The snowy island of Chios

The Greek Χίος spelled sometimes in the Latin characters with h at the beginning and s instead of final sigma, English Chios, Turkish Sakız Adası, and Genoese Scio becoming Italian Chio... However, what do we actually know about the island's name?

Ophioussa, the first known name of the island situated off the Turkish coast meant the isle of snakes. Also in ancient times the island would be called Pityoussa, the island of pitys – from Greek – pine trees. Nevertheless, neither of the terms stood the test of time and both were replaced with the currently known Chios name. But... have you ever wondered where does the name come from?

According to the myth, the island was named after Chione, the Greek minor goddess, by some recognised only as the nymph, who would take fertility on the isle's soil. The daughter of Oreithyia  – the goddess of mountain gales, and Boreas – the North Wind, she is thought to be the goddess of snow, as her name is closely related to the Greek word chioni meaning nothing else but snow. As the myth says, the Chios island had been extremely rocky and infertile till the moment of Chione's birth, when, suddenly, it began to snow and so the soil turned productive. Previously deserted island has become fruitful – people have planted the first olive trees and grapevines; the rocks started to overgrown with grass, so that the goats could graze on the meadows covering the mountainous interior of the isle. 

And so, in veneration of the favourable goddess, the place has become known as Chios, the island where the unique soil has born the very special mastic tree. 


Joanna Broniewska

We have 106 guests and no members online