Sappho, known as the tenth muse for her lyrical poetry and music, was born around 620 BC on the island of Lesvos. She was from the town of Mytilene, or the town of Eresus, where her parents were well-established and respected aristocrats.

Also known as "the poetess," in her own time, Sappho was regarded on a par with Homer, called "the poet," the most influential male poet of antiquity.  Sappho's complete works were  gathered into a nine-volume book by the scholars at the Library of Alexandria in the 200s BC.  The Library was, of course, famously and tragicaly lost, but archaeologists are still digging up new Sapphic fragments.


Modern theories posit that she was the hostess of an Ancient Greek salon, or a hetairia, exchanging artistic ideas with a diverse group of female poets and musicians.  Of her friends, she writes,

"Deftly on my little

Seven-stringed Barbitos,

Now to please my girl friends

Songs I set to music"

Much of Sappho's poetry was set in what we now call "Sapphic meter," a particular arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables, which consists of four lines--three long, the last short. The meter gives Sappho's poetry a distinctive character that has been copied throughout the centuries since she conceived it.

In addition to revolutionizing poetry, Sappho was a talented musician and vocalist and was noted for performing and leading performances of her own work. She was credited by her contemporaries with the invention of the pectis, a triangular harp, and the Mixolydian mode, a proto-scale that would survive into medieval music and make a comeback in modern popular music.


Aristotle (384-322 BCE), Platos's most famous student, wrote his Historia Animalia, and several other groundbreaking zoological books based on observations made while living in Lesvos.

Aristotle is best known as a philosopher and broadly knowledgeable man;  founder of the Peripatetic school of philosophy at the Lyceum.  His writings are found in every area of thought, from metaphysics to linguistics, and were influential for centuries.  His understanding of the physical sciences, biology, ethics and logic were not superseded until the Renaissance, or after.  At the request of Phillip II of Macedon, Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great.  But his most profound influence on western thinking is his method of inquiry and problem solving.  It was this methodology he applied to his study of animals in Lesvos.

Aristotle studied under Plato for 20 years.  After Plato's death, Aristotle travelled with his pupil Theophrastus to the island of Lesvos, around 341 BC. Aristotle exiled himself from ancient Athens and retreated to Lesvos and study the many fish, birds, insects and land animals that he found in the sheltered lagoon; their anatomy, reproduction, taxonomy...  Theophrastus studied the plants of the area. 

He lived in Mytiline for two or three years around 346 BC.  Most historians of science agree that it was during this period that Aristotle began his intensive study of zoology, which is described in his books "History of animals", "Parts of animals", "Generation of animals" and a few others.


Aristotle has been credited with laying the foundations of biology – perhaps even science. Earlier philosophers, like his teacher Plato, deduced causes of natural phenomena from first principles. Aristotle, whose father was a physician, saw how important empirical observation was to diagnosing and treating disease. Aristotle was arguably the first to attempt an evidence-based natural philosophy (or “science”), combining observation with philosophical thinking -- laying the groundwork of the scientific method.


Although Aristotle's zoological work is not as well known as his logical and philosophical books, they are a vast encyclopaedia of natural history. 

Another famous philosopher and scientist...

Theophrastus, Aristotle's chosen successor to lead the Lyceum, was a native of Lesvos, and himself a learned scholar.  He studied under Plato before also studying with Aristotle.  He accompanied Aristotle in his studies on Lesvos, and later may have accompanied him to Macedonia where Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great.  In addition to more than 15 books on botany, Theophrastus wrote on many of the same topics as Aristotle, including moral character, perception, stones, metaphysics...  He is recognized as a founding figure in the science of botany, and he further developed Aristotle's legacy in philosphical thought.  Under Theophrastus' 36-year leadership, the Lyceum flourished, growing to 2000 students.