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date: 27 January 2023



  • D. Graham J. Shipley
  •  and Charlotte Roueché


Mytilene (the official form; also Mitylene; now Mytilini), the most important *polis in *Lesbos, situated on an islet (now a promontory) adjoining the east coast. Its walls, extending on to the mainland, enclosed an area similar to that of Athens; it possessed land in Asia Minor. Archaeology has revealed harbour moles, cemeteries, aqueducts, a theatre (possibly Pompey's proto-type for Rome's first theatre), and a major sanctuary of *Demeter and Kore (see Persephone). As *Vitruvius observed, the streets were open to the north wind.Greek finds begin in the protogeometric period. As the city grew powerful, its élite helped found the Hellenion at *Naucratis, and fought Athens over *Sigeum. ‘Lesbian’ transport *amphorae, widely exported now and later, may in fact be Mytilenean. The poet *Alcaeus (1) led one side in a civil war; his arch-enemy *Pittacus became sole ruler (see aisymnētēs), but was reputedly a just man.


  • Ancient Geography

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