Egriboz - one city, many identities


The siege by Mehmed II the Conqueror and the fall of Chalkis (Negroponte), the largest Venetian naval base in the eastern Aegean, to the Ottomans on 12th July 1470, would come to be compared to the fall of Constantinople a few years earlier.
A new era had begun for the city. The sanjak [district] of Euripos was created, with its base in Egriboz, as Chalkis was known at the time, and it became the base of the Ottoman fleet in the Aegean and of its commander, Kapoudan Pasha. The composition of the population changed, as the remaining inhabitants of the castle were enslaved. The new dominant class was the Muslims, who were transferred from other areas of the Ottoman Empire and settled mostly inside the walls. The Jewish element was also re-enforced by the arrival of Sephardic Jews from Spain, who swelled the numbers of the existing Romaniots. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority of the population of the island was Greek, with the exception of the city of Chalkis, in which there lived roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Greeks. The Muslims and Jews lived inside the walls whilst the Christian neighbourhoods developed outside them.
We learn much valuable information about the city of Chalkis at that time from the exceptionally descriptive narrations of travellers who visited the city. In 1670, the Turkish traveller, Evliya Çelebi, arrived in Chalkis. According to his reports, there were eleven Muslim machalades [neighbourhoods] and an equal number of Ottoman mosques for the religious needs of the new inhabitants. They were all demolished after the mid-19th century. The mosques from this time co-existed with Jewish synagogues in Chalkis and Christian churches, a sign of the religious pluralism that existed. Outside the walls, there were the workshops of highly skilled craftsmen, the residences of Turkish officers, Turkish baths, Ottoman mosques, and schools.
Chalkis became a multicultural society, which was home to Greeks, Turks and Jews. These populations co-existed for a long time and left their mark on the city.