Homer, poet of the world, and his relationship with Chios island

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The great epic poet of the ancient world, creator of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is connected to Chios island through a tradition that dates back to ancient times and is alive until nowadays. Homer never mentioned his hometown sparkling thus a long dispute about it, as neither his biographers nor the researchers have agreed upon it. In this long dispute various Greek cities have claimed him, but Chios is always among them, and has become the predominant city claiming Homer’s origin. This connection is supported by a series of evidence from philological sources and archaeological findings to old local traditions. All this evidence has prompted the travelers that visited the island after the 14th century to seek zealously for signs of Homer’s school, his house and his grave. The travelers’ research on Homer added to this tradition that connect the epic poet to the island – a tradition that the people of Chios are very proud of.

On Homer’s trail

Which areas of Chios island are traditionally connected to the great epic poet of antiquity?

The temple of ancient goddess Cybele at Daskalopetra, also known as Homer’s Rock

The rock of Daskalopetra has been traditionally connected to the School of Homer. The main part of the rock has been thought of as the throne where the poet would sit, teach his students and recite his poems. The rock has always been visible since ancient times: an important site and reference for travelers and visitors.  

The interpretation of the ancient monument has long been disputed as well. The archaeological research has now concluded that it was an open-air temple of the ancient goddess Cybele, patron of nature and fertility, whose worship was popular in Chios. However, the misunderstanding with Homer might not be accidental. Some researchers have observed that the goddess’ worship could be connected to poetry competitions and Homerides, bards from Chios, who claimed that their ancestry dated back to Homer himself.


 Volissos &  Pityos

In ancient times there were no authentic historic records on the life and work of Homer, there were a lot of authors who tried to gather evidence that were part of the tradition and the collective memory. This way, the poet’s biographies were created mostly like fairy tales. The oldest and longest biography we know of is by Herodotus of Alicarnassus, known as Pseudoherodotus. The author describes Homer’s arrival and life in Chios. Among other things, he mentions his arrival on the island from Focea of Erythrea, when he spent one night at the beach. After that, he travelled into the mainland and arrived at the village we know today as Pityos. There he wandered in the forest where he had various adventures and he was taken in by a shepherd named Glaucus. The shpeperd led him to Volissos village, where he stayed and worked as a teacher, teaching the local lord’s children. Similar accounts are repeated in other biographies of the poet, connecting Homer to these parts of North Chios.  

 Homer and the travelers: “Epano merea”

 This connection was further supported by the accounts of the travelers that visited Chios from the 14th to the 19th century. They enthusiastically searched “Homeric sites”, recorded their experiences and the locals’ accounts and created maps marking important sites, such as Homer’s settlement and Homer’s grave.

Traveller Christoforo Buondelmonti was a characteristic example. He refers to “Epano merea” the Northwest past of the island, marking on the map he designed "Homer’s grave" and "Homer’s citadel".

 

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The Ypapanti Chapel of Chios & Juliette May Fraser: a cultural bridge between Chios island and Hawaii

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In the village of Vavi­li (one of the villages of Kampos area, situated 9 km from Chios) lies one of the island’s most unexpected treasures—the minuscule chapel of the Ypapanti (the ‘Purification of the Virgin’). Its interior is entirely covered with murals, painted by Juliette May Fraser (1887–1983), a famous muralist from Honolulu, Hawaii.

The majority of Juliette May Fraser’s work has remained in the Hawaiian islands, where she was born and died. However, while working in Athens in the early 1960s, she met a gifted woman from Vavili village, Mrs Afroditi Makri, who invited her for a short vacation in Chios. During this trip, she was fascinated by Chios and this small newly built chapel and volunteered to paint these murals. She stayed in Chios during the winter period of 1962-1963 with her collaborator, the artist David Asherman. Under difficult circumstances, but with the help of Mrs Makri, of all the villagers and of the local artist Nikos Gialouris, they painted the murals of the chapel as a gift to the village.

The outside of the chapel is decorated with geometrical patterns recalling the distinctive exteriors of the houses in Pyrgi­, while the interior decoration is created with the fresco technique. The scenes are a hybrid of eastern and western art, Byzantine and representational, modern and ancient, while the perspective comes and goes.  They are a mix of local and Hawaiian topography and eternal landscapes. The whole is unified by an airiness and overall brilliance of colour, and is executed with such genuine joy, that takes the visitors by surprise, once they enter the door of the chapel. The frescoes are one of the best examples of the art of May Fraser and a touching evidence of her love for Chios island!

Tip: The key of the chapel is kept in the house opposite and slightly further north.  Just knock, and the lady who lives there will gladly give it to you.

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Wandering around Chios Mastiha villages in the autumn

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If you visit the villages of Mastiha (Chios Gum Mastic) at this time of the year in Chios island, Greece, you will come across a familiar image: women mastiha producers, and also men, of all ages are gathered in small groups at the alleys and corners of the village with large traditional sieves full of the recently gathered mastiha. They have already started the long copious process of cleaning the product. The aroma of mastiha fills the narrow village roads at Pyrgi, Mesta, Kalamoti and the rest of the 24 villages of mastiha.  

The first step of cleansing is the “tahtarisma”, that is the sifting of the product in order to separate the mastiha from leaves and soil. The next step is the cleansing in cold water, some even wash it with sea water and then the mastiha is laid out to dry.

After the product has dried, traditionally women take over. Using pointy small knives they clean each and every small piece and granule of mastiha from dirt and soil that may be stuck on it. This is a process that starts now, in the autumn, but depending on the workload and the time they devote to the cleansing, it may go on until spring.

This part of the cleaning process is done in groups. Companies of women gather to work together, while at the same time they exchange news and tell stories and jokes. This is their way to have fun during the difficult and monotonous process of mastiha cleaning.

Solidarity and cooperation between mastiha growers is characteristic of the social organization at the villages. For example, there is the tradition of “danikes”, which means borrowed. According to this tradition, a woman would ask her friends to help her with the cleaning then she would reciprocate. This goes for other agricultural tasks that one might have trouble completing in one’s own. However, it is a big disgrace if someone accepts help but does not reciprocate.

Another tradition which shows the power of women’s networks at the villages of Mastiha are the “syntrofisses” (meaning “comrades” or “companions”) at Pyrgi village. According to this tradition, a teenage girl’s mother would ask an already existing group of girls to accept her daughter in their group or company. The other mothers would talk it over with their daughters to decide whether they would accept the new girl in the group. The syntrofisses would meet daily to provide mutual support, work together and go out together.

Similar companies are found nowadays while wandering around the villages of mastiha. As the Mastiha villages are built as castlevillages, there is not enough room for the houses to have yards and patios, so people use the streets in front of their houses instead. The ladies of the Mastiha villages, despite their hard labour,  will welcome the visitor who passes from their street while they are working, cleaning the mastiha. They will show them the process of cleaning and will even pose gladly for a photograph.

Mastiha cultivation, which is basically unaltered during the centuries, has been inscribed in UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage. If you would like to experience the mastiha cultivation, you can contact Chios Tourism Department at the e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information or you can contact one of the specialized agencies in Chios island that provide experiential tours.

Sources:

The Chios Mastiha Growers Association https://www.gummastic.gr/el/mastixa-chiou/paradosiaki-kalliergia#katharisma

Zacharopoulos C., Barbikas E. (n.d.), Chios Mastiha PDO. Historic and folkloric references. The Chios Mastiha Growers Association

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Massourakia from Chios: a sweet indulgence of mastiha and almond

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Do you know which sweet the Chians offer as a gift when visiting their friends living outside of Chios? Massourakia! They are delicious, made with a traditional recipe of Chios and mashed mastiha and almond. On your next visit to Chios, do not miss visiting a patisserie in order to try them out. If you still can not wait until then, we recommend a recipe to make them.

Ingredients
1 pack of Phyllo pastry, 150 g of cow butter
For stuffing
400 g sweet Chios mastic (submarine), 500 grams of almonds, zest mandarin or lemon, 2 egg whites, 1 pinch of salt
For the syrup
200 g of sugar, 200 g of water, lemon peel, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of flowering water

For serving
Icing sugar, ground almonds

First grind the whitened almonds until they are finely chopped and not completely powdered and put in a bowl. In a bain marie, gently melt the Chios mastic preserve, dilute some of its texture so that you can mix it well with the rest of the ingredients. Pour it into the finely chopped almonds and zests. Stir the materials with a spoon. Beat the egg whites and the salt in a soft meringue, until peaks are formed. Gradually pour the meringue into the almonds and with a soft spatula add the other ingredients. Open the leaves on the counter, cut them in 4 pieces and cover them with a fresh towel to avoid drying. Get a square piece of phyllo and coat with melted butter, then put another phyllo on top of it. Fill in along with a little stuffing patterned like a thin cord (here can help the confectionary crown). Close the sides to seal the filling. Wrap in a tight roll. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Butter plate a baking pan and place your massourakia. Coat  them with as much butter as possible. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Prepare the syrup and keep it  warm. Once we've lowered the syrup from the heat, add the rose water, and mix. After the masks are roasted and the rosin is started, we put them all in a baking dish, they are close to each other and there are no gaps between them. As they are removed from the oven, pour them a little with the hot syrup. Let them cool all in the pan and drink their syrup well. After they cool down, we roll them to ground almond to clothe them or crack them with powdered sugar Good luck!

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Discovering the ceramic workshops of Armolia village

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The village of Armolia is located on the main crossroads to the mastiha villages of the south. It lies twenty kilometers from the town of Chios on a fertile plain. The people of Armolia maintain a long tradition in ceramic pottery, one of the oldest and most widespread of the decorative arts, consisting of objects made of clay and hardened with heat.


The main road at the entrance of the village is lined with pottery shops. Most of the shop owners continue the family tradition, creating traditional items just as their parents. Plus they are painting their creations both in traditional and modern designs and colours.

On your next visit at the mastiha villages discover the permanent exhibitions of hand-crafted ceramics and do not miss a visit at their wokshops where you can see yourself the potters working at the wheels showing how a lump of clay is transformed into a finished piece of pottery.


Tip: Armolia is a very beautiful village, spend some extra time wandering through the narrow streets and stop for a coffee, food or even a sweet at the exquisite pastry shop situated at the entrance of the village

 

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An exhibition on theatre through the riches of Koraes Library

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An exhibition of books on theatre and other findings from the archives of Koraes Public Library of Chios.

The Friends of Koraes Library have organises an exhibition of books and other findings from the Koraes archive on theatre, in the context of the 30ths Meeting of the Aegean Theatre Groups. The exhibition opened on Sunday October 30th, 2018 at the Library and it will be open to visitors through the autumn. Thus the Library, a pillar of knowledge, is actively participating in this celebration of theatre that is taking place in our island. 

This is an exciting exhibition of old editions of ancient writers (some dating back to 1524 and unique in Europe), the works of local intellectual Leon Allatios, first translations in modern greek and many more. It also includes old programmes from theatrical performances. 

It becomes apparent that the rich archives of Koraes library still keep many secrets that have to be explored by visitors, readers and researchers. 

The exhibition will be open from Monday to Friday from 8.00 to 15.00.

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An unforgettable walk in Chios Castle

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Walking in Chios Castle is like time travel. Let’s get lost in the narrow spiral alleys marked by history and time. Although in the city center, everything here is tranquil, while at the same time it is one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods of the city. Every time we walk around Chios Castle there is something new to discover.

We enter the Castle via the Great Entrance at the south part of the castle. Also known as “Porta Maggiore”, it is an example of the Italian influence on Chios island, as it was built by the Venetians in 1694.

Next to the Dark Dungeon, the Giustiniani palace was the headquarters of the Genovese administration. Today, after its renovation, it hosts periodical exhibitions by the Ephorate of Antiquities.

The Ottoman cemetery is located at the Castle square, where members of the Ottoman administration were buried between 1822 and 1890. Among other elaborate tombstones we can see the one dedicated to Captain Pasha Kara Ali, head of the Turkish navy, whose flagship was set on fire by Constantine Kanaris, at Chios port, in June 1822.

Bairakli Cami, the only surviving mosque in Chios Castle, was built at the beginning of the 20th century on the ruins of an older one. Walking on the main street, St. George is the central church of Chios Castle. It was built in 993 A.D. and during the ottoman times it operated as a mosque. The church’s courtyard is shared with the building of the old ottoman school which has now been restored and serves as the offices of the Ephorate of Antiquities.

Our next stop is the group of the Ottoman Baths, also known as hammam. They were successfully restored in 2012 and have since become one of the most impressive buildings one can visit in the Castle. Cultural events and exhibitions are often held there. 

Walking on after the baths, we can walk up to the eastern Castle Seawall. We can enjoy the view of the Aegean and the island’s east coastline. From this point, we can get a better sense of the size and shape of the castle as well as experiencing walking on the walls of one of the few castles of Greece that has retained its original seaside character.

Back to the Castle square, we can enjoy our coffee or drink at one of the cafes. In the streets of the Castle, we discover the traditional taverns to relax with a couple of local meze and ouzo – admittedly the best way to end this beautiful day at Chios Castle.

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Slow down and smell the citrus gardens!

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Kampos is one of the most distinctive areas in Chios. It is a unique residential complex, where the natural environment is in total harmony with the local architecture. Touring by bicycle is an ideal way to explore this hidden paradise.

Bike through narrow quiet streets, sweet-smelling citrus groves, high stone walls and beautiful historical mansions. Discover picturesque chapels and huge garden doors. Slow down and enjoy the surrounding landscape and have in mind that some of the estates are open to the public, giving the visitor the chance to experience first hand the beauties that are hidden by the high stone walls: imposing mansions, patterned pebbled yards, elaborate wells and cisterns.

Stop at the Citrus estate (9-11 Argenti Str. Kampos,), a stunning expanse that dates from 1742, that is also home to a museum dedicated to the area’s history and learn about the fascinating past and exciting future of Kampos’ citrus tradition. Have a rest at the estate’s café where you can try citrus juices and traditional sweets. Kampos area is flat so beginners can also enjoy the ride. You can organise the tour yourself (be sure you have a map on you - plus there are signs with maps to help you) or you can take part at a biking tour of a local agency.If you need any help just get in touch with us. Send us an email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Managros, the ultimate August beach on Chios Island

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Managros beach is one of the most impressive beaches of Chios island and August is the month to be there.

Located 3.7 km south of Volissos village, the capital of Amani area and north-west Chios, it is a sandy and pebbled beach of 7 km, with crystal clear, not too deep waters. The length of the beach allows you privacy even on busy days. The trees that are scattered along the beach offer lovely shade.

An early morning dip in the sea will invigorate you and help you relax on the beach gathering sun and enjoying the morning breeze.

Managros is the kind of beach that holds you, keeps you close, you never want to leave once you are there. For those in need of facilities, there is a beach bar at the northern part of the beach with sunbeds and tasty cocktails.

You will enjoy unforgettable sunsets at Managros and also lie on your back at night for endless stargazing.

 

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Click here, to visit the website of the former Prefecture of Chios.

Chios.gr is the official tourism web site for Chios, run by the North Aegean Prefecture, where you'll find information on the main tourist destinations, beaches, as well as activities, events and much more!

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Contact: Regional Unit Of Chios Department of Tourism | Phone numbers: 0030 22713-50514 & 0030 22713-50516 | FAX: 0030 22713-50517 | Emailtourismos@chios.pvaigaiou.gov.gr