Mytilene is a town and a former municipality
Communities and Municipalities of Greece
For the new municipalities of Greece see the Kallikratis ProgrammeThe municipalities and communities of Greece are one of several levels of government within the organizational structure of that country. Thirteen regions called peripheries form the largest unit of government beneath the State. ...

 on the island of Lesbos, North Aegean
North Aegean
The North Aegean is one of the thirteen regions of Greece. It comprises the islands of the north-eastern Aegean Sea, except for Samothrace, which belongs to the region of East Macedonia and Thrace, and Imbros and Tenedos which belong to Turkey....

, Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lesbos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital of the island of Lesbos. Mytilene, whose name is pre-Greek, is built on the southeast edge of the island. It is also the seat of a metropolitan bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 of the Orthodox church.


Mytilene is linked with a highway numbered (GR-67) linking to Skala Eressou
Skala Eressou
Skala Eresou is a seaside village on the island of Lesbos Greece, part of the community of Eresos.-Overview:The word Skala can be translated as "beach". The village has two access roads, one from the north and one from the west. Both lead towards the central square, which is paved with flagstones,...

 on the other side of the island of Lesbos. Farmlands surround Mytilene, the mountains cover the west and to the north. The airport is located a few kilometres south of town. The city was called Midilli during Ottoman times.

It is located in the southeastern part of the island, north and east of the Bay of Gera. It has a land area of 107.46 square kilometres (41.5 sq mi) and a population of 36,196 inhabitants (2001). With a population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 of 336.8/km² it is by far the most densely populated municipal unit in Lesbos. The next largest towns in the municipal unit are Vareiá (pop. 1,254), Pámfila (1,247), Mória (1,207), and Loutrá (1,118).


As an ancient city, lying off the east coast, Mytilene was initially confined to an island that later was joined to Lesbos, creating a north and south harbour. Mytilene contested successfully with Methymna in the north of the island for the leadership of the island in the seventh century BC and became the centre of the island’s prosperous hinterland. Her most famous citizens were the poets Sappho
Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life...

 and Alcaeus and the statesman Pittacus (one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece). The city was famed for its great output of electrum
Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, with trace amounts of copper and other metals. It has also been produced artificially. The ancient Greeks called it 'gold' or 'white gold', as opposed to 'refined gold'. Its color ranges from pale to bright yellow, depending on the...

 coins struck from the late 6th through mid 4th centuries BC. Mytilene revolted against Athens in 428 BC but was overcome by an Athenian expeditionary force. The Athenian public assembly voted to massacre all the men of the city and to sell the women and children into slavery but changed its mind
Mytilenian Debate
The Mytilenian Debate, according to Thucydides, occurred in Athens during the time of the Peloponnesian War in 427 BCE. Thucydides documented many detailed events that occurred over the course of the Peloponnesian War. The Mytilenian Debate is in book three of Thucydides’ History of the...

 the next day. A fast trireme sailed the 186 nautical miles (344.5 km) in less than a day and brought the decision to cancel the massacre.

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 lived on Mytilene for two years, 337-335 BC, with his friend and successor, Theophrastus
Theophrastus , a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age, and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and...

, after becoming the tutor to Alexander, son of King Philip II of Macedon.

The Romans, among whom was a young Julius Caesar, successfully besieged Mytilene in 80 BC. Although Mytilene supported the losing side in most of the great wars of the first century BC her statesmen succeeded in convincing Rome of her support of the new ruler of the Mediterranean and the city flourished in Roman times.

In AD 56 Paul the Apostle stopped there on the return trip of his third missionary journey. The novel Daphnis and Chloe
Daphnis and Chloe
Daphnis and Chloe is the only known work of the 2nd century AD Greek novelist and romancer Longus.-Setting and style:It is set on the isle of Lesbos during the 2nd century AD, which is also assumed to be the author's home. Its style is rhetorical and pastoral; its shepherds and shepherdesses are...

, by Longus
Longus, sometimes Longos , was the author of an ancient Greek novel or romance, Daphnis and Chloe. Very little is known of his life, and it is assumed that he lived on the isle of Lesbos during the 2nd century AD...

, is set in the country around it and opens with a description of the city.

In the Middle Ages, it was part of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, but in the 9th century the population fled because of the Muslim naval raids. It was occupied for some time by the Seljuqs under Tzachas of Smyrna in 1085. In 1198, the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 obtained the right to commerce from the city's port. In the 13th century, it was captured by the emperor of Nicea, Theodore I Laskaris
Theodore I Laskaris
Theodoros I Komnenos Laskaris was emperor of Nicaea .-Family:Theodore Laskaris was born to the Laskaris, a noble but not particularly renowned Byzantine family of Constantinople. He was the son of Manuel Laskaris and wife Ioanna Karatzaina . He had four older brothers: Manuel Laskaris Theodoros...

. In 1335 the Byzantines, with the help of Ottoman forces, reconquered the island, then property of the Genoese nobleman Domenico Cattaneo. In 1354 emperor John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos
John V Palaiologos was a Byzantine emperor, who succeeded his father in 1341, at age nine.-Biography:...

 ceded Chios to the Genoese adventurer Francesco Gattilusio, who renovated the fortress in 1373. It remained in Genoese hands until 1453, when it captured by the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...



Year Town population Municipality population
1981 24,991 -
1991 23,971 33,157
2001 27,247 36,196


There are 15 primary schools in Mytilene, along with seven lyceums
Secondary education
Secondary education is the stage of education following primary education. Secondary education includes the final stage of compulsory education and in many countries it is entirely compulsory. The next stage of education is usually college or university...

, and eight gymnasiums
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

. There are six university schools with 3671 undergraduates, the largest in the University of the Aegean
University of the Aegean
The University of the Aegean is a state, multi-campus university located in Mytilene, Greece. The university was officially founded in 1984, although its historical roots date back to the early 1920s...

). Here also is the Rector, the central administration of the Foundation, the Central Library and the Research Committee of Aegean University. The University of Aegean is housed in privately-owned buildings, in rented buildings located in the city centre, and in modern buildings on University Hill.


Mytilene has a port with ferries to the nearby islands of Lemnos
Lemnos is an island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Lemnos peripheral unit, which is part of the North Aegean Periphery. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Myrina...

 and Chios
Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages...

 and Ayvalık
Ayvalık is a seaside town on the northwestern Aegean coast of Turkey. It is a district of the Balıkesir Province.It was alternatively called by the town's formerly indigenous Greek population, although the use of the name Ayvalık was widespread for centuries among both the Turks and the Greeks...

 and at times Dikili in Turkey. The port also serves the mainland cities of Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

, Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 and Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

. One ship, named during the 2001 IAAF games in Edmonton
Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta and is the province's second-largest city. Edmonton is located on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Capital Region, which is surrounded by the central region of the province.The city and its census...

 Aeolos Kenteris, after Kostas Kenteris, used to serve this city (his hometown) with 6-hour routes from Athens and Thessaloniki. The main port serving Mytilene on the Greek mainland is Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....


The city produces ouzo
Ouzo is an anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece and Cyprus, and a symbol of Greek culture.-History:Traditionally, tsipouro is said to have been the pet project of a group of 14th century monks living in a monastery on holy Mount Athos. One version of it is flavored with anise...

. There are more than 15 commercial producers on the island.

The city exports sardines harvested from the Bay of Kalloni
Kalloni is a town and a former municipality on the island of Lesbos, North Aegean, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lesbos, of which it is a municipal unit. It lies in the west-central part of Lesbos. It has a land area of 241.946 km². At the 2001...

 and olive oil
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

 and woodwork.


Archaeological investigations at Mytilene began in the late 19th century when Robert Koldewey (later excavator of Babylon) and a group of German colleagues spent many months on the island preparing plans of the visible remains at various ancient sites like Mytilene. Significant excavations, however, do not seem to have started until after the First World War when in the mid 1920s Evangelides uncovered much of the famous theatre (according to Plutarch it was the inspiration for Pompey's theatre in Rome in 55 BC, the first permanent stone theatre in that city) on the hill on the western side of town. Subsequent work in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by various members of the Archaeological Service revealed more of the theatre, including a Roman conversion to a gladiatorial arena. Salvage excavations carried out by the Archaeological Service in many areas of the city have revealed sites going back to the Early Bronze Age although most have been much later (Hellenistic and Roman). Particularly significant is a large stoa over a hundred metres long recently dug on the North Harbour of the city. It is clear from various remains in different parts of the city that Mytilene was indeed laid out on a grid plan as the Roman architect Vitruvius had written.

Archaeological excavations carried out between 1984-1994 in the medieval castle of Mytilene by the University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia is a public research university. UBC’s two main campuses are situated in Vancouver and in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley...

 and directed by Caroline and Hector Williams revealed a previously unknown sanctuary of Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

 and Kore
Kore is an energy drink distributed by GNC in 250 mL cans.-Ingredients:Water, Sugar, Dextrose, Citric Acid, Taurine, Sodium Citrate, Glucuronolactone, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caffeine, Sodium Benzoate, Inositol, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate, Niacin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine...

 of late classical/Hellenistic date and the burial chapel of the Gattelusi, the medieval Genoese
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 family that ruled the northern Aegean from the mid 14th-mid 15th centuries of our era. The Demeter sanctuary included five altars for sacrifices to Demeter and Kore and later also to Cybele, the great mother goddesss of Anatolia. Among the discoveries were thousands of oil lamps, terracotta figurines, loom weights and other dedications to the goddesses. Numerous animal bones, especially of piglets, also appeared. The Chapel of St. John served as the church of the castle and as a burial place for the Gattelusi family and its dependents. Although conversion to a mosque after the Ottoman capture of the city in 1462 resulted in the destruction of many graves some remained. The great earthquake of February 1867 damaged the building beyond repair and it was demolished; the Turks built a new mosque over the ruins to replace it later in the 19th century.

Other excavations done jointly with the K' Ephoreia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities near the North Harbour of the city uncovered a multiperiod site with remains extending from a late Ottoman cemetery (including a "vampire" burial, a middle aged man with 20 cm. spikes through his neck, middle and ankles) to a substantial Roman building constructed around a colonnaded courtyard (probably a tavern/brothel in its final phase in the mid 4th c. CE) to remains of Hellenistic structures and debris from different Hellenistic manufacturing processes (pottery, figurines, cloth making and dyeing, bronze and iron working) to archaic and classical levels with rich collections of Aeolic grey wares. A section of the late classical city wall runs across the site which was close to the channel that divided the mainland from the off shore island part of the city. Considerable remains of the two moles that protected the large North Harbour of the city are still visible just below or just breaking the surface of the sea; it functioned as the commercial harbour of the ancient city although today it is a quiet place where a few small fishing boats are moored.

The city has two excellent archaeological museums, one by the south harbour in an old mansion and the other two hundred metres further north in a large new purpose built structure. The former contains the rich Bronze Age remains from Thermi, a site north of Mytilene dug by the British in the 1930s as well as extensive pottery and figurine displays; the former coach house accommodates ancient inscriptions, architectural pieces, and coins. The latter museum is especially rich in mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s and sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, including the famous late Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 mosaic floor from the "House of Menander" with scenes from plays by that Athenian 4th c. BC playwright. There are also mosaics and finds from other Roman mansions excavated by the Archaeological Service under the direction of the archeologist Mme. Aglaia Archontidou-Argyri.


  • Alcaeus (6th century BC), Greek poet
  • Chares
    Chares of Mytilene
    Chares of Mytilene was a Greek belonging to the suite of Alexander the Great. He was appointed court-marshal or introducer of strangers to the king, an office borrowed from the Persian court. He wrote a history of Alexander in ten books, dealing mainly with the private life of the king. The...

     (4th century BC), Greek historian
  • Christopher
    Christopher of Mytilene
    Christopher of Mytilene was a Greek-language poet living in the first half of the 11th century. His works include poems on various subjects and four Christian calendars.- Biography :...

     (11th century), Greek poet
  • Crinagoras
    Crinagoras of Mytilene
    Crinagoras of Mytilene, also known as Crinogoras, sometimes spelt as Krinagorasis or Krinagoras was a Greek Epigrammatist and ambassador, who lived in Rome as a court poet.-Early life:...

     (70 BC-18 AD), Greek epigrammatist and ambassador
  • Eunicus
    Eunicus is the name of two different people in Classical history:*Eunicus, an Athenian comic poet of the Old Comedy, contemporary with Aristophanes and Philyllius. Only one line of his is preserved, from his play Anteia , which was also attributed to Philyllius...

    , Greek statuary and silversmith
  • Hellanicus
    Hellanicus of Lesbos
    Hellanicus of Lesbos was an ancient Greek logographer who flourished during the latter half of the 5th century BC. He was born in Mytilene on the isle of Lesbos in 490 BC and is reputed to have lived to the age of 85...

     (5th century BC), Greek logographer
  • Hermarchus
    Hermarchus or Hermarch , sometimes incorrectly written Hermachus , was an Epicurean philosopher. He was the disciple and successor of Epicurus as head of the school. None of his writings survive. He wrote works directed against Plato, Aristotle, and Empedocles. A fragment from his Against...

     (3rd century BC), Greek philosopher
  • Lesbonax
    Lesbonax, of Mytilene, Greek sophist and rhetorician, flourished in the time of Caesar Augustus. According to Photius I of Constantinople he was the author of sixteen political speeches, of which two are extant, a hortatory speech after the style of Thucydides, and a speech on the Corinthian War...

     (1st century BC), Greek sophist and rhetorician
  • Pittacus
    Pittacus of Mytilene
    Pittacus was the son of Hyrradius and one of the Seven Sages of Greece. He was a native of Mytilene and the Mytilenaean general who, with his army, was victorious in the battle against the Athenians and their commander Phrynon. In consequence of this victory the Mytilenaeans held Pittacus in the...

     (c. 640-568 BC), one of the Seven Sages of Greece
    Seven Sages of Greece
    The Seven Sages or Seven Wise Men was the title given by ancient Greek tradition to seven early 6th century BC philosophers, statesmen and law-givers who were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom.-The Seven Sages:Traditionally, each of the seven sages represents an aspect of worldly...

  • Praxiphanes
    Praxiphanes a Peripatetic philosopher, was a native of Mytilene, who lived a long time in Rhodes. He lived in the time of Demetrius Poliorcetes and Ptolemy I Soter, and was a pupil of Theophrastus, about 322 BC. He subsequently opened a school himself, in which Epicurus is said to have been one...

     (4th century BC), Greek philosopher
  • Sappho
    Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life...

     (6th century BC), Greek poet
  • Theophanes
    Theophanes of Mytilene
    Theophanes of Mytilene was an intellectual and historian from the town of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos who lived in the middle of the 1st century BC. He was a friend of Pompey and wrote a book about his expedition to Asia...

    , middle of first century BC, Greek statesman, close friend of Pompey the Great.


  • Theophilos Hatzimihail
    Theophilos Hatzimihail
    Theophilos Hatzimihail , known simply as Theophilos, was a major folk painter of Neo-Hellenic art...

     (c. 1870-1934), Greek painter
  • Hermon di Giovanno (c. 1900-1968), Greek painter
  • Konstantinos Kenteris
    Konstantinos Kenteris
    Konstandinos Kenderis, also spelled as Konstadinos Kederis is a former Greek athlete...

     (1973-) (Greek
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

  • Alexis Panselinos
    Alexis Panselinos
    Alexis Panselinos is an award winning Greek novelist and translator. He read Law at the University of Athens and worked as a practicing lawyer...

     (1903–1984), Greek writer
  • Tériade
    Tériade was a native of Mytilene who went to Paris in 1915 at the age of eighteen to study law, but who instead became an art critic, patron, and, most significantly, a publisher....

     (1889–1983), Greek art critic, patron, and publisher


  • Lysimachus, in Shakespeare's
    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

     Pericles, Prince of Tyre
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

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