It is widely believed that Evia owes its name to the naiad Evia, who was the daughter of Asopos river (in Ancient Greece, rivers were often considered to have divinity). On the other hand, Evia (deriving from the word combination “eu” + “vous” that means the good ox in Ancient Greek) is a name that indicates the island’s fertility and the breeding of cattle.
Evia was inhabited in the Paleolithic Era and there is proof of several settlements in many areas: Manika (Chalkida), Artaki, Rovies, Psachna, Politika, and others. Some settlements, like for example Xiropolis (close to Vasilikos) were probably very prosperous and had commercial activities that involved Asia Minor and the North Aegean. In the Neolithic Era, the number of settlements was even larger and they were spread throughout the island, whereas in the Copper Era there were many inhabitants in the central and southern Evia. During the Prehistoric Era, the main activities of the inhabitants were agriculture and livestock.
Ancient Times and Classical / Hellenistic Times
Many changes were observed on the island in the Ancient Times; the economy shifted from agriculture and livestock to commerce and shipping. The two most powerful cities were Chalkida and Eretria. Chalkida was famous for its pottery that was exported all over the Ancient World and Eretria was a renowned maritime city. The beginning of the 8th century B.C. was the end of hereditary kingship on the island. The new system of governance was oligarchy.
During the Ancient Times, Evia was very powerful and prosperous. For about three centuries (770 B.C. till 500 B.C.), the Chalkideans and the Eretrians colonized the Aegean Islands, Macedonia and Italy. However, there was a war between the Eretrians and the Chalkideans concerning the dominance of the river Lilas (“The war of Lilas”). After the war, there was some kind of revelation and oligarchy became history for Evia.
In the Classical Era, Evia was attacked by the Persians twice: first Eretria was destroyed and then Chalkida. After that, Chalkida, Eretria and Istiea participated in the 1st Athenian Alliance.
Although Evia sided with Athens during the Peloponnesian War, it betrayed Athens twice. However, it became a member of the 2nd Athenian Alliance. In 358 or 357 B.C. there was another civil war in Evia, with the intervention of Thiva and Athens. After that, Philip the 2nd started to interfere and conquered Chalkida. From that time on, Evia sided with Macedonia, until the Roman dominance.
During the Roman Era, the cities of Evia had to pay taxes to Rome and were not very autonomous. However, some were quite prosperous; Karystos exported its renowned marble, Edipsos attracted Roman emperors with its thermal spa, and Chalkida was the center of activities of the island. In 88 B.C., king Mythridatis attacked the Roman army in Evia and was successful for a short period of time; but the Roman General Sylla won in the end.
In the Medieval Times, Evia was far from being a serene place. In 1204, Evia was conquered by the Francs. In 1258 the Venetians selected Evia as their main nautical base. In the 14th century (1340-1398 A.D.), the island was attacked multiple times, with the Venetians and the Genovese trying to dominate the island simultaneously. The Venetians won in the end, but not for long; in the 14th century, the Ottomans began attacking Evia. In 1450, repeated earthquakes destroyed the walls of Chalkida and the Venetians had to rebuild them in order to protect it from the Ottomans.
The Ottoman Period
In 1470, the Ottomans conquered the island, destroyed a large part of it and killed many inhabitants. The living conditions on the island significantly deteriorated and this is why the inhabitants tried to rebel against the Ottomans twice, once in 1668 and once in 1770. However, both times they did not succeed.
The population really suffered during that period and it was only natural that the Evia inhabitants would participate in the Greek Revolution of 1821. The revolution began in Limni and sprawled across the island very fast. Although based on the protocol of London Evia was officially part of Greece in 1830, it actually became part of it in 1833.
Troops from Evia participated, and were very successful, in the Balkan Wars. After the Asia Minor Disaster, Evia received more than 9,000 inhabitants in total, coming from the Asian coasts. During World War II, many cities were bombarded (1941). From 1941 to 1944, the island was dominated by Germans and/or Italians. The years after the War were very tough for Evia, similar to the rest of Greece. In 1962 the famous bridge of Chalkida was built, which made the island easily accessible from the mainland.
Today, Evia has more than 200,000 inhabitants, involved in commerce, tourism, agriculture, fishing and livestock. Its amazing natural beauties combined with its proximity to Athens and the mainland, as well as the Aegean Islands, make Evia an increasingly preferred destination. Nowadays, visitors from Greece and abroad choose to spend their holiday in Evia and discover its dazzling beaches, unique nature and interesting culture.