Cultural routes


According to the myth, the first inhabitants of Lesvos were the ancient Greek race Pelasgeans, who gave it its initial name “Pelasgia” . During the Prehistoric period, the island was called “Makaria”, “Lassia”, “Aeolis”, “Ethiope”. but its current name “Lesvos” comes from “Lesvos”, son of the Greek hero Lapithos. Most of the today town names of the island like “Mytilene”, “Kalloni”, “Antissa”, “Eressos”, “Mithymna” have a mythological origin.       

Archaeological excavations brought to light, evidences that Lesvos has been inhabited since the late Neolithic times. From 1393 BC it was inhabited by the Achaeans, and then was conquered by other Greek races too. During the Archaic period (7th - 6th century BC), the population increased and the island flourished both, commercially and culturally.
 In the year 88 B.C. it was conquered by the Romans. After the division of the Roman Empire, Lesvos was incorporated in its Eastern section. In the year 52 , the Apostle Paul visited Lesvos in order to preach Christianity. During the Byzantine period (324-1453), the island was frequently attacked and looted by Saracens, Venetians and Catalans. In 1462 the Ottomans conquered the island.

 The Ottoman occupation (1462-1817) was a period of hardship. But in the 19th century commerce and industry developed giving birth to a strong bourgeoisie that turned Mytilene into a cosmopolitan port with a flourishing cultural production. In 1912 Lesvos was liberated by the Greek fleet and was ceded to Greece by the Treaties of London and Athens in 1914. The Greek rights on the island were formally recognized by the Treaties of Sevres and Lausanne in 1923. After the Second World War, peace returned permanently to Lesvos in September 1944
Lesvos presents an original civilization bearing the stamp of authenticity and quality through its long history. The most characteristic and representative personalities of intellectual life who lived and worked in the island are :
Terpandrus ( 700B.C. ), poet and musician, he founded the ancient lyrical poetry and perfected the four-cord lyre into a seven cord one, Pittakos ( 648B.C. ) politician and one of the seven wise men of Ancient Greece, Arion ( 625B.C. ), a charismatic lyrical poet and ancient music player, Alcaeus ( 600B.C. ) one of the most known lyrical poet of ancient Greece, and finally Sappho ( 620B.C. ) one of the most famous ancient Greek poetesses, her poems are distinguished by stylistic elegance, passion and emotional depth, fact that gave her the characterization of the "tenth Muse".
Other significant personalities also are Theophrastus( 372B.C. ) philosopher and botanist - known as the father of botany - and Theophanes ( 100B.C. ),  a significant historian, who accompanied Pompeii in his Minor  Asia expeditions.

During the Roman-Byzantine period the intellectual life in the island continued thriving. Unfortunately during the years of the Turkish occupation, the cultural life declines but during the 15th century the center of spiritual life appears to the Monastery of Lemonas. Before the Greek Revolution of 1821, the personality of Veneamen the Lesvian is distinguished as the Nation's Teacher.
In the recent past- that is the last two centuries- the intellectual life in Lesvos flourishes with the presence of many significant personalities like Miltos Kountouras, Assimakis Panselenos, Stratis Myrivilis, Antonis Protopachis, Ilias Venezis, Argiris Eftaliotis, Stratis Anastassellis, Miltis and Thanassis Paraskevaedis, all of them significant writers, novelists, poets and historians.
We have to notice here that the Nobel-prize winner Greek poet Odysseas Elytis came from a wealthy Lesvian family. Even today - at the beginning of the 21st century- the local intellectual life is characterized by intense cultural activity and creation.
Folk Art

Archaeological finds provide evidence that Lesvians have been involved with the arts since the 14th century BC. Owing to the plentiful deposits of clay on the island,  Pottery, and to a lesser extend the working of copper, flourished gradually, Lesvos became a well-known pottery centre and numerous workshops were established, especially at the areas of Ayiassos and Mandamados. In the workshops various ceramic objects for daily or ornamental use were produced. The decorative motives had their origin in the Byzantine tradition and the beauty of the Lesvian nature. The above small towns (Ayiasos and Mandamados) keep the tradition in pottery to this day and characteristic samples of the art are exhibited at the Folk Art Museums and Folk Collections of the island.

Fretwork also flourished, owing to the abundance of wood mainly from olive and chestnut trees. Fretwork was used in monasteries and churches for the creation of icon screens, iconostases and other objects, for wooden balconies, roofs, doors, stairs of the houses and of course in furniture. Even today the wooden chest or “Kassela” decorates the Lesvian house. In this case too, the decorative motives commonly used echo the Byzantine tradition and nature. Today, the visitor can admire older fretwork items at Folk Art Museums and Folk Collections as well as visit wood carving workshops.

The island was also famous for its weaving: yarns dyed with plant dyes, were used to weave colourful textiles in wooden looms. Weaving was an occupation reserved to women. In this case too, it is nature that provides most of the motifs used. The visitor can admire samples of this craft at the Folk Art Collections of the island and also buy unique traditional textiles from various workshops and Women’s Co-operatives at the villages and small towns of Lesvos.
Local traditional music and dances

The music, songs and dances of Lesvos were influenced by the Greek inhabitants of the Asia Minor. Folk music groups accompanied by dancers dressed in traditional costumes - even today - give a unique tint of joy and authenticity to all celebrations at Lesvos:

at festivities and local fetes, at weddings, and national holidays. It’s worth-noticing that even today the traditional musical instrument “santouri” (a type of dulcimer), present in every local musical composition, is still made in Lesvos. Typical traditional dances are the “Lesvian”, the “Mytilenean” and the ”Ballos“ and they all display the spirited makeup of the island's soul  and its love for free expression.