The first is that the name Chios stems from "Chiona," who was the daughter of the island's ancient King Inopion. The other theory is that comes from the name "Hios," the son of Neptune, at the birth of whom, too much snow (hioni) fell on the island. Folklore contends Chios was the birthplace of both the Greek poet Homer in 8 BCE, and that of Christopher Columbus in 1451. Chios is the place where he got his navigation maps.

Isle of Chios documents record a small Jewish population from at least 1049 AD.The original Greek (Romaniote) Jews, thought to have been brought over by the Romans, were later joined by Sephardic Jews welcomed during the Iberian expulsions of the 15th century.
The Venetian and Genovese left their mark, with Chios Jewish families having kept Italian surnames like Scandalli, Segala, and Gaspari. While visiting in the 14th century, the Talmud codifier and author of the Arban Tourin, Rabbi Jacob ben Asher of Toledo and his ten men fell ill and died on the island; his tomb is still visited by Jews today.

Throughout the  ages and medieval years, Chios was known as a significant Mediterranean seaport as it was a landmark separating East and West. In 1346 when the Genovese took the island over, many Jewish financiers and merchants arrived with them. This is evident by the notarized seals found with Jewish Italian surnames on historical deeds from the period. The Jews were afforded security and economic prospects by the Genovese on the island.

There was a flourishing city on Chios which thrived in trading pottery, wine, marble, silk, and mastic resin.