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date: 23 October 2018


An important Ionian polis on the large Aegean island of the same name (842 sq. km.: 325 sq. mi.), some 7 km. (4½ mi.) from Asia Minor. Thucydides (2) calls it the greatest polis of Ionia and its citizens among the wealthiest Greeks (8. 24. 4, 40.1). The north and north-west comprise pine-clad limestone mountains (up to 1,297 m.: 4,255 ft.) and infertile schists; on the softer rocks of the SE lowlands mastic trees were (and are) grown for their valuable gum; but the plain beside the large eastern bay has supported the main settlement in all periods. Chios controlled the neighbouring islets of Oinoussai and modern Psara (an important bronze age site). Ionic Greek was spoken, though there were Aeolian cultural influences. Literary figures included Homer (supposedly), Ion (2), and Theopompus (3); there was a distinctive artistic tradition.

Reputedly colonized from Euboea in the 9th cent. bce (also the date of the earliest Greek burials), in Archaic times Chios was often at loggerheads with Erythrae on the Asiatic mainland (where Chians had land) and with Samos. The inscribed ‘constitution’ of c.575–550 bce (if it is not, in fact, Erythraean) refers to a ‘council of the people’ and to the duties of officials, perhaps reflecting an oligarchic system. Transport amphorae were exported as far afield as southern Russia, and archaeology suggests that early trade concentrated on the Black Sea, Egypt, and the west. The only major colony was at Maroneia (Thrace), though Chians helped found the Hellenion at Naucratis, where their pottery has been identified. They built an ostentatious altar at Delphi (late Archaic).

The Chians established a modus vivendi with Croesus and Cyrus (1), but later came under a Persian-backed tyrant. They played a leading part in the Ionian Revolt, manning 100 ships at Lade. On the basis of that figure the free population is speculatively put at between 60,000 and 120,000, though slaves were numerous from an early date. Settlement was relatively dispersed: there are many Classical to Roman farmsteads and some important rural sanctuaries, notably Emborio (major bronze age site with Archaic–Roman temple and settlement) and Phaná (Archaic temple of Apollo).

The Chians encouraged Athens to set up the Delian League, in which they were leading ship-contributors. Loyal to Athens during the Samian Revolt and Sicilian expedition, they revolted in 412, precipitating Athens’ defeat by Sparta. Lysander installed a harmost; after the Spartan withdrawal Chios was soon freed, and later became the first member of the Second Athenian Confederacy. It revolted in the Social War (1) and came under Hecatomnid domination (see mausolus). After Alexander (3) the Great it was mostly independent, resisting Philip (3) V and siding with Rome against Antiochus III. Brought into Mithradates VI's camp in 86, Chios was captured by Sulla but became a free city (civitas libera). Tiberius visited it twice. By Vespasian's day its privileges had been ended; but the town prospered in Roman and late Roman times, as numerous inscriptions and public buildings show.


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