The name is preserved from antiquity and is derived from the Greek χαλκοσ (copper, bronze), though there is no trace of any mines in the neighbourhood. Chalcis was peopled by an Ionic stock which early developed great industrial and colonizing activity. In the 8th and 7th centuries it founded thirty townships on the peninsula of Chalcidice, and several important cities in Sicily. Its mineral produce, metal-work, purple and pottery not only found markets among these settlements, but were distributed over the Mediterranean in the ships of Corinth and Samos.
With the help of these allies Chalcis engaged the rival league of its neighbour Eretria in the so-called Lelantine War, by which it acquired the best agricultural district of Euboea and became the chief city of the island. Early in the 6th century its prosperity was broken by a disastrous war with the Athenians, who expelled the ruling aristocracy and settled a cleruchy on the site. Chalcis subsequently became a member of both the Delian Leagues. In the Hellenistic period it gained inportance as a fortress by which the Macedonian rulers controlled central Greece. It was used by kings Antiochus III of Syria (192 BC) and Mithradates VI of Pontus (88 BC) as a base for invading Greece.
Under Roman rule Chalcis retained a measure of commercial prosperity; since the 6th century AD. it again served as a fortress for the protection of central Greece against northern invaders. From 1209 it stood under Venetian control; in 1470 it passed to the Ottomans, who made it the seat of a pasha. In 1688 it was successfully held against a strong Venetian attack.
The modern town has about 10,000 inhabitants, and maintains a considerable export trade which received an impetus from the establishment of railway connexion with Athens and Peiraeus (1904). It is composed of two parts--the old walled town towards, the Euripus, called the Castro, where the Jewish and Turkish families who have remained there mostly dwell; and the more modern suburb that lies outside it, which is chiefly occupied by the Greeks. A part of the walls of the Castro and many of the houses within it were shaken down by the earthquake of 1894; part has been demolished in the widening of the Euripus. The most interesting object is the church of St Paraskeve, which was once the chief church of the Venetians; it dates from the Byzantine period, though many of its architectural features are Western. There is also a Turkish mosque.
\This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.