is the birthplace of many poets, musicians and artists of
the antiquity and modern times, who have derived their inspiration
and creativity from the rich environs of the island.
Since it is the
third biggest of all Greek islands, it can uniquely
provide ample opportunities for exploration and discovery.
The archaeological diversity of Lesvos makes it easy to
trace its eventful historical past, while experiencing its
present, while continuing to retain originality, tradition
Its mythology and history
can fill many books, however in this web site we will only
attempt a potted version from the Neolithic period and until
resent times. For the uninitiated it will be journey of
discovery and a staring point for further exploration.
to myth, the first inhabitants of the island were the Pelasgians
who gave it its initial name "Pelasgia". During
the prehistoric era the island was called
" Makaria", "Lassia", "Aeolis".
But its current name "Lesvos" comes from Lesvos
- the son of the Greek hero Lapithos. Most town, rivers
and mountain names have a mythological origin. The great
poet Homer makes reference to Lesvos in his epics as a place
that was visited by many warriors/heroes of the Trojan War
(Vatera - Achilopigado)
archaeological excavations have shown that Lesvos was occupied
since the end of the Neolithic
Period - Natural History Museum at Vrissa.Until
the start of the Bronze Age - 3000 B.C. Lesvos had developed
a notable civilisation, which continued over the periods
of the Trojan, Minoan and Mycenaean civilisations.
From 1393 to 1184 B.C. the
Achaeans who were followed by the Aeolians inhabited the
island. The Aeolians assimilated with the Achaeans, the
two races sympathetically merging to develop Lesvos into
a thriving island.
During the 6th and 7th century
B.C. the island truly became a centre of civilisation, flourishing
both commercially and culturally. Amongst the many who influenced
these trends was Terpandros
(700 B.C.) poet and great musician, the father of ancient
lyrical poetry, Pittacus
(648 B.C.) one of the seven wise sages of Ancient Greece,
who governed the island with expertise as a politician and
B.C.) a charismatic lyrical poet and musician, and
(600 B.C.) another great lyrical poet. The famous poetess
Sappho (620 B.C.) expressed
passionately her love for life and beauty through lyrical
and erotic rimes and won the name of the "tenth muse".
(This has been sadly misinterpreted in our times and the
name of the island has been purloined to mean something
else other than someone who hails from Lesvos/Lesbos).
significant personalities of the island are
(372 B.C.) philosopher and botanist - known as the father
of botany and Theophanes
(100 B.C.) a significant historian who accompanied Pompey
in his Asia Minor expeditions.
In 334 B.C. the island formed
an alliance with Alexander the Great. Sadly after his death,
when his empire was shared amongst his three generals. Lesvos
found itself under the rule of Ptolemy ruler of Egypt. This
lasted until 88 B.C. when the island was taken over by the
Romans. Many famous Romans visited the island then, as it
was being used as a place of exile for the rich and politically
powerful. Many accomplished Lesvians became advisors to
the Roman Leaders, thus the island benefited by special
dispensations granted by the Romans.
theatre of Mytilene originally build in the 5th Century
B.C. was renovated by the Romans. An aqueduct was build
to ensure that sufficient water supplies reached Mytilene.
The remains of the aqueduct can still be found in MORIA.
During the Byzantine period
the island was also used as a place of exile and thus it
benefited from the presence of many worthy people. It is
confirmed that Empress Irene the Athenean and emperor Constantine
VIII the Monomachos were confined to the island. The symbol
of the Byzantine period - two headed eagle symbolising the
equal power of church and state- can be seen today in many
churches and important buildings.
In 1355 A.C. Lesvos was given
to the Genoese aristocrat Francesco Gatelluzi as part of
the dowry of his future wife, sister of the Emperor Ioanni
Palaeologo E'. This is considered as the beginning of a
new era, during which the Lesvians had great support and
great interest was shown for their history, culture and
the arts. The rule of the Gatelluzi family ceased rather
abrupt when the Ottoman Turks overrun Greece and took over
the island in 1462.
During the years of the Turkish
occupation, the cultural and financial life in the island
declines but during the 15th century the Monastery of LIMONOS
becomes the centre of the island's intellectual revival.
The Lesvians fought to keep their faith, language and national
identity. They achieved this through the churches and monasteries
keeping secret schools to educate the children in the Greek
language and culture.
Very many ancient books were
copied for this purpose and they can be seen today in the
museum at the Limonos monastery. In the 18th Century significant
personalities appear again: Ignatius of Hungary-Wallachia
and Benjamin the Lesvian, who is numbered among a group
of 18th and 19th century scholars known as the "teachers
of the race"
Inadvertently Lesvos became
an important centre for the Turkish fleet, due to its strategic
location and many battles were fought in the sea around
the island. One resistance fighter called Pappanikolis used
a small boat with oars, full of dynamite to sabotage the
great Turkish frigate called "Moving Mountain"
in the bay of Eressos in May 1821. The Turks avenged this
by slaughtering the islanders, an act so abhorrent it is
still referred to today as "to megalo tsoulousi".
The statue of Papanikoli erected on the coast of Eressos
looks out to the bay, in remembrance.
Lesvos was free from the Turks
in 1912. The Greek fleet took over Mytilene and the Turkish
flag was removed after the final battle in Klapados. This
flag is now exhibited in the Monastery of Limonas.
In the 19th century the brothers
Dimitrios and Georgios Vernardakis, Georgios Aristedis and
Christophoros Leilios support Greek education in the island
and the revival begins.
Later in the 20th century,
Stratis Myrivilis (both novelists), the poet
and Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis
and many others contributed to the intellectual revival
of the island. Certainly this was not limited only to literature
and poetry. The folk painter Theophilos
Chatzimichalis and the art critic and editor
of art books Stratis Eleftheriades
each make a contribution to art,
To this day cultural life
on the island is rich and there are many people and societies
that continue to contribute to the ongoing intellectual
revival of Lesvos.