Chios Island is crescent or kidney shaped, 31 miles long from north to south, 18 miles at its widest, and covers an area of 325 sq. miles. The terrain is mountainous and arid, with a ridge of mountains running the length of the island. The two largest of these mountains, “Pelineon” 4,255 feet and “Epos” 3,898 feet, are situated in the north of the island. The center of the island is divided between east and west by a range of smaller peaks, known as “Provatas”.
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, 4.3 miles off the Anatolian coast, separated from Turkey by the Çeşme Strait. According to myth, it says that the island owes its name to the daughter of Oinopeonas, Chiona. 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. Another myth says that Chios has probably taken its name either from the nymph Chiona or because it was snowing (snow = chioni) when Chios, the son of Poseidon was born.
It has been said that Homer was born around the 8th century BC in Chios. In the following centuries Chios produced multiple influential individuals including the 5th century tragic poet Ion, the 4th century historian Theopompus, and several important sculptors in the 6th and 5th centuries, one of whom, Glaucus, was credited with inventing the soldering of metals.
Chios in Ancient Greece
Chios was one of the original twelve member states of the Ionian League and at the end of the 7th century BC, was one of the first cities to strike or mint coins, using the sphinx as its symbol which lasted about 900 years. Although Chios formed a confederation with the other Ionian city-states and islands, they were conquered by the Persians in the second half of the 6th century BC.
During the Peloponnesian War, Chios revolted against Athens and the Athenians invaded it in 412 BCE. During the Social War (357-355), Chios was able to gain independents from Athens until the rise of Macedonia.
In Hellenistic period Chios had become the largest exporter of Greek wine, which was well-known for being of high quality “Chian Amphoras” with a characteristic sphinx emblem and grapes have been found in nearly every country with whom the ancient Greeks traded.
Mastic Trees of Chios
The mastic trees are a trademark of Chios and a main source of income for many residents. The mastic trees of Chios provide a resin that comes out from their bark in the shape of teardrops. This resin is used for different products, especially a very unique chewing gum, as well as quality spices, alcoholic beverages and sweets. Its cultivation started in the ancient times and the rare resin has been largely exported.
The mastic trees is that they grow in many parts of the world but the only place where they elaborate its resin is in Chios. There is a medieval legend that explains the reason behind this phenomenon, according to which the mastic trees started crying as an expression of lament when Agios Isidoros was severely tortured by the Romans on the island.
Massacre of Chios
During the 13th century, in the aftermath of the 4th Crusade, first the Venetians and then the Genoese gained control overthe island. Chios fairly prospered under the Genoese, but in 1566 the island was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. In 1821 Chios joined Samos in the general revolt of Greeks against Ottoman oppression. Unfortunately the following year the Turks singled out Chios for punishment, slaughtering an estimated 25.000 Chians and enslaving 80.000.