The Geography of the Chios Mastic Trade from the 17th through to the 19th Century
Keywords:Travelers' literature, Eastern Mediterranean, historical geography, Mastic Gum, Chios island, Ottoman Empire
AbstractChios, one of the largest islands in the Eastern Mediterranean, became internationally known during the 13th century due to the production of the Chios mastic in twenty one villages on the south, the resin of the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus L. var. chia (Desf. ex Poiret) DC.), to which many beneficial properties and uses had already been attributed in the antiquity. The international demand for mastic led the various conquerors of Chios to prohibit free trade and lay down a system for monopoly distribution. After the island was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1566, following a period of almost two centuries of Genoan rule (1346 to 1566), the valuable product of Chios Mastic constitutes one of the monopolies of the Ottoman State.
The present article aims firstly to present the botanical aspect of Chios Mastic, the mastic tree (P. lentiscus var chia), as well as the cultivation and harvesting methods of the produce. Secondly, by investigating the historical sources it aims to present the geography of the mastic trade in the East and West from the 17th through to the 19th century, while at the same time analyzing the monopoly trade system established by the Ottoman State. Thirdly, it analyzes the international demand for the Chios mastic during this same period in the international markets, focussing on the beneficial qualities attributed to it. Finally, it examines the validity of the information published in geographical and traveller’s journals during the period in question, evaluating the conclusions of the relevant modern scientific research.
This article is based mainly on studying sources such as geographical and traveller’s manuscripts dated back from the 17th until the 19th century, which are kept in the “Korais” Central Public Historical Library, as well as other historical sources examining the period in question.
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