100 Generations – 2,500 Years of Migration


The Massacres of Chios

The Chios Diaspora 1823-1999

Vlasto & Byzantium

Vlasto Related Information

A Brief History Of Byzantium

Vlasto Genealogy C15th-C20th

Vlasto Family Properties On Chios

Genealogy & Family History Index

For 100 generations and for 2,500 years one particular family has played a pivotal rôle in the history of the Mediterranean and the birth of what we call Western civilisation. Their descendants exist to this day. While rulers and empires came and went, members of the Greek Vlasto family always found themselves at the centre of events. Cited in numerous historical documents as people who made history, their unique story – one of constant migration – has never been told.

[See below for a scripted 'sample' of how this subject might be introduced}

A study of identity, power and migration (the evolving and competing roles of family dynasties, trading empires, city states and nationalism).

This TV production – and video part-work – will be a broad-brush, location-based adventure through more than 2,000 years of Mediterranean history. It will explore the empires, personalities and key events that produced what we call Western civilisation. But it will explain these epic events through the ‘eyes’ of succeeding generations of one family who not only witnessed them but were key players in them.

The production will be presented and co-scripted by the British broadcaster and journalist Christopher Long, a direct descendant of this family. He will seek to rediscover his roots in the expert company of historians, archaeologists, genealogists, etc., with Christopher getting answers to questions (representing the viewer) that will set the discoveries in context and explain the historical background. These enquiries will take is throughout the Black Sea and the Mediterranean in search of the key developments and influences that have helped to make us the people we are today.

The series will ideally consist of 4 x 50' episodes, intended for a world-wide audience with multiple language availability and adaptable for use in a stand-alone video/educational part-work.

Proposed scope of the four episodes:

1. OCEANS – 500 BC – 330 AD – Ocean empires, the Greeks and their trading empires in the Black Sea (Varna) and Mediterranean, St Peter & the Bible, Rome (Vlasto monument).

2. CITIES – 330 – 1822 – Byzantium and its colonies (Crete and Chios), Arabs, Venetians, Genoese, Catalans, Normans, Ottomans, etc.

3. ISLANDS – 1822 – 1823 – Crete and Chios

4. NATIONS – 1822 – 2000 – Nationalism. Diaspora. London, Paris, Vienna, New York, World Wars l & ll, collapse of European empires, collapse of family dynasty, etc.


The Ionian Peninsula, Varna (Romania), Black Sea, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople, Crete, Chios, Smyrna, Genoa, Venice, Athens, Psara, Trieste, Livorno, Vienna, London, Liverpool, Marseille, Buchenvald, etc.

[Image: Narrator to camera as war correspondent, standing on a Balkan frontier]
It all began with a watch. This watch.
My Greek grandfather gave it to me when I was sixteen.
It was made by Breguet, the greatest watchmaker of the 18th Century, in about 1780. It's made of gold and studded with pearls.
I complained that it had strange numerals and that it was rather damaged.
He smiled and shrugged.
"My grandfather Dimitri Vlasto gave it me. His father Michael Vlasto gave it to him. But the man who originally owned it was a cousin, Loucas Vlasto – and just before he was hanged he gave it to Michael. They were refugees you see."
When you're sixteen you don't know whether to take such things seriously. It was several years before I realised the dreadful truth behind the words my grandfather, another Michael Vlasto, appeared to have spoken so lightly.

We're standing on the border of Bosnia and Croatia [... or Macedonia/Kosovo].
[Image: Narrator in Dalmatia]
This is the Balkans and this is where I've been working for the last ten years as a reporter. It was at this very spot, at this frontier post in the Spring of 1992, that I became perhaps the first foreign reporter to witness the tragic first exodus of thousands of refugees from the war in the Balkans. For eight years I was to see it again and again throughout Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.
[Image: Archive: Trails of refugees at the frontier]
Over the years I've seen tens of thousands of refugees and come to know many hundreds of them. Behind those hills over there lay their burning farms, their slaughtered livestock, their shattered homes and apartment blocks – and the destruction of everything that was familiar and loved.
[Image: Archive: Destroyed farms, shattered cities, corpses, etc]
I won't bore you with who did what to whom. Yes, it involved Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims. But they were all just people – people like you and me. As for the refugees, all they had left in the world was what they carried with them. Sometimes I would wander up into the hills and meet the men who swigged another beer, checked their co-ordinates and fine-tuned their sights, before launching another artillery bombardment on villages in the valleys below.
[Image: Archive: Back to images of refugees]
To me they were all quite indistinguishable: these aggressors in one valley who became victims in the next. Why did they do it? Was anything worth the price in human misery?
[Image: Narrator at old, empty check-point]
Standing here I watched as the refugees humbly stood in line begging to be let across the frontier to safety.
[Image: Narrator pulling objects from pocket for camera]
Of course, if they had had one of these, a passport – or even one of these, a plastic UN card with Press written on it – they could have walked through with their heads held high. Instead, with blank expressions they allowed tractors, wagons and cars to be stolen from them in the dark. Silently they stood still as they were relieved of jewellery and wedding rings by the guards. With their eyes closed the younger women submitted to grubby fingers probing their vaginas for more hidden valuables – behind that hut over there.
[Image: some sort of collage of: Ellis Island 1930s, Irish famine, Kurdistan, Highland clearances, emigrants boarding ships, Indo/Pakistan 1947, etc.]
What would become of these people who appeared to have no identity, no status, no belongings and who themselves belonged nowhere and had nowhere to go? Well, the truth is that nearly all of us come from refugee stock – people who had to flee from famine, disease, oppression or the brutality of neighbours.
[Image: Narrator at old, empty check-point]
And over there in Bosnia from 1992 onwards, I even watched people handing over their watches in return for freedom, favours or food. I saw the same thing in Kosovo in 1999. Unlike this watch of mine, those were watches that would never tell a future great-great-great grandson anything at all. This one – the one my grandfather gave me and which is five generations old – does indeed have strange, foreign numerals. It comes from far away, from another culture. I too am the descendent of refugees. And so, for reasons I'm still puzzling over, I've been using my breaks from reporting wars and genocide to explore my own roots... to turn back the clock and see where it would lead me.
In the end the hands have wound their way back 100 generations and 2,500 years – a long way from 'home', wherever that may be...

A CHRONOLOGY of events, with particular reference to the Vlasto family, from the time of ancient Greece to the C20th (with particular reference to Rome, Byzantium, the Ottomans, the Genoese, the Venetians and the emergence of Europe's nation states), demonstrating how the story of one family and their migrations are woven into the ebb and flow of historical events:

N.B. Any inconsistencies in dates given below during the period of the Massacres of Chios result from the fact that two different calendars were employed for this region. The 1582 Gregorian calendar, which replaced the Julian calendar in many European countries, was not adopted by Protestant England until 1752 – accounting for a 'loss' of 11 days – and was not adopted by Greece and Turkey until 1923 and 1926 respectively, resulting in the 'loss' of 12 or 13 days. It is not always clear which calendar is being used in some cases below. Ironically, it was partly in order to overcome related calendar problems that in c.180 AD, in Rome, the early Christian leader Vlasto tried but failed to 'fix' the date of Easter: see below. c. 2600 – 2000 BC – (Proto-Helladic period) Emborios established on Chios

c. 1600 – 1100 BC – (Mycenaean period) Phana established on Chios

c. 750 – 500 BCKerofilas believes that the hellenic Vlasto family are among those to establish or conquer and then develop many of the region's great trading ports, such as Odessus (now Varna). These pioneers are crucial to all subsequent Mediterranean history since the emergence of its great civilisations depend upon this supply of Black Sea grain, fish and other foodstuffs to feed their growing populations. Such 'Greeks' are believed to have been active in establishing other Greek ports such as Alexandria and Marseilles.

Neal Ascherson: "The first Greeks reached the northern Black Sea coast and set up permanent trading posts there in the eighth century BC... [Eventually it was this encounter between steppe nomads and settled city-state 'citizens' that was to give 'Europeans' a definition of themselves and which allowed them to distinguish Westerners from the ever-threatening 'inferior infidel' – the barbarian from the east] ... the colonists... were mostly Ionian Greeks from the islands and towns along the coast of Asia Minor. Anyway, they were obliged to be pragmatists if they were to survive out on the rim of the known world. It was not ideology which had brought them and their fathers through the Bosphorus and across the Black Sea, but fish. Even by the seventh century, the Aegean city-states were beginning to exhaust the limited arable land around their walls, and it was hunger that drove their ships to the north and east. [Eventually they persuaded the indigenous peoples around the mouths of the great rivers to plough the land and grow wheat. It was Black Sea steppe wheat that fed the world, as far away as Britain, until North American wheat arrived in the late nineteenth century] ... [It was from these beginnings that Pericles led his great naval expedition into the Black Sea in 447 BC – a mission made easier by preparatory spade-work of Herodotus]

[Two rich shipping dynasties, the Heroson and Protogenes families effectively ruled in Olbia. Were the Vlastos doing much the same in Odessus (Varna)?
493 BC – Destruction of Chios in the Persian Wars by the Persians who, under the Achaemenid kings, invade the Aegean islands in 490-480 BC and are defeated at Marathon and Salamis.

447 BC – The expedition to the Black Sea by Pericles (with help from Herodotus) to consolidate Greek control over the trading colonies established there by Ionian Greeks over the previous 200 years. The concept of non-Greek, oriental 'barbarianism' emerges – as found in the 'Persae' by Aeschylus, first performed at Dionysia in 472 BC

431 BC – Beginning of the Peloponnesian War.

424 BC – Fortification of Chios.

300 – 200 BC – Vlasto territories in the Ionian Peninsula are marked by one of the earliest stone inscriptions attributable to a known family. The name Vlasto (in the genitive plural) appears for the first time in a Greek inscription on a stone of Ionian Peninsula origin.

146 BC – Imposition of Roman rule on Chios.

86 BC – Seizure and destruction of Chios by Zenobios, admiral of Mithridates.

8 AD – Ovid is banished from Rome by Augustus to the old Greek colony of Tomi (Constanta, Romania).

c. 50 AD – In The Bible, Acts 12 v. 20, Vlasto is the chamberlain to Herod Agrippa. It was then customary for Rome to appoint Greek administrators as key place-men in sensitive posts in troubled provinces such as Judea. Vlasto was almost certainly involved in the Rome-inspired plot, under the nose of Herod, to have St. Peter secretly released from prison (and almost certain death) in order to prevent the emergence of a second martyr like Jesus Christ. Vlasto may also have been involved in an assassination of the weak Herod Agrippa who 'died of worms' while visiting Caesarea.

185 – A plague devastates the Greek Black Sea ports such as Odessus, now part of the Roman empire. At around this time the Vlastos first appear prominently in Rome.

180 – 192 – In Rome, during the reign of Commodus, the Greek priest and theologian Vlasto (a contemporary of St Irenaeus, to whom he dedicates an epistle) causes great controversy in the early days of the church by proposing that the date of Easter should be 'fixed' and celebrated on the 14th day of the month. The church and Commodus reject the proposal, with consequences to this day. Fixing the date would accord with the laws of Moses which leads Vlasto to be accused of promoting Judaistic beliefs – which, as a Greek and as a Gnostic, would not have been his intention. The reason for Vlasto's proposal is that the earth does not circle the sun precisely every 365 days. Furthermore, the earth's rotation is known to be slowing by about 3 days every 400 years. The subsequent Edict of Nicea in 325 AD rejects the Vlasto proposal in favour of a mathematical formula which is still fiendishly complicated to calculate to this day. [The replacement of the old Julian calendar by the Gregorian calendar of 1582 resulted in many catholic European countries instantly 'losing' 10 days. Protestant England only adopted the new calendar in 1752, 'losing' 11 days. The fact that Russia, Greece and Turkey did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1918, 1923 and 1926 respectively accounts for a 'loss' of 12 or 13 days in their historical records – and for this reason too the Orthodox church still celebrates Christmas on 6 January.]

180 – 192 – This or another Vlasto emerges as a prominent Christian leader in Rome and as the leader of the Marcionite Sect of Gnostics. His views are criticised and out-voted at the very first Church Council in Rome where Gnosticism is declared heretical. Is this the Vlasto who, with St Irenaeus, contributes to the conversion of Constantine?

180 – 192 – The monument (now in the Vatican Museum) in honour of Claudius Vlasto is created on the initiative of his son (and namesake) and of his son's wife, Claudia Charis and reads: D.M. CLODIO BLASTO CLODIUS BLASTUS FIL. PATRI DVLCISSIM[O] B.M.F. ET CLODIA CHARIS CONIVGIB. M.F.

250 – Martyrdom of St Isidore on Chios.

274 – 337 – The Vlastos move to Constantinople with Constantine The Great (where they may already have a presence?) to become one of its six most prominent ruling families.

312 – Edict of Milan. Recognition of Christianity.

330 – Foundation of Constantinople, the first Christian city, by Constantine l..
c. 650 – Destruction of Chios by the Arabs under Moawiya.

1042 – 1055 – Reign of Constantine lX, Monomachos, in Constantinople. Foundation of Nea Moni monastery on Chios.
1092Dimitri 'The Valiant' Vlasto, with eight kinsmen aboard his trireme(s), is among the 90 nobles in around 100 vessels to take part in Emperor Alexis ll Comnene's expeditionary flotilla, led by Grand Duke Jean Doucas. They invade Crete to counter the island's rebel leader, Karikis, who submits to the 'Greek empire' of Byzantium. Though maintaining their role in Constantinople these Vlastos settle in Crete as local rulers, marrying local women, and building the renowned Arkadi Monastery.
The Arkadi Monastery, Crete. Inscriptions within the building identify members of the Vlasto family among those who founded and built it.
A great deal of important information on the Vlasto family in Crete is yet to be gathered from Les Vlasto, Une Famille Patricienne Crétoise. This includes the story of Syphis Vlasto, the terrorist leader of an independence movement (against the occupying Venetians) who, with a daughter, was eventually betrayed, tortured and killed (see below).
1092-1669 – The Vlastos in Crete (translated from Noblesse Européenne)
"... the historical record of this family starts on Crete in 1092 when, to suppress an insurrection, Byzantium sends them there (among twelve Greek aristocrats and their families), giving them the fertile Messara Plain and with orders to pacify the island.

As feudal leaders the Vlasto take command of several rebellions against Venice in 1207, 1283, 1341, 1363 and finally in 1454 when Syphis (Xyphilinos) Vlasto and his family are tortured to death by the [Venetian] authorities.

When, in 1669, following the Turkish victory in the War of Candia, the Venetian general Francesco Morosini organised a retreat of the Cretan nobles to what remained of the Venetian territories in the Levant, the Vlastos re-established themselves in the Ionian Islands and in Istria.

However, feudal Vlastos are found in Zante in 1509, included in the
Livre d'Or in 1574 and as merchants and feudal landowners in Chios, married to the Calerghi family, where their armorials are displayed above the porticoes of their houses in the Vlastoudika quarter.

In Cephalonia, in 1592, an Antonio Vlasto was created a knight by a Palatine count of Lalran and a Knight of Saint Mark by the Doge, Pasquale Cigogna..."
1125 – Chios raided by the Venetians. Removal of the body of St Isidore.

1171 – Chios raided again by the Venetians.

1200-1300 – The well-known doubled-headed eagle of the Byzantine dynasty may have been adopted from the same double eagle symbol previously associated with the Vlastos.

The Vlasto 'double-eagle'.
1204Capture of Constantinople by the Latins. The city is looted by Crusaders who establish feudal states within parts of the old empire.

1261 – Treaty of Nymphaion. First surrender of Chios to the Genoese.

1292 – Siege of Chios by the Normans, led by Roger de Loria.

1300 – Chios raided by the Turks.

1303 – Chios raided by the Catalans.

1307 – Surrender of Chios to Benedetto Zaccaria.

1329 – Expedition to Chios by Andronicos Paleologos. The Paleologos, like the Comnenes, have been rulers of Byzantium at various stages and (like the Vlasto, Ralli and Rodocanachi families) have always been among the first six of the nineteen (twenty?) ruling noble families of Constantinople (see: Aymon, according to La Croix). Five hundred years later the tombs of the Paleologos, Rallis, Vlastos and Rodocanachis lie side by side in Trieste – all of them exiles.

1346Seizure of Chios by the Genoese, largely under the rule of the Giustiniani family who later inter-marry with the local noble families.

1380-1388 – Unsuccessful conspiracy against the Genoese on Chios. After this the occupation by the Genoese has profound and lasting influences on every aspect of life on the island including its architecture, decoration, costume, agricultural practices, domestic life, ship design, etc. Importantly, the Orthodox community is willing to assimilate and/or recognise many important tenets of Roman Catholicism in order to avoid disharmony. This includes churches which probably served Catholic and Orthodox congregations side by side. Many Greek families even adapt their names to accommodate Genoese alliances: e.g. Calvocoressi, Petrocochino, Mavrogordato, Rodocanachi, etc. The formation of the Maona (chartered company).

1389 – Major earthquake on Chios.

The Giustiniani medical chest, now at the Science Museum, London, which once belonged to the family of the Genoese Giustiniani family who governed Chios from 1346 to 1566.
1431 – Siege of the Chios Kastro by the Venetians but which remains in Genoese control.

One of the many towers around the vast Chios Kastro, built in Byzantine times and subsequently much altered by succeeding invaders such as the Genoese, the Venetians and the Ottoman Turks. It was to play a key role in 1821-22, being the home of the Turkish governor, the pasha, and the last defence of his Ottoman troops when Logothetis and his rabble army of 'liberators' from neighbouring Samos invaded and ransacked the island.
1453 – Capture of Constantinople by Mohammed ll and the Turks. End of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Metropolitan of Moscow assumes leadership of the Orthodox Church on the fall of Constantinople.

1474 – Christopher Columbus (whose mother may have come from Chios) visits Chios to study under Andreolus Giustiniani at his 'Homer's House' residence.

1566 – The beginning of Turkish rule on Chios when it is captured, almost unopposed (on Easter Sunday) by Piali Pasha, Grand Admiral of the Ottoman Fleet, with just eight ships. The Genoese withdraw, though the Giustiniani family remains.

A view of The Chora, the town of Chios
'Civitas Orbis Terrarum' – Cologne 1573, G. Braun & F. Hohenberg
(C. Koutsikas Collection)

1588 – The learned monk Meletios Vlastos, of the monastery of St Catherine near Candia in Crete, teaches Cyril Lucaris, then aged 16, who later becomes first Patriarch of Alexandria in 1601 and then Patriarch of Constantinople in 1620. c.1600 – c.1700 – A branch of the Vlasto family settles in Zante (from Crete) to become members of the noble council of the island. At about the same time others of the Cretan Vlastos settle in Chios. Their presence there is often mentioned in the codex of the Latin bishopric and the codices of the church from the beginning of the C17th. Among these are Cocos Vlasto (1625), Christophe Vlasto (1630), Antoine Vlasto (1634), Joseph Vlasto (1646), Perris Vlasto (1679). Several Vlastos may have resettled in Constantinople in the early C18th.

Jean Vlasto becomes grand spathaire to Prince C Caradja de Valachie (Wallachia). In 1603 Cassandre Vlasto marries Nicolas Caradja, grand komis at the Moldavian court and grandson of Moldavian foreign minister Constantine Caradja (whose sister had married Thomas Vlasto).

A C16th view of The Kastro, Chios.
17th Century – A prominent figure at the Venetian Court, Nicholas Vlasto, appreciates the significance of the printing press – at the same time as Caxton in London and Gütenburg in Germany –. He is the first to print and publish the great classical texts of Greece and Rome (e.g. Homer and Plato), without which the influence of classical history would never emerge in Europe. Examples of his work are in the author's collection.

1599 – Chios unsuccessfully attacked by the Florentines.

1681 – Bombardment of Chios harbour by Dequesne.

1694-1695 – Capture of Chios by the Venetians. Their occupation lasts about a year and their departure brings to an end all attempts by the Greek population to assimilate (or compromise) their Orthodox religious beliefs and practices to Roman Catholicism. Henceforth the old ruling families revert wholly to Orthodoxy while a small minority remain avowedly Roman Catholic. However, other old Genoese influences remain strong among members of the ruling Orthodox families.

1695 – Turkish rule of Chios resumes.

1733-1774 – The Vlastos in Istria & Cephalonia (translated from Noblesse Européenne
"... The branch of the Vlasto family established in Istria quickly recovered its former pre-eminent position. According to charters granted to them, they sacrificed their blood and their lives in gallant public service (i.e. in the Turkish Wars), recovered their fortunes, converted to Catholicism and made marriages with Venetian patriarchal families such as the Balbi, Harozvi, Premarin, Priuli and Corner. Such excellent alliances meant that these Vlastos were granted the rank of ??? Originaria (if not included in the Libro d'Oro of Venice) and, according to a charter of 31-08-1774, invested as Counts with 'hereditary noble territories', having conducted themselves 'with merit and decorum and having fulfilled with honour the degree of nobility uniquely necessary in the concession of such a title'.

One member of this [Cephalonia] branch, Gregory Vlasto, related to the Borisi and Mamuca della Torre and son-in-law of Prince of Wallachia Serban Cantacuzene, put himself at the service of Austria as imperial counsellor after the annexation by the Habsburgs of Wallachia following the Treaty of Passarovitz (1718). Emperor Leopold l gave him the hereditary title of Baron du Saint-Empire by a charter of 10-01-1733. On this occasion the charter specifies, among much else, that the 'generous, magnificent and well-born' Gregory Vlasto is entitled to bear arms everywhere: 'on foot, on horseback, on military exercises, in battle, in all authorised duels or jousts, on standards, flags, tents, sepulchres, monuments, jewellery, rings, chains, buckets, buildings, windows, doors, tapestries, silverware' etc..."

[No descendants of these particular Vlastos are known to exist.]

The earliest known image of a Vlasto above left may be that of Zannis Vlasto (1) (b. 1695) of Chios. If so, his wife above centre is Maria Argenti (b. 1696) and one of their three children is the only daughter above right, Vierou Vlasto (1722-1748).
Zannis Vlasto (3) (1766-1830) below married Angeliki Petrocochino (1774-1835) and of their five children, their daughter Zennou Vlasto (3) (1798-1876) appears elsewhere on this page.

c. 1780 – Pandély Vlasto settles in Vienna maintaining a long correspondence with Adamandios Koraïs, the Hellenist savant (see below). It is probably Pandély's son who becomes aide-de-camp to one of the Ypsilanti brothers, Greek military leaders in the War of Independence. In his 'Memoires', Maxime Raybaud, commander of the Philhellenic Corps, mentions him as 'belonging to one of the first families of the Island of Chios, [now] established in Vienna'.

1792 – The scholar Adamandios Koraïs founds the Koraïs Library on Chios. Thirty years later (1821-22) it was to be sacked by invaders from neighbouring Samos. [Today it houses the Argenti Collection, including family portraits, costumes, textiles and memorabilia assembled by Philip Argenti, a Vlasto descendant.]

Adamantios Koraïs & The Koraïs Library, Chios.

Go next to:

Events in 1814-1822
– The Greek War of Indpendence –
events immediately prior to the 1822 Massacres of Chios

Scenes from The Massacres At Chios by Eugène Delacroix captured the public's imagination and sympathy in 1824 when it was bought by King Charles X of France for the Louvre. It also captured the imagination of the author who was introduced to it quite suddenly, in 1961, at the age of twelve.

© (1998) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
The text and graphical content of this and linked documents are the copyright of their author and or creator and site designer, Christopher Long, unless otherwise stated. No publication, reproduction or exploitation of this material may be made in any form prior to clear written agreement of terms with the author or his agents.

Christopher Long

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