Chios History

Chios History

About the history of Chios island, Greece

Ancient times

According to ancient Greek mythology, the first King of Chios was Oinopeonas (or Inopion), grandson of Minoas king of Crete, and son of Dionysus and Ariadne, who taught the islanders how to cultivate vines. The myth says that the island owes its name to the daughter of Oinopeonas, Chiona. Also according to the legend, Chios is said to be the birthplace of the famous lyric poet Homer. In fact, there is a rock in Vrontados village, called Daskalopetra, where Homer teached his poetry.

The first traces of inhabitants in the history of Chios date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. During the 7th century BC, Chios, like Samos, excelled in arts and some of the best Greek sculptors of the time came from the School of Sculpture in Chios. During the naval Battle of Salamina, Chios joined the Persians. But during the Peloponnesian war, its inhabitants fought at the side of the Athenians and were under the control of Athens until 356 BC. After that, the island became independent and was not forced to pay the annual tribute to Athens anymore, which made it become prosperous. Chios then became part of the Roman Empire.

A notable person from the island was Erasistratus of Cheos (310 BC- 250 BC). He was a physician and studied the functions of the human heart in a purely scientific way, through performing dissections on criminals. He founded a medicine school in Alexandreia of Egypt and is believed to be the first to measure heart palmitations.

Byzantine period

At that period, emperor Constantine settled on the island. The Byzantine times followed these years, during which very few information has been saved. After the fall of Byzantium, Chios was under constant attack of Catalan and Turkish pirates. In the 14th century, the Genoese took the island and remained there until 1566, when Chios was recaptured by the Turks. Nevertheless, since the island was exporting mastic in many countries and selling it to the Sultan, its inhabitants had more privileges than in any other part of Greece.

Thanks to the trading, the island of Chios prospered in arts and letters. The School of Chios was founded in the 18th century and many churches and wealthy mansions were built. The population grew and the island had the privilege to be under the rule of the elders islanders of the community.

Massacre of Chios

With the Greek revolution of 1821, the inhabitants of Chios were roused by Lykourgos Logothetis of Samos who led his army to fight a Turkish garrison. When the Sultan heard what happened, he sent his fleet in Chios to punish the inhabitants for participating in the revolution.

On the 30th of March 1822, 7000 Turk soldiers under the command of Kara Ali Pasha disembarked on Chios and slaughtered 25000 of its inhabitants and forced almost twice that number of people into slavery.On the night of June 6th 1822, Konstantinos Kanaris revenged for Chios massacre, by killing the Turkish Admiral Kara Ali Pasha. The massacre of Chios increased the sympathy of the rest of Europe and the growth of Philhellenism.

After the massacre, Victor Hugo wrote the wonderful poem Enfant de Chios and Delacroix painted Le Massacre de Chios, which can be admired in the Louvre Museum. The first refugees started to return to Chios in 1832. On the 22nd of March 1881, a disastrous earthquake destroyed the island, causing 6000 deaths, numerous damages and the destruction of many building in the capital. On the 11th of November 1912, the island of Chios was finally liberated and reunited with the newly built Greek State.

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