Euboea is the second largest of the Greek Aegean Islands and the second largest Greek island overall in area and population, after Crete. It is separated from the mainland of Greece by the Euripus channel, so narrow that it changes direction every six hours. In general outline it is a long and narrow, seahorse-shaped island; it is about 150 km (90 miles) long, and varies in breadth from 50 km (30 miles) to 6 km (4 miles). Its general direction is from northwest to southeast, and it is traversed throughout its length by a mountain range, which forms part of the chain that bounds Thessaly on the east, and is continued south of Euboea in the lofty islands of Andros, Tinos and Mykonos.
The history of the island is for the most part that of its two principal cities, Chalcis and Eretria. Both cities were Ionian settlements from Attica, and their importance in early times is shown by their numerous colonies in Magna Graecia and Sicily, such as Cumae and Rhegium, and on the coast of Macedonia. In this way they opened new trade routes to the Greeks, and extended the field of western civilization.
The strength of their commerce is shown by the fact that the Euboic scale of weights and measures was used in Athens until Solon, and among the Ionic cities generally. They were rival cities, and appear to have been equally powerful at first; one of the earliest of the sea battles mentioned in Greek history took place between them, and it is also said that many of the other Greek states took part.
In 490 BC, Eretria was utterly ruined and its inhabitants were transported to Persia. Though it was restored after the Battle of Marathon, on a site at a little distance from its original position, it never regained its former eminence, but it was still the second city on the island. From this time its neighbor Chalcis held an undisputed supremacy. Already, however, this city had suffered from the growing power of Athens. In the year 506 BC the Chalcidians were totally defeated by the Athenians, who established 4,000 Attic settlers on their lands, and seem to have reduced the whole island to a condition of dependence.
Again, in 446 BC, when Euboea endeavored to throw off the yoke, it was once more reduced by Pericles, and a new body of settlers was planted at Histiaea in the north of the island, after the inhabitants of that town had been expelled. The Athenians fully recognized its importance to them, for supplying them with corn (ie., grain) and cattle, securing their commerce, and guaranteeing them against piracy, because its proximity to the coast of Attica rendered it extremely dangerous to them when in other hands. But in 410 BC the island succeeded in regaining its independence. After this it took sides with one or other of the leading states, until, after the Battle of Chaeronea, it passed into the hands of Philip II of Macedon, and finally into those of the Romans.
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