The history of the island of Euboea is largely that of its two principal cities, Chalcis and Eretria, both mentioned in the Catalogue of Ships. Both cities were settled by Ionian Greeks from Attiki, and would eventually settle numerous colonies in Magna Graecia and Sicily, such as Cumae and Rhegium, and on the coast of Macedonia. This opened new trade routes to the Greeks, and extended the reach of western civilization. The commercial influence of these city-states is evident in the fact that the Euboic scale of weights and measures was used among the Ionic cities generally, and in Athens until the end of the 7th century BC, during the time of Solon. The classicist Barry B. Powell has proposed that Euboea may have been where the Greek alphabet was first employed, c. 775-750 BC, and that Homer may have spent part of his life on the island.
Chalcis and Eretria were rival cities, and appear to have been equally powerful for a while. One of the earliest major military conflicts in Greek history took place between them, known as the Lelantine War, in which many other Greek city-states also took part. Following the infamous battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium, Persian forces captured and sacked Athens, and also took Euboea, Boeotia, and Attiki, allowing them to overrun almost all of Greece. In 490 BC, Eretria was utterly ruined and its inhabitants were transported to Persia. Though it was restored nearby its original site after the Battle of Marathon, the city never regained its former eminence.
Both cities gradually lost influence to Athens, which saw Euboea as a strategic territory. Euboea was an important source of grain and cattle, and controlling the island meant Athens could prevent invasion and better protect its trade routes from piracy.
Athens invaded Chalcis in 506 BC and settled 4,000 Attic Greeks on their lands. After this conflict, the whole of the island was gradually reduced to an Athenian dependency. Another struggle between Euboea and Athens broke out in 446. Led by Pericles, the Athenians subdued the revolt, and captured Histiaea in the north of the island for their own settlement.
By 410 BC, the island succeeded in regaining its independence. Euboea participated in Greek affairs until falling under the control of Philip II of Macedon after the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, and eventually being incorporated into the Roman Republic in the second century BC. Aristotle died on the island in 322 BC soon after fleeing Athens for his mother's family estate in Chalcis.
Based on the records of the 2nd century AD geographer Pausanias, it is suspected that the Titan god Crius is an indigenous deity.
Due to its relatively isolated location, Euboea was spared the bulk of the barbarian raids during Late Antiquity and the early medieval period. The Vandals raided its shores in 466 and in 475, but the island seems to have been left alone by the Avars and Slavs, and it was not until a failed Arab attack on Chalcis in the 870s that the island again came under threat. As a result, the island preserved a relative prosperity throughout the early medieval period, as attested by finds of mosaics, churches and sculpture throughout the 7th century, "even from remote areas of the island". In the 6th century, the Synecdemus listed four cities on the island, Aidipsos, Chalcis, Porthmos (modern Aliveri) and Karystos, and a number of other sites are known as bishoprics in the subsequent centuries (Oreoi and Avlon), although their urban character is unclear. In the 8th century, Euboea formed a distinct fiscal district (dioikesis), and then formed part of the theme of Hellas.
In 1157 all the coastal towns of Euboea were destroyed by a Sicilian force, while Chalcis was burned down by the Venetians in 1171.
Euboea came into prominence following the Fourth Crusade. In the partition of the Byzantine Empire by the crusaders after 1204, the island was occupied by a number of Lombard families, who divided it into three (later six) baronies. The island's rulers came early on under the influence of the Venetian Republic, which secured control of the island's commerce in the War of the Euboeote Succession and gradually expanded its control, until they acquired full sovereignty by 1390.
On 12 July 1470, during the Ottoman–Venetian War of 1463–1479 and after a protracted and bloody siege, the well-fortified city of Negroponte (Chalcis) was wrested from Venice by Mehmed II and the whole island fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Although the name Negroponte remained current in European languages until the 19th century, the Turks themselves called the city and the island Eğriboz or Ağriboz after the Euripos Strait. Under Ottoman rule, Ağriboz was the seat of a sanjak encompassing much of Continental Greece as well.
At the conclusion of the Greek War of Independence in 1830, the island constituted a part of the newly established independent Greek kingdom.