Αρχική 5 Civilisation 5 Lesvos: A historical overview

Lesvos: A historical overview

Lesvos is located in the northern part of the Aegean Sea, adjacent to the Asia Minor coast. It is the third largest Greek island after Crete and Evia and it is an earthly paradise with profound geomorphologic interest, as it combines rich vegetation and volcanic terrain, transporting the visitor’s imagination many millions years back.

The island of Lesvos was formed approximately twenty millions years ago as a result of violent volcanic eruptions that sank the surrounding, continuous land mass called Aegeis, i.e. the land bridge that connected continental Greece with the Asia Minor Peninsula. Lesvos was part of this ancient land mass, the progenitor of the Aegean Sea basin.

In ancient Greek mythology, the first resident of this island was Makaras, son of Helios. During his reign the island was named Makaria, after the king’s name. Its first inhabitants were Pelasgians and the modern name Lesvos originated from the homonymous Thessalian hero Lesvos, the spouse of Makaras’ daughter, Mithymna.

Lesvos was first inhabited in the prehistoric era, as indicated by the findings (such as tools, hand axes, chopping tools and scrapers) unearthed in the Rodafnidia vicinity close to Lisvori village, dating back 780,000 – 125,000 years.

A number of Neolithic settlements have also been found on Lesvos, the most prominent of which is located in the Thermi vicinity, which was excavated in the systematic archeological study by Winfred Lamb from Britain. This site developed in five building phases, between 3200 and 2400 BC.

In the tenth century BC Lesvos was colonized by the Aeolians and became a prominent population center. In  the years preceding the Trojan War Lesvos was under the sway of Troy. Of all ancient Lesvian cities, five stand out: Mytilini, Mithymna, Antissa, Pyrra and Eresos.

The first political system on Lesvos was kingship. Thanks to ancient Greek sage Pittacus, in the end of the 7th century BC the city of Mytilini became a stable democracy, after passing through an oligarchic and a tyrannical stage. This development afforded Lesvos to become a strong naval power, exercising dominance on all other Lesvian cities.

In the ensuing centuries Lesvos was subjected to the occupation of the Roman Empire. The island now became equipped with the Moria Aqueduct, the Mytilini ancient theater, and the Temple of Thermia Artemis in the Thermi Spa while at the same time the mosaics in the Epano Skala villas were crafted.

In 324 AD Lesvos came under Byzantine occupation until 1355. Byzantium then conceded Lesvos to the House of Gateluso from Genoa and the island thrived economically even more. In this period until the Ottoman occupation the island was the target of repeated pirate attacks, especially by the Saracens and the Arabs.

In 1462 Lesvos fell to the Ottomans until 8 November 1912 when a Greek naval squadron under the leadership of Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis liberated the island from the Turkish Empire. Two years later the island was formally annexed to Kingdom of Greece.

In the wake of the Asia Minor Disaster (1922) Lesvos was the landing point for hundreds of thousands refugees fleeing from the Asia Minor coast, thus transforming its population makeup. In 1923-1924 following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, Lesvos became once again the host to many refugees, while all its Turkish residents had to abandon the island across to Turkey.

In World War II (1941) the German army occupied the island until its liberation in 1944.

In the modern era Lesvos is an island rich in natural resources, ever changing and developing. Due to its proximity to the Turkish coast it has now become one of the most significant gateways for the arrival of migrants and refugees into Europe playing an important role in the management and processing of refugees.