On the island of Hephaestus mythology and history harmoniously coexist in the memories and way of life of the locals. Limnos's strategic, geographic location (near Hellespont and the Black Sea) and geological formation are two features that have remained constant through the centuries and millennia. Limnos history of civilization traces back some 6,000 years with prehistoric peoples and ancient cities such as Poliochni, Hephaestus and Kavirio, however other archeological digs and excavations have brought new evidence of additional ancient settlements that could date as far back as 10,000 B.C. The first settlers founded the famous city of Poliochni (4th millennium B.C.) and was the oldest urban center and commercial port in Europe.
The parliamentary institution of Poliochnis, which still operates to this day on the eastern shore of the island, is the oldest governing body in the history of the world, according to historical data and studies. These pioneers in Limnos paved the way for future collective governing institutions worldwide. Massive earthquake eruptions caused the volcano Mosychlos to sink into the sea (both events 1,500 B.C.), leaving the city in ruins, from which it never recovered. The subsequent settlers on the island were known as the Sintyes.
Limnos connection with mythology is the god Hephaestus, who is said to have moved his works to Mount Moschylos as well as his children, the “Kaviros”. This is one reason why it is believed that metallurgy flourished on the island during antiquity. Limnians are also descendants of the famous Argonauts, where their memories come alive in everyday life here. After the Sintyes, the Minoans and Minyans settled on the island, and the mesh of the different peoples played a significant role in the development and advancement of Limnos. The two major cities at the time, Myrina and Hephaestia, together inherited the moniker “Dipolis”.
Key Dates & Events in the History of Limnos
• in ancient times, the island was conquered by the Persians, but was later freed with the help of the Athenians
• in 512 B.C., the island is admitted into the Athenian Alliance
• from 360 to 166 B.C., Limnos was the subject of a conflict between the Athenians and the Macedonians, and was plundered numerous times over the years
• The Romans successfully conquered the island in 166 B.C., but from the 7th century A.D. until the 11th century, it was under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, and served as a major naval base
• 1207 – 1456: first dominated by the Venetians (1207), the Byzantines again (1279) and finally by the Ottomans (1456)
• 1478: heroic actions by the legendary Maroula during the war over annexing Limnos to the Ottoman Empire. Maroula, daughter of the region’s ruling king, fought against Sulieman and achieved a key victory in May, 1478. A statue in her honor has been erected in the courtyard of the Church of Zoodochou Pigis (Life-Giving Spring), just outside of Kotsina.
• The island also played a pivotal role in the Orlov uprising of 1770 while sea captains and sailors contributed to the Greeks’ collective independence movement against the Ottomans
• October 1912: the island is freed, led by admiral Kountourioti
• The island was officially annexed to Greece in 1914, after the ratification by the Great Powers.
• October 1918: the Armistice of Moudros signing (between the Allied Powers and Ottoman Turkey) was historic in that it declared the end of the Great War (WWI).
• 1915: during the Gallipoli campaign, some 30,000 British and French troops were stationed in Moudros harbor
• 1923 saw the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne, which included the island’s population swap between Turkey and Greece. From the island, 1,600 Ottoman Turks were evacuated to Turkish mainland, while some 4,500 Greeks of Asia Minor descent came to Limnos. The present-day village of Nea Koutali is founded by Greek refugees from the Asia Minor village of Koutali-Marmara.
• During World War II, in April 1941, Limnos fell to the hands of the Nazi Germans while the port in Moudro was used as a German naval base until 1944, when it was finally liberated.