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Euboea, the largest island in the Aegean Sea, is separated from the Greek mainland region of Boetia by a narrow channel. Evidence of human presence on Euboea dates from 2000 BC. In the 12th century BC the island was deserted, but around 1100 BC Euboea began to flourish. Recent archaeological finds from that time at Lefkandi, a city near the capital Chalcis, have surprised historians. While the collapse of Mycenean civilization around 1100 BC led to a so-called Dark Age in the Greek world, Lefkandi was an oasis of wealth due to trade with Cyprus and Phoenicia. It is likely that the Euboeans offered slaves in return for metals and luxury goods since there is little archaeological evidence of other possible exports. By the 8th century the Euboeans had founded the settlement of Al Mina on the Levantine coast for trade with the Near East and the settlements of Pithekoussai on the island Ischia and Cumae on the Italian mainland for trade with the Italians.

Near the end of the 8th century BC, the main Euboean cities of Eretria and Chalcis fought over the fertile plain between them in the Lelantine War. Little is known about the war, but there is evidence that other Greek cities became involved. The war seems to have depleted the two cities, and Euboea lost its preeminent position in the Greek world. Corinth, an ally of Chalcis, emerged as the leading Greek city after the war. The weakened Euboea eventually became tied to nearby Athens. It fought with her in the Persian Wars, and later became part of the Athenian Empire, where it was the site of numerous revolts.

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