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by Archaeology Newsroom

A historic survey of the island of Euboea

The geographic position and the geologic composition of the island of Euboea have been the determining factors for the development of human activity on it, from the dawn of History to the present. The human presence on the island goes back to the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods, while already in the early third millenium and during the Proto-Helladic phase Euboea has developed mutual relations with the Cyclades, the Asia Minor coast across the Aegean and the neighbouring areas of mainland Greece. These relations will become most fruitfull in the middle of the third millenium when the island is going through a period of prosperity. It is then that the coastal district of Manika becomes an important center of transit-trade. The so-called Middle Helladic phase, that corresponds to the first half of the second millenium B.C., can be traced almost everywhere on the island, while the picture becomes more clear during the Late Helladic phase, which corresponds to the second half of the millenium (Mycenaean period). The significant Mycenaean domed and chamber tombs excavated so far all over the island can support the theory that Euboea was at that time divided in a number of small, independed kingdoms. The area to the north of the present town of Chalkida must have been the center of an important kingdom of the fourteenth to thirteenth century B.C. that had developed close relations with the prominent anactoric center of Thebes in Boeotia. However, in the end of the twelfth or the beginning of the eleventh century B.C. the Mycenaean world all over Greece was rapidly deteriorating for reasons not clearly identified as yet. This heavy crisis of the Mycenaean world is overcharged by the shift of various Greek tribes within the boundaries of the broader Greek area. It seems that the Aeolian speeking tribe of the Avandes is in the eleventh century B.C. separated from the Aeolians of Thessaly have migrated over the entire island of Euboea. During the Proto Geometric period the area of Chalkida is firstly inhabited as the finds from scattered clusters of humble tombs indicate. It is probable that the Eretria district was inhabited alike. However, the most important settlement remains that of the Toumba Leukandi vicinity, because of the most significant and rich finds of tombs excavated in that area. In the late ninth century B.C. (830-800 B.C.) a strong upheaval is observed in the entire mainland and insular Greece. It is quite probable that Euboea was at that

time invaded by the lonians who thus obliged the Aeolian speeking Avandes to flee to the Aegean islands and Asia Minor. New settlements are created in Chalkida and Eretria districts. The eighth century B.C. is a period of great social agitation which resulted, among others, to a remarkable colonization movement. However, the wealth accumulated in Chalkida and Eretria, the naval power obtained and the rivalries between the aristocratic families ruling the two cities led to a long civil war, known as “the war over the Lilandion pedion “the Lilandion valley” which finally disrupted the development of both cities. In the centuries that follow other independent cities flourish in the island, such as Istiaia to the North and Karystos to the South, not to mention Distos and Kyme, each with its own administration and coin issues. However, the rising power and prestige of Athens in the neighbouring Attica was only natural to influence the Euboean cities. Already in 506 B.C. the Athenians defeated the Chalkidians and installed Athenian peasants in the fertile fields of the Lilandion valley, a practice they also repeated in the case of Istiaia after their victorious campaign (446/5 B.C.). The fall of the Athenian leadership set the Euboean cities free, although Eretria participated and in the second Athenian League (378 B.C.).

After the battle of Chaeroneia (338 B.C.), when the Athenians and their allies were defeated and the Macedonian rule was extended all over central Greece, the Euboean cities followed the common destiny. The Macedonian kings were highly evaluating the strategic position of Chalkida, not to mention the close relations they had developed with Eretria, as the important, built tombs of Macedonian style that have been excavated in the city cemeteries prove. The institution of “the Euboeans’ Commons” was an effort for closer and more efficient links among the Euboean cities having common administrative model and coinage. Unfortunately, the rising power of Rome restrained all attempts and resistance, as the destruction of Eretria in 198 B.C. made absolutely clear.

In the years of Roman occupation and especially in the imperial period Chalkida remained the main city of the island. Perhaps in the age of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, but more probably in the beginning of Heraclius reign (610-620 A.D.) the ancient city was definitely abandoned and the new one was founded westwards, on the small hill close to the Euripus’ straits. The city of Chalkida at its new, wisely chosen position by the Euripos remained unconquered and survived throughout all Slabic and Arabic invasions which repeatedly and for centuries had threatened the Byzantine Empire and represents the nucleus of the medieval and modern city. The smooth evolution of the city was interrupted by the disaster of 1204 A.D., when Constantinople, the capital of the Empire fell in the hands of the western Crusaders and the Byzantine State was abolished. The dismembering of the Empire that followed assigned Euboea first to three Lombard barons and to Venice later (1205-1470). The Venetians were succeeded by the Turks in 1470 AD after a long and hard siege of Chalkida. During the years of Turkish occupation (1470-1833 AD) Eboea was a part —along with Boeotia and Attica— of the “Pashaliki of Evripou” , while Chalkida retained in this administrative division a prominent position. The wind of freedom also blew over Euboea in the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, in spite of the heroic efforts of the Greek fighters under Gouvios, Kriezotis and Favieros the resistance of the Turks ceased only in 1833, when they handed the island over to the already free Greek State. The liberation of Euboea marks a new era in the historic route of the island. The parallel course of urbanization and industrialization in the late nineteenth century enriched Chalkida with a great number of elegant, neoclassical houses as well as with many industrial installations.

New, creative Greek powers reinforced the age-long roots of the island, when refugees from the across coast the Agean found shelter in the fatherland of Euboea in 1922. As far as the components of the Chalkida population is concerned we should make special reference to the formerly thriving Jewish community, which was existing in the city already since the Venetian period. Needless to say that the historic memory of a land must continuously remain active and alive if it deserves to participate in the steadily progressing contemporary life. The historic and archaeological studies are the main vehicle and instrument of memory preservation and Euboea can present in this field quite satisfactory achievements. Of special importance in these terms is the contribution of the Society of Euboean Studies mainly through the publication of the significant “Archive of Euboean Studies” which is creatively continued until today. Worth noting is also the effort of the recently instituted Euboean Archaeophile Society —it has already published two volumes of the periodical edition “Anthropologic and Archaeologic Chronicle”— and the effective work of the local Ephorate of Antiquities which operates all over the island since 1978, advancing the archaeological research and organizing and supervising in the best possible way all relevant subjects and projects on and for the island.