1902 Encyclopedia > Euboea

Euboea




EUBOEA (pronounced Evoia in the modern language), the largest island after Crete in the iEgean Sea, is separated from the coasts of Attica, Boeotia, Locris, and Thessaly by the Euboic Sea, which, at its narrowest part between Chalcis and the Boeotian shore, is called the Euripus. The length of the island, whose general outline is long and narrow, is about 90 miles; its Dreadth varies considerably,—at the broadest part it measures about 30 miles, at the narrowest not more than four. Its general direction is from N.W. to S.E., and it is traversed throughout its entire length by a mountain range, which forms part of the chain that bounds Thessaly on the E. under the names of Ossa and Pelion, and is further continued beyond the extremity of Euboea in the lofty islands of Andros, Tenos, and Myconos. The prin- cipal peaks of this range, some of which attain a great elevation, group themselves into three knots, in the north, the centre, and the south of the island, which they thus divide with some completeness into three portions. Towards the north, opposite the Locrian territory, the highest peaks are Mounts Macistus (Kandili) and Telethrius, the former 3967, and the latter 3186 feet above the sea. Mount Telethrius was famed in ancient times for its medi- cinal plants, and at its foot are the celebrated hot springs, near the town of ^Edepsus, called the Baths of Hercules, which were used, we are told, by the dictator Sulla, and have now been converted into an extensive bathing estab- lishment, though the arrangements are of a rude description. These sources, which are strongly sulphurous, rise a short distance inland at several points, and at last pour them- selves steaming over the rocks, which they have yellowed with their deposit, into the Euboic Sea. Opposite the entrance of the Maliac Gulf is the promontory of Cenaeum, the highest point behind which, rising to an elevation of 2221 feet, is now called Lithada, the name being a corrup- tion of Lichades, as the islands were called that lie off the extremity of the headland. Here again we meet with the legends of Hercules, for this cape, together with the neigh- bouring coast of Trachis, was the scene of the events con- nected with the death of that hero, as described by Sophocles in his Trachinice. Near the N.E. extremity of the island, and almost facing the entrance of the Gulf of Pag the promontory of Artemisium, celebrated for the great naval victory gained by the Greeks over the Persians, 480 B.C. Towards the centre, to the N.E. of Chalcis, rises the highest of its mountains, Dirphys or Dirphe, now Mount Delphi, 5725 feet above the sea, the bare summit of which is not entirely free from snow till the end of May, while its sides are clothed with pines and firs, and lower down with chestnuts and planes. It is one of the most conspicuous summits of eastern Greece and from its flanks the promontory of Chersonesus projects into j the ^Egean. At the southern extremity the highest moun- j tain is Oche, now called St Elias, rising to the height of j 4606 feet. The south-western promontory was named Gersestus, the south-eastern Caphareus ; the latter of these was ill-famed on account of its dangers to navigation, for, being an exposed point, it attracts the storms, which rush between it and the neighbouring cliffs of Andros as through a funnel. The whole of the eastern coast was rocky and destitute of harbours, especially the part called Ccela, or " the Hollows," where part of the Persian fleet was wrecked, which probably lay between the headlands of Chersonesus and Caphareus. So greatly was this dreaded by sailors, that the principal line of traffic from the north of the Aegean to Athens used to pass by Chalcis and the Euboic Sea.





Euboea was believed to have originally formed part of the mainland, and to have been separated from it by an earthquake. This is the less improbable because it lies in the neighbourhood of a line of earthquake movement, and both from Thucydides and Strabo we hear of the northern part of the island being shaken at different periods, and the latter writer speaks of a fountain at Chalcis being dried up by a similar cause, and a mud volcano formed in the neighbouring plain. Evidences of volcanic action are also traceable in the legends connected with Hercules at iEdepsus and Cenaeum, which here, as at Lemnos and elsewhere in Greece, have that origin. Its northern extremity is separated from the Thessalian coast by a strait, which at one point is not more than a mile and a half in width. From the promontory of Cenaeum southwards for about fifteen miles the depth of the channel is so great that half a mile from the shore no bottom has been found with 220 fathoms of line; the water, however, gradually shoals from this point to Chalcis. In the neighbourhood of that town, both to the north and south, the bays are so confined as readily to explain the story of Agamemnon's fleet having been detained there by contrary winds. At Chalcis itself the strait, assuming the name of Euripus, contracts to a breadth of not more than 120 feet, and is divided in the middle by a rock, on which now stands a castle. The channel towards Bceotia is spanned by a stone bridge, that towards Chalcis by one of wood; the latter is by far the deeper channel. The extraordinary changes of tide which take place in this passage have been a subject of wonder from classical times to the present day, and are not yet explained. As you stand on the bridge you will see the current running like a river in one direc-tion, and shortly afterwards it will be running with equal velocity in the other. Strabo speaks of them as varying seven times in the day, but it is more accurate to say, with Livy, that they are irregular. They are re-ferred to in several passages of the Attic tragedians. A bridge was first constructed here in the twenty-first year of the Peloponnesian war, when Euboea revolted from Atnens; and thus the Boeotians, whose work it was, contrived to make that country " an island to every one but themselves." Hence Ephorus remarked that nature might almost be said to have made that island part of Bceotia. The Boeotians by this means secured a powerful weapon of offence against Athens, being able to impede their supplies of gold and corn from Thrace, of timber from Macedonia, and of horses from Thessaly, for, as has been already said, their traffic from the north used to pass by this way. The name Euripus was corrupted during the Middle Ages into Evripo and Egripo, and in this latter form transferred to the whole island, whence the Venetians, when they occupied the district, altered it to Negroponte, with reference to the bridge which connected it with the mainland.

The rivers of Euboea are few in number and scanty in volume, as is natural in a rocky island, where they have so short a distance to run. In the north-eastern portion the Budorus flows into the iEgean, being formed by two streams which unite their waters in a small plain, and were perhaps the Cereus and Neleus concerning which the story was told that sheep drinking the water of the one became white, of the other black. On the north coast, near Histiaea, is the Callas ; and on the western side theLelantus, near Chalcis, flowing through the plain of the same name. This plain, which intervenes between Chalcis and Eretria, and was a fruitful source of contention to those cities, is the most considerable of the few and small spaces of level ground in the island, and was fertile in corn. Aristotle, when speak-ing of the aristocratic character of the horse, as requiring fertile soil for its support, and consequently being associated with wealth, instances its use among the Chalcidians and Eretrians, and in the former of those two states we find a class of nobles called Hippobotae. This rich district was afterwards occupied by Athenian cleruchs. The next largest plain was that of Histiaea, and at the present day this and the neighbourhood of the Budorus (Achmet-Aga) are the two best cultivated parts of Euboea, owing to the exertions of foreign colonists The mountains afford excel-lent pasturage for sheep and cattle, which were reared in great quantities in ancient times, and seem to have given the island its name; these pastures belonged to the state. The forests are extensive and fine, and are now superin-tended by Government officials, called _____, in spite or with the connivance of whom the timber is being rapidly destroyed—partly from the merciless way in which it is cut by the proprietors, partly from its being burnt by the shepherds, for the sake of the beautiful grass that springs up after such conflagrations, and partly owing to the goats, whose bite kills all the young growths. In the mountains were several valuable mines of iron and copper; and from Carystus, at the south of the island, came the green and white marble, the modern Cipollino, which was in great request among the Romans of the imperial period for architectural purposes, and the quarries of which belonged to the emperor. The scenery of Euboea is perhaps the most beautiful in Greece, owing to the varied combina-tions of rock, wood, and water; for from the uplands the sea is almost always in view, either the wide island-studded expanse of the .ZEgean, or the succession of lakes formed by the Euboic Sea, together with mountains of. exquisite outline, while the valleys and maritime plains are clothed either with fruit trees or with plane trees of magnificent growth. On the other hand, no part of Greece is so destitute of interesting remains of antiquity.

Like most of the Greek islands, Euboea was originally known under other names, such as Macris and Doliche from its shape, and Ellopia and Abantis from the tribes inhabiting it. The races by which it was occupied at an early period were different in the three districts, into which, as we have seen, it was naturally divided. In the northern portion we find the Histiaei and Ellopes, Thessalian races, which probably had passed over from the Pagasasan Gulf, In central Euboea were the Curetes and Abantes, who seem to have come from the neighbouring continent by way of the Euripus; of these the Abantes, after being reinforced by Ionians from Attica, rose to great power, and exercised a sort of supremacy over the whole island, so that in Homer the inhabitants generally are called by that name. The southern part was occupied by the Dryopes, part of which tribe, after having been expelled from their original seats in the south of Thessaly by the Dorians, migrated to this island, and established themselves in the three cities of Carystus, Dystus, and Styra. The name of the last-mentioned place, however, gives evidence of a previous Phoeni-cian settlement, for it is a corruption of Astarte, which is found in the form Astyra at several places on the coasts of the iEgean. The Phoenicians were attracted hither, as they were to other points on the shores of Greece, by the purple-mussel, which was obtained in the Euboic Sea. The popu-lation at the present day is made up of elements not less various, for many of the Greek inhabitants seem from their costumes to have immigrated, partly from the main-land, and partly from other islands; and besides these, the southern portion is occupied by Albanians, who probably have come from Andros; in the mountain districts nomad Wallach shepherds are found; and at Chalcis there are a certain number of Turkish and Jewish families, who live quietly with the other inhabitants, and are not molested.





The history of the island is for the most part that of its two principal cities, Chalcis and Eretria, the latter of which was situated about 15 miles S.E. of the former, and was also on the shore of the Euboic Sea. The neighbourhood of the fertile Lelantian plain, and their proximity to the place of passage to the mainland, were evidently the causes of the choice of site, as well as of their prosperity, Both cities were Ionian settlements from Attica, and their import-ance in early times is shown by their numerous colonies in Magna Graecia and Sicily, and such as Cumse, Rhegium, and Naxos, and on the coast of Macedonia, the projecting portion of which, with its three peninsulas, hence obtained the name of Chalcidice. In this way they opened new trade routes to the Greeks, and extended the field of civilization. How great their commerce was is shown by the fact that the Euboic scale of weights and measures was in use at Athens and among the Ionic cities generally. They were rival cities, and at first appear to have been equally powerful; one of the earliest of the sea-fights men-tioned in Greek history took place between them, and in this we are told that many of the other Greek states took part. It was in consequence of the aid which the people of Miletus lent to the Eretrians on this occasion that Eretria sent five ships to aid the Iomans in their revolt against the Persians ; and owing to this, that city was the first place in Greece Proper to be attacked by Datis and Artaphernes in 490 B.C. It was utterly ruined on that occasion, and its inhabitants were transported to Persia. Though it was restored after the battle of Marathon, on a site at a little distance from its original position, it never regained its former eminence, but it was still the second city in the island. From this time its neighbour Chalcis, which, though it suffered from a lack of good water, was, as Strabo says, the natural capital from its commanding the Euripus, held an undisputed supremacy. Already, however, this city had suffered from the growing power of Athens. In the year 506, when the Chalcidians joined with the Boeotians and the Spartan king Cleomenes in a league against that state, they were totally defeated by the Athenians, who established 4000 Attic colonists on their lands, and seem to have reduced the whole island to a con-dition of dependence. Again, in 446, when Euboea endea-voured to throw off the yoke, it was once more reduced by Pericles, and a new body of settlers was planted at Histuea in the north of the island, after the inhabitants of that town had been expelled. This event is referred to by Aristophanes in the Clouds (212), where the old farmer, on being shown Euboea on the map " lying outstretched in all its length," remarks,—"I know; we laid it prostrate under Pericles." The Athenians fully recognized its im-portance to them, both as supplying them with corn and cattle, as securing their commerce, and as guaranteeing them against piracy, for its proximity to the coast of Attica rendered it extremely dangerous to them when in other hands, so that Demosthenes, in the Be Corona, speaks of a time when the pirates that made it their headquarters so infested the neighbouring sea as to prevent all navigation. But in the 21st year of the Peloponnesian war the island succeeded in regaining its independence. After this, we find it taking sides with one or other of the leading states, until, after the battle of Chaeronea, it passed into the hands of Philip, and finally into those of the Bomans. By the great Demetrius Poliorcetes, Chalcis was called one of the three fetters of Greece, Demetrias on the Gulf of Pagasaa and Corinth being the other two.

In modern history Euboea or Negropont comes once more prominently into notice at the time of the fourth crusade. In the partition of the Eastern empire by the Latins which followed that event, the island was divided into three fiefs, the occupants of which ere long found it expedient to place themselves under the protection of the Venetian republic, which thenceforward became the sovereign power in the country. For more than two centuries and a half during which they remained in possession, it was one of the most valuable of their dependencies, and the lion of St Mark may still be seen, both over the sea gate of Chalcis (Negropont), and in other parts of the town. At length in 1470, -after a valiant defence, this well-fortified city was wrested from them by Mohammed II., and the whole island fell into the hands of the Turks. One desperate attempt to regain it was made by Morosini in 1688, when the city was besieged by land and sea for three months; but owing to the strength of the place, and the disease which thinned their ranks, the assailants were forced to withdraw. At the conclusion of the Greek "War of Independence, in 1830, the island was delivered from the Turkish sway, and constituted a part of the newly established Greek state. The present population of Chalcis is about 5000 souls. (H. T. T.)




Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries