home

GR

HISTORY OF LESVOS


Overview:

Facing the coast of Asia Minor, Mytilini, city of poets, blends old and new. The old is seen in the low buildings, souk, and alleys around and below the fortress. The modern city has new structures and street-plan, large squares and parks.
In among the parks stand the neoclassical mansions that the locals call pyrgelia (little towers).

Names of the Island from ancient times:
Pelasgia, Issa, Ethiopia, Aegeira, Mytonis, Imertea, Lasia, Makarea, and Lesvos, King Makareus descendant of hero Aeolus colonizing the island gave names to cities of his children (Eresos, Mythimna, Mythemna married Aeolus grandson  Lesvos, Lesvos became powerful he give names to other cities of his daughters Mytiline, Antisa, Arisvi).  

Geography - Demography:

Lesvos is an island in the eastern Aegean Sea with a surface area of 1636 sq. km, making it the third largest Greek island. It is 188 nautical miles (knots) from Piraeus, 218 from Thessaloniki, and 55 from its neighbour island Chios.
Population is 100,000.
The capital is Mytilini with 28,879 residents.

History:  LESVOS AND THE TROJAN WAR
The island has been inhabited since 3,300 B.C.
During the Trojan war the Achaeans invaded Lesvos many times, according to Homer. Later, in the 10th century B.C., the Aeolians settled the island.
In the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., Lesbos and its capital of Mytilini was a major commercial and cultural centre, (particularly 589-579 B.C.) under Pittacus, one of the Seven Sages.

In 527 B.C. the island was overrun by the Persians. In 479 B.C., however, it joined the Athenian League.
Subsequently it was invaded by Macedonians, the Ptolemes, king Mithridates of Pontus (88-79 B.C.), and the Romans.
In Byzantine times Lesvos was invaded by Slavs, Saracens and the Catalans. It became part of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204-1247). In 1354 it was ceded to Genoa by Michael Paleologos, in exchange for the help of the Genoese in re-establishing the Byzantine empire, finally it was freed from the Franks in 1261.
The next to occupy the island were the Ottoman Turks (1462), who systematically attempted to convert the population to Islam. It was liberated and reunited with Greece in 1912.
Ten years after Liberation, in 1922, the year of the Asia Minor catastrophe and the destruction of Smyrni, the island was flooded with refugees, as a result of the Exchange of Populations.

Sights:
The Venetian castle. In its initial form it was a Byzantine structure (some parts on the east survive). It was restored by Francisco Gattilusi in 1373. It is the largest castle in the Mediterranean.
The ancient theatre near the refugee settlement.
A rectangular building hewn from the rock, near the Yacht Club. Early Christian Martyrs were buried there after enduring torture.
The fine mosaics of 'Meander's House' at Chorafa, a mansion of the post-Roman era. The mosaics depict scenes from Menander's comedies.
The ruins of the 5th century B.C. polygonal wall of the ancient town, standing on the Agia Kyriaki cemetery, north of the ancient theatre.
The Archaeological Museum, near the statue of Liberty, housing exhibits from different areas on the island. There are pre-historic finds from the Thermi settlements and archaic-classical ones form Mytilini, Mithymna, Antissa. There is also an inscribed marble throne from the ancient theatre and Aeolic capital on display. Inside the museum there is Orpheus' octagon, the mosaic depicting scenes from Menander's comedies.

Museums:

The Byzantine Museum in the courtyard of the Agios Therapon church, housing Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons and costly Christian relics.
The Folk Art Museum (the Theophilos Museum), the house in which the folk artist Theophilos was born, in Varia, an area 3.5 km away from Mytilini. The museum was a gift from the Mytilinian art critic Eleftheriadis-Tériade and the painter Yiannis Tsarouchis curated it.
The Museum-Library, a modern art museum near the Theophiilo's Museum. It houses works of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Le Corbusier, Leger, Miro, Giacometti, Tsarouchis, and others. It is a donation by Tériade.

The Municipal Library, with 30,000 volumes.
A magnificent traditional house, the residence of Marika Vlachou, near the Metropolitan cathedral.
Old mansions in various parts of the town, several of which are now used as consulates.
Neoclassical buildings: the Town Hall, the former Agricultural Bank building, the Law Courts, the Lyceum in the public gardens, and the Grande Bretagne hotel.

The Agios Therapon church, built in 1900 in the neoclassical style.

The Metropolitan cathedral, built in the 17th century, with its conspicuous dome. The relics of St Theodore of Byzantium are kept here.

The Agios Vartholomeos cave and its stalactites.
The Agia Varvara church, with a marble rood screen by the famous Greek sculptor Halepas.

Various Information:
The island is the birthplace of the ancient poets and musicians Sappho, Alcaeus, and Arion, and of the historian Hellanicus.
Lesvos is also the birthplace of the modern Greek writers and poets, Myrivilis, Eftaliotis, Venezis, and Elytis and of the folk painter Theophilos.
The Olympic gold medallist sprinter Kostas Kenteris was born in Mytilini.
 

LESBOS IN THE TROJAN WAR - BY EMILY L. SHIELDS Smith College

home

GR

 

OLIVE OIL PRODUCERS CORPORATION OF STIPSI or STYPSI in LESVOS