When Marion and Rob invited me to write here on their weblog I was honoured as it shows the friendship that we have built together. When they asked me if I would be willing to write here some articles about Lesvos, the island where I was born and were I still live, I was even more honoured. I am proud on the island that I can call my home. And with asking me to write about Lesvos they opened the Box of Pandora, as I can keep on telling about Lesvos. But I promise to hold back (at least I will try *grins*).
Lesvos, created by volcano’s
Lesvos is a volcanic island, but the volcano’s that created the island are already for thousands of years inactive. Al around the island you can find proof of its volcanic origin, like the warm springs of Eftalou, the volcanic rock structures you find all over the hill and mountain slopes, the also empty landscape of the western region caused by the volcanic ashes and of course the Petrified Forest there, which wouldn’t have existed without volcanic activity and ashes.
Even the rock where the Church of Panagia Glykofilousa (The well-known “Sweet Kissing Virgin” church of Petra) is built on is of volcanic origin, it is a so called “volcanic neck” (tubes connected to an underground magmatic chamber from where in the distant past magma moved up to the surface). So sorry, it is not a meteorite that fell down from the sky as some still want to claim. I will tell the legend of the Panagia Glykofilousa church in another article.
And so there are many more evidences around the island of its volcanic origin.
So how to name Lesvos
So lets have a look at the origin of the name Lesvos.
There have been many names from prehistoric times up to recent history like Lassia (“Densely forested”), Aiyeria (“Home of the sun tanned people”), Imerti (“Longed for”), Aithiope (“Sun drenched island”) and Makaria, after king Makaras (there will be an article on Makaras and his daughters).
It is said that Lesvos got its name from a brother-in-law of King Makaras, named Lesvos.
But it is also said that the island got its name from an ancient settlement at the headland on the bay of Kalloni which was named Lesvos (there were magnificent ruins found in that area).
Another explanation is that island was called “Lesvi”, which means the Green Island and over time this changed in to Lesvos.
Lesvos…. Lesbos…. and to make it even more confusion, the island is also called Mytilini after its capital city.
Mythology on Lesvos
You cannot talk about Greece without talking about the Greek Mythology and especially not when you are talking about Lesvos.
Lesvos is mentioned in the travels of Homer. Odysseus battled King Philomileidis (and won). Lesvos has been under attack of Achilles several times. Apollo had a sanctum on mount Lepetymnos (the people of Lesvos worshipped specially Apollo and Artemis). Matriketas had his observatory on the top of mount Lepetymnos. The tomb of Palamides, the inventor of letters and numbers, was on the slopes of the same mountain.
And the list of mythical events goes on and on. Such beautiful stories to tell.
Lesvos and the prehistory
The history of Lesvos goes way back into the prehistoric times. Many fossils of animals and plants were found. Spectacular was the discovery of the fossils of giant apes of the Paradolichopithecus family, the very oldest in Europe.
But also fossils of insects, crocodiles, horses, camels and other animals that nowadays cannot be found any more on the island.
Throughout the history Lesvos had been threatened and occupied more then once by foreign powers.
There are some periods that needs to be mentioned. Of course the Roman period, The Byzantine Period, The Hegemony of the Gattelusi, The Turkish Period and the last occupation during World War II by Germany.
It is said that apostle Paul visited Lesvos. Same is said about Pompei. And of both I am not convinced that it is true.
So again enough to write about.
Monasteries, churches and chapels
Lesvos knows many monasteries, churches and chapels.
There are some well-known monasteries as the Monastery of Limonos (with the valley of chapels) or the Ypsilou Monastery (built on the crater of a dormant volcano).
Although I am not religious, I am very interested in these old monasteries and churches, they are very important to the history of Lesvos and without them the island would not have been the same.
Of course there are the stories of the poet Saphho who caused the connections between Lesvos and lesbianism. Many stories and myths going around her. Very interesting historical stuff with an influence on nowadays life.
(On the photo the rock that might be the one where Saphho committed suicide, although other stories tell she died of age).
And then there are the historical sites around Lesvos, like the Ancient Watermills of Petra, the Temple of Aphrodite (Mesa), the Castle of Molivos, the Ancient Theatre in Mytilini (room for 15.000 spectators and yes, the theatre in Rome was inspired by this one), Pyrra (one of the 5 ancient cities of Lesvos…. and there is so much more.
Cities and towns
Lets not forget the many beautiful cities and towns there are on the island: Think of Mythimna (Molivos), Stipsi, Sigri, Petri, Petra, Skala Eresou, Plomari, Kalloni and many more. Each of them unique and with their own stories. Some of these stories will end up here on the weblog.
There is really so much to write about when it comes down to Lesvos. Marion and Rob, you really opened the Box of Pandora!
(Credit map Lesvos: Welcome to Lesvos Island
Credit photo Orpheus Cave: Public Domain (see http://www.pd4pic.com/hellbrunn/ )
Credit picture Pandorra’s box: Athens Times
Credit all other photo’s: Mel)