On the island of Lesbos (Mytilene), in the late 7th century BC, Sappho and her companions listen rapturously as the poet Alcaeus plays a "kithara".
homeland of sages, poets, musicians and philosophers,
historians and scientists, this small island has shaped, deeply
and indelibly, the shared European & Western world view. The western world's best and brightest thinkers, artists and scientists have called on the shores of Lesvos.
At a crossroads of ancient civilizations, Lesvos is An island shaped by the influx of changing cultures. Its peoples have realized the ideals
of 'philoxenia', a Greek word meaning 'love of the other'.
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experience the beauty of Lesvos, &
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Sages, poets, musicians and philosophers claim Lesvos as their native land. They included Pittacus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece; Sappho; Theophrastus, who succeeded Aristotle in the Lyceum; Theophanes, the historian who wrote a book about Pompey’s expedition to Asia.
Ten kilometers from the coast of present-day Turkey, Lesvos was a neighbor to ancient Troy.
European poetry, painting, and music trace their inspiration back to the great ancient poets from Lesvos (Sappho, Alcaeus, Terpandrus, and the mythical poets/musicians Arion and Orpheus).
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. While the Library was lost, 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
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.
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Excavations at Thermi on Lesvos have found a civilization contemporary to, and influenced by neighboring Troy.
Colonized by the Pelasgians
Ruled by the Aecheans
Ruled by the Aeolians, who gave the island their language and culture
Conquered by the Persians
Co-founders of Delian league for mutual assistance against Persia
Captured by Athens
Succumbed to the Spartans
Took part in the 2nd Athenian league
Allied with Alexander the Great
Ruled by the Ptolemies
Conquered by the Roman Empire
The Apostle Paul visited Lesvos
Byzantine Period: occupied by Saracens and Slavs, plundered by the Venetians and the Crusaders.
Became a part of Byzantium
Ceded as a dowry to a Genoese
Mytilini destroyed by an earthquake
Ottomans made their mark on the island, with a harsh rule for 400 years
Liberated by a Greek fleet
An historic influx of refugees from Asia Minor arrived around 1923, changing the face of Lesvos again.
Lesvos becomes a part of Greece
In WWI, Lesvos was conquered briefly by Germany.
Prehistoric fauna and fish, going back two million years, have been discovered recently in the area of Vatera, along the southern coast of Lesvos. Giant mastodons once lived on the island, as well as ancient horses, camels, rhinoceros.
The history of Lesvos is chronicled by ever present archaeological sites and buildings, from prehistoric settlements, ancient Aeolian temples, Byzantine and Genoese castles, 2nd century Roman aquaducts, classical Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures.
story of Troy, Orpheus,
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.
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.