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LESBOS Greece.

An island at the NE corner of the Aegean Sea, at the entrance to the Gulf of Adramyttion (Bdremit) in Asia Minor. Its shape is notable for two gulfs with very narrow mouths. The Gulf of Kalloni (ca. 20 km long) was called in antiquity Pyrrhaios Buripos. The Gulf of Geras was ancient Hiera (ca. 13 km long). Lesbos, according to tradition, was named for son of Lapithos, the descendant of Deucalion and Hellen, and grandson of Aiolos, founder of the Aiolian tribe.

The significant number of Mycenaean sherds found on the surface in 1970 at the extensive ruins of Kourtir, on the gulf of Kalloni, near the town of Lisvori, and the numerous sherds from ruins of other periods, testify to continuous occupation of the site from at least the Late Neolithic to the Geometric period.

The island reached its zenith in the archaic period, but even before 700 B.C. Mytilene controlled the Aiolian cities on the shore of Asia Minor opposite the island and in the Troad up to the Hellespont. Because of this the Mytilenaians came into collision with the growing sea power of the Athenians, who disputed their possession of the Aiolian colony, Sigeion.

Lesbos paid tribute to the Persians under Cyrus. In 499 B.C. Lesbos joined the Ionian revolt against the Persians, and in 494 took part in the battle of Lade with 70 triremes. After the defeat at Lade, Lesbos was subject to the Persians, but was freed after the Persian defeat at Mycale in 479 B.C. It then joined the Athenian Alliance, from which the Mytilenaians revolted in 428 B.C., although the Methymnians remained loyal to Athens and found themselves opposed to a confederation of the other large cities of the island. In 427, after a siege, the Athenians gained control of Mytilene, and divided a large section of the island among 2700 Athenians cleruchs, after harshly punishing the instigators of the revolt. In 405 B.C. the Spartan admiral Lysander became master of the entire island after his victory at Aigos Potamoi on the Hellespont. After the success of Konon, Mytilene once more joined the Athenian Alliance in 392 B.C., and the Athenian general Thrasyboulos restored the rest of the island to Athenian control. Lesbos was made autonomous by the Peace of Antalkidas in 387, but in 385 came again under Spartan domination. The island broke away in 369 and joined the second Athenian Confederacy. In 357 B.C. it was obliged to recognize Persian domination and to establish an oligarchical constitution. Lesbos finally broke away from the Persians and the oligarchs when Alexander the Great invaded Asia in 332 B.C. After Alexander's death it came into the hands of those of his successors who controlled the Aegean.

In 167 B.C. the Romans destroyed Antissa because it was allied to Perseus, the king of Macedon. Lesbos joined the Greek revolt against Rome in the Mithridatic war and in 88 B.C. the Romans destroyed Mytilene and extended Roman domination over the whole island. Pompey later gave Mytilene autonomy, which the Emperor Vespasian revoked in A.D. 70, but which the Emperor Hadrian later restored. Life remained peaceful on Lesbos until the 8th c. A.D. when attacks of various barbarian peoples against the island began.

The most notable cities of Lesbos were Mytilene, Methymna, Antissa, Bresos and Pyrrha. The city of Arisba was independent before the time of Herodotos, but was soon taken over by Methymna.


The older city of Mytilene was located on an islet on which a fortress of the Byzantine period, repaired under the Genoese and the Turks, is now preserved. This original city later expanded onto the main part of Lesbos. Excavation of the ancient theater began in 1958, although the first trial findings were made in the 19th c. The orchestra has a diameter of 25.26 m and is almost perfectly circular, which shows this to be one of the oldest theaters in Greece. The theater of Mytilene was so beautiful that Pompey copied the plan when he built the first great stone theater in Rome.

Excavation of mosaic pavements dating to the beginning of the 4th c. B.C., which have representations of scenes from Menander's plays, was begun in 1961 near the ancient theater, in an area now called Khorafa. Other mosaic pavements of the Roman period have been uncovered in front of the entrance to the church of Ag. Therapon, and a striking portion of a Classical structure (probably an aqueduct) of the beginning of the 4th c. B.C. was found NW of this church. At the same site a road of the early Hellenistic period was discovered, made of soft brown limestone, preserved to a width of 3.6 m.

Twenty minutes walk NE of the village of Moria (ca. 7 km NW of Mytilene) one can see the best-preserved section of the Roman aqueduct which appears to have brought water to Mytilene from the Megali Limni (Great Lake) which has now been drained. Portions of the same aqueduct are preserved W of the village of Lambou Myloi (Mills of Lambos) and there are other traces of it along its route. About 500 m S of the Spa of Thermi and near the village of Pyrgoi Thermi, on the shore, is a part of the remains of the prehistoric town of Thermi, dating to the Bronze Age (3d and 2d millennium B.C.) now covered with earth.

Ancient Hiera

should theoretically be located on the shore in the area of the modern villages of Gera, Papados, Plakados, Paliokipos, Skopelos, and Mesagros, N of the harbor of Perama, on the site called Khalatses.

A small marble Doric temple on the peninsula of Agios Phokas in S Lesbos has been identified as the Temple of Dionysos Bresagenes. It was incorporated in a church of the Christian period, and was uncovered in 1971 when the church of Ag. Phokas was moved to clear the area of the ruins, first noted in the 19th c. On the E side of the peninsula is an inlet with the remains of ancient harbor works.

On the E shore of the Gulf of Kalloni, NW and W of the market town of Polichnitos, settlements of various periods were discovered in 1960, mainly at the sites called Khalakies, Ara, Perivola, Ampelia, and Nyphida. The most ancient of these appears to be at Khalakies.

Excavation of the prehistoric settlement at Kourtir, dating from the Late Neolithic to the Geometric period, started in 1972. On the shore at Kourtir are ancient harbor works under water which have not yet been described in detail. They may be the more ancient of the two Pyrrhas mentioned by Pliny (HN 5.139): “of these Pyrrha is swallowed by the sea . . . there remain Bresos, Pyrrha and free Mytilene.”

The area which preserves the ancient name of Pyrrha, ca. 6 or 7 km NE of the ruins at Kourtir of Lisvori, has a fortified circuit wall and the remains of Classical and Roman buildings. About 5 or 6 km N of Pyrrha of Akhladeri in the place called Mesa, near Kryoneri, there are remains of an ancient temple, perhaps identified with the temple erected by the Achaean-Aeolians to Zeus', Hera, and Dionysos when they first arrived in Lesbos. It has been suggested that this temple at Mesa was the federal shrine of the Lesbians, in which the assemblies and councils of the Federation of Lesbian Cities were held, and federal law cases tried.

About 5 km NW of the market town of Ag. Paraskevi, at the place called Klopedi, are the remains of an archaic and Classical temple, possibly the Temple of Apollo Napaios mentioned by Strabo (9.426) from which Pelops sought an oracular pronouncement.

The remains of the acropolis of ancient Arisba, which was taken over by Methymna before the time of Herodotos (1.151), are NE of the market town of Kalloni and N of the village of Nea Arisba. There are houses of megaron form, and a large section of wall built of Lesbian masonry, with an entrance and tower.

Methymna (Molybos)

is at the N end of Lesbos, ca. 61 km NW of Mytilene. It was the next most powerful city state on the island after Mytilene. During the war between Athens and Sparta Methymna always opposed Mytilene and tended to resist the hegemony of whichever side was favored by Mytilene. Before the time of Herodotos Methymna had taken over Arisba by force, and in 167 B.C. when the Romans destroyed Antissa, they gave her territory to Methymna. Some archaeological discoveries were made in Methymna in the 19th c., and after WWI traces of an ancient settlement dating from as early as the 7th or possibly 8th c. B.C. and continuing to Roman times were found at Dambia, NW of the present town.


is believed to be NW of the modern town of Skalokhori, on the peninsula called Nisi, Ovriokastro, or Kastro ton Genoveson, E of the place where the river Voulgaris issues into the Tsamourliman (Mud Harbor) and ca. 9 km NE of the modern market town of Antissa which was called Telonia during the Turkish period and up to the 1930s. There are smaller ruined settlements W of Skalokhori, near Liota on the bay of Gavathas, and also farther W between the bay of Pokhi and Orphikia in the area of Lapsarna. The site of Antissa, which was excavated before WWII, may also be the location of the Byzantine castle of Ag. Theodoroi whose name appears in old maps. During its independent period, Antissa was rarely on friendly terms with the neighboring state of Methymna, but those who survived after the destruction of the city in 167 B.C. were forced to incorporate with the Methymnians.


The remains of the ancient city are near the Skala (harbor) of the modern inland town of Eresos, ca. 92 km from Mytilene. Strabo (13.618) mentions this site. The chief preserved antiquities are a part of the pre-Hellenistic and Hellenistic isodomic circuit wall, some remains of buildings, and the ruins of the ancient harbor. In 1931 a local archaeological collection was begun, which includes finds of various periods.


R. Koldewey, Die antiken Baureste der Insel Lesbos . . . (1890); B. Ledyard-Shields, The Cults of Lesbos (1917); W. Lamb, Excavations at Thermi in Lesbos (1936); G. Mihailov, Annuaire Univ. Sofia, Fac. hist. phil. 46 (1949-50); L. Robert, REA 62 (1960) 285ff; J. D. Quinn, AJA 65 (1961) 391ff; C. Picard, “Où fut à Lesbos, au VIIe siècle, l'asqle temporaire du poète Alcée?” RA (1962) 2, 43-69; M. Paraskevaïdis, “Pyrrha auf Lesbos,” RE (1963) 1403-20; M. Treu, Alkaios Lieder (2d ed. 1963) 130-203; J. M. Cook, “Greek Settlement in the Eastern Aegean and Asia Minor,” CAH II (rev. ed. 1964) C. XXXVIII; E. Kirsten & W. Kraiker, Griechenlandkunde (5th ed. 1967); S. Charitonidis et al., “Les mosaïques de la maison du Menandère à Mytilène,” AntK 6. Beih. (1970).

TITLES IN GREEK ONLY. Δημ. Μαντζουράνη, Οἱ πρῶτες ἐγκαταστάσεις τῶν Ἑλλήνων στή Λέσβο (1949); Σ. Γ. Παρασκευαΐδου, Ἐπιβίωσις τοῦ ἀπχαίου Ἑλληνικοῦ βίου ἐν Λέσβῳ (1956); Μ. Παρασκευαΐδη, ἄθρονΛέσβος,” εἰς Ἐγκυκλοπαιδικόν Δεξικόν Ἐλευθερουδάκη-Συμπλήρωμα 8 (1964) 925/1077—926/1078; “Νέες ἀρχαιολογικές ἐνδείξεις γιά τή Λέσβο,” Δελτίον τῆς Ἐταιρείας Λεσβιακῶν Μελετῶν-Λεσβιακά 5 (1965) 198-219; Μ. Παρασκευαΐδη, ἀρχαιολογικά καί βιβλιογραφικά περί Λέσβου εἰς τό βιβλίον τοῦ Κώστα Μάκιστου (Παπαχαραλάμπους) Σελλάδα τῆς Ἁγίας Παρασκευῆς Λέσβου (1970) 241-69; Γεωπγίου Δουκάκη, τουρισμός τῆς νήσου Λέσβου (διδακτορική διατριβή διά τήν Ἀνωτάτην Βιομηχανικήν Σχολήν Ἀθηνῶν) (1959); Γιάννη Λάσκαρι, “Τά λείφανα τῆς ἀρχαίας Ἐρεσοῦ,” εἰς Δελτίον τῆς Ἑταιπείας Λεσβιακῶν Μελετῶν-Λεσβιακα (1959) 67-74; Ἰωάννου Φουντούλη, Γαβριήλ Μητροπολίτου Μηθύμνης, Περιγραφή τῆς Λέσβου (κατά τό 1636-41) (1960); Ἰωάννου Μουτζούρη, “Μεσαιωνικά κάστρα τῆς Λέσβουεἰς Δελτίον τής Ἑταιρείας Λεσβιακῶν Μελετῶν-Λεσβιακά (1962), 50-68; Σερ. Χαριτωνίδη, “Παλαιοχριστιανική τοπογραφία τῆς Λέσβουεις Ἀρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 23 (1968) 10-69; Δέσποινας Χαρζῆ, ἀνυπόγραφου ἄρθρονΛέσβοςεἰςΔομή, έγκυκλοπαίδεια ἔγχρωμη” 9 (1971) 324-29; Γιάννη Κοντῆ, “Τά κατά Δάφνιν καί Χλόην τοῦ Λόγγου καί Λέσβος,” εις περιοδικόν Αἰολικά Γράμματα 2 (1972), τεῦχος 9.


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