1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Euboea

EUBOEA (pronounced Evvia in the modern language), Euripos, or Negropont, the largest island of the Grecian archipelago. It is separated from the mainland of Greece by the Euboic Sea. In general outline it is long and narrow; it is about 90 m. long, and varies in breadth from 30 m. to 4. Its general direction is from N.W. to S.E., and it is traversed throughout its length by a mountain range, which forms part of the chain that bounds Thessaly on the E., and is continued south of Euboea in the lofty islands of Andros, Tenos and Myconos. The principal peaks of this range are grouped in three knots which divide the island into three portions. Towards the north, opposite the Locrian territory, the highest peaks are Mts. Gaetsades (4436 ft.) and Xeron (3232 ft.). The former was famed in ancient times for its medicinal plants, and at its foot are the celebrated hot springs, near the town of Aedepsus (mod. Lipsos), called the Baths of Heracles, used, we are told, by the dictator L. Cornelius Sulla, and still frequented by the Greeks for the cure of gout, rheumatism and digestive disorders. These springs, strongly sulphurous, rise a short distance inland at several points, and at last pour 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 (2221 ft.) behind which is now called Lithada, a corruption of Lichades, the ancient name of the islands off the extremity of the headland. Here again we meet with the legends of Heracles, for this cape, together with the neighbouring coast of Trachis, was the scene of the events connected with the death of that hero, as described by Sophocles in the Trachiniae. Near the north-east extremity of the island, and almost facing the entrance of the Gulf of Pagasae, is 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 ft.), 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 the Aegean. At the southern extremity the highest mountain is Ocha, now called St Elias (4830 ft.). The south-western promontory was named Geraestus, the south-eastern Caphareus; the latter, an exposed point, attracts the storms, which rush between it and the neighbouring cliffs of Andros as through a funnel. The whole of the eastern coast is rocky and destitute of harbours, especially the part called Coela, or “the Hollows,” where part of the Persian fleet was wrecked. 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 from 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 Heracles at Aedepsus 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. In the neighbourhood of Chalcis, both to the north and the 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, where the strait is narrowest, it is called the Euripus, and here it is divided in the middle by a rock, on which formerly a castle stood. The channel towards Boeotia, which is now closed, is spanned by a stone bridge. The other, which is far the deeper of the two, is crossed by an iron swing-bridge, allowing for the passage of vessels. This bridge, which dates from 1896, replaced a smaller wooden swing-bridge erected in 1856. The extraordinary changes of tide which take place in this passage have been a subject of wonder from classical times. At one moment the current runs like a river in one direction, and shortly afterwards with equal velocity in the other. Strabo speaks of it as varying seven times in the day, but it is more accurate to say, with Livy, that it is irregular. A bridge was first constructed here in the twenty-first year of the Peloponnesian War, when Euboea revolted from Athens; and thus the Boeotians, whose work it was, contrived to make that country “an island to every one but themselves.” 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. 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, referring to the bridge which connected it with the mainland.

The rivers of Euboea are few in number and scanty in volume. In the north-eastern portion the Budorus flows into the Aegean, 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 the Lelantus, 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 speaking 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 (Aḥmet-Aga) are the two best cultivated parts of Euboea, owing to the exertions of foreign colonists. The mountains afford excellent 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 superintended by government officials, called δασοφύλακες, 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 rich 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 Karystos, 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 combinations of rock, wood and water; for from the uplands the sea is almost always in view, either the wide island-studded expanse of the Aegean, 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 as Euboea. The only site which has attracted archaeologists is that of Eretria (q.v.), which was excavated by the American School of Athens in 1890–1895.

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 Pagasaean 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 Karystos, Dystos and Styra. The population of Euboea at the present day is made up of elements not less various, for many of the Greek inhabitants seem to have immigrated, partly from the mainland, and partly from other islands; and besides these, the southern portion is occupied by Albanians, who probably have come from Andros; and in the mountain districts nomad Vlach shepherds are found.

History.—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 m. S.E. of the former, and was also on the shore of the Euboic Sea. The neighbourhood of the fertile Lelantian or Lelantine 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 importance in early times is shown by their numerous colonies in Magna Graecia and Sicily, such as Cumae, 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 (until Solon, q.v.) 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 mentioned 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 Ionians in their revolt against the Persians (see Ionia); 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 settlers (see Cleruchy) on their lands, and seem to have reduced the whole island to a condition of dependence. Again, in 446, when Euboea endeavoured to throw off the yoke, it was once more reduced by Pericles, and a new body of settlers was planted at Histiaea 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 importance to them, 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 De 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 II. of Macedon, and finally into those of the Romans. By Philip V. of Macedon Chalcis was called one of the three fetters of Greece, Demetrias on the Gulf of Pagasae 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 the Venetians 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 and in other parts of the town. At length in 1470, after a valiant defence, this well-fortified city was wrested from them by Mahommed II., and the whole island fell into the hands of the Turks. One desperate attempt to regain it was made by Francesco Morosini (d. 1694) 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. Euboea at the present time produces a large amount of grain, and its mineral wealth is also considerable, great quantities of magnesia and lignite being exported. In 1899 it was constituted a separate nome (pop. 1907, 116,903).

Bibliography.—H. N. Ulrichs, Reisen und Forschungen in Griechenland, vol. ii. (Berlin, 1863); C. Bursian, Geographie von Griechenland, vol. ii. (Leipzig, 1872); C. Neumann and J. Partsch, Physikalische Geographie von Griechenland (Breslau, 1885); Baedeker’s Greece (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1905); for statistics see Greece: Topography.  (H. F. T.)