Intellectual Life of Lesvos

Lesvos during its long lasting history, presents significant personalities of great intellectual wealth: Terpandros (700 B.C.) the father of lyric poetry, Pittakos (648 B.C.) one of the Seven Sages of antiquity, Arion (625 B.C.) charismatic lyric poet and citharode, Alcaeus (600 B.C.) eminent lyric poet, and Sappho (620 B.C.) the greatest poetess of antiquity whose poems are characterized by their passion and sensuality, giving her for this reason the name “Tenth Muse”. Other important personalities of antiquity are Theophrastus (372 B.C.), fine philosopher and botanist – known also as “father” of botany – and Theophanes (100 B.C.), great historian and follower of Pompey in his expedition to Asia Minor.

During Roman – Byzantine era, there is a relative intellectual stagnation on the island. In the early years of Turkish dominion, Lesvos is found in intellectual lethargy, but during 15th century A.D. there has been an awakening with the Holy Monastery of Leimonas as spiritual centre.

Eminent personalities of the 18th century are Ignatius of Hungary-Wallachia and Benjamin of Lesvos who was called “Teacher of the Nation”. In the 19th century the brothers Demitrius and Gregorius Vernardakis, Georgios Aristides and Christoforos Lailios support Greek education and the island’s intellectual life.

In the 20th century, Argyris Eftaliotis revives the Modern Greek Literature, followed by the great novelists Stratis Myrivilis and Ilias Venezis who promote antiwar and humanitarian values through their works to the global readership. Asimakis Panselinos, Nikos Kambas, Stratos Paraskevaidis, Miltos Koundouras participate in the island’s intellectual flourishing called “Lesviaki Anoixi” (Lesvos’ Spring) and the Nobel prize winner Odysseas Elytis introduces the uniqueness of Lesvos’ nature to the whole world through his poetry.

The art of painting has many renowned representatives in the late 19th early 20th century. Fotis Kontoglou, Giorgos Iakovides, Antonis Prototpatsis, Orestis Kanellis, the folklore painter Theofilos Chatzimichael and the inspired art book editor Stratis Eleftheriades Teriade are included in the long list of creators from Lesvos.

The presence of admirable representatives of the intellectual life is constant on the island, as well as a significant number of cultural associations which contribute to its continuous intellectual growth.