Chalcis, the chief town of the island of Euboea in Greece, situated on the strait of the Euripus at its narrowest point. (Sometimes it is spelled "Chalkis", which is more faithful to the original Greek spelling "Χαλκίς". The reason why a "c" has replaced the "k" is that, as so often happens, we got the word only indirectly from Greek via Latin.)
The name is preserved from antiquity and is derived from the Greek χαλκος (copper, bronze), though there is no trace of any mines in the neighbourhood. Chalcis was peopled by an Ionic stock which early developed great industrial and colonizing activity. In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, it 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. In the Hellenistic period, it gained inportance 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; since the 6th century AD it again served as a fortress for the protection of central Greece against northern invaders. From 1209, it stood under Venetian control; in 1470 it passed to the Ottomans, who made it the seat of a pasha. In 1688, it was successfully held against a strong Venetian attack.
The modern town has about 10,000 inhabitants, and maintains a considerable export trade which received an impetus from the establishment of railway connection with Athens and Peiraeus (1904). It is composed of two parts—the old walled town towards, the Euripus, called the Castro, where the Jewish and Turkish families who have remained there mostly dwell; and the more modern suburb that lies outside it, which is chiefly occupied by the Greeks. A part of the walls of the Castro and many of the houses within it were shaken down by the earthquake of 1894; part has been demolished in the widening of the Euripus. The most interesting object is the church of St Paraskeve , which was once the chief church of the Venetians; it dates from the Byzantine period, though many of its architectural features are Western. There is also a Turkish mosque. By now Chalkis has about 100,000 inhabitants. The old walls, near the Castro of Kara-Baba (Black Father in Turkish) by the sea do not exist anymore. Also the big Jewish comunity is reduced, after the II W.War deportation. The town is now connected to the continental Greece by a new bridge in the southern part.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Updated by Vasileios Nikolopoulos - 2004