History & Culture
As an ancient city, lying off the east coast, Mytilene was initially confined to an island that later was joined to Lesbos, creating a north and south harbour.
Mytilene contested successfully with Methymna in the north of the island for the leadership of the island in the seventh century BC and became the centre of the island’s prosperous hinterland.
The city was famed for its great output of electrum coins struck from the late 6th through mid 4th centuries BC.Mytilene revolted against Athens in 428 BC but was overcome by an Athenian expeditionary force. The Athenian public assembly voted to massacre all the men of the city and to sell the women and children into slavery but changed its mind the next day. A fast trireme sailed the 186 nautical miles (344 km) in less than a day and brought the decision to cancel the massacre.
Aristotle lived on Mytilene for two years, 337-335 BC, with his friend and successor, Theophrastus, after becoming the tutor to Alexander, son of King Philip II of Macedon.
The Romans, among whom was a young Julius Caesar, successfully besieged Mytilene in 80 BC. Although Mytilene supported the losing side in most of the great wars of the first century BC her statesmen succeeded in convincing Rome of her support of the new ruler of the Mediterranean and the city flourished in Roman times.
In AD 56 Paul the Apostle stopped there on the return trip of his third missionary journey(Acts 20:14). The novel Daphnis and Chloe, by Longus, is set in the country around it and opens with a description of the city.
In the Middle Ages, it was part of the Byzantine Empire. It was occupied for some time by the Seljuqs under Tzachas of Smyrna in 1085. In 1198, the Republic of Venice obtained the right to commerce from the city's port. In the 13th century, it was captured by the Emperor of Nicaea, Theodore I Laskaris. In 1335 the Byzantines, with the help of Ottoman forces, reconquered the island, then property of the Genoese nobleman Domenico Cattaneo. In 1354 emperor John V Palaiologos ceded Chios to the Genoese adventurer Francesco Gattilusio, who renovated the fortress in 1373. It remained in Genoese hands until 1453, when it was captured by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II.
• The island is inhabited as of 3300 BC
• According to Homer, it is attacked repeatedly by the Achaeans over the course of the Trojan War (12th or 13th century BC)
• The Aeolians settle there in the 10th century BC
• During Archaic Times (7th-6th centuries BC) under Pittacus (589-579 BC), Lesvos and its capital Mytilene become an important commercial and cultural center
• 527-479 BC, the island falls into Persian hands
• Lesvos joins the Achaean League
• It is ruled in succession by the Macedonians, the Ptolemys, the Pontic king Mithridates (88-79 BC) and the Romans
• During the Byzantine Period it is invaded by the Slavs, Saracens and the Catalans
• Levos becomes part of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204-1247)
• 1354. Byzantine emperor Michael Palaeologus turns the island over to the Genovese in exchange for their assistance in reclaiming the Byzantine Empire from Frankish rule (1261)
• 1462. Lesvos is conquered by the Turks
• 1912. It is liberated from the Turks and incorporated into the Modern Greek State
• 1922. Ten years later, the Smyrna (Izmir) disaster brings a flood of refugees to the island after a formal population exchange with Turkey