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Beazley Archive Dictionary


CHALKIS (Ancient city) EVIA

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Chalkis: Eth. Chalkideus, Chalcidensis. (Egripo, Negropont). The chief town of Euboea, separated from the opposite coast of Boeotia by the narrow strait of the Euripus, which is at this spot only 40 yards across. The Euripus is here divided into two channels by a rock in the middle of the strait. This rock is at present occupied by a square castle; a stone bridge, 60 or 70 feet in length, connects the Boeotian shore with this castle; and another wooden bridge, about 35 feet long, reaches from the castle to the Euboean coast. In antiquity also, as we shall presently see, a bridge also connected Chalcis with the Boeotian coast. The channel between the Boeotian coast and the rock is very shallow, being not more than three feet in depth; but the channel between the rock and Chalcis is about seven or eight feet in depth. It is in the latter channel that the extraordinary tides take place, which are frequently mentioned by the ancient writers. According to the common account the tide changed seven times in the day, and seven times in the night; but Livy states that there was no regularity in the change, and that the flux and reflux constantly varied,--a phaenomenon which he ascribes to the sudden squalls of wind from the mountains. (Strab. x. p. 403; Mela, ii. 7; Plin. ii. 97; Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 1. 0; Liv. xxviii. 6.)
  An intelligent modern traveller observes that at times the water runs as much as eight miles an hour, with a fall under the bridge of about 1 1/2 feet; but what is most singular is the fact, that vessels lying 150 yards from the bridge are not in the least affected by this rapid. It remains but a short time in a quiescent state, changing its direction in a few minutes, and almost immediately resuming its velocity, which is generally from four to five miles an hour either way, its greatest rapidity being however always to the southward. The results of three months' observation, in which the above phaenomena were noted, afforded no sufficient data for reducing them to any regularity. (Penny Cyclopaedia, vol. x. p. 59.)
  Chalcis was a city of great antiquity, and continued to be an important place from the earliest to the latest times. It is said to have been founded before the Trojan war by an Ionic colony from Athens, under the conduct of Pandorus, the son of Erechtheus. (Strab. x. p. 447; Scymn. Ch. 573.) It is mentioned by Homer. (Il. ii. 537.) After the Trojan war Cothus settled in the city another Ionic colony from Athens. (Strab. l. c.) Chalcis soon became one of the greatest of the Ionic cities, and at an early period carried on an extensive commerce with almost all parts of the Hellenic world. Its greatness at this early period is attested by the numerous colonies which it planted upon the coasts of Macedonia, Italy, Sicily, and in the islands of the Aegaean. It gave its name to the peninsula of Chalcidice between the Thermaic and Singitic gulfs, in consequence of the large number of cities which it founded in this district. Its first colony, and the earliest of the Greek settlements in the west, was Cumae in Campania, which it is said to have founded as early as B.C. 1050, in conjunction with the Aeolians of Cume and the Eretrians. Rhegium in Italy, and Naxos, Zancle, Tauromenium and other cities in Sicily, are also mentioned as Chalcidian colonies.
  During the early period of its history, the government of Chalcis was in the hands of an aristocracy, called Hippobotae (Hippobotai, i. e. the feeders of horses), who corresponded to the Hippeis in other Grecian states. (Herod. v. 77, vi. 100; Strab. x. p. 447 ; Plut. Pericl. 23; Aelian, V. H. vi. 1.) These Hippobotae were probably proprietors of the fertile plain of Lelantum, which lay between Chalcis and Eretria. The possession of this plain was a frequent subject of dispute between these two cities (Strab. x. p. 448), and probably occasioned the war between them at an early period, in which some of the most powerful states of Greece, such as Samos and Miletus, took part. (Thuc. i. 15; Herod. v. 99)
  Soon after the expulsion of the Peisistratidae from Athens, the Chalcidians joined the Boeotians in making war upon the Athenians; but the latter crossed over into Euboea with a great force, defeated the Chalcidians in a decisive battle, and divided the lands of the wealthy Hippobotae among 4000 Athenian citizens as clernchs B.C. 506. (Her. v. 77.) These settlers, however, abandoned their possessions when the Persians, under Datis and Artaphernes, landed at Eretria. (Herod. vi. 100.) After the Persian wars, Chalcis, with the rest of Euboea, became a tributary of Athens, and continued under her rule, with the exception of a few months, till the downfal of the Athenian empire at the close of the Peloponnesian war. In B.C. 445, Chalcis joined the other Euboeans in their revolt from Athens; but the whole island was speedily reconquered by Pericles, who altered the government of Chalcis by the expulsion of the Hippobotae from the city. (Plut. Per. 23.)
  In the 21st year of the Peloponnesian war, B.C. 411, Euboea revolted from Athens (Thuc. viii. 95), and on this occasion we first read of the construction of a bridge across the Euripus. Anxious to secure an uninterrupted communication with the Boeotians, the Chalcidians built a mole from either shore, leaving a passage in the centre for only a single ship: and fortifying by towers each side of the opening in the mole. (Diod. xiii. 47.) Chalcis was now independent for a short time; but when the Athenians had recovered a portion of their former power, it again came under their supremacy, together with the other cities in the island. (Diod. xv. 30.) In later times it was successively occupied by the Macedonians, Antiochus, Mithridates, and the Romans. It was a place of great military importance, commanding, as it did, the navigation between the north and south of Greece, and hence was often taken and retaken by the different parties contending. for the supremacy of Greece. Chalcis, Corinth, and Demetrias in Thessaly, were called by the last Philip of Macedon the fetters of Greece, which could not possibly be free, as long as these fortresses were in the possession of a foreign power. (Pol. xvii. 11; Liv. xxxii. 37.)
  Dicaearchus, a contemporary of Alexander the Great, describes Chalcis as 70 stadia (nearly 9 miles) in circumference, situated upon the slope of a hill, and abounding in gymnasia, temples, theatres, and other public buildings. It was well supplied with water from the fountain Arethusa. The surrounding country was planted with olives. (Dicaearch. Bios tes Hellados, p. 146, ed. Fuhr.) When Alexander crossed over into Asia, the Chalcidians strengthened the fortifications of their city by inclosing within their walls a hill on the Boeotian side, called Canethus, which thus formed a fortified bridge-head. At the same time they fortified the bridge with towers, a wall, and gates. (Strab. x. p. 447.) Canethus, which is also mentioned by Apollonius Rhodius (i. 77), is probably the hill of Karababa, which rises to the height of 130 feet immediately above the modern bridge, and is the citadel of the present town.
  In the second Punic war, B.C. 207, the Romans, under Sulpicius and Attains, made an unsuccessful attack upon Chalcis, which was then subject to Philip. (Liv. xxviii. 6.) A few years afterwards, B.C. 192, when the war was resumed with Philip, the Romans surprised Chalcis and slew the inhabitants, but they had not a sufficient force with them to occupy it permanently. (Liv. xxxi. 23.) In the war between the Romans and Aetolians, Chalcis was in alliance with the former (Liv. xxxv. 37--39); but when Antiochus passed over into Greece, at the invitation of the Aetolians, the Chalcidians deserted the Romans, and received this king into their city. During his residence at Chalcis, Antiochus became enamoured of the daughter of one of the principal citizens of the place, and made her his queen. (Liv. xxxv. 50, 51, xxxvi. 11; Pol. xx. 3, 8; Dion Cass. Fragm. ex libr. xxxiv. p. 29, ed. Reimar.) Chalcis joined the Achaeans in their last war against the Romans; and their town was in consequence destroyed by Mummius. (Liv. Epit. lii.; comp. Pol. xl. 11.)
  In the time of Strabo Chalcis was still the principal town of Euboea, and must therefore have been rebuilt after its destruction by Mummius. (Strab. x. p. 448.) Strabo describes the bridge across the Euripus as two plethra, or 200 Greek feet in length, with a tower at either end; and a canal (surinx) constructed through the Euripus. (Strab. x. p. 403.) Strabo appears never to have visited the Euripus himself; and it is not improbable that his description refers to the same bridge, or rather mole, of which an account has been preserved by Diodorus (xiii. 47). In this case the surinx would be the narrow channel between the mole. Chalcis was one of the towns restored by Justinian. (Procop. de Aedif. iv. 3.)
  The orator Isaeus and the poet Lycophron were natives of Chalcis, and Aristotle died here. In the middle ages Chalcis was called Euripus, whence its modern name Egripo. It was for some time in the hands of the Venetians, who called it Negropont, probably a corruption of Egripo and ponte, a bridge. It was taken by the Turks in 1470. It is now the principal, and indeed the only place of importance in the island. There are no remains of the ancient city, with the exception of some fragments of white marble in the walls of houses.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited May 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   The modern Egripo or Negroponte; the principal town of Euboea, situated on the narrowest part of the Euripus, and united with the mainland by a bridge. It was a very ancient town, originally inhabited by Abantes or Curetes, and colonized by Attic Ionians. Its flourishing condition at an early period is attested by the numerous colonies which it planted in various parts of the Mediterranean. It founded so many cities in the peninsula in Macedonia, between the Strymonic and Thermaic gulfs, that the whole peninsula was called Chalcidice. In Italy it founded Cumae, and in Sicily, Naxos. Chalcis was usually subject to Athens during the greatness of the latter city. The orator Isaeus and the poet Lycophron were born at Chalcis, and Aristotle died there.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks



  City on the western coast of the island of Euboea, facing mainland Greece, north of Athens.
  Chalcis was the homeland of settlers who founded cities in several parts of the Mediterranean during the VIIIth and VIIth centuries B. C., epecially in Sicily and Italy (Naxos, Cumae, Zancle, ...).
  This is the place where Aristotle died in 322, having fled Athens some time earlier for fear of being tried as pro-Macedonian.

Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This text is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.

Perseus Project index

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  The chief city of the region, situated at the narrowest part of the Euripos, where the island lies closest to Boiotia. It was a flourishing trade center throughout antiquity, known especially for pottery and metalwork. Its citizens founded colonies in Sicily in the 8th c. B.C. and along the N Aegean coasts in the 7th. Eretria to the E was a long-standing rival for control of the rich Lelantine Plain which lay between them. Chalkis supported the Greek cities against Xerxes, but turned against Athens in 446, only to be defeated and remain a tributary until 411 B.C. It was then that the Euboians and Boiotians combined to block the Euripos with moles, leaving only a narrow channel spanned by a wooden bridge, the first of many built at various times in later history. Philip II of Macedon garrisoned the city in 338 B.C. as one of his chief control points; it remained an important center until it was partly destroyed for siding with the Achaian League against Rome in 146 B.C. Few remains of the ancient city have been uncovered, but quarrying activities N of the acropolis have revealed the walls of some Late Classical structures. Dikaiarchos (26f) described Chalkis as enclosed by a wall 70 stades in length; the trace is still clear on air photographs. Among many brackish springs, that of Arethusa alone provided sufficient healthful water for all the people. There were gymnasia, theaters, sanctuaries, including that of Apollo Delphinios, squares, and stoas; an inscription mentions the Temple of Zeus Olympios. The port on the Euripos was connected by a gate to the commercial agora, which had stoas on three sides. A mile S of the town, Leake saw the ruined arches of a Roman aqueduct.

M. H. Mc Allister, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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