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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mastihohoria: The brief history.

·              189 BCE
Many Roman citizens began settling on the island, enticed by its climate and economic potential, while Chians in turn settled in Rome. With their assistance, the mastiha produced on the island was promoted in the capital of the empire and throughout its possessions.
·         6th century CE
In the 6th century CE, two markets operated on the island, both markets dealing in local commodities. One was in the town of Chios and the other was in Emporios, a small port in the south. Emporios was the export station for mastiha.
·         Beginnings of the14th century
In April 1346, it besieged the fortress of Chios, and three months later, the Zyvos, the Agelastos, the Koresis, the Damalas, the Argentis, and the other lords defending it, surrendered in exchange for maintaining their lands and privileges. Despite this success, the Republic of Genoa still had no money and was unable to repay Viniozi’s twenty-nine sponsors for their services. Against its debts, the government granted them rights to the exploitation of Chios, confining itself to simple suzerainty. The twenty-nine founded a joint-stock company, the Maona di Scio, to manage the revenues from the island.
·         14 th - 15th century
Business flourished for Maona in Chios. They constructed, fortified, irrigated, organized and then reaped the fruits of their investments, amassing immense fortunes. The total annual turnover never fell below 120,000 ducats. Of this, 30,000 came from mastiha sales, the rest from direct and indirect revenues, port charges, duties, land leases, exploitation of tin deposits, trade of Chian clay, textiles, etc.
·        In the 15th and 16th centuries
In 1512, Pope Alexander VI, wishing to flatter the English King Henry VIII, sent a galleon to London loaded with Chian products: wine, black and red marble, almonds, honey, oil, rosewater, flower extracts, mastiha liquor and mastiha. Mastiha became a sort of writ of payment. Against debts, the Maona would leave its lenders crates of mastiha as collateral. They pre-sold the future yields of three, five or ten years to trading houses and collected advance payments. They even remitted a portion of their annual tax to the sultan in mastiha. The Maona was not involved in the retail trade of mastiha; it simply sold the output. It was exported to Istanbul, Asia Minor, and the Crimea (50% of production), to Armenia, Rhodes, Syria, and Egypt (25% combined), and to Europe and northwest Africa (the remaining 25%).
·        Ottoman possession
The sultan Selim II kept for himself and his heirs the most regular income Chios had to offer – the “mastiha business.” With his ahdnamé he required the Mastihohoria to supply him with 25,000 kilos of mastiha annually. In exchange, he exempted them from all taxes, except the head tax, which was reduced. To satisfy the mastiha cultivators, he permitted them to have bells in their churches and to continue to wear their traditional white sariki, or turban. In the Ottoman Empire, only Islamic clerics had the right to wear a white sariki.
·         1822 - 1850
The Ottoman Turks remained the masters of Chios for four-and-a-half centuries. Despite the time span, they affected life on the island clearly less than the Genoese did. Aside from a few words and even fewer buildings, their greatest intervention on the island, was the massacre of 1822. From 1830 on, the Ottomans exerted considerable effort into returning the Chian refugees. The sultan Mahmut II, replaced the old ahdname “that were lost during the familiar events” (as he discreetly called the massacre) and in 1835 reinstated the privileges that the Mastihohorians had been granted by his predecessors. “The subjects in the Mastihohoria are exempt from governmental taxes, the tithe and the transit taxes during war or peace, except for the head tax and 20,020 okes (25,800 kilos) of mastiha per year.” The elders governing the Mastihohoria sensed it and in 1848, in an historical meeting in Panagia Sikelia, decided to request a free-trade agreement for mastiha.
·         1912
Chios was incorporated into the Greek state in the winter of 1912. The Greek army landed in eastern Chios in early November, and reached Hora without encountering serious resistance. The Mastihohoria were the first to be liberated. 

     In  1941 Chios was occupied by the Germans. During the winter of this year famine struck the island. A group of prominent Chians went to Turkey to negotiate a food-for-mastiha exchange. They closed a deal, but it remained on paper. The Germans confiscated the mastiha earmarked for this purpose and sold it for their own profit. At this time mastiha distribution was handled only with vouchers issued by the German authorities. Moreover, these vouchers were typically granted to black-marketeers in exchange for information about the situation on the opposite shore. The black-marketeers exchanged the mastiha in Turkey for food, which they then took, not to Chios, but to the Cycladic Islands, Samos, and Piraeus, where they got better prices.

Commercial Direction of CMGA