Chalcis from its Origins to the 4th Century BC. History, Literature and Tradition


The research plan is motivated by both the need and the opportunity to investigate the history of Chalcis, a sister and rival polis of Eretria, which is more studied and better known.
Of the two, the former is less observable from an archaeological point of view, as the modern city completely overlaps the ancient one: hence the minor presence of Chalcis in the pertinent literature.
From this perspective, a specific investigation involving complementary approaches and documentation (such as those provided by literary and historiographical criticism) is a desideratum.
The survey will focus on two aspects: (1) the 'international' dynamism of Chalcis, which was strong during the archaic age, and (2) its historical role from a regional point of view – a role which prevailed in the classic age, but always co-existed with and complemented the international one.
(1) On the first point, the project aims to investigate not as much the colonial expansion of the Chalcidians in the 8th century BC, which has already been profusely analyzed, but rather the characteristics of the enduring historical legacy of Chalcis notwithstanding the decline of its preeminence in the mature archaic age. The endurance of an explicit Chalcidian identity in the Euboean colonies both in the West and in North Aegean Sea is an aspect of primary significance (even if not the only one) of this remarkable legacy. The main problem is to verify whether we face a merely cultural endurance, i.e. a prolonged recollection of a traditional image of ancestral prestige, or if such endurance had been supported all along by an active and substantial political role of the Chalcidians in the Panhellenic context during the 7th and 6th centuries BC. From this perspective, some samples of the relationships between Chalcis and Corinth (both tyrannical and post-tyrannical), Megara, Sparta, Samos, the Asian Greeks, and the major sanctuaries of mainland Greece, turn out to be extremely valuable.
(2) As far as the second aspect is concerned, various opportunities are available for a thorough examination of the regional and subregional relationships between Chalcis and the other Euboean poleis (like Histiaia and Kerinthos), as well as with Thessaly, Boeotia, the Cyclades and, last but not least, Athens (before Cleisthenes and 'under' Cleisthenes). Particular emphasis will be given to surveying the continuity between these relationships, already active in the archaic age, and the reappearance of a significant regional preeminence of Chalcis during the 4th century BC. In this case the problem of continuity arises from the interposition, both drastic and dramatic, of a long period of Chalcis' engagement with the Delian League – a phase marked by simultaneous rejection and recovery of the prestigious past of the city. Similarly, it will be important to investigate the influence, in this specific time, of the birth of a conscious and assertive community of ‘Chalcidians’ in Olynthos, committed to reestablish and reorient the hub of the local and regional relations of Chalcis in the 4th century BC.
In both cases the examination will focus not only on well-documented or traceable relationships, but also on the cultural dynamics that substantiate or mirror the above-mentioned relationships as still evidenced by a multi-faceted literary tradition. With this in mind, traditional writings, especially of poetical nature, regarding Chalcis or originating from Chalcis represent a very significant part of the documents pertinent to this project.
Special attention will be paid to the rich literary material about archaic and classical Chalcis, as well as to its survival and constant 'recycling' over time. Starting from and developing some topics explored in a consistent series of previous essays of mine, several matters concerning mythography, early epics (in particular Hesiod, "between Boeotia and Euboea" – but also Homer and the Epic Cycle), Hellenistic poetry (in particular Euphorion and Lycophron, both native from Chalcis) as well as late antique poetry (in particular Nonnus of Panopolis, who profusely draws from Euphorion) will be discussed in detail, by reading and reconstructing complex texts (even fragmentary) that are bound to be key to a novel reconstruction of the history of Chalcis.

2015 - 2017

Andrea Debiasi

Responsabile per il Dipartimento
Flavio Raviola