History of Limnos

Limnos due to its old volcanic activity was considered as the island of Hephaestus, the god of Fire. According to mythology, Zeus in a conflict with Hera threw his son Hephaestus from Mount Olympus to the island of Limnos. Hephaestus set there his workshop and taught the inhabitants of the island the art of metallurgy.

Another myth refers to Thoas the first king of the island. Thoas, son of god Dionysus and Ariadne, married Myrina from Iolkos and had a daughter Ypsipyli. During his reign the women of the island neglected Aphrodite’s worship and the goddess punished them by giving them a horrible body odor. Their husbands brought concubines form Thrace and their wives as a revenge killed all male population by throwing them from the cape Petasos. When the anger of Aphrodite subsided, the Argonauts with Iasonas arrived at the women’s island.

Here in Anemoessa (windy) Limnos, queen Ypsipyli hosted the Argonauts, and to honor them she organized athletic events with prizes. The first Demigod Pentathletes was Telamonas, Lygeas, Zitis, Kalaes and Pylaias. Pentathlon was introduced in the 18th Olympiad in 708 B.C.

The unique location of the island at the northeast Aegean, opposite to Hellespont, defined its historical route. Limnos was inhabited by many tribes among them the Pelasgians. Archaeological excavations define that the island had been inhabited since the Middle Neolithic period.

Its greatest prehistoric settlement, Poliochni, was founded in 4th millennium b.C and was developed as a fortified city – probably the most ancient one in Europe – with urban structure, important civilization, and the first democratic Bouleuterion (public assembly house). On 17th September 1994, after an invitation by the Ministry of Culture, the guardians of the Aegean were gathered there: 70 eminent personalities from many countries, men of science, of politics, of theatre, of philosophy, of art and intellect, where they co-decided and co-signed the Declaration of Poliochni, declaring the Archipelago of the Aegean as a Cultural Park of Europe.

Limnos, as the neighbouring island of Samothrace, is connected to the mystic cult of Kabeiroi, children of Hephaestus. Remnants of the sanctuary of Kabeiroi were found at the north east of the island. A few kilometres in the south, Hephaistia has been discovered, a city dedicated to Hephaestus, which prospered in 5th century b.C. at the period when the island came into the Athenians’ possession. 

In the same period another important city, ancient Myrina, prevailed at the western part of the island. After these years, Limnos was occupied by Persians, Spartans, Macedonians and Romans.

The Byzantines ruled on the island for more than thousand years and the monasteries of Mount Athos possessed great areas on Limnos. While Hephaistia was declining, a new city was developed, Kotzinos. Some ruins of its fortress are saved near the harbour of Kotsinas. In the 13th century, the island was given to the Venetians who fortified the island’s forts to protect it from pirates and Ottomans. The castle of Kotzinas is connected to the legendary Maroula, the heroic noble lady who defended the city with the sword of her killed father against a Turks’ siege.

In the end of 15th c. Limnos passed under Ottoman rule. In 1770, the unsuccessful siege of Myrina by the Russian troops of A. Orlov caused many troubles to the inhabitants and forced many of them to abandon the island.

From the mid-19th c. the island lived a new era of prosperity due to the commerce and the thriving community of diaspora. Limnos was liberated in 1912 by the admiral Kountouriotis, while during World War I the region of Moudros was used as the allies’ base. About 1.200 men were buried in the allied cemeteries of Moudros and Portiano. After the Catastrophe of Asia Minor, many refugees arrived on the island. 

In 1941-44, Limnos was occupied by the Germans while during the civil war it hosted many exiles of the communist party. After the war, a strong migratory flow was created directed to the mainland as well as abroad, while in our days many who have left the island return to their birthplace.

Source: http://www.lemnos.gr/lemnos/istoria/anadromi.htm