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LEMNOS (Λῆμνος: Eth. Λήμνιος), one of the larger islands in the Aegaean sea, situated nearly midway between Mount Athos and the Hellespont. According to Pliny (4.12. s. 23), it lay 22 miles SW. of Imbros, and 87 miles SE. of Athos; but the [p. 2.156]latter is nearly double the true distance. Several ancient writers, however, state that Mount Athos cast its shadow upon the island. (Soph. ap. Schol. ad Theocr. 6.76; Plin. l.c.) Pliny also relates that Lemnos is 112 miles in circuit, which is perhaps not far from the truth, if we reckon all the windings of the coast. Its area is nearly 150 square miles. It is of an irregular quadrilateral shape, being nearly divided into two peninsulas by two deep bays, Port Paradise on the N., and Port St. Antony on the S. The latter is a large and convenient harbour. On the eastern side of the island is a bold rock projecting into the sea, called by Aeschylus Ἐρμαῖον λέπας Λήμνου, in his description of the beacon fires between Mount Ida and Mycenae, announcing the capture of Troy. (Aesch. Ag. 283; comp. Soph. Philoct. 1459.) Hills, but of no great height, cover two-thirds of the island ; they are barren and rocky, and there are very few trees, except in some of the narrow valleys. The whole island bears the strongest marks of the effects of volcanic fire, the rocks, in many places, are like the burnt and vitrified scoria of furnaces. Hence we may account for its connection with Hephaestus, who, when hurled from heaven by Zeus, is said to have fallen upon Lemnos. (Hom. Il. 1.594.) The island was therefore sacred to Hephaestus (Nicandr. Ther. 458; Ov. Fast. 3.82), who was frequently called the Lemnian god. (Ov. Met. 4.185; Verg. A. 8.454.) From its volcanic appearance it derived its name of Aethaleia (Αἰθάλεια, Polyb. ap. Steph. B. sub voce and Etym. M. s. v. Αἰθάλη). It was also related that from one of its mountains, called MOSYCHLUS (Μόσυχλος), fire was seen to blaze forth. (Antimach. ap. Schol. ad Nicandr. Ther. 472; Lycophr. 227; Hesych. sub voce) In a village in the island, named Chorous, there is a hot-spring, called Thermia, where a commodious bath has been built, with a lodging-house for strangers,who frequent it for its supposed medicinal qualities. The name of Lemnos is said to have been derived from the name of the Great Goddess, who was called Lemnos by the original inhabitants of the island. (Hecat. ap. Steph. B. sub voce

The earliest inhabitants of Lemnos, according to Homer, were the SINTIES (Σίντιες), a Thracian tribe; a name, however, which probably only signifies robbers (from σίνομαι). (Hom. Il. 1.594, Od. 8.294; Strab. vii. p.331, x. p. 457, xii. p. 549.) When the Argonauts landed at Lemnos, they are said to have found it inhabited only by women, who had murdered all their husbands, and had chosen as their queen Hypsipyle, the daughter of Thoas, the former King of the island. [See Dict. of Biogr. art. HYPSIPYLE.] Some of the Argonauts settled here, and became by the Lemnian women the fathers of the MINYAE (Μινύαι), the later inhabitants of the island. The Minyae were driven out of the island by the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians, who had been expelled from Attica. (Hdt. 4.145, 6.137 ; Apollon. 1.608, seq., and Schol.; Apollod. 1.9.17, 3.6.4.) It is also related that these Pelasgians, out of revenge, made a descent upon the coast of Attica during the festival of Artemis at Brauron, and carried off some Athenian women, whom they made their concubines; but, as the children of these women despised their half-brothers born of Pelasgian women, the Pelasgians murdered both them and their Athenian mothers. In consequence of this atrocity, and of the former murder of the Lemnian husbands by their wives, “Lemnian Deeds” (Λήμνια ἔργα) became a proverb throughout Greece for all atrocious acts. (Hdt. 6.128; Eustath. ad Il. p. 158. 11, ad Dionys. Per. 347; Zenob. 4.91.) Lemnos continued to be inhabited by Pelasgians, when it was conquered by Otanes, one of the generals of Darius Hystaspis (Hdt. 5.26); but Miltiades delivered it from the Persians, and made it subject to Athens, in whose power it remained for a long time. (Hdt. 6.137; Thuc. 4.28, 7.57.) In fact, it was always regarded as an Athenian possession, and accordingly the peace of Antalcidas, which declared the independence of all the Grecian states, nevertheless allowed the Athenians to retain possession of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros. (Xen. Hell. 4.8. 15, 5.1.31.) At a later period Lemnos passed into the hands of the Macedonians, but it was restored to the Athenians by the Romans. (Plb. 30.18.)

In the earliest times, Lemnos appears to have contained only one town, which bore the same name as the island (Hom. Il. 14.230); but at a later period we find two towns, Myrina and Hephaestias. MYRINA (Μύρινα: Eth. Μυριναῖος) stood on the western side of the island, as we may infer from the statement of Pliny, that the shadow of Mt. Athos was visible in the forum of the city at the time of the summer solstice. (Plin. Nat. 4.12. s. 23; Hdt. 6.140; Steph. B. sub voce Ptol.3.13.4.) On its site stands the modern Kastro, which is still the chief town in the place. In contains about 2000 inhabitants; and its little port is defended by a pier, and commanded by a ruinous mediaeval fortress on the overhanging rocks. HEPHAESTIAS, or HEPHAESTIA (Ἡφαιστίας, Ἡφαιστία: Eth. Ἡφαιστιεύς), was situated in the northern part of the island. (Herod., Plin., Ptol. ll. cc.; Steph. B. sub voce There are coins of Hephaestia (see below), but none of Myrina, and none bearing the name of the island. (Eckhel, vol. ii. p. 51.)

According to Pliny (36.13. s. 19) Lemnos had a celebrated labyrinth, supported by 150 columns, and with gates so well poised, that a child could open them. Pliny adds, that there were still traces of it in his time. Dr, Hunt, who visited the island in 1801, attempted to find out the ruins of this labyrinth, and was directed to a subterraneous staircase in an uninhabited part of the island, near a bay, called Porniah. He here found extensive ruins of an ancient and strong building that seemed to have had a ditch round it communicating with the sea. “The edifices have covered about 10 acres of ground: there are foundations of an amazing number of small buildings within the outer wall, each about seven feet square. The walls towards the sea are strong, and composed of large square blocks of stone. On an elevated spot of ground in one corner of the area, we found a subterraneous staircase, and, after lighting our tapers, we went down into it. The entrance was difficult: it consisted of 51 steps, and about every twelfth one was of marble, the others of common stone. At the bottom is a small chamber with a well in it, by which probably the garrison was supplied: a censer, a lamp, and a few matches, were lying in a corner, for the use of the Greek Christians, who call this well an Ἁγίασμα, or Holy Fountain, and the ruins about it Panagia Coccipée. The peasants in the neighbourhood had no knowledge of, any sculpture, or statues, or medals having ever been found there.” It does not appear, however, that these ruins have any relation to the labyrinth [p. 2.157]mentioned by Pliny; and Dr. Hunt thinks that they are probably those of the citadel of Hephaestias.

The chief production of the island, was a red earth called terra Lemnia or sigillata, which was employed by the ancient physicians as a remedy for wounds and the bites of serpents; and which is still much valued by the Turks and Greeks for its supposed medicinal virtues. It is dug out of a hill, made into small balls, and stamped with a seal containing Arabic characters.

The ordinary modern name of the island, is Stalimene (εἰς τὰν Λῆμνον), though it is also called by its ancient name.

There were several small islands near Lemnos, of which the most celebrated was CHRYSE (Χρυσή), where Philoctetes was said to have been abandoned by the Greeks. According to Pausanias, this island was afterwards swallowed up by the sea, and another appeared in its stead, to which the name of Hiera was given. (Eustath ad Hom. Il. ii. p. 330; Appian, App. Mith. 77; Paus. 8.33.4.)

(Rhode, Res Lemnicae, Vratisl. 1829; Hunt, in Walpole's Travels, p. 54, seq.)


hide References (24 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (24):
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 283
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.6.4
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.9.17
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.137
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.145
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.26
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.128
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.140
    • Homer, Iliad, 14.230
    • Homer, Iliad, 1.594
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.294
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.33.4
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.28
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.57
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 4.8.15
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 5.1.31
    • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 1.608
    • Appian, Mithridatic Wars, 11.77
    • Polybius, Histories, 30.18
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 8.454
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.185
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.12
    • Ovid, Fasti, 3
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