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Central Greece | Evia

Evia History

Homer's Iliad (Written 800 B.C.E) The fierce Abantes held Euboea with its cities, Chalcis, Eretria, Histiaea rich in vines, Cerinthus upon the sea, and the rock-perched town of Dium; with them were also the men of Carystus and Styra.

Man made his first appearance on Evia and the nearby island of Skyros as early as the Palaeolithic Era.  Primitive stone tools have been excavated in New Artaki, some kilometers away from Chalkis.  Those first inhabitants of Evia are known by the name of Avandes (Abantes).  Already in prehistoric times, from 1200 B.C.  on, we can document a major wave of new settlers belonging to the Ionian Greek culture.  Eretria, one of their cities, seems to have contributed ships for the expedition against Troy, if Homer’s list in the Iliad is an accurate one.  Eretria, together with Chalkis, were the most important city-states in Evia in the centuries preceding historical times.  According to legend, the two city-states were involved in a war, which took place sometime in the 9th century B.C., which was one of the first such “civil” wars in antiquity.
In historical times, Evia saw the flourishing and decline of the Chalkis and Eretria city-states.  Once centers for many colonization attempts, they ended up becoming easy prey to Roman expansion.  Histiaea as well, a city in northern Evia, together with its seaport, Orei, faced complete destruction by the Athenians.  In fact, Plutarch records that, after Euboea revolted against Athens in 447-446, Pericles ordered the destruction of the long walls that protected the whole of the Histiaea plain, and “transplanted the whole population of Histiaea from their territory and replaced them with Athenian colonists.”  These were soldiers, named cleruchs; they were not colonists in the strict sense, as they were still Athenian citizens and could be called up for military service.  The visitor should have in mind that, in the outskirts of Histiaea, in the bow formed by two adjacent hills, there lies the largest open-air ancient theater ever traced in Greece, only it still remains buried under the soil that the centuries have covered it with.  There are only fruit tree orchards to be seen covering the amphitheatrical site of the immense theater, much bigger than the one in Epidauros.
Chalkis, Eretria and, again, Orei were completely destroyed by the Romans during the two so-called “Macedonian Wars.”  They remained in control of  the island until the Byzantine Constantinople took over (4th century A.D.) with an interval of a decade at the end of 1st century A.D., when Mithridates, king of Pontos (Black Sea), at war against the Romans, occupied it to use as a base for his expeditions; the same Mithridates who completely destroyed the flourishing Cycladic island of Delos and turned it into a deserted place.  Six centuries later, the crusaders, failing to achieve their goal to recapture the Holy Land, attacked, conquered and looted Constantinople.  The destruction of Constantinople’s cultural and artistic treasures and libraries was much worse than the one, some four centuries later, suffered due to the Ottoman capturing of the city.  Evia was, as a result, taken over by three Lombard noblemen.  Renamed the Kingdom of Negreponte, Evia became a commercial center of great importance and excellent organization.
Under the Ottoman occupation, Evia went into troubled waters.  Being in the middle of the Ottoman Empire, and thus strategically important, Evia went through hardships, and the population suffered heavy slavery.  Chalkis was turned into a Turkish fortress.  Although the rest of southern Greece was liberated in 1828, Evia had to wait for another five years! It was officially handed over to Greece through a decree issued on June 13, 1830. Even so, big property owners had a stong foothold on Evia, the last of them being thrown out of Prokopi, a village in central Evia, as late as 1984!
In the following years, its fate improved considerably with Evia becoming a county, with Chalkis as its capital.  In the same county as Evia are also the islands of Skyros and the northern Sporades.  From then on, its development was its inhabitants’ main concern. 
Controlling the bridge over Evripos Straight and being connected to Athens by railroad, Evia developed industrial plants and tourism evolved, pointing the way to prosperity.