The village of Vessa, on Chios

1) Who You Will Meet in Chios

You will most likely be acquainted with Macedonian seamen and merchants during your visit to Chios, as they are the reigning kingdom currently. You may happen upon folks aligned with Sparta, but you’ll find no Persians nor allies thereof. All Persian supporters were sentenced to exile or execution by decree of Alexander in 334bc [1]. Speaking of which, with luck you could bump into Theopompus, who returned from exile by the same decree of Alexander. Thepompus is a historian and author who attended a school of rhetoric which the orator Isocrates had opened on the island [2].

Fun Fact: Robin Lane Fox (Author of Alexander the Great) griped that Theopompus was “A man who wrote slander, not history” [3]

2) How You’ll Get There

As Chios is an island, you can assume that you will arrive on a boat of some sort. If you are part of the military, you may hitch a ride on one of the twenty or so Triremes that were built under the instruction of Alexander [4]. Otherwise, with the bustling wine industry, as well as an industry in things such as olives and fruit, there will be plenty of business vessels going to and from Chios on a regular basis. Chios is in the Agean sea, quite near to Turkey. Whether you choose to travel by land to the coast of Turkey, and then catch a boat across the Chios Strait, or attempt a longer sea voyage is up to you.

Fun Fact: Chios was once known as “Ophioussa” (having snakes) and “Pityoussa” (having pine trees).

3) Why You Would Go There

A better question might be why wouldn’t you go there? For starters, Chian wine is among the most prized wines of classical antiquity according to Theopompus and Pliny the Elder [6]. Chian wine is said to be so good, that it can be found as far away as Gaul, Egypt, and even Russia [7]! Pliny goes on to remark upon the islanders’ use of variegated marble in their buildings, and their appreciation for such stone above murals or other forms of artificial decoration [8]. While we are on the subject of stone, you absolutely must see the “Teachers Stone”. It is said that this stone is where Homer recited and taught his timeless poems. [9] It is near to the beautiful suburb of Vrontados, a seaside town addled with fruit trees. Vrontados is said to be Homers birthplace, or at least a long time residence. [10]

Fun Fact: Chios, at the end of the 7th century BC, was one of the first cities to strike or mint coins, establishing the sphinx as its specific symbol. This tradition continued for around 900 years. [11]


The Sphynx, symbol of Chios.

4) What Is Chios Like?

Chios has warm, moderate weather. With plentiful fruit trees, sunshine, and a steady ocean breeze, it is a beautiful destination in and of itself. It boasts several beaches (including one black volcanic beach), as well as steep hills and rocky outcrops. Most of the population centers are in the Eastern region, though there are villages and towns throughout the interior and along the coasts. Many of the settlements are made to have narrow, winding streets and few entrances. This practice serves to make raids by pirates difficult to carry out [12]. Overall, Chios has a very rich and unique infrastructure, creating products and events of unusual quality.

Fun Fact: Chios is the only place in the world where a special kind of resin is harvested from the Mastic tree. This product, used for things such as alcohol and sweets, is one of the reasons Chios was often the target of raids. The cities were built like fortresses to protect the precious Mastic gum. [13]

5) Sources

[1][4] Jona Lendering. 2005. Chians. (accessed March 20, 2013).

[2] A.S. Wilkins, trans.,De Oratore in Cicero Rhetorica. Vol. I, 1963

[3] Robin Lane Fox, Alexander the Great. p. 49, 57. (New York: E.P. Dutton) 1973

[5] Karalis D. & Anastasakis K and CO. O.E.. 2008. Chios Beaches; The Beautiful Beaches of Chios. (accessed April 18, 2013).

[6] Andrew Dalby, Empire of Pleasures: Luxury and Indulgence in the Roman World p. 136. (Routledge). 2002

[7] Hugh Johnson, Vintage: The Story of Wine pg 41. (Chicago: Simon and Schuster) 1989

[8] John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A. The Natural History. Pliny the Elder. (London: Taylor and Francis, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street.) 1855.

[9] Karalis D. & Anastasakis K and CO. O.E.. 2008. Chios – Homerus Stone. (accessed April 13, 2013).

[10] Karalis D. & Anastasakis K and CO. O.E.. 2008. Chios – Vrontados. (accessed April 26, 2013).

[11] Agelarakis A., “Analyses of Cremated Human Skeletal Remains Dating to the Seventh Century BC, Chios, Greece”. Horos: Ena Archaeognostiko Periodiko 4 (1986): 145–153.

[12] Karalis D. & Anastasakis K and CO. O.E.. 2008. Chios Medieval Villages. (accessed April 10, 2013).

[13] Karalis D. & Anastasakis K and CO. O.E.. 2008. Chios Mastic Gum, A Unique Product. (accessed April 13, 2013).


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