the son of Dionissos or Thisseus, the king of Athens, and Ariadne, who came once from Crete to teach the locals how to grow vines.

Where does the name arise from?

The name of 'Chios' originates from the name Chiona, the daughter of Inopion. An other explanation for the islands name could be Hios, the son of Neptune, the god of the seas, on whose birth it snowed (gr., hios = engl., snow). According to a third theory of the historian Isidoros, the name Chios comes from the Phoenicians, since in the Syrien language 'Chios' means "mastic", a resin only to be found on the island of Chios.

The role of Chios in the past and some important facts

In the past the island itself was mentioned with other names as well, such as Pitioussa (because of its pines), Makris because of its shape (gr., makri = long), Aethalea (because of its volcano) and Ofioussa because of the numerous snakes (gr., ofis) on it.

The archaeological findings (at Agios Galas and Emborios) prove that the island has been inhabited since 6.000 B.C .

Fight for Independence: Turkey vs. Chios

There are some evidence which bespeak that the city of Chios was founded early in the first Ionian colonization, a movement of the population of from the mainland to the islands around 1000 B.C. and developed it into one of the greatest cities of ancient times. Chios was one of the twelve city states on the mainland of Asia Minor and some near located islands constituting the Ionian Confederacy, also known as Panionian Dodecapolis.

The local Chians did not only made profit by transporting goods from one place to another, but also by trading on their own agricultural and industrial production. The unique mastic was not the only source of wealth. In the seventh century before Christ, Malas established the famous School of Sculpture and graduated a number of great sculptores, such as Mikkiades, Bupalos, Archermos, Athenis, Maalas and Glavkos.

In the 6th century before Christ, Chios was a large city, with the population estimating an amount of approximately 60.000 - 80.000 people, the slaves not included. When Chios became a member of the Athenian Alliance, it was free and self-governed.

After the devastating Peloponesian War (431 to 404 BC), the following period of five years was dominated by peace and growth: The destroyed city was rebuilt and the inhabitants progressed in nautics, commerce and the accumulation of wealth, putting the island again in a state of extreme luxury. In his reports Athineos mentions that the Chians were famous for their ingenuity in cookery. This special way of preparing the meals has been very precious and, as a consequence, very expensive. Additionally, Thoukidides, an Athenian who wrote about the war between the Peloponiesian and the Athenians, characterized the Chians as the "richest among Greeks" and praises the state of their city.

The Peloponesian war followed, during which the Chians fought at first on the side of the Athenians. After their defeat in Sicilian, they defected and declared their support to Sparta. Spartans constituted the "dekarhia" (ten tyrants) and a general ruler. As a result, Chios had to come along again with the vices of tyranny and violence. Worst of all, they lost all their ships to the Spartans. In these years, the Chians regretted their betrayal of the Athenians and their lost of celebrity very bitterly.

In the Hellenistic Era the famous historian from Chios, Theopompos, joined Alexander the Great on his pursuit and together they managed to preserve many valuable facts for posterity.

In Roman times Chios again suffered when its wealth and accessibility were of great temptation for enviers. Although certain Roman Emperiors, for example Tiberius, helped the islanders to achieve affluence, again, the island was not blessed with luck: Shortly before the birth of Christ, Chios was concussed by an earthquake. But once again the island proofed to be tenacious. During the Byzantine period, the island regained its commercial power caused by the sea trade, while in all the time the Byzantines did their best to defend Chios against the invaders from the East and West. Finally, they lost Chios to Venetians and later to Genoese, who held the island firmly until 1566. At the same time, famous explorer, Christopher Columbus came to Chios and stayed there for two years (for more information about Christopher Columbus click here).

Since 1566 the new occupants, namely the Turks, were taking over the Genoans rulership. The Turkish occupation lasted 350 years (1566 -1912), taking Chios independence. In 1821, Greece began their revolution against the Ottoman Empire. After 400 years of slavery and dependance in their country of origin, the Greeks took all of their strength and means to fight for their independence. At this time Chios did not side with any of the two. The population  was living a pleased and peaceful life, with their source of income being the cultivation of mastic. At the beginning, most of the production was sold to the Sultan and generated great profit, while also providing the Chians with more privileges, so that they had no longer the duty to smart under the regime. Regardless of these material privileges, the inhabitants of Chios stood proud as they have won their independence back.

In March of 1822, Likourgos Logothetis of Samos, led his army of 2.500 men with the aim to conquer the Turks' garrison. As a reaction, the Sultan ordered his leading commander Kara-Ali and his fleet to invade Chios and punish the islanders. The 7.000 soldiers Kara-Ali's had sent slaughtered many inhabitants of the island. Not only the civil population of Chios suffered because of the rampaging army: Also the Ottoman army who hit from Asia Minor had to suffered heavy casualties by the setback of Kara- Ali's attack. In a short period the catastrophe hit the beautiful Aegean island and the slaughter commenced again. Detained as prisoners and later sold as slaves, the prosperity of the island was broken once and for all.

Only 40.000 of altogether 100.000 Greeks were able to find refuge on some neighbouring islands or in the mountains. The people that escaped to the mountains were forced to leave the island as well. At the end of August, the population of Chios shrank to a total of 3.000 people.

The news of the barbarian slaughter reached the rest of Greece very quickly and from there spread to the neighbouring European countries. Only the nations around the world understood the importance and the justification of Greece's independence caused once by the Ottoman empire. Since the Greeks were not able to stop the destruction of the island of Chios by Kara-Ali, they thirsted for revenge against him. Constandinos Kanaris, a naval commander, from the island of Psara lead his troops into battle. The enemy decided a draw-down. Celebrations for the Muslim holidays had coincided with the destruction of Chios. The Ottoman commander and the sailors had stayed on their vessel to celebrate their conquest which had been prevented by the disastrous earthquake in March 1881.

On June 4th 1882, Kanari and another naval commander with his ship, "Pipino", left the island of Psara to attack the Turks. They were successful in leaving an impression with their fearless assault on the Turkish armada, but they also had to pay this message with their life. In addition, 1.600 people of the Turkish population died because of a arising firework, when the ships exploded. Nevertheless this inconspicuous attack lead the oppressed pride and strength to fight for their independence and from this point in time, all battles of the Greek and Chians were fought with zeal and conviction for their freedom.

Except of the time span from the 4th of May 1941 until 10th of September 1944 due to the German aggressions in the Second World War, Chios remained free, independent and connected to the rest of the Greek cities.

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