MASTIC – HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

ANCIENT TIMES

The homeland of mastic is the island of Chios. The existence of fossilized mastic tree leaves that are found in Chios, aged six million years testifies it.
Furthermore, it cultivated nowhere else so systematically. The first information we have about mastic is derived from the historian Herodotus in the 5th century bC. References on mastic have been made of course by Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Plinios, and Galinos. The fame of the mastic is spreading from the 10th century onwards with broader references by visitors on crops of mastic trees.
The information we have about mastic according to Hippocrates, Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Plinios, and Galinos are mainly in the therapeutic properties of it
.In Bible there are more references to mastic tree rather than in the production of mastic, for example in the book of the prophet Daniel.

ROMAN and BYZANTINE YEARS

In Roman times, Latin doctors write about the uses, pharmaceutical and therapeutic properties of mastic in combination with other herbs. Some Roman emperors mixed it with wine, creating a drink corresponding to the current ouzo with mastic. In Italy is stated that there was a small production of mastic, which, however, was below both quantitatively and qualitatively compared to that of Chios.
In Byzantine times the trade of mastic was a monopoly of the Byzantine emperor. Its cultivation has yielded significant gains in the Byzantine Empire. That’s why the island of Chios had great economic prosperity in those years. Mastic was famous in all major commercial centers of the time in Europe and East.

GENOVESE PERIOD

During the period that Chios was occupied by the Genovese (1346-1566), the production of mastic organized even more. It was founded the “Maona”, a company which exclusively took over the trade and the management of mastic. In a treaty signed on February 26, 1347 between the municipality of Genoa and Maona appointed experts officials (responsible for the harvesting of product), examiners (with powers to search the ships for smuggling), reckon (supervisors of mastic). The Commissioner could appoint employees. The officers were responsible for recording the production.

TURKISH OCCUPATION

The island of Chios during the Turkish occupation thanks to mastic acquired special privileges. The mastic production was normal but its exploitation was purely in the hands of the Turks. The tax collector of mastic “Sakiz-Emini” was coming once a year (usually autumn) and was collecting the tax mastic. With him was also coming the weigher of mastic who more often was Jewish.
The first quality mastic intended for the harem of the Sultan in Istanbul. The second grade mastic was going in Mamluk`s harems (Dynasty of Egypt) in Cairo.
During the harvest the entrances of the villages were closed at night to protect the production. The theft of mastic was punished with very severe penalties. In 1822 mastichochoria survived the fury of the Turks because of the mastic. But not the same thing happened after the burning of the Flagship by Kanaris and the death of Kara Ali. The decrease in production was vertical until 1853 that privileges were given back to the island. The mastic production continued to rise until 1910. Then, because of the Balkan and World War II, began the decline of production. Around 1920 there is a slight increase in production without special demand. After the Second World War mastic aside and replaced by non-natural products. In recent years, however, the production and trade of mastic has come strongly to the fore. There is a continuing and increasing demand not only domestically but also abroad.

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