The medieval ages are a tumultuous period, during which the island of Chios will undergo more than fifteen small and large invasions. Arabs, Venetians, Seldjuk Turks, Catalans, Franks, Saracens, Knights of Malta, Byzantines, and finally Genoese and Ottoman Turks will invade one after the other, and the island will change hands many times—indicative of its strategically dominant position in the heart of the Aegean and of its rich production.

However, all these invasions, as natural, will destroy and desert cities and villages many times. The hill on which today’s Pityos is located, adjacent to the strategically important harbour of Delphini and controlling the only road leading from the northeast to the southwest of the island, holds an exceptionally important position. The need for fortification is now a matter of life or death.

Byzantine Empire

So, around today’s Pityos, when the Byzantines will temporarily regain Chios, a castle will be built in the location of today’s, initially wooden and of lower height. The castle appears in a golden bull of Michael Palaiologos the 8th in 1259 AC, leaving open the possibility that it might be even earlier.

At the same time (13th century AC), the adjacent church of Saint Dimitrios, located near the castle (of which part of the frescoes from the Late Byzantine Palaiologian period is still preserved), is dated by the Archaeological Service. Also, possibly the destroyed church of Panagia Spiliotina, which was a faithful copy of the New Monastery of Chios of the 11th century, dated back in this same period.

In a nearby area to the current settlement, near Panagia Theotokina, where ruins of an older settlement are preserved, a few decades ago, the villager Dimitris Zygklis (or Karydas) found a quantity of Byzantine coins. This area also appears in a golden bull of Michael Palaiologos as Arogeutos (Ayureutos in the local Pityan dialect). It is referred to as an area where the New Monastery of Chios has 100 acres of cultivable land.

On the nearby slope, near the road to Kardamyla, in an area full of pebbles, a few decades ago, the villager Dimitris Kazilas found a Byzantine metal cross.

A toponym of the Byzantine period that needs further investigation as to its origin is “Galatika.” Does it refer to estates owned by the Byzantine lords Galatides who appear in Izmir in the 11th century? Or perhaps to their descendants who will come to Chios later, during the Ottoman era, in the 17th century? (See Vasilis Agiannidis, “Oi Galates,” Aplotaria 2014,

Another toponym of the period that needs exploration is the one mentioned in the ruins in the pastureland of Aipos: Androlakkos or Andronaktos. Andronaktos was a Byzantine lord of Chios, and the location bearing the same name, on the border of the pastures of Pityos and Anavatos, suggests that he might have had estates in the area. Several family names in Pityos are of Byzantine origin: Kritoulis, Mavrianos, Stasis, Chaviaros, Heilas, Chloros, Houliaris, and others.

Genoese Rule

The Genoese seized the island from the Byzantines in 1346 AD and held it for 220 years. The first thing they did was organise the economy and production of the island, dividing it into zones for the cultivation and storage of products vital to the economy of the colonial cooperative administration, the famous “Maona”.

Recognizing the natural strategic position of Pityos, they chose it as the capital of the “theme” of turpentine oil, the oil derived from the processing of resin, that is, from the tree of terebinth. This oil, when properly refined, was used in shipyards for preserving Genoese ships and in the roofs of houses as a natural waterproofing material. To produce the oil, they established a large laboratory in Pityos, employing 22 workers, which was a significant number for the time.

It was during this period that the old Byzantine castle was transformed into the current tower, with the aim of creating a large storage tank for the precious product on the ground floor.

To organise production and strengthen fortifications, they gathered scattered settlements into the present one and stationed a permanent military garrison. In the excavations for the restoration of the castle in the early 21st century, archaeologists found significant finds, such as Byzantine coins, and also coins from Naples-Italy, and Valencia-Spain, from the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as seals and everyday objects.

The inhabitants were called to live in the village under almost exclusive monopoly production of turpentine oil, the entirety of which, under strict and draconian laws, had to be delivered to the Maona. They were allowed to maintain only small household crops for sustenance.

The neighbourhood of the Castle, starting from the tower and reaching the present old square of Aplada, was enclosed by the external fortification of Kastrotoichos (fragments of it are still preserved in some parts of the village).

Thus, Pityos, in its present location, is a conglomeration of at least 13 smaller settlements, a fact found in other head villages of Chios, such as Pyrgi, Mesta, or Kardamyla. According to G. Zolotas, these settlements were Taxiarchis, Agios Ioannis, Agios Sideros, Agios Dimitrios, Skafi, Vrysidia, Fardy Pigadi, Theotokina, Gemellika, Kritiko, Flori, Remokastro, and Pyromachia. Larger or smaller even more ancient settlements are also noted in Spartina, Eklissidia, Aria, and Palaiopyrgos.

These small settlements indicate mediaeval installations of serfs or residents, essentially “metochia”, which is why in most of them, the name of the church they possessed has been preserved.

Specifically, Theotokina (a name derived from the mediaeval surname Theotokis) is located towards Kardamyla. Gemellika is historically related to the Gemellos family, who initially were in Koila and later moved to Kardamyla and Vrontados, and their descendants still exist there today.

The settlement of Kritiko indicates, according to the Pityans, a Cretan mediaeval settlement, from where also the name Kritikolakkos originated, the name of an area near Pityos. Pyromachia was located between Psira and Andronaktos, towards Agios Sideros, where the ruins of houses and of a church were located.

Additionally, the location of Martinos, near the village, refers to the Latin ruler of Chios, Martino of the Zaccaria family (he governed the island from 1314 to 1329 AD, before the Latin Crusaders being temporarily expelled by the Byzantines).

Finally, Fardy Pigadi is considered the main among the old villages of the area, the last abandoned settlement of which were reached by those who lived in the 19th century. It seems that it might have been the last one abandoned before its inhabitants settled in Pityos. In fact, until a few decades ago, those from Pityos who originated from there were called Fadrypigadousi.

In the Genoese history of the village, a distinct place is certainly held not only by the harsh economic colonial exploitation of the wealth and labour of the villagers but also by the pressure for a shift to Catholicism. Especially during the first period of Genoese rule when Constantinople remained Byzantine, and the rulers of the region and the Orthodox Church were concerned about choosing either union with Papal authority (“unionists”) with the aim of assistance from the Crusaders and the West, or separation (“separatists”) and almost certain submission to the threatening Ottomans in the area.

The incidents of the so-called miracle of Agia Paraskevi in Chios, with the great flood of 1432 that also affected Pityos, in which, according to folk tradition, dozens of villagers and hundreds of drowned goats and sheep in Makelo, may be related to the conflict in the church bays between the two doctrines.

At the same time, the Florentine Franciscan monk, geographer, and traveller Cristoforo Buondelmonti, will depict Pityos on the map of Chios he will draw after his travels to the islands of the Aegean and include it in his work “Liber insularum Archipelagi” (Book about the islands of the Archipelago) in 1420.

A series of surnames of Pityos families date back to the years of the Crusaders and Genoese rule, such as Vergus, Bereta, Frango, Fekos, Fetis, and others, while the widespread surnames Giannomoros and Papamoros are compounds of the Latin “moro,” meaning “dark-skinned.”