Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Capital city of Lesvos - Mytilene

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. Her most famous citizens were the poets Sappho and Alcaeus and the statesman Pittacus (one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece).

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.
In 1912 the island of Lesvos was liberated by the Ottoman Empire and was incorporated into the Modern Greek State. After the Asia Minor catastrophe and the burning of Smyrna, many Greeks moved to the island of Lesvos, and especially Mytilene, which is very close to Asia Minor.

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