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A look at history of Molyvos

Molyvos view from the harbor

Molyvos view from the harbor

Human presence at Mithymna goes back to prehistoric times. The name of the ancient city is pre-Greek, and in the writings of ancient authors, on ancient coins and in inscriptions it appears in the Aeolic form of ‘Mathymna’ and the Attic ‘Methymna’ or ‘Methymne’. In antiquity the city was an important military, commercial and manufacturing centre, with links with Thrace, the Hellespont, and Asia Minor, where, after 770 BC, it founded colonies. In the Byzantine period (312-1355), it was the target of frequent pirate raids, or served as a refuge for warring rivals. From Byzantine times down to the present, Moiyvos has remained and developed in the same geographical position. In the Middle Ages, in order to deal with raids from the sea, and because of a considerable reduction in its population, the town was gradually concentrated in a part only of its initial site and of necessity clustered in the castle area. From the eleventh century, trade in the Aegean came into the hands of the Genoese and the Venetians. For the former, after the Gateluzzi (1355 -1462) had established, by peaceful means, their rule in Lesvos, Mithymna was an important commercial port. Having safeguarded their control by building fortifications, they encouraged the cultivation of the olive and the development of the trade in olive oil. It was in this period that the town be-came known as Moiyvos.

From the house of Fine Arts at Molyvos

From the house of Fine Arts at Molyvos

Under Ottoman rule (1462-1912), after local resistance had been neutralised and after the looting, slaughter and destruction brought about by the conquest of the island, many Turks settled in Molyvos, and the town became the administrative and military centre of northern Lesvos. For the Ottomans the Moiyvos area was a rich province which had to supply the Sublime Porte with important resources. Thus, landed property was confi-scated, taxes were imposed and the exploitation of the olive oil now became the monopoly of the Pasha of Mytilene. Many of the inhabitants of Moiyvos were forced to emigrate to the urban centres of Asia Minor. In the eighteenth century, the local commerce began to pass gradually into the hands of the Greeks. The conditions of life began to change for the enslaved population, and with the rise of the Greek bourgeois class in the nineteenth century the terms on which economic life operated were incon-testably reversed. The influence of the Molyviots extended to the shores of Asia Minor opposite, where major landowners cultivated farmland. From the mid nineteenth century, social and economic liberation had already preceded its official confirmation, which finally took place in 1912. In the early twentieth century, Moiyvos was a important commercial and manufacturing centre, its economy being based largely on the uses made of the olive. The Asia Minor Disaster of 1922 naturally dealt a serious blow to the whole development of the area, since Moiyvos lost significant areas of arable land, as well as the major centres of consumption for its commercial and craft industry products —together with the sources of supply of the raw materials for its craft industries. The last Turks left Mo-iyvos in 1923, under the Treaty of Lausanne on the exchange of populations and property between Greece and Turkey. The economic and social reco-very with the establishment in Moiyvos of large numbers of Greek refugees from Asia Minor was only temporary and never compensated for the losses caused by the Asia Minor Disaster. From the beginning of the 1960s, the tourist trade has been a decisive factor for the whole life and development of Molyvos.

Source: Mithymna (Molyvos, Lesvos), edited by the Municipality of Molyvos, @2001

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