Evia, sometimes spelled Euboea (Greek: Εύβοια) is among the largest islands of Greece, both in area and in population. Second only to Crete, it is often disregarded as an island due to its proximity to the mainland from which the narrow Euripus Strait separates it. The strait is only 40m long at its narrowest point and the island, which is long and stretches from northwest to southeast, is connected to the mainland by two bridges at its capital city of Chalkis and several ferry lines. The Strait of Euripus divides the Gulf of Euboea into the North and South Euboean Gulfs and is home to a famous phenomenon, noted since classical times. The tide changes the direction of the water current almost instantly every six hours flowing with equal velocity on both directions. A mountain range traverses the whole island which is divided into three distinct parts. The northern is fertile and forested, the center is mountainous, often alpine and the south is barren, resembling a lot the cycladic islands of the Aegean sea.

Also known under various other names throughout history, like Avantis, Negroponte or Eğriboz, Evia derives its name from the Greek words “εὖ”, meaning good”, and “βοῦς”, meaning ox. Put together they describe the land of the well-fed oxen (1). The history of the island goes back to the ancient times. Its two principal cities of antiquity, Chalkis and Eretria, are mentioned in the Catalogue of Ships in Homer’s Iliad.  Both were powerful cities that eventually settled numerous colonies on the coast of Macedonia, Sicily and Magna Graecia (the coastal areas of southern Italy). Their reach and influence, though unbeknownst to most people, is pretty apparent even today. The Euboean alphabet, through a long journey starting with the first greek colony established on the Italian peninsula by the Chalkideans, would ultimately become what we know today as the Latin alphabet, the world’s most recognizable form of written language, officially used by over 131 nations today. This colony was Cumae near modern day Naples, a vibrant and powerful city in the centuries before the Roman conquest. They spread their language and culture throughout Italy and heavily influenced the Etruscan civilization which adopted the Euboean alphabet to create a written form of their own language, shaping it to better suit it in the process. When the Romans conquered Italy, they in turn adopted the Etruscan alphabet to use it for a written form of their own, the Latin language. (2)

Gradually the cities of Evia started losing influence to Athens, which invaded them in 506 BCE and shortly the whole island was reduced to an Athenian dependency. In the following centuries the island was also invaded by the Persians and the Macedonians with brief periods of independence before eventually being incorporated into the Roman Empire in the 2nd century BCE.

To be continued…