Myths: Hera’s, Boreus’ and Aegiona’s Ochi
A plethora of myths have tried to explain and celebrate the natural environment of the area. It is not an accident that Ochi, Cavo d’Oro and Karystos are respectively associated with three gods: Hera, Poseidon and Apollo.
The word Ochi comes from the ancient Greek word “ocheuo”, which is the meeting or intercourse of Hera and Zeus. Hera is closely associated with Karystos, particularly with the summit of Mt Ochi. Hera was raised by the nymph Macri in Evia. Zeus saw her in the highlands of the island and set out to conquer her. As he saw that she was stern and serious, in order to pique her curiosity he transformed himself into a cuckoo and approached her trembling with the cold. Touched, Hera took the bird to her breast to warm it. Then Zeus in his true form tried to make her his. She only complied when he promised marriage. In prehistoric years, the cult of Hera must have been prevalent in the whole of Evia. Today, the mountain continues to have links to the sacred as the Prophet Elijah is worshipped on the mountain tops. A very old church dedicated to the prophet is near the mountain summit near the drakospito (dragon house).
Historical journey and landscape
Neolithic era - Early Bronze Age [4000-2000 B.C]
The oldest examples of human civilisation have been found in the cave of Aghia Triada that was used as a refuge or as a cemetery. There was a settlement on the seaside hill of Plakari, just 2 kilometres west of Karystos, near the modern day mouth of the Regia ravine. Fragments of vessels dating to the late Neolithic Age have been found.
Early and Middle Bronze Age (3000 - 1600 BC)
Most findings dating to this era have been located on the western shore around the area of Regia, Plakari hill and Livadaki. Tools made of obsidian were found in Livadaki that was a windless cove and offered ideal mooring conditions for ships in antiquity.
Late Bronze Age (1600 - 1050 BC)
The sanctuary of Geraistios Poseidon at the southeast bay, today’s Kastri at Cavomandelo, existed in the time of Homer (Odyssey 3, 182- 790). Karystos contributed to the preparations of the Greeks for the war in Troy (Homer’s Iliad, 535- 545).
Early Iron Age (1050 - 500 BC)
Findings dating to the Geometric and the Archaic periods were found on Plakari hill and in Regia. Fragments of vessels and pots and remnants of walls and tiles have been found on the western shore of Regia where there used to be a settlement. A Geometric period temple was found at the top of Plakari hill. To the northwest, on Karababa hill, a remnant of a wall testifies to the existence of a sanctuary that was built of Karystos stone. Archamboli: The ruins of a settlement probably dating to the Archaic period (700-500 BC) rise along the length of the gorge.
Classical Period (500 - 300 BC)
490 BC: Despite the resistance of the inhabitants of Karystos to the Persian fleet, Karystos was abandoned and went to the enemy.
480 BC: Karystos fought on the side of the Persians to avoid the hegemony of Athens. In the 5th century, Karystos was oppressed and weak under the Athenian yoke. It was very important to Athens because of its strategic position on the maritime trade routes.
In the 4th century the two cities became allies and having escaped the hegemony of Athens, Karystos did gain its independence for short periods.
Hellenistic and Roman Period (300 BC - AD 300)
338 BC: Karystos came under the control of the Macedonians. After almost one century of Macedonian rule, it was conquered by the Romans. At approximately the end of the 4th century BC, Karystos began to expand towards Palaiohora, near the hill where Castello Rosso is today. During the Hellenistic and Roman period, the city grew.
100 BC: For the first and last time in the history of Karystos a gold coin was struck.
The development of the marble quarries greatly improved Karystos’ financial condition.
Late Roman Period (AD 300-600)
The characteristics of this period were decline, pirate raids and disasters. The quarries were abandoned.
Byzantine Period (AD 600-1200)
Besides the main settlement in Karystos, two others also developed in Aghioi Theodoroi and Hartzani. Another two also developed east of the Bay of Karystos. The Byzantine Church of the Taxiarchoi (Archangels) of Kalyvia was built in the 12th century.
Latin Rule, Venetian Rule (1200 - 1470)
In 1204 one of the leaders of the Fourth Crusade, Boniface of Montferrat became lord of the entire Balkan peninsula and parcelled out Greece as feudal fiefs to his vassals. Evia was given to James Avesni who handed over the administration to three knights. One of them, Ravanus Dalecarcheri, became the lord of the entire island. In 1216, the Venetian baron Dalecarcheri built the red castle on Mondofoli Hill on the foundations of a Byzantine castle. Karystos continued to be a naval and merchant port, as well as a strategic point for the passage of ships into the northeastern Aegean. At this time, there was a high turnover of feudal lords. As a result, southern Evia and particularly Cavo d’Oro, was abandoned by the populace. At the instigation of the Venetians, Arvanites were encouraged to settle there (1402-1425).
Ottoman Rule (1470 - 1833)
The settlement of Palaiohora was abandoned and the fortified Turkish city was built, protected by the walls of Castello Rosso. This period was particularly tough as the inhabitants suffered from slavery and high taxes. Their only comfort was religion. The first Greek settlements developed around this time and later they became the modern villages of Gourna, Karystos. On 9 April 1833 Karystos was officially handed over to the Greeks.
Abandonment of the villages (20th Century)
Until a few years ago, the area lacked modern facilities. Electricity and roads took a long time to come. Until the 80s, Cavo d’Oro could only communicate with the outside world by sea and only when the weather permitted. The few inhabitants earned their living raising animals and schools closed because of a lack of students. Due to the difficulties of daily life, many inhabitants relocated to the major cities. At the end of the century, the villages of Gourna became Karystos suburbs. Holiday homes in the area increased, the Karystos stone quarries became larger and the advent of roads improved access to the area.