19-Mar-2004 -- After having visited 38N 26E this morning, at noon we were one
degree more North at the confluence off Lesbos Island, 39N 26E.
The Island of Khíos is still well visible when looking South.
Nísos Lésvos, or Lesbos, is a mountainous island with some well wooded
hills. The highest elevation is Óros Olimbos with 968 m.
Looking towards NE we see Kólpos (Gulf)
Kallonís with a very narrow entrance. Just in front of this entrance there
is a small rocky islet, Vrakhonisídes Kalloni.
The views to NW
East show us the
entire Southern coast of the island.
Mesótopan is the nearast village to the confluence.
Farther to NW is the village of Skála Eressou, the birthplace of
the great poetess Sappho.
The Westernmost tip of Lesbos is Cape Sígri with an offlying islet, Nísos Sígri.
Lesbos is inhabited since many thousand years. It was always important due
to its geographical location.
The island was and is especially famous for its sponsorship of arts. Several
famous paintors, poets and musicians of ancient Greece came from Lesbos, -
the poet Sappho, the singer and poet Arion, the musician Terpandros and
Legend tells us that the head of the famous singer Orpheus, who has
accompanied the Argonauts during their search of the Golden Vleece - and
being able to calm down even the wildest animals just by playing the lyra
and singing - has been washed onto this island, the centre of the lyric art,
after he had been teared to pieces by furious female Bacchants as he refused
participate in the orgiastic festivities in honor of the God Dionysos.
The tradition of sponsoring arts prevails up to today. Several Greek and
international artists live on the island of Lesbos. Philosophy was sponsored
as well. One of the Seven Sages of old Hellás (Greece) is believed to be
from this island.
Reading or hearing the word "Lesbos", some of us may probably think of a
certain sexual orientation.
And indeed, the word "Lesbian" comes from "Lesbos".
Let me try to explain the connection of these two words:
The Greek poetess Sappho (born 600 B.C.) was born in Skála Eressou, where
she was gathering around herself girl friends and schoolgirls
in order to worship Aphrodite and the Muses. We can conclude from the
fragments of her works that she was maintaining certain sexual - or let's
better say: at least erotic - relations with
them as well. Therefore this practice is also known as
it was customary in these days, girls and women were given lessons in order
to improve their promising talents of gracefulness, charm, poetry,
philosophy and music. Noble and cultured women took extreme care for their
students, which followed their experienced lady teachers with pleasure.
These exclusively female groups were cultivating tradition and handed it
over from generation to generation. Sappho founded her school for singers on
Lesbos which enjoyed great reputation.
Sappho was the greatest lyric poetess of ancient Greece. She wrote and sang
about unrequited love and the grief resulting thereof. Further she wrote
hymns to the Gods and wedding songs. Only a few fragments of them have
In later Greek history Sappho has been critized and even outlawed by calling
her a prostitute and destroying her reputation. The reason for was probably
the very appassionate lyrics with which she praised love and wrote about her
Such things were not considered to be moral in later times. Love was then
described only in a very circumstancial and abstract way. Additionally, the
women and girls on Lesbos had a very independent, social and free live. The
women were educated and were allowed to develop their skills in poetry and
philosophy. For the women later, e.g. in Athens, this was no longer
possible. They had to live secluded in their houses with their families.
So to say Sappho's subsequent ban is certainly the deliberate discrimination
of women who strive to be independent and has rather not much to do with a
In 596 B.C. Sappho had to flee to Sicily for political reasons, where she
died about 568 B.C.
Lesbos was occupied by various powers. Due to this fact we see so many
different architectural styles there, as old Roman buildings and viaducts,
Byzanthine monasteries and castles, mosques from the time of the Turks and