Chalkida owes its name to the world «Chalkos» which means bronze and which was mined successfully in the surrounding area. According to mythology, however, the name is derived from the daughter of the river – god Asopos.
In the area round Chalkida excavations give evidence of the existence of human life from the pre – historic and early pre – historic periods. There are significant Early Stone Age findings in «Exo Panayitsa» and Late Stone Age settlements at «Ayia Eleusa». Also, important finds from the Early Hellenic period can be seen in the area of Lefkandi and in Manika fifty tombs have been excavated on the site of a large Early Hellenic town which extends over hundreds of hectares. Owing to the elevation of the level of the water, part of the suttlement is now under sea level. In Manika there are remains from the middle – Greek period and in various other places in Chalkida interesting tombs from the Later Greek period have been found.
The first Greek inhabitants of Chalkida and Evia were the «Avandes». They were a Greek race that reached Greece at the same time as the «Danaous». The name «Avandes» is indo – European.
Chalkida was one of the first towns to be built in Evia and it is referred to by Homer as the most important Evian town which took part in (with their leader Elephinora) the Trojan campaign when the Mikinaiko civilization was flourishing.
Homer, characterises, the Avandes, as brave and aggressive and he describes them as having long hair at the back of their heads.
According to tradition, the Greek fleet had gathered in Avlitha and the waters of Evripus, preparing to sail against Troy.
Here, the ancient drama, immortalised by Euripides in his tragedy «Iphyenia in Avlitha», unfoled. Agamenon unwillingly kills the sacred deer of Artemis and the angry goddess stills the winds so that the Greek fleet are unable to sail for Troy. The solution which the prophet Kalchas puts forward is very hard for Agamemnon. In order to pacify the goddess his daughter Iphiyenia will have to be sacrificed at her altar. The responsibility of the leader towards his army leads him to make a tragic decision and through an artful trick, Iphiyenia and her mother Klitemnistra are summoned to Avlitha. The marriage of Iphiyenia to Achilles is part of the plan, but ultimately Iphiyenia goes to the altar willingly, offering herself as a sacrifice for the success of the national campaign.
To this young girl Iphiyenia, who had made the success of the campaign, her ideal and who was willing to sacrifice herself, Evripides comparing the ethical grandeur with the national grandeur of Greece was able to speak through Achileas, «I envy Greece that has such a child as you and I envy you who has such a country as Greece».
At the last moment, before the sacrifice, Artemis intervenes and takes Iphiyenia to the «Country of the Bulls» where she becomes a priestess at the goddess temple. In place of Iphiyenia, the goddess sacrifices a deer, and the Greek fleet are able to set sail for Troy.
Avlitha and Evripus became the starting point for the first all – Greek campaign which was accomplished with the participation of the Avandes of Evia. Of course many of these events border on mythology, but this doesn’t detract from the significance of the awakening of the Greek consience even as early as the Bronze age.
Chalkida was one of the largest city – states in Greece.
Chalkida was a kingdom at first but later on during its decline it was ruled by the aristocracy. During the Geometrical and Ancient periods the exclusive rights of the aristocrates to rule by heredity was challenged by the «Ippovoton», the oligarchical wealthy class. In the meantime, Chalkida had adopted the monetary system of Corinth and this became know as the Evian monetary system. The invention of minting helped towards the development of commerce and the import of coins had great social consequences cansing many social changes. Those who were dissatisfied with the political changes in the city took part in the campaigns to set up colonies that followed.
Not only were the poor farmers and artisans attracted to these new countries, but also the resourceful merchants and sailors who were searching for new markets and new lucrative sources of income.
The first colonies which the Chalkidians founded were in Macedonia and the Chalkidiki peninsular takes its name from them. The inhabitants of Chalkida were also the first people to reach Italy establishing colonies on the island of Pithikouses and later at Kimi on the mainland of Italy. Later on the inhabitants of Kimi traded with the Latin people who inhabited the area further north. Kimi was the first Hellenic cultural centre which the Romans came into contact with and they adopted religious beliefs, in particular, the worship of Apollo and the art of writing from the descendants of the Chalkidian colonies. In this way the Chalkidian alphabet spread to the west and it constituted the basis for the Latin language. From the inhabitants of «Graias» who had founded colonies with the Chalkidians, the Romans took the world «Craeci» to mean the Greek race, and today the Greeks are still know by this name. Other Chakidian colonies were Imera in Sicily and Rigio and Zakli in Southern Italy. The Chalkidians also colonized the coast of the Eastern Mediterranean. Finally the establishment of colonies brought to almost all the areas of the Mediterranean the wonderful bronze vases, pitchers and bowls which are decorated with various scenes from mythology.
After this colonial expansion in which Chalkida has cooperated with Eretria, the two cities clashed, together with some of their allies over who should control the fertile plain of Lelantine. It is not know exactly how many soldiers the Chalkidians had lined up, but it is mentioned that Chalkida had more foot soldiers and fewer cavalry than the Eretrians: It is interesting to note that both sides had agreed to use weapons for fighting «hand to hand» and not weapons that had to be thrown long distances (televole). Thucididis informs us that the other Greeks separated into two armies, the one supporting Eretria, and the other Chalkida. This information is obviously exaggerated but is shows how important the war was for the rest of Greece. There is much evidence that Chalkida eventually won the long war.
There followed a period of great political unrest. The Chalkidians lived under a tyrannical regime and after a battle with Athens they were forced to accept Athenian allotment holders who exploited the land of Chalkida in the interests of Athens.
During the Greek – Persian wars that followed the Chalkidians took part in the naval battles of Artemisio and Salamina with ships that had been lent to them by Athens, an event which showed the economic decline of Chalkida. After the defeat of the Persians, Chalkida became a member of the first Athenian Alliance, but rebelled twice. The second time part of an embankment had been build on the channel of Evripus by the Chalkidians, after an agreement with the inhabitants of Viotias, so that the former. Athens reacted by sending General Thirameni to stop the activities, but the armies which had lined up on the land to protect those working on the embankment made the intervention of General Thirameni impossible and he was forced to withdraw.
Later, Chalkida became a member of the Second Athenian Alliance, but after another rebellion and an unsuccessful intervention by Athens, Chalkida and most of the Evian cities withdrew from the Alliance. When Chalkida was under the rule of Philip II Macedonian fortresses were established in the city. The philosopher Aristotle, Alexander the Great’s teacher, took refuge in the city and died there. During the period of the successors of Alexander the Great, relations with the Macedonians were friendly. In honour of «Dimitrius the besieger», the Dimitrius festivals took place.
During the Roman occupation the Chalkidians fought alongside the Achaikis Federation against the Romans, and in 146 B.C. the city of Chalkida was sacked by the Roman General Mommio.
During the Byzantine era, Chalkida was fortified by the Emperor Justinian in order to protect it from the Barbarain raids. When the first Turkish – Venetian was broke out, Chalkida which was under Venetian rule, was besieged and conquered by the Turks in 1470 A.D. During the siege, the Turkish troops suffered great losses and humiliation. The Turks made fire assaults before they could breach the walls and enter the city. The reprisals of the Turks against the defenders of the city were horrific. All the Venetian and Frankish soldiers and inhabitants were massacred. The Greeks who managed to survive were sold as slaves. The Venetian governor, Erizzo, with a few soldiers and inhabitants, had fled to the acropolis, where he resisted for a few more days. He the surrendered, after making a treaty with the Turks. The sultan, however, violated the treaty and they were all massacred brutally wit impalement, skinning or storing. Erizzo was sawn to death. The Venitians were still attracted to Chalkida and much later the Doge of Venice (chief magistrate) besieged the town, but after four unsuccessful assaults he was forced to withdraw.
During the Greek revolution of 1821, Chalkida was a well fortified city controled by the Turks.
The Greek tried to occupy it, but the Turkish fort resisted, even after a six month siege by Odysseus Androutsos who was supported by a fleet from Phara which blockaded the fort from the sea. The siege ended when the Turkish fleet arrived and reinforced the fort of Chalkida.
So, Chalkida remained in the hands of the Turks until the end of the struggle for independence.
After the liberation of the city, Chalkida started to develop very rapidly. During a time of unwise administration, at the end of this century the wall was demolished and the moat surrounding the city was filled in.
In this century, many literary figures have been drawn to Chalkida. A talented poet and prose – writer John Skaribas lived in Chalkida. He belonged to the generation of the 30s and his first publication was a short story, entitled «Kaimi (heart – ache) at Griponisi». The main characteristics of the narrative are the strange language and the unexpected and impossible happenings. He has an imagination which reaches an unrestrained arbitrariness, and a technique which in extreme cases, distorts the language and expression. The works of John Skaribas which revolutionize language and expression can be said to belong to the new literary movement of the Inter – war years.
The Castle of Karababa at Chalkis
The site of the fortress is identified by some scholars with ancient Kanethos as scanty remains of buildings and graves are preserved on its surface. The hill was probably fortified in the Roman period but it was certainly not fortified in the Byzantine, the Venetian and the early period of the Turkish occupation. The castle now seen was probably built by the Turks in 1684 in order to protect Chalkis from the Venetians. It was designed by the Venetian Gerolimo Galopo and its architectural form is more European than Turkish in character. The fortress was unsuccessfully sieged by the Venetians of Morozini in 1688 and the Turks managed to keep it until the Greek liberation when they gave it over to the Greek state.
The castle of Karababa lies on a hill of the boeotian coast, called Phourka. It occupies a strategic position, overlooking the straits of Euripos and the town of Chalkis. Since it was designed by a Venetian, it is almost purely Venetian in form. The enceinte is oblong in plan, oriented E-W, strengthened by a rampart along the north wall, three bastions and one large tower. The south part of the wall is preserved in a poor condition. Ancient spolia are built in several parts of the walls. The most complicate, hexagonal bastion is located on the east side of the wall, towards Chalkis. Two Russian canons of the 19th century are seen on the battlements. The only gate of the castle is on the SE side of the wall. Buildings of military function.
At the east curtain wall, between the gate and the east bastion, is a bell-tower, built in the place where an alarm bell of the fortress once stood.The only building preserved intact along the perimeter of the walls is a church dedicated to Prophetes Elias, dated to 1895.The west end of the enceinte is occupied by a seven-sided tower, the most substantial of the defensive structures of the fortress. Access to the tower is through a narrow vaulted corridor reminding a labyrinth.