Oinousses - history


Evidence of the mercantile potential of these islands can be inferred from a reference in Herodotus (Hist. I. 165): after the abandonment of their besieged city during the Ionian revolt, the people of Phocaea sailed to Chios and asked the Chians if they could purchase the islands of Oinousa and settle there; Chios refused, fearing that the islands ‘might be made into a new centre of commerce to the exclusion of their own’. The Phocaeans were renowned seafarers and traders, and would not presumably have made such an offer had they not seen the island’s hidden trading potential. Thereafter the islands are, in effect, an extension of Chian territory and follow the history of their large and important neighbour. In the Middle Ages the islands were probably abandoned; repopulation from Kardamyla began in the 18th century. At the time of the 1822 massacre on Chios, the inhabitants fled to Syros, then the Aegean centre for Greek shipping. Within 40 years of returning to the island five years later, Oinoussaian families between them owned almost thirty ships, plying routes through the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
   The emergence in the 19th century of three important families or ‘clans’, in particular, on the island—the Hadjipateras, Lemos and Lyras families—and their formation of a consortium was the beginning of the story of longdistance, international shipping for Oinousses. In 1905 they purchased their first steamer, the 3,500 ton, Marietta Rallis. With characteristic resilience, after substantial losses in the Second World War, the group took advantage of the possibility to purchase ‘Liberty Ships’ (a standardised and rapidly built cargo ship of British design, which was produced in large numbers by American shipyards during the war) from the US government, and contracted a number of new cargo ships from shipyards in Japan and Yugoslavia. In the 1950s the same group founded ‘Orient Mid-East Lines’, which ran liner services between the USA, the Mediterranean and Far East. The Lemos family holding of shipping is by most measures the largest private holding in Greece, and one of the largest in the world. In 1962 the Pateras family built, and richly endowed, the nunnery of the Evangelismos, at the west end of the island, in memory of a daughter of the family, Irini, who died at 20 and is considered by some a candidate for sanctification: the abbess of the convent is her mother.


The local ferry boat from Chios, Oinoussai III (T. 22710 25074), runs daily except Tues, leaving Oinousses for Chios early in the morning, and returning after lunch. Crossing time: 1hr.
Two small water-taxis ply the shorter route between Oinousses and Langada (NE Chios) at all hours, on demand (T. 6944 168 104).

Oinousses Travel Guide


Eating is also very limited. The only fully-fledged taverna is the pleasant enough Taverna Pateròniso, set back a little way from the harbour front; up in the town are a couple of shops that double as small eateries. The fare is basic at them all, and there is little to choose between them.

Oinousses Travel Guide

further reading

One chapter of Hellas (Collins, London, 1987) by Nicholas Gage is devoted to the shipping families of Oinousses— more entertaining, than strictly accurate.

Oinousses Travel Guide


Lodging is limited to the Thalassoporos Hotel (T. 22720 55745) where the accommodation is basic, but the owners are particularly friendly.

Oinousses Travel Guide

practical info

82 101 Oinousses: area 14 sq. km; perimeter 35km; resident population 686; max. altitude 182 m. Port Authority: Oinousses, T. 22710 55394; Chios, T. 22710 44433.
The archipelago consists of about 10 islands: Oinousses is the largest and the only one continuously to be inhabited; Panaghia (or Pasas), Vatos, Pontikoniso, Gaidouroniso (or Gavathi), Archontoniso, lie to the east; Aghios Panteleimon and Pateroniso, lie just outside the harbour; and the two small islets referred to as the ‘Prasonisi’, lie to the west.

Oinousses Travel Guide

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