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Chios history
The history of the island of Chios in Greece

Archaeological traces indicate that Chios was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period (4th millennium BC.). Younger villages from the third and second millennium were found, and prove that Chios belonged to the same cultural group as the neighboring islands of Lesvos and Lemnos, and the area around Troy. In the 9th century BC. Ionian Greeks came from the Greek mainland and settled here on the coast of Asia Minor. Around 800 BC Homer was born here.

In the seventh and sixth centuries Chios florished: political stability was accompanied by great economic prosperity and a happy, prosperous life. The joy of the people of Chios was proverbial. After 546 BC. Chios was invaded by Persia. The Persians occupied the island in 494 BC. at the beginning of the Persian wars. After the Battle of Mycale in 479 BC. Chios was liberated by the Athenian fleet and has since remained the most loyal member of the Delian Alliance. Only during the brief occupation of Sparta in 412 BC In the Peloponnesian war it was revolting and prey to internal fights. In the Hellenistic Chios period played no role. As more or less an independent state the island survived further untill the Roman occupation in 190 BC.

In the Byzantine period, particularly in the 11th and 12th centuries, Chios experienced a new golden age. In the 13th century the Venetians were master here, but it was under the Genoese, that a profitable trade in mastic (from 1346 to 1566) made Chios one of the richest islands in the Mediterranean. The Genoese patrons stimulated the agriculture and the silk trade, and strengthened the villages against attacks by pirates.

The Turkish occupation

In 1566 the island was conquered by the Turks, but Chios enjoyed certain privileges, so it continued to flourish, and there was trade in silk and other precious substances, in addition to the main export products: citrus, mastic and wine. The rich merchants, who gradually formed an upper middle class, founded a Megali Scholi (Large School) on Chios , they built mansions and churches and sent their sons to the European Universities. In 1822 the population fell victim to one of the bloodiest massacres in the independence struggle, that had broken out the year before. The Turkish garrison had ben trapped on their island by the ingabitants, who thought to have already won the victory when the Sultan in a particularly violent way besieged the island with his fleet and recaptured it. The capital and 40 villages were looted, they massacred 30,000 inhabitants, and nearly double the number was captured and enslaved. This tragedy opened the eyes of Europe for the horrors of the Ottoman Empire: Victor Hugo's "Le Massacre de Scio" and Delacroix's painting "Le Massacre the Scio" gave the inhabitants courage. The remaining inhabitants were authorized to pick up their usual activities. Chios had only partially recovered from his wounds when an earthquake in 1881 brought enormous damage. The island remained under Turkish rule until 1912, when it finally joined the Greek Kingdom.

Chios history

© Hans Huisman, 2014
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