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The social classes during the Genoese period.

Both Greeks and Latins lived together in Chios and co-existed in the professional and political arena for over 200 years, inevitably leaving their own mark in the history of the island. The everyday life, the danger of Turkish occupation, the financial interests and the island of Chios itself brought the two ethnic groups together and hindered the initial prejudice and rivalry. A growing feeling of confidence between the two groups was developed based on common interests, good faith and mixed marriages. Despite the well-known religious differences and the considerable cultural gap between Greeks and Latins the everyday personal relationships prevailed over the differences noted above. The indigenous Greeks -as expected- outnumbered the Genoese colonists. Based on rough estimations and written accounts from historians and travelers, the population of the Greeks must have been over 12,000 and the one of the Mahonesi should not have exceeded the 2,000 members. Therefore, the non-homogeneous population of the island was divided into two well distinct ethnic groups, representing two different cultures. However, the two main social sections of the Chian society were subdivided to further classes.

The leading class was the Mahonesi that abandoned their initial surnames and adopted the surname Giustiniani in the late 14th century that became one of the 28 Alberghi of Genoa, which were groups of families aggregated together. In the fourteenth century unions of families called Albergo changed the political and nobility status quo in Genoa. This modification to the civil status of the Genoese society and nobility was finally established in 1528 when Genoa gained its independence from the French. The members of the Alberghi associations did not necessarily have blood relations, but were coming from different families that had joined their forces and had changed their original surnames upon mutual agreement. All members of each association had exactly the same rights and privileges and had to fulfill the same obligations. The families that provided their names for the formation of the Alberghi were very reputable, influential and had numerous members and at least six family branches with that surname. The names of these Alberghi into which all other families had to join and adopt the provided surname alphabetically were: Calvi, Cattaneo, Centurione, Cibo, Cicala, De Fornari, De Franchi, De Marini, Di Negro, Doria, Fieschi, Gentile, Giustiniani, Grillo, Grimaldi, Imperiale, Interiano, Lercaro, Lomellino, Negrone, Pallavicino, Pinelli, Promontorio, Salvago, Sauli, Spinola, Usodimare and Vivaldi (see photo group 4).

The second most eminent class in the hierarchy of the Chian society was composed of the Greek nobles that continued to retain their titles, properties by right of inheritance or purchase, rights and privileges after the Genoese occupation which had been granted to them by the Byzantine authorities. According to the treaty of 1346, the Greeks residing inside the castle area (also known as Castrinoi) had to be transferred to the area of Engremos (Burgus Graecorum) and to sell or lease their houses to Genoese noble men and officials that constituted the military and administrative members of the newly established Genoese authorities (see map 6, the administrative division of the island). The Greek nobles of Chios were descended from the Byzantine aristocracy. Some eminent members of the Byzantine aristocracy were established in some islands like Chios due to the increasing pressure that the Turkish invasions in Asia Minor had caused during the twelfth century. They obtained permission from the Emperor and they acquired lands and revenues establishing thus themselves as feudal lords of the island. There is no doubt that the noble status and rank of the Greeks was well respected after 1346 as portrayed by Hieronimo Giustiniani. In his 16th century account he describes the nobles dressed in a distinct way and being the centre of attention in various occasions including the Christian religious celebrations when they were honoured by the local population without having to pay homage to the Mahonesi overlords of the island. The noble Greeks were in some cases exempted from certain tax payments and were invested with judicial powers by having a permanent member in the local court of law called Dicheotato composed of four judges: two Mahonesi, one noble Genoese and a Greek aristocrat. Some of the Greek family names that appear even before the Genoese era in Chios and were of noble descent were the ones of Schilizzis (probably the most ancient), the Argentis (of old Genoese origin), the Coressis and the Rhodocanachis. Other Greek names mentioned in the notary deeds and historic accounts are the family names Agelastos, Calutos, Sevastos, Volastos, Petrocochinos, Rallis, Sechiaris and many others.  

The third social class -although there are arguments about the status and origins of this class- were the burghers. The burghers were members of the town community and probably could derive from different socioeconomic groups, but also ethnic groups. In the burgher class a large proportion of professionals were included who had a law status distinct from the other members of the society that in some cases granted them advantages and rights to express their opinions and defend their interests. The term burgher most likely was just related to the place of domicile and a legal status of rights and obligations.

The lowest classes of the society encompassed the land workers, mastic cultivators and the sailors who were mainly of Greek origin, the Jews and the foreigners that resided in Chios for various purposes including trade.     

4a) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Cybo.

4b) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Grimaldi.

4c) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Centurione.

4d) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Imperiale.

4e) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Doria.

4f) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Giustiniani.

4g) The coat of arms
of the Genoan Alberghi, Imperiale. (contemporary photo from a mansion located in Campos.)

4h) he coat of arms of the Genoan Alberghi, Giustiniani. (contemporary photo from a mansion located in Campos.)

5) Salvago’s mansion in Campos.

6a) The coat of arms of the Argenti family (courtesy of the Argentikon Luxury Suites).

6b) The coat of arms of the Argenti family (courtesy of the Argentikon Luxury Suites).

7a) Agelastos Family Church of Saint Tryphon in Campos near Thymiana

7b) Chapel main entrance. Agelastos Family Church of Saint Tryphon in Campos.

8a) Saint George Catadotes.

8b) Saint George Catadotes.