Mythology and History of Chalkidiki
Greek mythology refers often to Chalkidiki. The Ancients knew the region as Flegra - the Place of Fire - because it was believed to be the place where an epic battle ground for the fire took place between the Olympian Gods and the Giants, the sons of Gaia (Earth). According to the myth, Kassandra got its name when one of the Giants, named Egelados, was crushed by Kassandra promontory, thrown by goddess Athena and was buried underneath. It is considered that Egelados did not die at that time and every so often he tries to struggle out from under the weight of rocks causing earthquakes (the Greek word for earthquake is egelados). Later data indicates that Kassandra took its name from Kassandros (a King of Macedonia).
The Athos peninsula was named after the giant Athos, who during the famous battle, threw a mountain at the gods, but failed to find his target. The second prong received its name from Sithon, son of the sea god Poseidon. The lots of similar stories about the Battle of Giants fascinated later poets and artists, and as a result the conflict is one of the most common scenes depicted on ancient pottery and sculpture.
All these myths are not unconnected with the geological phenomena, which are evident in Kassandra, like the subsidence in the centre of the peninsula, and the sulphur springs at Agia Paraskevi. The myths are part of the effort throughout the centuries to explain the oddness of the ground. Scientific research of course, has indicated that the geomorphology of Paleontological Chalkidiki was much more different than nowadays. Fossil bones who belong to elephants and other prehistoric animals now extinct found at excavations, declare a different period where probably humans never witnessed. In addition, excavations at the Petralona Cave have shown traces of what is said to be the earliest known controlled fires, started by men around 700,000 years ago. The skull found in the cave is thought to belong to a person who lived there some 250,000 years ago and suggests that humans populated Chalkidiki in prehistoric times. Established organized societies take place in Chalkidiki around the fourth century BC and its oldest inhabitants were called "Thracians" and "Pelasgoi".
It wasn't until the eighth century BC that the population was expanded by the arrival of colonists from southern Greece, mainly from the city state of Halkis (hence Chalkidiki) in Evoia. Other newcomers arrived from the island of Andros, Corinth and Athens and began to build their cities. By the fifth century BC, the cities of Chalkidiki got sucked into the ongoing struggle between the Persians and Athens and its allies, known as the Persian Wars, described by Herodotus "the father of history". One of the results was a siege of the city of Olynthos, after which the Persians killed all the inhabitants. At the end of the fifth century BC, the 32 most important towns of the peninsula united under the leadership to form the "Halkidean League".
Peace didn't last long, however, and in 352 BC Chalkidiki became involved in the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparti, and then in the ensuing power struggle with King Philip II in an attempt to halt his ambition to conquer all of Greece. They ended up on the loosing side. The city of Olynthos was destroyed, and Chalkidiki was incorporated into the Macedonian Empire. As the world knows, his son, Alexander the Great continued his father's dream of expansion, pushing in a few short years to the banks of the Indus River. Stageira, a colony in Chalkidiki founded by the island of Andros, was the birthplace of Aristotles, one of the greatest minds in human history and the teacher of Alexander the Great, who often mentioned that in his father owed his life, but in his teacher Aristotles, owed the values of his life.
During the Macedonian Kingdom, the new state of affairs led to the creation of three new cities: Kassandra (315 BC), Ouranoupolis (315 BC), and Antigoneia (280 BC). In 168 BC, the Romans along with the rest of Macedonia conquered Chalkidiki. After the decline of Rome, it formed part of the Byzantine Empire. The 150- castles, churches, bridges and other structures that have been documented, while Mount Athos possesses a wealth of information on Byzantium, evidence its position within the Byzantine Empire. Chalkidiki goes over to Christianity around at 50 AC. During this period, successive waves of barbarian tribes invaded the area and caused enormous devastation. Not only the Goths and the Huns, but later the Franks and the Catalans combined with pirates attacking by sea to contribute to the plunder and the destruction. In the ninth century monastic communities of Athos were established. The Byzantine emperors made many grants of land to the monasteries and farming of cattle, grain and vines was developed under the protection of the "metochia", dependencies of the monasteries. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Serbian Kingdom and then the Venetians ruled Chalkidiki.
In 1430 the Turks occupied the whole of Macedonia, where they were to remain for four centuries. The prosperity of the area was evident at that time. The Turks recognized the mines while the southern population concentrated on agriculture. In 1821, when the Greek Revolution began, people of Chalkidiki under the leadership of Emmanouil Papas surged forward in the revolution against the Turks. Finally, in 1912, Greek rebels succeeded in ousting their oppressors and Chalkidiki was reunited with the rest of Greece. This union with the rest of the Greece led to another dramatic change in the fortunes of Chalkidiki. In 1921, there was an exchange of populations, as the result of the Asia Minor catastrophe. Refugees from Asia Minor, Eastern Thrace and Bulgaria moved in and injected Chalkidiki with new economic and political strength while introducing their unique culture, music and foods. Many incomers named their new villages after their old ones - Nea Moudania, Nea Fokea, Nea Kallikratia, Nea Skioni, Flogita and Nea Plagia for example.
Having withstood raids by foreign powers over the centuries, the people of Chalkidiki exhibit a great sense of pride and, partly due to the area's relative isolation, have managed to hold onto numerous age-old traditions.