The ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle is one of the first to mention it in his writings for its wealthy reserves in copper-gold (the Greek name for copper is Halkos hence the name ‘Halki’) the relatively rare light blue metal, famous for its quality to such an extent that in some markets of the ancient world it was rivaling pure gold in demand.

Quality, however, was not the only factor adding to its expensive price; visitors of the pond at the south of the island called Pityous – name taken from the many pine trees in the area – could easily see the mineral veins running at the bottom of the sea. Indeed, its reserves are under sea level making the extraction extremely difficult as swimmers needed to dive in depth usually exceeding 4 meters – hence one more name of the metal (also called ‘swimmer’) for this very reason.

The first immigrants on the island were Greeks; mainly sails men from the Greek city Megara were the first to inhabit the island and the first to start an extensive metallurgy activity of the copper-gold. According to historians, a person with the Greek name Dimonisos was the first to process this precious metal and for this reason the metal was also known as Dimonisian copper in various remote markets in the past.

Halki is also mentioned by many writers and travelers of the ancient times: Markianos the Heracliotis (meaning from Heraclion) in his course book ‘periplous’ (which means circumnavigation) specifically described the difficulty of the mineral extraction. Additionally, Plynios – the famous roman author, natural philosopher, naval commander of the early roman empire also known as Pliny the Elder in 25 B.C; he described Halki and expressed his preference to it because of its natural beauty compared to the other Dimonisian islands – other islands of the same complex with the Greek names ‘Megali’ (meaning great), ‘Elaia’ (meaning olive tree) and the two ‘Rodouses’ (name in plural for red color like a rose) the ‘Pityousa’ (meaning the one with the pine trees) and ‘Erevinthos’. Other writers were Isychios from Militos, Pergaminos from Karystos and Stefanos Vyzantios.

Contemporary travelers and scholars that had visited Halki were – among others – Pierrre Gylli, Fontanier, Thomas Smith and Brewer Buadelmonti. They had also enjoyed its natural beauty during their stay and in their memoirs stressed the Hellenic element of the island and the extent it was preserved although it belonged to the Ottoman empire. To this end contributed a great deal the fact that sultan directives were clearly in favor of the Greek inhabitants and strictly prohibited to Turks to use the territory for residential purposes.

The result of a rivalry between the byzantine emperor Leon Armenios who was a fanatic iconoclast and Theodore Stouditis (Theodore Studita) the monk – confessor of orthodoxy who was in favor of the Christian icons, was the former to banish the latter to “a monastery in a beautiful central island”, center of a complex of islands in the beginning of the 9th c. AD. The said monastery is the monastery of Esoptrou or the despots and it is considered the foundation of the Agia Triada monastery at Halki. Some years later emperor Michael Travlos had ordered empress Theodosia to be exiled at the very same place along with her child Vasileios.

The Aθenian – 19th Issue

Η Αθήνα είναι εδώ και σας καλεί.