Welcome to Mytilene, Greece!
By Jennifer Cardenas and Niky Flores
Formally known as Mitilini! This is also where the Bishop of the Orthodox Church lies. The town is settled on the east coast of the island of Lesbos.
Population: 29,890 (2011)
Mytilene was founded in the 11th century, being recognized by Greece and creating a south and north harbor for the island. It wasn’t long until Mytilene made its way to being the leading city of the island once it defeated Methymna in the 7 century BC. Mytilene became famous for its electrum coins, which were coins made from an alloy of gold and silver, from the late 6th century BC through the 4th century.
Mytilene has had its own share of famous figures that have stepped foot on its shores. One of the most well-known Mytilineans would be the poet Sappho. She was born in the city of Mytilene and was a famous poet who specialized her poetry on romance. Because of her involvement in the writing of same-sex girl love, the word “lesbian” is even derived from the island of Lesbos where she is born.
Another famous poet was also a resident of Mytilene, the poet Alcaeus. His poetry was nowhere nearly as emotionally staggering as that of Sappho, but he still gained recognition by the Roman poet Horace, despite the little fragments of writing we have recovered from Alcaeus.
The statesmen Pittacus, also known as the one of the “Seven Wise Men of Ancient Greece” was another citizen of Mytilene that gained power and even collaborated with the brothers of Alcaeus to dethrone the tyrant Melanchrus and became a commander in the war against Athens for Sigium.
Another very famous scholar who set foot in Mytilene was Aristotle. He was not born a citizen to the city but he did spend time here between 337-335 BC after being assigned to personally tutor King Philip II of Macedon’s son, Alexander the Great.
The Siege of Mytilene
Before the siege of Mytilene, tension had risen to the island. The island of Lesbos was a part of the Athenian alliance and were not included in the empire. Because of this alliance, the island remained independent, but had to depend on the Athenian army for protection. The people of the island were growing with anger towards the Athenian army. The plans of destroying them were brought up, but because they were independent and certainly with accessories to do so, the island backed down.
Before long, Sparta and Boeotia sent their support to Mytilene. They began working on a revolt against the Athenians. The majority of the island consented with this support. However, the community of Methymna and Tenedos stayed with Athens and would inform them of the upcoming revolt. At the time when Athens received this letter, the plague was beginning to take place and were down a few soldiers. Athens decided to send a few of their soldiers to Lesbos and Sparta to stop the revolt. Unfortunately for Athens, a war had broken out.
Around 428 BC, the siege of Mytilene began. Athens sent 1,000 soldier to begin the siege, they continued to build a single wall surrounding the city. The city of Mytilene waited for the help of Sparta as Athens waited them out. During this time, Sparta was gathering an army of forty ships to be sent to Mytilene. Too much time had passed and Mytilene was forced to surrender due to the lack of food. The city leader decided to come to equal terms with the Athenian army. Paches, the leader of the Athenian army decided that he would wait to hear back from Athens to continue. After debate in Athens on what to do with the Mytilene people, they had decided that 1,000 of the rebels were to be executed. The island of Lesbos, besides the cities that kept their loyalty to Athens were to be separated into 3,000 holdings. 300 people were to be used as a sacrifice to the gods and the others were to pay a sort of rent for living on the Ionian coast. (historyofwar.org)
The Ancient Theater of Mytilene
The ancient theater of Mytilene is considered to be one of the most important theaters of the ancient world, as well as a model for the theaters in Italy. Those coming by sea can locate the theater, which is positioned on the highest point in the city. Commonly known as the Theatrum Pompeium, named after the Lesvian historian and literary scholar who helped liberate Mytilene in 63 BC, Pompey. Pompey then decided to take his design in Mytilene and create a larger one in the city of Rome.
In the present time, the theater has been through some natural disasters, such as an earthquake. For many centuries now, pieces of the theater have been used for building materials, a flag tower and building refugee houses.