The first organized city in Europe.
In 5500 BC, and for thousands of years, there were local farmers and ranchers who worked on the land and tended their flocks on the east side of Lemnos. They built a village by the sea, on a magical bay, overlooking the exact point of where the sun rises. On the opposite coast, a thousand years later, the legendary city of Troy would be built.
Slowly, a fully fledged settlement grew which gradually prospered; at the peak of the city’s development, there were well-designed streets, pipes to collect water and meeting areas in squares, all of which indicate the existence of a fully organized society. An area with stone benches and a rostrum in its center is a strong indication of its democratic organization. The famous “parliament” represents one of the oldest buildings, which were built to accommodate the representatives of a community, where people convened to discuss and decide on public matters together, en masse.
Excavations in Poliochni have revealed seven successive habitation layers, one built on the foundations of another. For 2,000 years the city flourished; gold jewelry was found when a buried vase was unearthed. This was a testament to the affluence, power, wealth, fine taste and sophisticated technical knowledge of the period. Today, this treasure is kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and has much in common with the famous “Treasure of Priam,” found in Troy by Heinrich Schliemann. One of the most unique findings from Poliochni are earthen bowls featuring a tall cylindrical body and two curved handles, a famous style also found in Troy. The decline of Poliochni came after repeated seismic disasters around 1600 BC, and 400 years after the fall of Troy occurred.
Walk between trees bearing olives and laurels, sauntering the streets, like the residents of Poliochni so many thousands of years ago. Visit the small museum, which houses an informative model of the settlement as well as archaeological findings, mainly vessels, that represent everyday life of Poliochni during the centuries. More findings from Poliochni can be seen in the Archaeological Museum of Myrina.
Tip: If you are on the island during the August full moon, (the biggest and brightest of the year), do not miss a visit to Poliochni on that night! The sight of the full moon with the musical performances and the party that follows will create unique memories. You may need to park your car and walk to Poliochni, since it is very crowded and parking is not so easy, but surely, it will be a night to remember.
“Lemnos: the Island to Thrace, has 2 major cities Hefaistia and Myrina …”.
Hephaestia, city dedicated to the Ancient God Hephaestus, was in ancient times, the second most important city of the island along with Myrina. The excavations uncovered the remains of houses, a cemetery and a sprawling sanctuary, which according to all indications, was dedicated to the Great Goddess Lemnos.
Near the temple, two pottery kilns have been discovered, which indicate a pottery workshop, a reminder of the island’s ancient pottery tradition.
Around 300 BC, the residents of Hephaestia chose a hillside overlooking the point where the sky and the sea meet to build a unique theater. Constructed from local stone, the theater was recently restored and is used during the summer months for plays and concerts offering magical evenings for guests. A build-up of silt which altered the appearance and functionality of the port of Hephaestus was probably the reason why the city gradually declined and the adjacent natural harbor of Kotsinas was developed by the Venetians, who gradually transformed it into a commercial center in northern Lemnos. There were rich findings from the archaeological site here, with clay statuettes of sirens and tiles depicting a lion tamer with two lions, which you will see in the Archaeological Museum of Myrina.
Tip: If you find yourself in Limnos at the end of August, do not miss the Hephaestia Festival! Choose between a performance of ancient drama or a musical evening in one of the most important theaters of Greek antiquity and the Aegean Sea, in the land of Philoctetes, the same theater that the inhabitants of Hephaestia used 2,500 years ago!!!
There are two terraces here on the slope of a low hill that descends steeply into the sea, and a stone guard house that is blooming with oleanders. Observing the rows of Doric columns, you will appreciate the site’s important history some twelve centuries ago.
The ancient Lemnians chose the most beautiful parts of the island to worship the Kaveiria. The Kaveiroi, were deities of fertility and fruitfulness and the children of God Hephaestus, the god of fire who had close links to the island.
We do not know many details about the content of the worship rituals, as they took place in ancient times. We know, however, that the inhabitants of Lemnos were undertaking rituals in the sacred island of Samothrace between the 8th BC century to the late 3rd to early 4th AD century.
The destruction of the Kaveiria temple is associated with the final victory of Christianity and the destructive fury of the first Christians. Today, only the Doric columns give us a clear picture of the Hellenistic “Telesterion”.
The beauty of the Kaveiria temple is complemented by the nearby cave of Philoctetes. At sea, just below the altar, is the famous cave where, according to mythology, Odysseus, on the way to Troy, left Philoctetes, who was gravely ill from a snakebite. According to tradition, Philoctetes was cured with the help of terra lemnian (Lemnian soil), and eventually the outcome of the Trojan war fell upon Philoctetes’ shoulders, depending on whether or not he would deliver Odysseus his weapons. The tragedy of famous ancient playwright Sophocles named “Philoctetes”, connects this story with eternal moral issues. And although the way toward the cave requires care because it is basically a small path on the rocks, it is a worthwhile trip for getting a glimpse into the mythology and gazing upon the same sea as these Homeric heroes.
In Koukonisi, a small island on the eastern side of the Gulf of Moudros, there is an ongoing archaeological excavation, by the Lemnian archaeologist Christos Boulotis. At the top of the island an important prehistoric settlement has been identified with a long, continuous habitation from the early to the late Bronze Age. The findings suggest that 4500 years ago a society developed, which gradually became comparable to Poliochni and Myrina. Its inhabitants, as well as practicing agriculture and animal husbandry, were engaged in the manufacture of wool, weaving, the stone carving, pottery and copper art.
The society on Koukonisi island developed trade links with the islands of the Aegean, Thessaly and Asia Minor. The settlement was suddenly destroyed by an earthquake, which was accompanied by fire.
Koukonisi is connected to Lemnos with a 400 meter causeway. Although the excavation is not yet visitable, it is worth a tour to this small island where in 2,500 BC people organized their lives and created a remarkable civilization.
Just three minutes from the hotel, at Bournia bay, is the Venetian Kotsina Castle. Looking at this small fishing village now, you would never guess that this was once the home of a thriving Venetian colony with a fortress, similar to Anavato in Chios. The site of the city took advantage of the key strategic position of the port, named after St. Mark, a key member of the Venetian Republic. Walking beside the sea, and the Church of ‘Life Giving Spring’, you will see the ruins of the Venetian castle, one of the strongest fortresses in Lemnos together with those in Myrina and Moudros. Kotsinas castle had a turbulent history, sustaining four attacks from the Ottoman Turks during the Venetian rule. In 1442, the defense of the castle from the Ottomans was undertaken by Constantine XI Paleologos, the last Byzantine emperor. It is said that his wife, Empress Catherine, is buried in the bowels of the castle. Inside the castle is the temple of the ‘Life Giving Spring’, while in the churchyard there is an impressive bronze statue of a young soldier with a sword in hand. In 1478 the Turks besieged Kotsinas again, this time led by Suleiman Pasha. The fort was defended this time by Maroula, the daughter of Greek fighter George Makris. Maroula encouraged by her compatriots during the siege of the castle, and rallied the soldiers by wielding the sword of her slain father.
The entire history of the Mediterranean can be summarised by studying this castle and its surrounding area, which is one of the most beautiful in the whole Aegean. The castle is a trademark of Lemnos, given its strategic position on the rock above the present town of Myrina, where for centuries it provided security and protection to the town below. It was in fact one of the largest strongholds in the Aegean Sea. Findings in the area have indicated the presence of Pelasgic cyclopean walls. Whatever brings you to the island of Lemnos, this iconic monument of Myrina is a must-visit place! The castle was the site of many past battles, between Greek, Turks and Venetians. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to witness the battles between those who now strive for dominance of the castle today – male deer (platoni)! The best time to go up to the castle is on the early morning, before the sun gets very hot. Experience the fragrances of Greece, with wild thyme and oregano springing up everywhere. From Myrina’s vantage point, you can see the shores of Lemnos, a mosaic of tiled roofs, trees and poplars, and beyond that, the ridge of Mount Athos and the blue of the Aegean stretching out to the horizon. A walk around the castle is also beautiful at dusk, with photographers chasing the orange light just before sunset while watching as the wild fallow deer roam the castle grounds. Equally impressive is the spectacle of the floodlit castle at night, from the city of Myrina. If you squint and use your imagination it’s almost as if the castle is hovering in the sky!
RESIDENTIAL HOUSES & ROMEIKOS GIALOS
Romeikos Gialos was named during the Turkish occupation, as was the area that the Greeks (Romioi) were allowed to travel. It is the one of the two beaches of capital Myrina, the other is called Turkish Gialos, located on the side of the port.
The 19th century was a period of great prosperity for society of Lemnos. The development of trade meant funds flowed into the island of Lemnos from wealthy emigrants, creating a new economic prosperity which changed the architectural character of the whole island. The Lemnians who migrated mainly moved to Egypt, but wanted to maintain close ties with Lemnos, building luxury housing and financing the construction of schools and churches in their homeland. Going around the island today, numerous townhouses whisper stories of economic prosperity, courage and creativity that epitomise this whole era. The cosmopolitan life of Limnia emigrants and the number of stimuli with which they come in contact, from the four corners of the world, made them go one step further and express themselves through the more radical stream of “neoclassical eclecticism.” This style is influenced by “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of the works of classical antiquity, and successfully integrates a variety of architectural elements.
The beautiful neoclassical houses of Myrina, especially those built along the Romeikos Gialos, and the numerous houses in the villages experienced some prosperity during the 19th century, such as in Varos, Kontias, Kornos, Kaspakas, Moudros, Kontopouli etc, are all exceptional examples of this style. Many are still in very good condition and are now enjoying a second heyday, housing other than private homes, museums, public and social services and even parts of the Varos Village Boutique Hotel within Varos village itself.
ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM of MYRINA
The three-story neoclassical building of the Museum of Lemnos was built in the early 20th century and during the Turkish occupation, it became the office of the Turkish governor. In 1939 the building was sold by the Pallimniako school fund community, on the condition that the public donated the house to be used as the Archaeological Museum. During the interwar years, the building housed the findings of Italian excavations on the island. During the Second World War, the museum was seriously damaged. Repairs were completed in 1959 and the first re-exhibition was in 1961. In 1991, the building was restored and re-dedicated for the second time, enriched with contemporary archaeological findings in 1993. The museum was damaged by an earthquake in 2014, and is undergoing renovations, so be sure to call before you visit.
The museum contains the following collections
Italian excavations in Poliochni (prehistoric)
Italian excavations at Kaveirio (Archaic – Roman)
Italian archaeological finds in Hephaestus (geometric – Hellenistic)
systematic excavations in Koukonisi (prehistoric)
excavations Findings of K ‘Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Lemnos
Myrina Lemnos, ZIP 81400, Tel .: 22540 – 22990, Fax: 22540 – 22637
FOLK ART MUSEUM
In the village Portianou is the Folklore Museum, housed in a traditional building, characterized as a monument, which represents an archetypal example of folk architecture of this Lemnian village. It consists of eight rooms and a marquee. Inside you can see traditional folk costumes in special display cases dating from 1800, as well as examples of weaving, a spinning wheel, warps, and various knitting tools. Among them boards, the hundredweight and several pitchers. Visitors can also admire a fitted kitchen with traditional fireplace, utensils and the daily household objects of yesteryear. On the second floor there is a traditional living room and a fine wooden chest. A wedding bed with handmade linen and beautiful lace is also located here. In the outdoor area there are agricultural tools used for carving, threshing, winnowing and harvesting. In the same area you can also see the traditional threshing floor.
Operation from July 15 to September 15 daily
Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 01.00 pm and 06.00 pm to 09.00 pm
Tel .: 22540-51785 and the remainder time upon request
MUSEUM OF NAUTICAL TRADITION AND SPONGES
The Museum of Nautical Tradition and Sponges is in Nea Koutali village, and here you can see the nautical tradition of refugees from the island of Koutali of Propontis. In 1922, the refugees used sponge gathering and processing as their main source of income.
Operation (please check by calling)
Monday, Wednesday-Sunday: 10.00-14.00
Telephone Museum: 22540-92383
This Contemporary Art Gallery in the village of Kontiatinon is home to some of the great names of Balkanic art. The work on display here showcases different views of Lemnos by artists from Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Skopje (FYROM) and Turkey. These creations are now the permanent exhibits of the Gallery and are housed in an elegant stone building which was created by the art lovers of Kontiatinon. Alongside the permanent collection, the gallery occasionally hosts periodic exhibitions of artists from Lemnos, the rest of Greece and abroad.