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Lesbos
Λέσβος
Olympos peak rises 968 meters over Lesbos
Olympos peak rises 968 meters over Lesbos
Geography
GR Lesvos.PNG
Coordinates: 39°10′N 26°20′E / 39.167°N 26.333°E / 39.167; 26.333
Island chain: North Aegean
Total isles: 16
Area: 1,632.819 km² (630 sq.mi.)
Highest mountain: Lepetymnos & Olympus (968 m (3,176 ft))
Government
Greece Greece
Periphery: North Aegean
Prefecture: Lesbos
Capital: Mytilene
Statistics
Population: 90,643 (as of 2001)
Density: 56 /km² (144 /sq.mi.)
Postal code: 811 xx, 812 xx, 813 xx, 814xx
Area code: 225x0-x
License code: ΜΗ, ΜΥ
Website
www.lesvos.gr

Lesbos (Greek: Λέσβος also transliterated Lesvos) is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. It has an area of 1632 km² (630 square miles) with 320 kilometres (almost 200 miles) of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island and the largest of the numerous Greek islands scattered in the Aegean. It is separated from Turkey by the narrow Mytilini Strait. Administratively, it forms part of the Lesbos Prefecture. Its population is approximately 90,000, a third of which lives in its capital, Mytilene, in the southeastern part of the island. The remaining population is distributed in small towns and villages. The largest are Kalloni, the Gera Villages, Plomari, Agiassos, Eresos and Molyvos (the ancient Mythymna). Mytilene was founded in the 11th century BC by the family Penthilidae, who arrived from Thessaly, and ruled the city-state until a popular revolt (590–580 BC) led by Pittacus of Mytilene ended their rule.

The meaning of the word lesbian derives from the poems of Sappho, who was born in Lesbos. The poems contain powerful emotional content directed toward other women and have frequently been interpreted as expressing homosexual love.[1] It is due to this association that Lesbos and especially the town of Eresos, her birthplace, are visited frequently by lesbian tourists.[2]

Contents

Geography

Satellite photo of Lesbos (1995).
Topography

Lesbos lies in the far east of the Aegean sea, facing the Turkish coast (Gulf of Edremit) from the north and east; at the narrowest point, the strait is about 5.5 km wide. Its shape is roughly triangular, but it is deeply intruded by gulfs of Kalloni, with an entry on the southern coast, and Gera, in the southeast.[3]

The island is forested and mountainous with two large peaks, Mt. Lepetymnos (968 m (3,176 ft)) and Mt. Olympus (967 m (3,173 ft)), dominating its northern and central sections.[4] The island’s volcanic origin is manifested in several hot springs and two principal volcanic harbors.

Lesbos is verdant, aptly named Emerald Island, with a variety of flora that belies its size. Eleven million olive trees cover 40% of the island together with other fruit trees. Forests of mediterranean pines, chestnut trees and some oaks occupy 20%, and the remainder is scrub, grassland or urban. In the western part of the island is the world’s second largest petrified forest of Sequoia.

Its economy is essentially agricultural. Olive oil is the main source of income. Tourism in Mytilene, encouraged by its international airport and the coastal towns of Petra, Plomari, Molyvos and Eresos, contribute substantially to the economy of the island. Fishing and the manufacture of soap and ouzo, the Greek national liqueur, are the remaining sources of income.

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Climate

The island has a mild Mediterranean climate. The mean annual temperature is 18 °C (64 °F)), and the mean annual rainfall is 750 mm (30 in). Its exceptional sunshine makes it one of the sunniest islands in the Aegean Sea. Snow and very low temperatures are rare.

Petrified forest

Lesbos contains one of the few known petrified forests and has been declared a Protected Natural Monument, included also to the European Geopark Network. Fossilized plants have been found in many localities on the western part of the island. The fossilised forest formed during the Late Oligocene to Lower–Middle Miocene, by the intense volcanic activity in the area. Neogene volcanic rocks dominate the central and western part of the island, comprising andesites, dacites and rhyolites, ignimbrite, pyroclastics, tuffs and volcanic ash. The products of the volcanic activity covered the vegetation of the area and the fossilisation process took place during favourable conditions. The fossilized plants are silicified remnants of a sub-tropical forest that existed on the north-west part of the island 20-15 million years ago.

History

Historic map of Lesbos by Piri Reis
A statue in Madrid of Cybele, the great mother goddess, in her chariot that was drawn by lions to guide the sun in its daily path across the sky.

According to Classical Greek mythology, Lesbos was the patron god of the island. Macar was reputedly the first king whose many "daughters" bequeathed their names to some of the present larger towns. In Classical myth his "sister", Canace, was killed to have him made king. The place names with female origins are likely to be much earlier settlements named after local goddesses, who were replaced by gods. Homer refers to the island as "Macaros edos", the seat of Macar. Hittite records from the Late Bronze Age name the island Lazpas and must have considered its population significant enough to allow the Hittites to "borrow their gods" (presumably idols) to cure their king when the local gods were not forthcoming. It is believed that emigrants from mainland Greece, mainly from Thessaly, entered the island in the Late Bronze Age and bequeathed it with the Aeolic dialect of the Greek language, whose written form survives in the poems of Sappho, amongst others.

The abundant gray pottery ware found on the island and the worship of Cybele, the great mother-goddess of Anatolia, suggest the cultural continuity of the population from Neolithic times. When the Persian king Cyrus defeated Croesus (546 BC) the Ionic Greek cities of Anatolia and the adjacent islands became Persian subjects and remained such until the Persians were defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis (480 BC). The island was governed by an oligarchy in archaic times, followed by quasi-democracy in classical times. For a short period it was member of the Athenian confederacy, its apostasy from which is described in a stirring chapter of Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War. In Hellenistic times, the island belonged to various Successor kingdoms until 79 BC when it passed into Roman hands.

During the Middle Ages it belonged to the Byzantine Empire. In 803, the Byzantine Empress Irene was exiled to Lesbos, forced to spin wool to support herself, and died there.

After the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) the island passed to the Latin Empire, but was reconquered by the Byzantines in 1247. In 1355, it was granted to the Genoese Gattilusi family for economic and political reasons. The island was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1462. It remained under Turkish rule, named Midilli in Turkish, until 1912 when it was taken by Greek forces during the First Balkan War. The cities of Mytilene and Mithymna have been bishoprics since the 5th century.

Important archaeological sites on the island are the Neolithic cave of Kagiani, probably a refuge for shepherds, the Neolithic settlement of Chalakies, and the extensive habitation of Thermi (3000–1000 BC). The largest habitation is found in Lisvori (2800–1900 BC) part of which is submerged in shallow coastal waters. There are also several archaic, classical Greek and Roman remains. Vitruvius called the ancient city of Mytilene "magnificent and of good taste". Remnants of its medieval history are three impressive castles.

Lesbos is the birthplace of several famous persons. In archaic times, Arion developed the type of poem called dithyramb, the progenitor of tragedy, Terpander invented the seven note musical scale for the lyre, followed by the lyric poet Alcaeus, and the most famous poetess Sappho. Phanias wrote history. The seminal artistic creativity of those times brings to mind the myth of Orpheus to whom Apollo gave a lyre and the Muses taught to play and sing. When Orpheus incurred the wrath of the god Dionysus he was dismembered by the Maenads and of his body parts his head and his lyre found their way to Lesbos where they have "remained" ever since. Pittacus was one of the Seven Sages of Greece. In classical times Hellanicus advanced historiography, Theophrastus, the father of botany, succeeded Aristotle as the head of the Lyceum. Aristotle and Epicurus lived there for some time, and it is there that Aristotle began systematic zoological investigations. In later times lived Theophanes, the historian of Pompey's campaigns, Longus wrote the famous novel Daphnis and Chloe, and much later the historian Doukas wrote the history of the early Ottoman Turks. In modern times the poet Odysseus Elytis, descendant of an old family of Lesbos received the Nobel Prize.

View of coast looking east from Vatera Beach on the Greek island of Lesbos
Skala of Eresos-Antissa
View of Kalloni Bay.

12 historic churches on the island were listed together on the 2008 World Monuments Fund's Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world. Exposure to the elements, outmoded conservation methods, and increased tourism are all threats to the structures. It is hoped that increased attention to their declining states will aid in their preservation.

Municipalities

The island of Lesbos contains 13[5] of the 17 municipalities and 1 community that comprise Lesbos Prefecture. The Lesbian municipalities have a total population of 90,643 inhabitants, or over 83 percent of the prefecture's population, according to the 2001 census. Their combined land area, including uninhabited offshore islets, is 1,632.819 km2 (630.435 sq mi), or about 75.8% of the prefecture's land area. (The balance of the prefecture's population resides on the islands of Lemnos, in four municipalities, and Saint Eustratius, in one community.)

Notable people

See also

References

  1. ^ Brooten, Bernadette J. (1998). Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism. University of Chicago Press. pp. 29–40. ISBN 0226075923. 
  2. ^ Carolyn, Bain; Clark, Michael; Hannigan, Des (2004). Greece. Lonely Planet. pp. 568–570. ISBN 1740594703. 
  3. ^ "Lesbos". http://www.itsaboutgreece.com/lesbos.htm. 
  4. ^ "The Petrified Forest of Lesvos, A Unique Natural Monument Recording the Evolutionary Process of Life on Earth". UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. http://www.globalgeopark.org/publish/portal1/tab233/info387_page2.htm. 
  5. ^ "Lesbos prefecture". Greek Ministry of the Interior. www.ypes.gr. http://www.ypes.gr/main.asp#35. 

External links

Petrified Forest of Lesvos

Coordinates: 39°10′N 26°20′E / 39.167°N 26.333°E / 39.167; 26.333


Simple English

Redirecting to Lesbos


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