The Ottomans kept their eyes on the various revolts that had been springing up throughout the mainland and islands of their predominantly Greek territories after the large revolts in the Peloponnese in 1821— especially the island of Chios, which was an important trading center for the entire region.
In March 1822, as the revolt gathered strength on the mainland, several hundred armed Greeks from the neighboring island of Samos landed in Chios and attacked the Turks, who retreated to the citadel. Many islanders also decided to join the revolution.
Turkish reinforcements arrived on the island on March 22 and began pillaging and looting the town. On March 31, orders were given to burn down the town, and over the next four months, an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops arrived.
In addition to setting fires, the troops were ordered to kill all infants under three years old, all males 12 years and older, and all females 40 and older, except those willing to convert to Islam.
Approximately three-quarters of the population of 120,000 were killed, enslaved or died of disease. Tens of thousands of survivors dispersed throughout Europe and became part of the Chian diaspora.
Many young Greeks that were enslaved during the massacre were adopted by wealthy Ottomans and raised in Islam, never knowing their real identities until later in their lives. Some rose to levels of prominence in the Ottoman Empire, such as Georgios Stravelakis (later renamed Mustapha Khaznadar) and Ibrahim Edhem Pasha, both of whom were kidnapped by Turkish army soldiers and taken away when they were children.
There was outrage when the events were reported in Europe, which led to widespread sympathy toward the Greek revolutionary cause by average Europeans. Moved by the sheer human suffering, French painter Eugène Delacroix created one of his most famous paintings that depicted the massacres; called Scenes from the Massacres of Chios.
A draft of this painting, created under the supervision of Delacroix in his lab by one of his students, is on display in the Athens War Museum. The original hangs at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
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