The island of Chios (in the Aegean Sea) is only five miles (8 km.) off the western Turkish coast south of the island of Lesbos. The island measures near thirty kilometers in length (north to south), and varies between ten and twenty kilometers in width. It is about twelve miles west of Smyrna across the narrow channel. Formed by volcanic flow, the highest point in the island is in the north at Mt. Pelineo (ASL +1297 meters; 4255 feet). The island is well watered, with sufficient winter rains to produce the celebrated harvests of citrus fruit, mulberries, grapes, cotton, tobacco, vegetables and lentisk (also called mastic tree). The lentisk is used in the production of the alcoholic “mastika”, and is the base of a resin used in chewing gum, cakes, oriental syrups and deserts.
The island was settled by Ionians in antiquity, and field excavation has yielded evidence of some settlement activity extending to the C19th BCE. In C8th BCE, the island joined the Ioanian confederacy (with Samos and several Asia Minor cities). By the C6th BCE, the island enjoyed prosperity and was the first to engage in the slave trade. The Persian onslaught of 493 BCE ended the prosperity, and the island periodically changed “masters” from Athens to Macedonia and eventually to Rome.
Though under Roman government, the port was quite independent for much of the Roman period. Paul sailed by Chios on his way to address the Ephesian elders at Miletus (and eventually Jerusalem for the beginning of Pentecost – Acts 20:15). This reference to the journey should probably be translated “along the channel of Chios” rather than “against Chios”. This particular journey included stops where he strengthened, instructed and warned the believers in different places as well as bidding them farewell, sensing that he would not see them again (cp. 20: 25).
Chios lost many inhabitants during the Early Byzantine period, as pirates ran much of the legitimate trade of the eastern Aegean away. The once prosperous island farms broke down until the Byzantine rulers discovered its value in agriculture. Eventually the island revived. It became a holding of the Venetians by 1172 CE and a centerpiece of the maritime “empire” of the Genoese from 1346 to 1566.