History of Volissos

According to Stravon the ancient city of Volissos was located at the middle of the west part of the island, approximately at the place which is named Elida. At it’s today location, was built at Middle Ages in order to offer protection from pirate raids. It was constructed on a hillside of the mountain Amani and at the hilltop is located its medieval castle under the name of “Belisarious Castle”.

 

Volissos was an Ionian, (but not Aeolian, like Stephanos Byzantios mentions), colony and it is named by Thucydides “Volisso or Volisko”. Homer makes a reference of Volissos too. According to an ancient tradition, it is said by many, that Homer lived in Volissos and composed poems. Another version of the tradition places Homer in Volissos in order to teach the children of the King Chios. There is a location in the village with the name “Homer’s House”. According to Hieronymus Justiniani Odysseus is related with Volissos too.

The legend for General Belisarious mentions that he is the one who built the medieval city and its name “Velissos” has its origins in him. The above legend is mentioned by Hieronymus Justiniani and other travelers. The legend says that Belisarious arrived in Chios blind and expelled (after his accusation for conspiracy by the devilish Empress Theodora). He landed at the west beaches of Chios had been survived of a shipwreck and built the Castle of Volissos as a token of his gratitude.

Another version of the legend says that Belisarious who was well educated, came from Smyrna and had a lot of students. One of his students, a resident of Volissos, obtained a book of great importance and Belisarious came to Chios to take it. The intellectuals of Volissos persuaded him to stay and later he built the castle.

In addition, Hieronymus Justiniani claims that Volissos, because of its strong castle, was the capital of the medieval Chios, long before the arrival of the Genoas, and the seat of Fokas Family that had many privileges during the Genoas reign. Volissos was a medieval centre of great importance and because of its location and its powerful castle achieved great prosperity as the second town following the island capital of Chios. It served as headquarters for the north section of the island and was independent from the island church authorities just like Pirgi.

Due to its big numbers of Byzantine names and medieval toponyms, the abandoned settlements, the isolated castles and the medieval Monastery of Mounthon, Volissos preserves a medieval color that is unique amongst the rest of the villages of Chios. The tradition has not recorded any pirate raids against Volissos and we must conclude that its castle was invulnerable.

The castle has a trapezoid layout and six rounded towers. The castle was connected with the sea through a tunnel which extended until Pythonas district. Today we can see the remains of old churches and medieval walls.

Because of the mountainous position of the village any raids from the open sea was happened by accident when bad weather conditions enforced the invaders to land. Under the Byzantine Empire domination Volissos flourished. During the reign of Vasilios the First of Macedon (866-867 AC) the Aegean islands were secured from Arabs pirate raids as forts and defensive towers were constructed in coastal cities. For the resident population and the good’s production safety from the pirate invasions, watchtowers were constructed along certain coastal positions with a 1-3 miles distance between them. At ports the watchtowers were stronger and larger. A watchtower was located at Volissos too. When enemy ships made their appearance on the horizon the news spreading was fast trough the network of the watchtowers, so the population had enough time to seek cover into the forts.Genoas sources reports that Volissos consisted of 700 houses, and many churches. Also it produced great amounts of silk, oil, figs and wheat.

At the plains of Volissos were cultivated vineyards from which the famous “Ariousios” wine was made. Some travelers misjudged the population of Volissos regarding their personalities and their customs in relation to the rest of Chios people. Maybe this has to do with the fact that the northwest population of the island had not been under the Genoas influence. In Volissos there isn’t any trace of Latin writings or Genoan toponyms. Also travelers mention, with strong repulsion feelings, the leprosy disease which afflicted the village for centuries. According to Zolotas this misfortune was brought into the island by medieval migrants or captives who came from the cold Asian countries. Their permanent or temporary habitation of the place was the main reason for the misjudgment of Volissos inhabitants.

The French traveler Testevuide in his book “The island of Chios” reports about Volissos people: “Certain Volissians exercise a miserable art: They travel to Smyrna or Constantinople in order to become beggars pretending they are diseased. In fact to become more convincing they put under their armpits cloves of garlic so they grow pale. When they earn enough money from their tricks, stolen money in a way from the compassionate people, return to Volissos to enjoy their riches full of pride like lords”.

Under the Turkish domination many estates that belonged to the former Genoans Maonis were lost. The Turks applied the same rule to Volissos as with the rest of Chios. Despite its remote location Volissos was depressed by the Turks. The personality of the inhabitants and the arid land helped to turn down the Turkish fanaticism. The wise behavior of the Volissians against the Turks made their life safer in comparison with the other places of Chios.

 

 

 

 



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