Archaeological research on Chios has found evidence of habitation dating back at least to the Neolithic era.
The primary sites of research for this period have been cave dwellings at Hagio(n) Galas, in the north, and a settlement and accompanying necropolis in modern-day Emporeio at the far south of the island. Scholars lack information on this period. The size and duration of these settlements have therefore not been well-established.The British School at Athens excavated the Emporeio site in 1952–1955, and most current information comes from these digs. The Greek Archaeological Service has also been excavating periodically on Chios since 1970, though much of its work on the island remains unpublished.
The noticeable uniformity in the size of houses at Emporeio leads some scholars to believe that there may have been little social distinction during the Neolithic era on the island. The inhabitants apparently all benefited from agricultural and livestock farming. It is also widely held by scholars that the island was not occupied by humans during the Middle Bronze Age (2300–1600), though researchers have recently suggested that the lack of evidence from this period may only demonstrate the lack of excavations on Chios and the northern Aegean.
By at least the 11th century BC the island was ruled by a monarchy, and the subsequent transition to aristocratic (or possibly tyrannic) rule occurred sometime over the next four centuries.
Future excavations may reveal more information about this period. 9th-century Euboean and Cypriote presence on the island is attested by ceramics, while a Phoenician presence is noted at Erythrae, the traditional competitor of Chios on the mainland.
Pherecydes, native to the Aegean, wrote that the island was occupied by the Leleges, aboriginal Greeks themselves reported to be subject to the Minoans on Crete. They were eventually driven out by invading Ionians.Chios was one of the original twelve member states of the Ionian League.
As a result, 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.
It maintained this tradition for almost 900 years.
In the 6th century BC Chios’ government adopted a constitution similar to that developed by Solon in Athens and later developed democratic elements with a voting assembly and people’s magistrates called damarchoi.
546 BC: Chios becomes subject to the Persian Empire.
Chios joined the Ionian Revolt against the Persians in 499 BC. The naval power of Chios during this period is demonstrated by the fact that the Chians had the largest fleet (100 ships) of all the Ionians at the Battle of Lade in 494 BC. At Lade the Chian fleet continued doggedly fighting the Persian fleet even after the defection of the Samians and others but ultimately the Chians were forced to retreat and were again subject to Persian domination.
The defeat of Persia at the Battle of Mycale in 479 BC meant the liberation of Chios from Persian rule. When the Athenians formed the Delian League Chios joined as one of the few members who did not have to pay tribute but instead supplied ships to the alliance.
By the fifth to 4th centuries BC, the island had grown to an estimated population of over 120,000 (two to three times the estimated population in 2005), based on the huge necropolis at the main city of Chios. It is thought that the majority of the population lived in that area.
412 BC: During the Peloponnesian War Chios revolts against Athens and the Athenians besiege it. Relief only comes the following year when the Spartans are able to raise the siege.
In the 4th century BC Chios was a member of the Second Athenian Empire but revolted against Athens during the Social War (357–355 BC), and Chios became independent again until the rise of Macedonia.
In the decades immediately preceding Macedonia's domination of the Greek city-states, Chios was home to a school of rhetoric which Isocrates had founded, as well as a faction aligned with Sparta.
After the Battle of Leuctra, supporters of the Lacedaemonians were exiled. Among the exiled were Damasistratus and his son Theopompus, who had received instruction from the school and went on to study with Isocrates in Athens before becoming a historian.
Theopompus moved back to Chios with the other exiles in 333 BC after Alexander had invaded Asia Minor and decreed their return, as well as the exile or trial of Persian supporters on the island.
Theopompus was exiled again sometime after Alexander's death and took refuge in Egypt. During this period, the island also had become the largest exporter of Greek wine, which was noted for being of relatively high quality (see "Chian wine").
Chian amphoras, with a characteristic sphinx emblem and bunches of grape have been found in nearly every country that the ancient Greeks traded with from as far away as Gaul, Upper Egypt and Southern Russia.
During the Third Macedonian War, thirty-five vessels allied to Rome, carrying about 1,000 Galatian troops, as well as a number of horses, were sent by Eumenes II to his brother Attalus.Leaving from Elaea, they were headed to the harbour of Phanae, planning to disembark from there to Macedonia.
However, Perseus's naval commander Antenor intercepted the fleet between Erythrae (on the Western coast of Turkey) and Chios.
According to Livy, they were caught completely off-guard by Antenor. Eumenes' officers at first thought the intercepting fleet were friendly Romans, but scattered upon realizing they were facing an attack by their Macedonian enemy, some choosing to abandon ship and swim to Erythrae. Others, crashing their ships into land on Chios, fled toward the city.
The Chians however closed their gates, startled at the calamity. And the Macedonians, who had docked closer to the city anyway, cut the rest of the fleet off outside the city gates and on the road leading to the city. Of the 1,000 men, 800 were killed, 200 taken prisoners.
After the Roman conquest Chios became part of the province of Asia. Pliny remarks upon the islanders' use of variegated marble in their buildings and their appreciation for such stone above murals or other forms of artificial decoration.
The Byzantine rulers had little influence and through the Treaty of Nymphaeum, authority was ceded to the Republic of Genoa (1261).
At this time the island was frequently attacked by pirates, and by 1302–1303 was a target for the renewed Turkish fleets. To prevent Turkish expansion, the island was reconquered and kept as a renewable concession, at the behest of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, by the Genovese Benedetto I Zaccaria (1304), then admiral to Philip of France.
Zaccaria installed himself as ruler of the island, founding the short-lived Lordship of Chios. His rule was benign and effective control remained in the hands of the local Greek landowners. Benedetto Zacharia was followed by his son Paleologo and then his grandsons or nephews Benedetto II and Martino. They attempted to turn the island towards the Latin and Papal powers, and away from the predominant Byzantine influence.
The locals, still loyal to the Byzantine Empire, responded to a letter from the emperor and, despite a standing army of a thousand infantrymen, a hundred cavalrymen and two galleys, expelled the Zacharia family from the island (1329) and dissolved the fiefdom.
Local rule was brief.
In 1346, a chartered company or Maona (the "Maona di Chio e di Focea") was set up in Genoa to reconquer and exploit Chios and the neighbouring town of Phocaea in Asia Minor. Although the islanders firmly rejected an initial offer of protection, the island was invaded by a Genoese fleet, led by Simone Vignoso, and the castle besieged.
Again rule was transferred peacefully, as on 12 September the castle was surrendered and a treaty signed with no loss of privileges to the local landowners as long as the new authority was accepted.
The Genoese, being interested in profit rather than conquest, controlled the trade-posts and warehouses, in particular the trade of mastic, alum, salt and pitch. Other trades such as grain, wine oil and cloth and most professions were run jointly with the locals.
After a failed uprising in 1347, and being heavily outnumbered (less than 10% of the population in 1395), the Latins maintained light control over the local population, remaining largely in the town and allowing full religious freedom. In this way the island remained under Genoese control for two centuries.
By 1566, when Genoa lost Chios to the Ottoman Empire, there were 12.000 Greeks and 2.500 Genoese (or 20% of the total population) in the island. By the early 15th century, Asia Minor and the surrounding islands had fallen under Ottoman rule, but the Genoese families managed to maintain control over the island through the payment of a tribute to the Sultan.
By the 16th century, as Genoese power waned, trade with Genoa had decreased and the local rulers become assimilated into the local population.
This largely independent rule of Genoese families continued until 1566, when, with tensions rising, the Sultan decided that the island could potentially be used as a base for Western attacks on Constantinople.
The island was invaded by Ottoman troops and absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Consequently, Greek Phanariotes gradually replaced these Genoese families as a protectorate of Chios and maintained relative autonomy despite the Ottoman occupation.
During Ottoman rule, the government and tax gathering again remained in the hands of Greeks and the Turkish garrison was small and inconspicuous.
As well as the Latin and Turkish influx, documents record a small Jewish population from at least 1049 AD.
The original Greek (Romaniote) Jews, thought to have been brought over by the Romans, were later joined by Sephardic Jews welcomed by the Ottomans during the Iberian expulsions of the 15th century.
The mainstay of the island's famous wealth was the mastic crop. Chios was able to make a substantial contribution to the imperial treasury while at the same time maintaining only a light level of taxation.
The Ottoman government regarded it as one of the most valuable provinces of the Empire.
- GREEK INDEPENDENCE AND LATER YEARS
When the Greek War of Independence broke out, the island's leaders were reluctant to join the revolutionaries, fearing the loss of their security and prosperity.
However, in March 1822, several hundred armed Greeks from the neighbouring island of Samos landed in Chios. They proclaimed the Revolution and launched attacks against the Turks, at which point islanders decided to join the struggle.
Ottomans landed a large force on the island consequently and put down the rebellion. The Ottoman massacre of Chios expelled, killed, or enslaved the inhabitants of the island. It wiped out whole villages, and affected the Mastichochoria area, the mastic growing villages in the south of the island. It triggered negative public reaction in Western Europe, as portrayed by Eugène Delacroix, and in the writing of Lord Byron and Victor Hugo.
In 1881, an earthquake, estimated as 6.5 on the moment magnitude scale, damaged a large portion of the island's buildings and resulted in great loss of life. Reports of the time spoke of 5,500–10,000 fatalities.
Chios rejoined the rest of independent Greece after the First Balkan War (1912). The Greek Navy liberated Chios in November 1912 in a hard fought but brief amphibious operation.
Turkey recognized Greece's annexation of Chios and the other Aegean islands by the Treaty of London in 1913.
It was affected by the population exchanges after the Greco–Turkish War of 1919–1922, the incoming Greek refugees settling in Kastro (previously Turkish) and in new settlements hurriedly built south of Chios Town.
During World War II, the island was occupied by Nazi Germany (1941–44), resulting in deprivation for the inhabitants. The larger part of the Jewish population had left earlier in the century, but as in all Nazi-occupied territories, the Jewish community was hunted down for arrest and trans-shipping to concentration camps for extermination.
In 1943, the local government warned the Jewish population of the island that the Gestapo had orders to arrest them all and take them to Germany. Some families heeded the warning and were smuggled off the island. Others were protected by the local Greek villages, particularly in the southern towns with high elevation; i.e.: Tholopotami, St Georgios and Kalamoti. Local Greeks risked high penalties to protect Jewish inhabitants. The remainder were taken by the Gestapo and nothing more is known of their fate; they are assumed to have perished in one of the Nazi extermination camps.
The island saw some local violence during the Greek Civil War setting neighbour against neighbour. This ended when the final band of communist fighters was trapped and killed in the orchards of Kambos and their bodies driven through the main town on the back of a truck.
In March 1948, the island was used as an internment camp for female political detainees (communists or relatives of guerillas) and their children, who were housed in military barracks near the town of Chios. Up to 1300 women and 50 children were housed in cramped and degrading conditions, until March 1949 when the camp was closed and the inhabitants moved to Trikeri.
The production of mastic was threatened by the Chios forest fire that swept the southern half of the island in August 2012 and destroyed some mastic groves.
Edited by: Yallou