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
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.
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.
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
. . . (1890); B. Ledyard-Shields, The
Cults of Lesbos
(1917); W. Lamb, Excavations at Thermi
(1936); G. Mihailov, Annuaire Univ. Sofia,
Fac. hist. phil
. 46 (1949-50); L. Robert, REA
(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
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, ἄθρον “Λέσβος,” εἰς Ἐγκυκλοπαιδικόν Δεξικόν Ἐλευθερουδάκη-Συμπλήρωμα
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
) Ἡ Σελλάδα τῆς Ἁγίας Παρασκευῆς Λέσβου
(1970) 241-69; Γεωπγίου Δουκάκη, Ὁ 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
1636-41) (1960); Ἰωάννου Μουτζούρη
, “Μεσαιωνικά κάστρα τῆς Λέσβου
” εἰς Δελτίον τής Ἑταιρείας Λεσβιακῶν Μελετῶν-Λεσβιακά
(1962), 50-68; Σερ. Χαριτωνίδη
, “Παλαιοχριστιανική τοπογραφία τῆς Λέσβου
” εις Ἀρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον
23 (1968) 10-69; Δέσποινας Χαρζῆ, ἀνυπόγραφου ἄρθρον
“Δομή, έγκυκλοπαίδεια ἔγχρωμη
” 9 (1971) 324-29; Γιάννη Κοντῆ
, “Τά κατά Δάφνιν καί Χλόην τοῦ Λόγγου καί ἡ Λέσβος
,” εις περιοδικόν Αἰολικά Γράμματα
2 (1972), τεῦχος