Neolithic obsidian tools found at Kephali in the extreme northwest of the island provide the earliest evidence of human settlement on the island. Ancient Chalce only steps into the pages of written texts or inscriptions in the Classical period however, first appearing in the fiscal lists of the Athenian League to which the island belonged in the 5th century bc. Thucydides cites that Chalce played an important role as an operations base for the Athenian fleet in 411 bc during the Peloponnesian War, against enemy ships in Rhodes . Its subsequent independence was short lived, and the island became part of the Rhodian State in the late 4th century bc, subject to the deme of Kameiros. This is confirmed by Theophrastus who describes Chalce as a Rhodian island. Little is known of its structure or cult beyond Strabo’s observation that it ‘possessed a harbour and a temple of Apollo’ (Geog. X 488). Archaeological finds from Hellenistic tombs attest considerable wealth, however. Apart from some scattered and vestigial Early Christian remains, little is known of the island’s fortunes up into the mediaeval period except that the constant danger of pirate raids forced the population to move well inland and re-settle in the protected area of the ancient acropolis (Chorio). After the Fourth Crusade of 1204, the Venetians and Genoese re-fortified this Hellenistic acropolis. In 1366 Chalki, together with Alimnia, was granted to the Italian Assanti family. The Knights of St John subsequently re built the castle on the acropolis in the mid 15th century, only to lose it in 1522/3 to the Turks, who governed the island up until 1912, when the Italians took control. Italian occupation was further confirmed by the Second Treaty of Lausanne of 1924 and became successively more restrictive and oppressive, with the compulsory imposition of Italian language. This situation resulted in the locals setting up a secret school in a cave where children were taught in Greek. The Italians surrendered to German forces in 1943. In May 1947 the island was incorporated into the Greek State together with the other islands of the Dodecanese; but it saw almost continual decline in population throughout the 20th century as those families who had worked in the sponge trade left for the United States. The emigre community of Chalkians in Tarpon Springs in Florida (which established a flourishing new sponge trade there) has nonetheless maintained strong contacts with the island and has sponsored a number of public works. An ill-fated UNESCO scheme in 1983 to designate Chalki the ‘Island of Peace and Friendship of Young People’ has had disappointing results for the islanders. A modest and sustainable tourism has, however, helped to encourage the on-going restoration of the island’s fine houses in recent years.
Chalki Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.