The earliest recorded mention of Chalcis is in the Iliad (2.537), where it is mentioned in the same line as its rival Eretria. It is also documented that the ships set for the Trojan War gathered at Avlis, the south bank of the strait nearby the city. Chamber tombs at Trypa and Vromousa dated to the Mycenaean period were excavated by Papavasiliou in 1910.
In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, colonists from Chalcis founded thirty townships on the peninsula of Chalcidice, and several important cities in Sicily. Its mineral produce, metal-work, purple and pottery not only found markets among these settlements, but were distributed over the Mediterranean in the ships of Corinth and Samos.
With the help of these allies, Chalcis engaged the rival league of its neighbour Eretria in the so-called Lelantine War, by which it acquired the best agricultural district of Euboea and became the chief city of the island. Early in the 6th century BC, its prosperity was broken by a disastrous war with the Athenians, who expelled the ruling aristocracy and settled a cleruchy on the site.
Chalcis subsequently became a member of both the Delian Leagues. Aristotle, the great philosopher, also lived in the city. In the Hellenistic period, it gained importance as a fortress by which the Macedonian rulers controlled central Greece. It was used by kings Antiochus III of Syria (192 BC) and Mithradates VI of Pontus (88 BC) as a base for invading Greece.
Under Roman rule, Chalcis retained a measure of commercial prosperity.
- MIDDLE AGES AND EARLY MODERN PERIOD
The city is recorded as a city in the 6th-century Synecdemus and mentioned by the contemporary historian Procopius of Caesarea, who recorded that a movable bridge linked the two shores of the strait.
In Byzantine times, Chalkis was usually called Euripos, a name also applied to the entire island of Euboea, although the ancient name survived in administrative and ecclesiastical usage until the 9th century; alternatively, it is possible that the name was given anew to a settlement that was founded in the 9th century in the location of the ancient city after the latter had been abandoned in the early Middle Ages. The town survived an Arab naval raid in the 870s and its bishop is attested in the council held at Constantinople in 869–70 that within the Roman Catholic Church is considered the eighth Ecumenical Council.
By the 12th century, the town featured a Jewish community and a Venetian trading station, being attacked by the Venetian fleet in 1171 and eventually seized by Venice in 1209, in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade. Known by the Westerners as Negroponte ("black bridge" in Italian, a corruption of its Greek name), the town was a condominium between Venice and the Lombard (Veronese) barons of the rest of Euboea, known as the "triarchs", who resided there.
Chalcis or Negroponte became a Latin Church diocese, the first bishop being Theodorus, the Greek bishop of the see, who entered communion with the see of Rome.
In 1314, the Latin see was united with the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople, so that the patriarch, excluded from Constantinople itself since the Byzantine reconquest of the city, could have actual jurisdiction on Greek soil and exercise a direct role as head of the Latin clergy in what remained of Latin Greece. Negroponte played a significant role in the history of Frankish Greece, and was attacked by the Principality of Achaea in the War of the Euboeote Succession (1257/8), the Catalan Company in 1317, the Turks in 1350/1, until it was finally captured by the Ottoman Empire after a long siege in 1470.
That siege is the subject of the Rossini opera Maometto II.The Ottomans made it the seat of the Admiral of the Archipelago (the Aegean Islands). In 1688, it was successfully held by the Ottomans against a strong Venetian attack.
The modern town received an impetus in its export trade from the establishment of railway connection with Athens and Piraeus in 1904. In the early 20th century it was composed of two parts—the old walled town at the bridge over the Euripus, where a number of Turkish families continued to live until the late 19th century, and a sizeable Jewish community lived until World War II, and the more modern suburb that lies outside it, chiefly occupied by Greeks. The old town, called the Castro, was surrounded by a full circuit of defense walls until they were completely razed for urban development around the start of the 20th century.
The most interesting building in Chalcis is the church of Saint Paraskevi (the patron saint of the island), which was the church of the Dominican Priory of Negroponte, one of the first two houses authorized for the Province of Greece in 1249. Started about 1250, this is among the oldest examples of early Dominican architecture surviving, and is one of the only early Dominican churches to retain its original form until the present. The central arch over the iconostasis and the ceiling and walls of the south chapel are the best examples of Italian Gothic stone-carving in Greece. Images of the Dominican saints, Dominic and Peter Martyr, stand at the base of the central arch. The north chapel holds the tomb of the founder of the senatorial Lippamano family of Venice. Some of the column capitals are Byzantine.
The town is now connected to the mainland Greece by two bridges, the "Sliding Bridge" in the west at the narrowest point of the Euripus Strait and a suspension bridge.The Euripus Strait which separates the city and the island from the mainland was bridged in 411 BC with a wooden bridge. In the time of Justinian the fixed bridge was replaced with a movable structure.
The Turks replaced this once again with a fixed bridge. In 1856, a wooden swing bridge was built; in 1896, an iron swing bridge, and in 1962, the existing "sliding bridge"; the construction works of the 19th century destroyed the most part of the medieval castle built across the bridge.
The cable stay suspension bridge which joins Chalcis to the mainland to the south was opened in 1993.A special tidal phenomenon takes place in the strait, as strong tidal currents reverse direction once every six hours, creating strong currents and maelstroms. This creates an amazing sight for visitors from all over the world.