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1. Mythology

The island had many prehistoric names such as: Imerti (longed for), Lassia (densely forested), Aiyeria (The place of the sun-browned people), Aithiope(sun-drenched island), and Makaria, which was the name of the mythical originator of the race, Makaras, son of the Sun, who cme to the island and was received as a prudent and enlightened sovereign. During his reign five towns were built: Mytilini, Issa, Antissa, Mithymna and Avrisi, which took their names from the five daughters of Makaras.Erressos was named after his son. The reign of Makaras and his successors lasted until the flood of Deucalion, when the island was laid desolate.

Lesvos is mentioned in the Homeric epics. During the early years of the Trojan war, Odysseus fought and defeated King Philomileidis. Achilles attacked the island many times. During one of these invasions along the south coast he captured the beautiful Brysiida and went into a rage when Agamemnon took her from him.Homer mentions that the seven women whom Agamemnon offered to Achilles to appease him were from Lesvos and "surpassed in beauty the entire race of women". The poet Parthenios tells us that Achilles managed to breach the powerful fortifications of Mithymna through the treachery of the daughter of King Peisidikis.

According to the historian Myrsilos, there was an important santuary to Apollo at Mt. Lepetymnos. He and Artemis were especially worshipped by the people of Lesvos. Theophrastus mentions that the astroloder Matriketas had his observatory on the peak of Mt Lepetymnos. According to another ancient tradition the tomb of the Homeric hero Palamides, the inventor of letters and numbers, was on the slopes of the same mountain.

The myth of Orpheus is well known. He was so skilled in music that even the animals and the stones were moved by his songs.His music made the men of Thrace leave their wives and stay by his side night and day just to listen to his melodies.The Maenads were so infuriated by this that they killed him and threw his dismembered body into the Evros river which carried it out to sea where the waves brought his head and his lyre to the shores of Lesvos, near Antissa. The inhabitants buried his head with full honors and dedicated his lyre to the temple of Apollo. Acoording to another version, his lyre was taken by the citharist of Lesvos, Terpander. In the area of Antissa is the place known as Orphykia and, it is said, the nightingales there have a sweeter song then anywhere else on earth.

Mythological accounts say that the island took it's name from the brother-in-law of Makaras, Lesvos. Another account says there was a town on the island called Lesvos and the island got the name from there. This town was most probably located in the area of Lisvorios, where important pre-historic ruins have been found on the Kourtir headland on the bay of Kaloni. But the name of the island is also atrributed to it's magnificant natural setting.

2. Ancient Times

The evidence that archeological excavations have bought to light indicates that Lesvos has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic period. During the Bronze age it had already developed an exceptionally advanced civilization. The excavations that were carried out in the nineteen-thirties by the English archeologist Winifred Lamb in the area around Thermi, exposed settlement structures of small towns. After the discovery the settlement was covered up but visitors can see the portable finds at the Mytilini Museum: clay pots, figurines, tools weapons and so forth. These excavations have revealed that a civilization developed on the island similar to the Trojan and Mycenean. The geographical location of the island allowed it to be influenced by the neighboring Troy.



In 1507 B.C. the island was colonized by the Pelasgians. In 1393-1184 it was ruled by the Aecheans and from 1100-1000, by the Aeolians who intermingled with the old population and gave the island their language and culture. The people of Lesvs became extremely active on the sea and colonized the coast of Asia Minor which became known as the Coast of the Mytilinians . At Troy they build Achilleio in honor of Achilles and a little further north they built Sigeio. Their command of the sea brought them into conflict with the Athenians.

3. Historical Times

When the Persians seized the state of Lydia in 456 BC, Lesvos came under their control. In 527 it took part in the campaign of Kamvysis, King of the Medians and the Persians, against Egypt and in 513 it assisted Darius against the Scythians. In 499 it joined in the revolution of the Ionians against the Persa and in 492 was subjected by the Persians. In 479 after the battle of Mykalis, it threw off the Persian yoke and participated in the Attico-Eleian League.

During the Peleponnesian war, with the exception of Mithymna, the island revolted against the Athenians and in 427 the Athenian general Pachis the Epicure conquered the island. The walls were pulled down and the land divided among 3000 Athenians. Thousands of Mytilenians were put to death. I 405 Lesvos seccumbed to the Spartans who were led by Lysander. There followed an exchange of power between the Athenians and the Spartans and in 375 Lesvos took part in the second Athenian league.

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