Lemnos (Greek: Λήμνος, Limnos) is an island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Lemnos regional unit, which is part of the North Aegean region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Myrina. At 477 km², it is the 8th-largest island of Greece.
Lemnos is mostly flat (hence its more than 30 sand beaches), but the west, and especially the northwest part, is rough and mountainous (highest elevation: Mount Vigla, 470 m). The chief towns are Myrina, on the western coast, and Moudros on the eastern shore of a large bay in the middle of the island. Myrina (also called Kastro, meaning “castle”) possesses a good harbour, which is in the process of being upgraded through construction of a west-facing sea wall. It is the seat of all trade carried on with the mainland. The hillsides afford pasture for sheep, and Lemnos has a strong husbandry tradition, being famous for its Kalathaki Limnou (P.D.O.), a cheese made from sheep and goat milk and melipasto cheese, and for its yogurt. Fruit and vegetables that grow on the island include almonds, figs, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, pumpkins and olives. The main crops are wheat, barley, sesame; in fact Lemnos was Constantinople’s granary during Byzantine times. Lemnos also produces honey (from thyme-fed bees), but, as is the case with most products of a local nature in Greece, the produced quantities are little more than simply sufficient for the local market. Muscat grapes are grown widely, and are used to produce an unusual table wine that is dry yet has a strong Muscat flavor. Since 1985 the variety and quality of Lemnos wines have increased greatly. The island has an excellent airport, possessing a very long runway, capable of supporting Antonov carriers.
For ancient Greeks, the island was sacred to Hephaestus, god of metallurgy, who— as he tells himself in Iliad I.590ff— fell on Lemnos when Zeus hurled him headlong out of Olympus. There, he was cared for by the Sinties, according to Iliad or by Thetis (Apollodorus, Bibliotheke I:3.5), and there with a Thracian nymph Cabiro (a daughter of Proteus) he fathered a tribe called the Kaberoi. Sacred initiatory rites dedicated to them were performed in the island.
Hephaestus’ forge, which was located on Lemnos, as well as the name Aethaleia, sometimes applied to it, points to its volcanic character. It is said that fire occasionally blazed forth from Mosychlos, one of its mountains. The ancient geographer Pausanias relates that a small island called Chryse, off the Lemnian coast, was swallowed up by the sea. All volcanic action is now extinct.
The earliest inhabitants are said to have been a Thracian tribe, whom the Greeks called Sintians, “robbers”. The name Lemnos is said by Hecataeus to have been applied in the form of a title to Cybele among the Thracians. The worship of Cybele was characteristic of Thrace, where it had spread from Asia Minor at a very early period. Hypsipyle and Myrina (the name of one of the chief towns) are Amazon names, which are always connected with Asiatic Cybele-worship.
According to the epitome of the Bibliotheke traditionally attributed to Apollodorus (Epitome I:9), when Dionysus found Ariadne abandoned on Naxos, he brought her to Lemnos and there fathered Thoas, Staphylus, Oenopion, and Peparethus. Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (xxxvi. 13) speaks of a remarkable labyrinth in Lemnos, which has not been identified in modern times.
According to a Hellenic legend, the women were all deserted by their husbands for Thracian women, and in revenge they murdered every man on the island. From this barbarous act, the expression Lemnian deeds became proverbial among the Hellenes. according to Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica the Argonauts landing soon after found only women in the island, ruled by Hypsipyle, daughter of the old king Thoas. From the Argonauts and the Lemnian women were descended the race called Minyans, whose king Euneus, son of Jason and Hypsipyle, sent wine and provisions to the Achaeans at Troy. According to later Greek historians, the Minyans were expelled by a Pelasgian tribe who came from Attica.
The historical element underlying these traditions is probably that the original Thracian people were gradually brought into communication with the Greeks as navigation began to unite the scattered islands of the Aegean; the Thracian inhabitants were technologically primitive in comparison with the Greek mariners.
In another legend, Philoctetes was left on Lemnos by the Greeks on their way to Troy; and there he suffered ten years’ agony from his wounded foot, until Odysseus and Neoptolemus induced him to accompany them to Troy. According to Sophocles, he lived beside Mount Hermaeus, which Aeschylus makes one of the beacon points to flash the news of Troy’s downfall home to Argos.
How to get to Lemnos:
by Boat from the ports of Lavrio (Athens), Thessaloniki, Kavala, Mytilini, Agios Efstratios. For details, contact us.
by Airplane (daily flights with Olympic Air from Athens and with Sky Express from Thessaloniki)