The Evolution of the Landscape of the Island of Lesvos: According to Literary Sources and Relations

The Evolution of the Landscape of the Island of Lesvos: According to Literary Sources and Relations

Nicolas Vernicos, (Prof. Emer.), University of the Aegean, Mytilene.

The issue we wish to address in this paper is the extent to which travelers’ relations, local literary sources and scattered journalistic impressions provide information as to the aspect and composition of past landscapes in the island of Lesvos.Mytilene-Athens, April 1990[1]

Today (i.e. the 1990’s), the island’s landscape can be described as dominated by a dense olive grove in the east and south-east. Lesbos is however largely desertified and treeless west of a north-south line going from the coastal village of Petra to the small town of Kalloni, while one finds a relatively compact pine tree forest [the Tchamlik] east of that same line, when traveling from Mytilene towards Kalloni. As a rule, villages are still surrounded by cultivated plots and small orchards, which are also seen in most of the minute alluvial coastal plains and especially in the flat Kalloni area.

It is our belief that adequate knowledge of the long-term evolution of these main landscapes and a better understanding of the vegetation’s history – both the wild and the cultivated – in the Aegean will prove of great help to those dealing with natural equilibria. We will also add that we are now entering a period of a major retargeting of our agricultural policies, as well as of the ways we conceive monitoring sustainable ecological equilibria, molding landscapes and managing wild or set aside land.

The importance of all these preoccupations explains why progressively, those trained in rural economics will have to broaden the scope of their knowledge, to include the study of landscape and non-cultivated land management.

The main questions we would wish to elicit through a rereading of historic sources are the situation that was prevailing in the now “desert” west, the extension of planted and forested areas, the major changes in the cultivated or semi-cultivated vegetation.

Obviously, village populations in the past were largely dependent on locally grown staples; it will be of interest to enquire as to the nature and extent of such products.

The Last Hundred Ywars
Existing information regarding the vegetation and the natural aspect of Lesbos, from ancient, medieval and early modern times remain scanty, as is the case for most of Greece Even travelers in modern times, with proper training in natural sciences and botany; seldom provide thorough accounts of the landscape. This we consider a clear indication that our actual interest in landscapes is a modern scientific preoccupation and still requires considerable field work, especially in the Aegean.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, botanists and geographers like H. Kiepert, R. Koldewey and C. Candargy, made extensive studies of the island’s flora and mapped the vegetation. We have thus a relatively clear image of the structure of the cultures and the vegetation zones of Lesbos at about 1890, allowing for systematic comparisons with actual satellite images. Furthermore, it is possible, by means of land surveys to control Kiepert-Koldewey’s cartography, in a number of sites (Desertification, 1986).

Generally speaking, it appears that a hundred years ago the island of Lesbos had a similar ecology and landscape structure to the one we actually observe. However, the forested areas were presumably more extensive, the olive groves probably half as important as they are today and the cultivated areas around the villages much more organised. As a result, the desertic west part of the island was probably spotted with numerous cultivated zones and what is more important; there existed in the north of the island an extensive strip of greenery, which must date from very early times. Yet a number of question-marks persist cautioning us as to the accuracy of some indications provided by Kiepert-Koldewey at the local level.

In any case, and apart from the details, the very fact that we have a clear and scientific image of the landscapes of Lesbos in 1890, allows us to conclude that, within a similar ecological landscape structure, considerable medium-term changes have occurred during the last hundred years.

These changes include: an important effort to plant olive trees to replace other cultures and to win cultivated space on wild lands (maquis and forests), the quasi-complete destruction of oak tree clusters (Quercus aegilops macrolepis) and forests, the abandonment of vineyards and of cereals. Since the 1960’s further decrease of agricultural activities due to emigration and development of other activities, brought forth the disorganisation of the cultivated space of the inland villages, and a further systematic effort to extend olive trees and orchards that generally allow for people to limit the time they must spend in the fields. Since the 1980s, the growing demand for meat and dairy products along with EEC/EU subsidies resulted in an impressive increase of sheep and goat herds: 250,000 in 1978 to 345,000 in 1987.

Therefore, a first conclusion points to a hundred years evolution during which the island of Lesbos underwent a massive plantation of olive trees in the east and a “desertification” in the west, resulting from the abandonment of subsistence cultures and from the reduction of the tree cover that was later exacerbated by overgrazing.

It is not clear how the landscape was modified during those times, when first, the villagers intensified their staple and subsistence cultures (1912-1944) and later, following massive emigration dramatically reduced all agricultural activities (1950-1979). Then, once again, during the last ten years we observe a regain of husbandry and pastoral activities in the island.

Walking through the land one still observes the remains of important irrigation works, which though of a relative primitive technology, seem to have harnessed most of the seasonal streams and rainwater flows. We have reached the conclusion that they generally date back to the years 1905-1925 and 1936-43 (a period of autarchy and war).

In this respect, it may be interesting to note that Lesbos does not seem to have the number of wind mills its 100,000 population would have required, instead one discovers the ruins of several groups of water mills. Significantly one of the streams of Kalloni is named the “water mill river” (Μυλοπόταμος) and we have initiated a small study on the irrigation system that is still in use in the village of Lambou Myloi, where until the 1940’s seven water mills were functioning. It is our contention that a fairly good mastery of water management was one of the features of agriculture in Lesbos; this question requires an extensive field work to spot the ruins and to establish the way village fields were tended and irrigated, as well as the periods during which coastal marshes were dried to provide for garden plots (Thermi, Yera, Kalloni). Water, including hydraulic power, was also paramount for the numerous local olive oil presses and soap factories.[2]

Gardening, following a tradition that existed in areas surrounding the urban centres of the Ottoman cities, was also a probable major activity and a definite feature of the island’s landscape a hundred or even a hundred fifty years ago. Kiepert-Koldewey’s map of vegetation clearly shows the existence of an area of orchards surrounding the city of Mytilene, as well as smaller ones along the east coast around Sigri and on the hills of the capital’s peninsula (Amali). It should be reminded that the town of Mytilene along with Ayvalik on the mainland formed a double urban pole of more than 70,000 people at its peak in 1900-1912.

It is interesting and significant that Candargy enumerates large number of different sorts of pears and other fruit trees, that could provide the markets of Mytilene and Ayvalik with mature fruits, of early and late varieties, for seven consecutive months. Even the vineyards, as we will see, appear to have been geared to the production of table grapes in November and December. It is worth adding that pears (Pyrus) co-planted with olive trees produced another major cash crop in the past. Both in Lesvos and in other North Aegean islands they dried pears and exported them to Egypt,

It is also within this Anatolian tradition of gardening and decorating the urban landscapes, that Lesbos towns and villages still display the luscious spring bluish blossoms of Wisterias (Wistaria sinensis) that cover the roads and central places of Molyvos, Agiassos, Moria and can been seen in numerous house gardens along with an unusual, for Greece, number of roses. The aesthetic of the landscapes within and around the human settlements raises a question that could lead to extensive discussions. In a provocative manner we could add that there is – according to our view – a definite link between the cultural development of a population and the way its immediate surroundings are organised, cleaned, cultivated and decorated. We have here another important dimension of the functions of landscapes.

An excursus in ancient times
Reference to classical authors and ancient Greece is in order when one deals with the Aegean and other parts of the country. Scientists must however be cautioned not to forget the rules of the historic method in judging past information. We should also clearly understand that the time span covered by ancient sources is too long, and too distant from actual times. The literary sources that have come to us generally reflect a belief that nature was or is both unchangeable and potentially perfect or has been undergoing a continuous degradation from human misdemeanor – a view that is also underpinning modern ecological discussions.

Given these precautions, we must remember that Theophrastus (BC c. 370-c. 286), the classic authority on plants was a native of Eressus in Lesbos. His «Historia Plantarum» can be still considered as a major source of reference on classic times vegetation and agricultural practices and there are good reasons to consider, that he could have had first hand information about his island. On the other hand, Longus (3rd c. A.D.), description of Lesbos country side in Daphnis and Cloe, is purely romantic and unreal. Actually six centuries roughly separate the two authors and Longus is a contemporary of Dio Crysostomus (Dion of Prusa) the author of the Huntman whose information on the situation that was prevailing in the countryside of Euboea in the beginning of the third century has been studied with proper historical caution[3].

We would note in this respect, that if rural Greece was in relative decline during the third century, Roman Lesbos had been provided with a remarkable aqueduct which allowed, not only for sufficient water for the needs of the city of Mytilene and its outskirt gardens, but also had numerous derivations by mean of which, it is believed that several areas could be irrigated. As far as we are concerned, we have no adequate knowledge of studies on Hellenistic and Roman times rural irrigation techniques and practices in the Aegean Islands. It appears nevertheless that in the case of Lesbos, the aqueduct had served a dual purpose of irrigating gardens and watering the city population.

To understand the possible impact on the environment it should be noted that Mytilene’s Roman aqueduct[4] collected water as far inland as the so called «Great lake» (Megale Limni), N-W of the town of Agiassos. It then crossed the mountains to the outskirts of the hamlet of Lambou Myloi, collecting on its way the waters of the main springs of the area and reached the village of Moria, where important remains can be still seen. From Moria the water was brought to the hills of up-town Mytilene and could be distributed to both the city and the gardens. The existence of such an important work as well as the course it follows implies a sound management of available water resources in the eastern part of Lesbos.[5] It also points to an intensive cultivation of the upper Evergetoulas river valley and of the flat areas of Moria. It is in these places that we observed that the seasonal streams were systematically walled and their water fed into cultivated areas, possibly during the first quarter of the twentieth century. We therefore formulate the hypothesis that Roman Mytilene was surrounded by important areas of irrigated gardens using the waters of both the aqueduct and of the other water sources in Thermi and Yera.

Another water flow that was tapped in the city, up to relatively recent times, sprang from Langada [the Valley] and reached the sea running along the main road, under the actual Telephone authority building (OTE) and the central Gymnasium. Recent archaeological excavation at that place revealed the abundance of that underground water source (that has been polluted uphill by a municipal waste dump) and the probable existence of a fountain in a Roman villa [1989 excavations].[6]

Returning to Theophrastus [Historia Plantarum] we first observe a remarkable dearth of information about our island. In fact only three indications are provided, two of which refer to the city of Pyrrha that has reportedly sank in the golf of Kalloni. We thus read that the «the oak also deteriorates from seed; at least many persons having raised trees from acorns of the oak {at} Pyrrha could not produce one like the parent tree»[η δρυς. από γουν της εν Πύρρα πολλοί φυτεύσαντες ουκ εδύνανθ’ ομοίαν ποιείν. Theophrastus II.ii.6, Loeb p. 113].

In the region of mount Ordimnos, probably in places we may reach along the actual road going from Antissa to Eressus the presence of a spindle-tree [Ευώνυμος: Euonymus europaeus according Theophrastus editor] is indicated [ III, xviii. 13. Loeb 281 ]. This plant begins to shoot in January, has a horrible smell and is deadly to sheep and goat. We suppose that specialists may roughly deduce what vegetation includeσ this plant. And it is also worth noting that we are also indirectly informed of the presence of sheep and goats grazing in the area, something one currently sees these days. (1990s)

Yet, the most valuable indication that Theophrastus has left, concerns the presence of pine trees on the hills of Pyrrha. Furthermore, it appears that, as it happens in our times, these pines suffered from forest fires and sprouted back some years later. The relevant passage is as follows: «And there is another great difference between the πίτυς (pine) and the πεύκη (fir); the fir (πεύκη) if it is burnt down to the roots, does not shoot up again, while the pine (πίτυς), according to some will do so; for instance, this happened in Lesbos when the pine covered mountain of Pyrrha was burnt. [την πίτυν δε φασί τινες αναβλαστάνειν, ώσπερ και εν Λέσβω εμπρησθέντος του Πυρραίων όρους του πιτυώδους. Loeb III.ix 4-6, p. 217].

Ancient Pyrrha’s general location is in the area of modern Achladeri[7] south of the Vouvaris river mouth and includes the south west reaches of the Pinus brutia forest of Tchamliki. Interestingly enough, these few glimpses of Lesbos landscapes in Theophrastus times appear very close to what we may observe in nowadays, at least in the two places that are mentioned, also indicating the fires that naturally check the Mediterranean pine tree forests.

Reviewing other ancient authors, and especially Athenaeus (see citations, annex ) we learn that Lesbos was a land producing well known wines. Apparently prime quality oats, grown on the coastal hills of Eressus were considered fitted for the Gods. Truffles [ύδνα} and scallop oysters [κτένια] were two other of the islands specialties. To this day, local mushrooms – the Boletus, known as cèpes [in Fr.] or porcini [in It.] and scallops can be seen on the market of Mytilene in season.

We have observed that most of the authors who pray Lesbos wines [in Athenaeus sources] date from the fourth century B.C., reference made to Alcaeus poems bring us back to the seventh century B.C. In this chronological context Diogenes Laertius also mentions a law passed by Pittacus of Mytilene doubling penalties in case of heavy drinking, while testimony from Strabo or even Virgil[8] take us to the very beginning of the Christian era. Taken together, all these indications, along with those of Theophrastus, span more than seven hundred years. The time period is too long and if we are prepared to accept that Lesbos wines may have reached their highest reputation during the fourth century, we must be cautious in extrapolating conclusions for the entire length of time. Similarly ancient place names, such as Nape (Νάπη, vallon boisé‚ see Strabo IX.6c)[9] contain valuable indications but must be precisely located.

It is also interesting to note that these classic Greek authors do not mention any extensive olive tree plantations. However fragmentary inscriptions – probably dating from the reign of Diocletian (284-304) ‘ containing a local cadastral list (see below in the Annex of the paper) indicates a number of villages or places (χωρίον) where were cultivated vignes ἀμπ[έλου], olive trees (ἐλαιῶν), sowing plots for cereals (σπορί[μου γῆς]) and oats (βῦναι). The cadastral also mentions pasture land (voμ[ίου γης]) and sheep herds (πρόβ[ατα] as well as oxen, goats and a horse).[10] Olive culture seem, on the contrary to have been well developed in Samos, where now it is the vineyards that are, since the end of the eighteenth century, the dominant cash crop.

The Vineyards of Lesbos since Early Modern times
Lacking information on the end of the Middle Ages, when the island of Lesbos was governed by the Genoan Gattilusj family (as vassals of the Emperor of Constantinople) 1355-1462, we have turned to two sources of the sixteenth century, namely Piri Reis’ Bahriye (1521) and Pierre Belon (1546). Ottoman fiscal regulations [Kanunname] spanning from 1548 to 1581 also provide several valuable additional indication, that are also completed in a couple of points by the relation of the bishop of Molyvos Gabriel Somaroupa.[11]

According to a (particularly unsatisfactory) translation of Piri Reis’ travels book the Bahriye the island of Lesbos was considerably developed during the century of the Gattilusj government who built several strongholds and castles, churches, fountains and «planted vines and gardens». At that time Mytilene was also the area’s centre of the trade of cloths and textiles.

Some information on the landscape can be found in the description of the coastal stretch from Eressus to the head of the Kalloni golf. Plane trees [Platanus] are reported to exist in the valley of Kroussos and [Salix] in the next alluvial plain one meets when sailing eastwards. Water springs existed in the area of Makara, at the entrance of the golf of Kalloni, where on both sides of the straits, Piri Reis, notes the presence of vineyards. These vineyards also appear on the map published by Koldewey and Kiepert (1885-90).

Even more impressive is the description of the water-mills, plane trees and citrus trees plantations on the western side of the gulf’s head in the north of Parakoila. These cultures existed in 1890 and were still active in the 1950’s. As for the plane trees in Parakoila’s coast we believe that they were possibly grown-up Quercus aegilops, young scattered specimens of which we may still observe while driving along the coastal road. We may further add, that in Koldewey-Kiepert’s map, the inland hills of Parakoila were marked as covered with «valonia oaks» [12] All these indications add up and tend to point to the fact that parts of the landscape (both the cultivated and the wild) may not have substantially changed, each time they have been described during the period from 1500 to 1900.

Pierre Belon’s observations confirm the importance of the wine production in sixteenth’s century Lesbos. He reports a red wine of quality, stained with the help of an added dye introduced by merchants of Jewish origin. Even more important is the mention of wine exports to Constantinople, where the Lesbian wines were highly appreciated. Four hundred years later (1832 -1847) in the Report on the state of the Greek Hospital of the Seven Towers [Ta Historica, vol. 3, no. 5 (June 1986) p. 107, 113] only olive oil retailers from Lesbos are described.

Belon further mentions the local pony horses, a race that has now be extinct.[13] This author also indicates that in Mytilene great quantities of “bulgur” and “trahana” were made. From this we may infer a local production of cereals that was probably complemented by imports from the near lying mainland. During that same century, Lesbos underwent an important depopulation; Omer Barkan[14] (6) historic sources report no more than 7.659 families (about 35,000 inhabitants) for the entire island. If this was the case we may then infer that the wild vegetation and the forested areas may have been left to recover and perhaps to expand during the decades, when population pressure appears to have been low.

In the report on the state of Lesbos written by Gabriel Sumarupa bishop of Methymna at about 1630-41, vineyards and gardens in Molyvdos and Petra are also mentioned (para. 47.13-15). Their presence is also indicated, in both places, on Keipert and Koldewey 1890’s map. Travelers who visited or sailed around the island in the eighteenth century, like Tournefort (1701), Olivier (1793), and Castellan also indicate a wine production on the island. It should be added that, in those more recent times, the production of olive oil, figs as well as the presence of forests and timber was explicitly mentioned in all written sources. And already the sixteenth century Kanunname had provisions for these products.

A hundred years later, in 1856, the author of the «Ramble in the interior of Mytilene with the late Sir Charles Newton» repeatedly mentions eating grapes during the last days of November. The information must be reliable, since he notes that his travel companion «Herr P— was inordinately fond of grapes» (p. 601). We thus learn that a basketful of them was obtained in Molyvdos, and that very fine grapes were also served in Agiassos. Kiepert-Koldewey map confirms the presence of vineyards in both places. What is new is the indication that the grapes grown in Lesbos, and also probably on the nearby mainland, were of a variety that ripe at a late date, as is the case of the traditional pink-red «fràoula» table grape variety, one still founds on the markets of Greece in October and November.

This interesting deduction may explain why grapes have been cultivated on the hills that surround Sigri, where faint traces of terraces are still visible from the road. Since Sigri was reportedly a Moslem settlement, it is probable that in several places vines were mainly producing table grapes and that late season varieties were more in favour in areas where the population was not drinking wine. We have an indirect confirmation of such a possibility in the 1548-1585 Kanunname where Moslem vineyards are mentioned and are taxed at a rate of four akce per dönum of area.

This pattern of production is also consistent with the Anatolian urban tradition to spread early and late fruit varieties to serve the market from late spring to early winter as we have already indicated. [Candargy 1889, Flora ]. Finally, the first quantitative indication of the grape production of our island, for 1880’s is 4,000,000 klg. (4,000 tons – Vital Cuinet/ Karl von Scherzer/Gabriel Gravier). A rather small output, when one compares with 12,000 tons produced in Samos in 1982 and 6,000 tons in both Lesbos and Lemnos at that same year [NSSG, Agricultural Statistics of Greece Year 1982. Athens 1985 – the latest edition in 1990]

It would be premature, at this stage of our knowledge to discuss of the appearance of the phylloxera in our island. The Samian Yearbook of 1892 [Epetiris tis Hegemonias Samou, 1892, E. Stamatiades, pp. 36-37] mentions an unknown epidemic in 1851 that was fought by means of sulfur imports. Actually, the French trade statistics for Mytilene indicate imports of sulfur of a value of 22,000 francs [G. Gravier, p. 309, 1889-1890]. Phylloxera in two areas of Samos was reported for the first time in 1889-93 [Epetiris 1892, p. 77], by means of efficient organisation the Samians, tried to plan an orderly introduction of American vines and a methodical fight of the lice. Obviously in Lesbos nothing similar could have been attempted given the prevailing local conditions under the Ottoman administration.

Eventually we may deduce from the primacy of olives, fruits [pears and figs] and forest products, that after the occurrence of a late phylloxera epidemic sometimes between 1885 and 1905 and the 1920-22 war, the vineyards were only left to contribute marginally to the global output of agriculture. In 1928 we learn that a mere 615 tons of table grapes, and 1,452 tons of wine-must were produced. We tend, nevertheless to believe that the fact that wine was a relatively secondary product in Lesbos, need a better explanation; probably cultural and commercial reasons may have concurred to the relative neglect of this important cash crop. As an example good vineyards is said to have existed in the area of Tholonia according to local legends [in fact Kiepert-Koldewey do mark their presence on the coast], but they have been replaced by olive trees, that today have the reputation of being the most productive of the Kalloni-Agia Paraskevi region (Ag. Paraskevi 1970, p. 167).

The Pines and Oaks of Lesbos
If the cultivated landscape seems not to have notably changed during the last centuries, at least as long as there were staple cultures in the island, a large question mark exists as to the extension and to the vegetation that prevailed in the wild lands and the forests of Lesbos.

Modern statistics report for the year 1952: 34,300 ha of «forested lands» and 62,000 ha of pastures, along with 38,900 ha of olive plantations and 17,300 ha of arable land. Thirty years later the olive groves have increased to 46,000 ha and the arable land to 19,700 ha; as a result, the island displays a luscious greenery in large areas of its eastern part that appear nowadays more densely planted than in the beginning of the century.

Since our first visit of Mytilene, we were impressed by the island’s «great forest» the Tchamlik [ from turkish cam for Pinus ], as well as by the remarkable absence of compact Quercus plantations, in spite of the fact that this tree is present in several places where young isolated specimens can be easily observed while travelling across Lesbos.

If we are to believe the sources used by Emile Kolodny, the tree vegetation of nearby Lemnos was destroyed during the war between Turkey and Venice over Crete in the seventeenth century. Thereafter the large timber reserve in Lesbos would have been of strategic importance for the Ottoman fleet. Actually, an unpublished French archival source of the eighteenth century informs us that the Ottoman navy maintained a permanent shipbuilding activity in the island [D. Karydis 1989, AN., AE. 861, 1776].

Further notices from Greek sources mention pirate raids from the nearby island of Psara [in the period from 1780 to 1825] to seize timber for their ships. And there is also information that Ottoman administrative acts regulated the exploitation of the forest resources by drastically reducing the cutting of trees during certain periods to allow for regeneration.

We therefore wish to submit the hypothesis that the actual Tchamlik may be partly the result of deliberate and long term efforts of the Ottoman administration to ensure a permanent timber source for its fleet. This policy could have started in the sixteenth century while the population was still low and lasted until the twentieth century. The 1548 – 1581 fiscal regulations include a tax for loads of resin – one of the pine products. There were also provisions for those prepared to clear unproductive land [with the axe] in order to cultivate it, another indication that «forested» land and maquis could be available to local free holders.

Documentary evidence from the village of Lambou Myloi shows that the pine trees occupied more land in that part of the island in 1907 than in 1925, when the hamlet’s new settlers cleared land and planted olives and other fruit trees (pears, cherries).According to Gravier the Tchamlik pine forest covered about 20,000 ha, a reasonably accurate approximation, to which we should add the forested slopes and inner valleys of Mt. Lepetymnos in the north where: «Comme dans la zone the Orthymnos, le sol est couvert de buissons de prynos, de vallonées, de chênes, de petits bois d’oliviers. Sous une herbe constellée d’anémones de toutes couleurs, glissent des rivières assez poissonneuses.» (Gabriel Gravier, Lesbos, p. 273)

Gariga vegetation, along with trees and cultures existed in the Amali peninsula [south of the city of Mitylene] and an Olea-ceratonia population could have been present before the plantation of olives and of the other fruit cultures. Sparse vegetation on the hill tops and on the land-plot limits, as well as the place name Koundouroudia (the local name of Ceratonia siliqua) point to a potential vegetation climax, on an area with a limestone substratum, made of communities of Olea, Ceratonia, Quercus coccifera, Pistacia lentiscus, myrtles, Juniperus and Vitex agnus castus. We understand that specialists still discuss the particulars of such Mediterranean vegetations.

In 1890 the Amali highlands appear to have harbored a pine tree cover with pines and there were places, near Moria where Ulmus (karagac) seems to have grown. However; the most salient feature of the Amali peninsula was probably its ancient olive cultures. Already in 1825 olives covered the vicinity of Loutra (Enepekides 1988- van Osten p.99). From them comes the Turkish name «cap Zeitun» for what the French maps name cap Maleas; a place name, also known by the Greek mariners as Akroterion tis Elaias[15].

With the help of Koldewey and Kiepert indications it was possible to establish a first distribution of the compact Oak tree zones in Lesbos. Our observations however, along with a field study and sampling conducted by Prof. Arianoutsou and Margaris team (Desertification 1986]), demonstrate that the areas where Quercus trees existed were rather common in Lesbos. Actually, it is our impression that on the terraced areas in the vicinity of Skalochori and Vatoussa – in the west of the island where sparse individuals can be easily seen – the oaks were semi-cultivated and co-planted with cereals (oats) and pulses, as was the case in the Cycladic Island of Kea (Tzia). Candargy (1889 Flora, p. 27-28) explicitly speaks about the cultivated Quercus aigilops in the north-west of Lesbos, reinforcing thus our opinion.

In the beginning of the century, the local historian, Taxis, also mentions the development of the production of acorns and grapes in the areas of the villages of Stypsi, Filia, Anemòtia, Tsoucalochòri, Vatoùsa, Telònia, Mesòtopos and Eressus. Other oak tree zones can be seen past the salines of Kalloni, all the way to the bridge of river Tsikniàs in the area of the village Arìsvi. Clear remains of similar vegetation occur in the coast of Paràkoila and on the way to cape Phokàs [west of Vaterà in the Polichnitos area], not to mention several remains of a presumably more extended Quercus vegetation in the north of the island )regions of Mandamàdos, Kàpi and Sykaminià).

There is also clear information that ships were regularly loading acorns, off Gavathas shores at the end of the eighteenth century. This is a coast exposed to northern winds, we therefore deduce that the Quercus vegetation was locally extensive and sufficiently productive to make the weather risk worth taking [D. Karydis 1989, AN AE, unpublished Memoire 1776], Kiepert-Koldewey map of 1890 also indicates a widespread presence of Quercus in the North West. We may also add that there is living memory of an important acorn trade in Eressus that further sustains evidence of an important population of oaks in most parts of Lesbos. Actually, acorns were also used for the production of tanin in the important local leather industry of the Sourlangas and Alepoudelis families in the gulf of Gera.

It is worth adding that modern Greek authors often mention oak trees producing edible acorns. They systematically refer the ancient φηγός [Theophrastus, H.Pl., III.viii. 2]. Such trees are reported to still exist or to have existed in the valley of Tsikniàs [cf. Ag. Paraskevi 1970, p. 18]

At this stage we may also propose an answer to the question raised by Mytilene’s map drawn by Cristoforo Buondelmonti (1414-1420) indicating the presence of a «Great Forest» in the desert west. It now appears that the presence of oak groves above Gavathas and more generally the presence of afforested slopes on the northern costal stretch from Pohi to Petra, gave the impression to those sailing around Lesbos, of a more extensive tree cover on most of the island. In fact, modern times travelers who only sailed along the coast reported similar impression.

Drawing conclusions is not an easy task. Literary sources even when they are the result of first hand field work, as in the case of Kiepert, Koldewey and Candargy, still need to be confirmed at the local level. There is also a need of a full air survey of Lesvos Island, and of some archival research to determine vegetation and cultures in a number of sensitive areas. We will therefore limit ourselves in formulating the following remarks:

1.- The overall structure of the major vegetation and culture zones in Lesbos does not seem to have changed when we compare information of the third century BC to the first century, of the sixteenth century, of the years 1870-90 and of last ten years. Yet, evidence of such a stability mainly refers to the landscapes one observes along the major routes crossing the island, including the one followed by the Roman era aqueduct.

2.- Important fluctuations of the plant cover seem, however, to have occurred in the periphery of all the main vegetation zones.  Documentary evidence, as well as hearsay, indicate that the periphery of the Pinus Forest, as well as the forest tree vegetation in the north and center (mount Lepetymnos) were subject to systematic clearings and planting. As a matter of fact, gariga vegetation in Amali, Moria and on the western slopes of the golf of Yera was systematically replaced by olives.

3.- The reduction of the forest and gariga outskirts, along with the relatively recent abandonment of most of the vine culture, was more than compensated by a continues growth of the olive plantations and of other orchards. A first intensification of the olive cash crop culture dates to the 1920’s, while almond, pear and chestnut orchards were already planted and are clearly mentioned in sixteenth century Ottoman Kanunname.

4.- A notable modification has however affected the Quercus populations of the island. Not only their concentrations have been destroyed – sometimes during the 1940’s war period – but in the northern boundaries of the Quercus zone inland of Gavathàs [N-W of Lesbos] the team of Prof. Arianoutsou and Margaris reported a marked overgrazing pressure. In this respect we strongly suspect that in regions, especially around the villages of the western part of Lesbos, where oaks were probably co-planted with cereals and pulses, desertification processes [as defined by Margaris] are now active. This is the result of emigration, tree cutting, abandonment of extensive cultures and generalisation of subsidies for husbandry.

5.- There is an aggravation of the East-West landscape contrast following the abandon-ment of the village staple cultures and the concentration of sixty-five to sixty-seven percent of the free grazing animals in the West. In the communal areas of Sigri and Eressus one observes traces of terraces on the slopes where, at the beginning of the 20th century, vines [and sometimes oats ] were cultivated.

6.- Simultaneously the twentieth century expansion of the olive and fruit trees plantations continues, and new species are introduced [ e.g. kiwi]. Within this general trend we observe destructive encroachments of the remaining coastal wet lands. The tourist potential of the coast is moreover accelerating the tendency to dry all remaining marshes, despite official efforts to preserve them. The drying of Lesbos wet lands and marshes are probably the major radical landscape changes in the island, the beginnings can be traced back to the 1870’s. Malaria[16] and the need to settle landless peasants were generally the two main arguments that justified this practice.

7.- Finally an urban spread based on secondary homes aiming at summer visitors along with the construction of modern roads, airports and other infrastructures are now shaping the islands landscapes, without seriously affecting the major vegetation zones, there is however an immediate risk of destroying valuable local ecosystems and niches.

To the external observer of modern Lesbos, it clearly appears that there is scope for a systematic management of the islands vegetation resources, especially the mountain forests and of the wild land of the N-E and N-W. These areas can easily be exploited by nature lovers and bird watchers and used as a major tourist resource. Yet, as in the times of Gabriel Gravier (1889) what seems to have dominated were the olive trees with their undercover of grass and wild flowers, as well as the seasonal blossoms of the city and village gardens and streets.

Ag. Paraskevi, 1970: Μάκιστος-Παπαχαραλάμπους Κ., Η Σελλάδα, Αγία Παρασκευή Λέσβου. Athens, 1970.
Bahriye, 1521: Piri Reis, Bahriye in Μαρία Φαράντου (ed. & trans.), Bahriye Κατακτη-τική ναυσιπλοΐα στο Αιγαΐο (1521). Athens, Τέλεθρον, s.d. [1986]
Belon, 1553: P. Belon. Les observations de plusieurs singularités et choses mémorables trouvée en Grèce, Asie, Judée, Égypte et autres pays étrangers rédigées en trois livres, par Pierre Belon du Mans. Paris 1553.
Vrìsa, 1982: Τσελέκας, Κώστας Α., Το χωριό μου η Βρίσα Λέσβου, Athens, 1982.
Gabriel, c.1630: Iωαν. Φουντούλης, Γαβριήλ μητροπολίτου Μηθύμνης. Περιγραφή της Λέσβου. Αθήνα 1960, [45+3 p. Facsims – Gen. GT 2697].
Candargy, 1889 : Constantin A. Cantargy. La Flore de l’îsle de Lesbos. Zurich, 1889.
Castellan, 1811: A. L. Castellan. Lettres sur la Grèce, l’Hellespont et Constantinople. 1ère partie. Paris, Agasse, 1811.
Enepekides, 1988. Ενεπεκίδης Πολυχρόνης Κ.. Αρχιπέλαγoς 1800-1923. Αthens, Estia, 1988. [Several original authors are used indirectly in a second hand narrative].
Gabriel Gravier. 1889. Lesbos, pp. 266-312.
Kanunname: John Christos Alexander. Towards a History of Post-Byzantine Greece. The Ottoman Kanunnames from the Greek Lands, circa 1500 to circa 1600. Athens, 1985. [cf. The four kanunnames and other fiscal regulations that interest Lesbos island date from Muharrem 955 H (23 Febr. – 4 March 1541) to Safer 989 H (18-28 March 1581)].
Karydis 1989: Δημήτρης Καρύδης. Ελληνικό Αρχιπέλαγος. Athens 1989, mimeo – presents the unpublished Mémoires of Mytilene’s French Consulate, A.N., A.E., B1 côte 861, 15 Mars 1776.
Kiepert-Koldewey, 1890 : Heinrich Kiepert und Robert Koldewey. Itinerare auf des Insel Lesbos. Berlin, Dietrich Reimer, 1890 (Gen. GT 2700).
ΛΕΣΒΟΣ: Δελτίο της Εταιρείας Λεσβιακών Μελετών, annual review, Mytilene years 1962-1989.
Μολίνος, Στρατής. Μυτιλήνη, χάρτες και  τοπωνύμια. Αθήνα, 1981.
Παρασκευαΐδης Παν. Στ.. Οι περιηγητές γιά την Λέσβο. Athens, Βιβλοπωλείο Βιβλιο-φίλων, 2nd ed. 1983 [1rst 1973].
Ramble, 1895: * «A ramble in the interior of Mytilene with the late Sir Charles Newton». Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, no. dccccliv, April 1895, vol. clvii [157], p. 596-613 (Gen. GT 2700).
Ramble, 1854: * «A ramble in the islands of the Aegean. The Turk and the Greek». Colburn’s United Service Magazine, (no 305, pp. 475-486, no 306, pp.27-37), 1854. (Gen. GT 882).
Tournefort, 1717: Joseph P. de Tournefort. Voyage d’un botaniste, Tome I. L’Archipel grec. Paris, edit. FM/Découverte, 1982.
Taxis: Σταύρος Ταξής. Συνοπτική ιστορία και μονογραφία της Λέσβου. Cairo, Πολίτης, 2nd ed. 1909 (Gen. HG 77 T 23).

Aθηναῖος : Athenaeus.The Deipnosophists (translated by C. B. Gulick). Cambridge, Mass. – London, Loeb Classical Library, Volumes I-VII, Harvard University Press and Heineman, 1969-1971.
Αλκαῖος (fragment 57) in Π. Berk. Poetae Lyrici Graeci 4. Leipzig, 1882 (1914-15 reprint).
Διόδωρος Σικελός – Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus of Sicily in twelve volumes (translated by F.R. Walton). Cambridge, Mass.- London, Loeb Classical Library, Volumes I-ΣII, Harvard University Press and Heineman, 1967.
Θεόφραστος – Theophrastus. Enquiry into Plants (translated by Sir Arthur Hort). Cambridge, Mass. – London, Loeb Classical Library, Volumes I-II, Harvard University Press and Heineman, [H.Pl.= Historia Plantarum, De Odoribus and Weather Signs LCL no 70-79].
Θεόφραστος – Theophrastus. De Causis Plantarum (translated by B.Einarson and G.K.K. Link). Cambridge, Mass.-London, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press and Heineman, LCL no 471, 1976.
The Geography of Strabo, Loeb Classical Library.
The description of Lesvos in 13.2.1 to 13.2.4 does not contain any information on either the cultures or the land-scape of the island.
Desertification 1986: N.S.  Margaris, A. Arianoutsou, J. Diamantopoulos, Th. Mardiris, J. Pandis, D.Vokou, and N. Vernicos. Desertification in Europe, Final Report to the European Community [contract  ENV-793-Gr II]. Thessaloniki, July 1986 (mimeo). * The case of Lesbos, pp. 16-30.
Fantechi-Margaris 1986: R.Fantechi, N.S. Margaris. Desertification in Europe. Proceed-ings of the Information Symposium in the EEC Programme on Climatology, held in Mytilene-Greece, 15-18 April 1984. Dordrecht, D.Reidel c. 1986 [Eur 10395/isbn 90-277-2230-7].
MAB Technical Notes 2. Mediterranean Forest and Maquis: ecology, Conservation and Management. Unesco, Paris, 1977.

Citations and references not consulted.

Élisée Reclus. Nouvelle Géographie Universelle. Tome IX, Paris p. 597  [Gravier].
Karl von Scherzer. La Province de Smyrne, p. 249 [Gravier].
Vital Cuinet. La Turquie d’Asie. Paris Ern. Leroux, 1891 –vid. pp. 451-52 [Gravier].

Sample of Statistical Information

[Gravier-Cuinet 1889-1891 — pp. 309-310.]
«Les raisins de Lesbos sont délicieux. On récolte annuellement quatre millions de kilogrammes.» (Cuinet, p.  451-52; Scherzer, p. 245). […]
«Lesbos produit en outre, année moyenne, vingt cinq millions de kilogrammes d’olives, trois millions de kilogrammes de vallonées, un million et demi de figues, beaucoup de céréales et de fruits. Elle n’a qu’une seule foret, celle de Τchamlik, d’une vingtaine de kilomètres carrées, mais elle est couverte de bouquets d’arbres qui recèlent quantité de chevaux sauvages, de cerfs et de chevreuils.»

The trade of the port of Mytilene in 1889-1890 evaluated in French francs, was about 18-20 million fr. of exports and about 14-15 million fr. of imports. Exports to England amounted to 813,000 fr and imports to 2,407,000. Similarly, desequilibrated was the trade with the Austrian Empire: 708,000 fr. of exports and 1,658,000 fr of imports.

According to Gravier [p. 309 ] the volume and composition of the trade of the place of Mytilene with France during the twelve month period from March 1, 1889 to the February 20, 1890 was as follows:

Trade of the port of Mytilene with France 1889-1890; [Gravier 309]

Exports francs Imports francs
Huile 56,000 Café 75,000
Vallonée 70,000 Rhums, Alcools 70,000
Cuirs 27,000 Souffre 22,000
Figues seches  3,000 Talc, soude 20,000
Raisins secs[17] 100,000 Indiennes 20,000
Vins 117,000 Quincaillerie 15,000
Riz, légumes – – – – – – – – – – – –
Farines  9,000 – – – – – – – –
Bougies  2,000 – – – – – – – –
Divers 80,000 Divers 100,000
Total 453,000 Total 335,000

The Reputation of Lesbos Wines according to Athenaeus

(all citations are from Athenaeus vols, of Loeb Classical Library translated by C. B. Gulick.)
[Loeb 1, pp. 125-27 – I. 28f ]

«Wine of Lesbos –exclaims Clearchus which Maron must have made himself, I think”, exclaims Clearchus [iv BC]. “There’s not another wine pleasanter to drink than a draught of Lesbian”, says Alexis [iv BC], and continues: “In Thasian and Lesbian wine he swills for the rest of the day, and munches sweets”. The same author says: “Bacchus was kind, for he made Lesbian free of duty to all who import that wine here. But if anybody is caught sending so much as a thimbleful to another city, his goods are confiscated.»

►[.. Οίνος Λέσβιος, όν αυτός εποίησεν ο Μάρων, μοι δοκώ, φησί Κλέαρχος.

Λεσβίου … πώματος ουκ έστιν άλλος οίνος ηδίων πιείν, φησίν Άλεξις.

Θάσιος και Λέσβιος οιναρίοις της ημέρας το λοιπόν υποβρέχει μέρος και νωχαλίζει.

Ο αυτός˙ ηδύς γ’ ο Βρόμιος την ατέλειαν Λεσβίου ποιών τον οίνον εισάγουσιν ενθάδε˙ ός αν εις ετέραν ληφθή δ’αποστέλλων πόλιν κάν κύαθον, ιεράν εγγράφων την ουσίας.[..]

[Loeb 1, pp. 125-27 – I. 28f ]

«Ephippus [iv BC] says: “I like the Pramnian (a)[18] wine of Lesbos… Many the drops of Lesbian that are gulped down eagerly.» […]

►Έφιππος˙ φιλώ γε Πράμνιον οίνον Λέσβιον …. πολλή δε Λεσβία σταγών εκπίνεται άγαν.

Eubulus (writes iv BC): «Take some Thasian or Chian or old Lesbian distilling nectar.»

►Εύβουλος˙ Θάσιον ή Χίον λαβών ή Λέσβιον γέροντα νεκταροσταγή.

[Loeb 1, p. 127 – I. 29b ]
«From Archestratos [iv BC], writer on banquets: «After that, when ye have taken full measure from the bowl dedicated to Zeus the Saviour, ye must drink and old wine,.., grown in Lesbos, which the sea waves encircle..;[…] while Lesbian (wine) will seem to you to possess the glory of ambrosia rather than wine…»

►[..Αρχεστράτου του δειπνολόγου˙ είθ’ οπόταν πλήρωμα Διός σωτήρος , ήδη χρη γεραόν, πολιόν σφόδρα κράτα φορούντα οίνον, […]εκ Λέσβου περικύνονος εκγεγαώτα.[…] κείνος δε (ο Λέσβιος οίνος) δοκήσειουκ οίνον σοι έχειν όμοιον γέρας, αμβροσία δε.

[Loeb 1, p. 135 – I. 31a ]
«Philyllius [v BC] says: “I will furnish Lesbian, mellow Chian, Thasian, Bibline, and Mendaean (wines), and nobody will have a headache.»

►Φησί δε Φιλύλλιος ότι παρέξω Λέσβιον, Χίον σαπρόν, Θάσιον, Βίβλινον, Μενδαίον, ώστε μηδένα κραιπαλάν.

[Loeb 1, p. 133 – I. 30b]
«The Mytileneans call the sweet wine of their country prodromus; others say protropus  [i.e flowing from the grapes without pressing].»

►Ότι Μυτιληναίοι τον παρ’ αυτοίς γλυκύν οίνον πρόδρομον καλούσι, άλλοι δε πρότροπον.
[Loeb 1, p. 143 – I. 32f ]

«The Lesbian (wine) has less astringency and is more diuretic.»

►Ο δε Λέσβιος (οίνος) στύψιν μικροτέραν έχει και μάλλον ουρείται.

[Loeb 1, p. 145 – I. 33c]
«But for wines not treated with sea water (anthosmias), or those which are too astringent, or again for Chian and Lesbian (wines), only the purest waters are suitable.»

►τοις δ’αθαλάσσοις των οίνων και τοις παρέχουσιν ικανοτέραν στύψιν, έτι δε τω Χίω και Λέσβιω τα αποιότατα των υδάτων ευθετεί.

[Loeb 1, pp. 397-98 – III 92d, 92e]
«And Archestratus also has a list (of the testacea) in his Gastronomy: “Aenus produces large mussels, Abydus oysters, Parium crabs and Mytilene scallops. […] as for the “heralds” may Zeus confound them, whether they come from thw sea or the assembly (agora).. excepting one man only. That man is my comrade, his home is in Lesbos of the luscious grapes, and his name is Agathon.»

► Και Αρχέστρατος δ’εν Γαστρονομία φησί˙ ‘τους μυς Αϊνος έχει μεγάλους, όστρεια δ’ Άβυδος, τας άρκτους Πάριον, τους δε κτένας η Μυτιλήνη […] τους δε κήρυκας δ’ επιτρέψαι ο Ζευς, τους τε θαλασσογενείς και τους αγοραίους, πλην ενός ανθρώπου˙ κείνος δε μοί εστιν εταίρος Λέσβον εριστάφυλον ναίον, Αγάθων δε καλείται.

[Loeb 5, p. 79 – XI 471c]
The (drinking) cup is mentioned also by Antiphanes [iv BC] in “Just Alike”, in these words: “When they have finished their dinner…, and then entered the Τherikleios (cup)[19], instrument of Zeus the Saviour, brimful and bubbling with the voluptuous drops from Lesbos made with reverent pains, and each guest [in turn] had seized it with the right hand.»

►«[..μνημονεύει του εκπώματος και Αντιφάνης εν «Ομοίοις» ούτως˙ ως δ’εδείπνησαν […] και Διός σωτήρος ήλθε Θηρίκλειον όργανον, της τρυφεράς από Λέσβου σεμνοπό-νου σταγόνος πλήρες, αφρίζον, έκαστος δεξιτερά δ’ελαβεν ….»

[Alcaeus P.L.G. fragment 39, 40 ]
Τέγγε πνεύμονα οίνω. το γάρ άστρον[20] περιτέλλεται.

Moisten your lungs with wine; for the Dog-star is rising.
Η δ’ώρη χαλεπά. πάντα δέ διψαισ’ υπό καύματος.

The times are oppressive; everything is athirst from the heat]
Πίνομεν, το δέ άστρον περιτέλλεται ..

Let us drink, for the star is rising.
Prof. Dr. Nicolas Vernicos 1990.

ΑΝΝΕΧ 2014
Κτηματολόγιο Μυτιλήνης(επί Διοκλητιανού 284-305)
CADASTRE DE MYTILENE ( Diocletien 284-305)

Five inscriptions from Mytilene, probably dating from the reign of Diocletian [284-305] or after, contain cadastral lists; they are listed under nos 76-80, in Inscriptiones Graecae: I.G., XII2.

Though the localization of the various land holdings in the areas of Pyrgi, Misagros and Kenchreai is exclusively based on linguistic similarity of ancient and modern place names, we may accept that the region concerned lies in eastern Lesbos and is in the neighborhood of the city of Mytilene.

According to these documents cultivated land was of three kinds: vineyards [ampeloi], sowing plots [sporimoi, agri consiti], and olive orchards [elaiai]. In one case (inscription no. 79), the existence of first and second quality plots is mentioned.

The place name Leuke Akte [White Coast] could point to one of the cultivated coastal stretches of Mytilene’s territory where limestone account for whitish colour of the landscape. (Limestone can be found in the peninsula on which lies the main city of the island.)

All document mention pasture lands [nomes, pascuae]; their areas are commensurable to those of the croplands, hinting to the possibility of some form of tended grassland to supply fodder to a limited number of domestic animals.

Inscription no. 76 does enumerate oxen, sheep, goats and a horse.

Regarding pastures [nomes] there is an indication of a marshland at Pyrgion. Such marshes can be found today around the Yera gulf coasts and in Thermi.

IG XII2 – Mytilene, no. 76. p. 33 [French no. 109 ].
The inscription was located in the castle, near the west entrance. (Monotonic transcription)

(a) (b)
  Χω. – – – – – – –
  άμπ. ιούγ. α<ε’
  σπορ. ιούγ. τδ
  έλ. γύρ. σνη
5 νομ. ιούγ ν
Χω …] ώτα προβ. λε
άμπ. ιούγ. β< Χω. Μάγδια συν σπαρτ.
10   σπορ. ιούγ. Υκζ άμπ. ιούγ ια<δ’ η’   10
έλ. γύρ. Σ σπορ. ιούγ. σπγ
νομ. ιούγ. Σμ έλ. γύρ. σος
13 προβ. μ[α νομ. ιούγ λ


(c) (d)
βους  [ια νομ. ιούγ. ξε(?)
προβ. …  
Χω. Τείχεα βους  κ
5   άμπ. ιούγ. ς..δ πρόβ. ν
σπορ. ιούγ. Ν δουλ. κβ
ελ. γύρ. Χπ Χω. Υποχόρια
νομ. ιούγ. Ν αμπ. ιούγ. κ<
Vacat σπόρ. ιούγ ρζ
10   Χω. Λο..κος έλ. γύρ. φγ
άμπ. ιούγ. Κ νομ. ιούγ κ
σπορ. ιούγ + α Vacat
13   έλ. γύρ. [τ]νβ Χω. Τείχεια


(e) (f) (g)
2  σπορ. ιουγ. Ιβ Σπορ. ιουγ. δ ελ. γυρ. χ
ελ. γυρ. .ε ελ. γυρ. τκς  
νομ. ιουγ. Ρν νομ. ιουγ. ι Χω. Πύργου μερ <
5   αμπ. ιουγ. βδ’
βους δ Φιλοδέσποτος σπορ. ιουγ. η
Ελπιδήφορος βους δ ελ. γυρ. ρμβ
ίππον α αίγας κ νομ. ιούγ α
Κυζίκιος και Λεο..νος μ[ερ..*[21]  
10 Ελπιδ[ή]φορος   (Χω.) Συκούντος

\ μερ. δ’

11 Χω. Ακτάων. ….ωνίου μ[ερ. άμπ. ιούγ. ε<
συν ελέου. εο*[22] άμπ. ιούγ ιδ’ σπόρ. ιούγ ξ
αμπ. ιούγ. ε< σπόρ. ιούγ. γ έλ. γύρ. ρπς
  (h) (i) (k)
 2 ……ς Χω. Τριοδότο(υ) [νομ. ίο]ύγ. ρ
 3   άμπ. ιουγ. ς  
4 Χω. Πυρρίου σπορ. ιουγ. ιγ Χω. Ηρακλέους μερ.–
5 άμπ. ιουγ. ε έλ. γύρ. υξδ αμπ. ιουγ. η<δ’
6 ελ. γυρ. ρ+ β νομ. ιουγ. ρ ελ. γυρ. ρπς
7 νομ. ιουγ. ι    
8   αίγας [ς.. Χω. Σεμπρωνίου
9 Χω. Πέτρ(α) Αριστοτελ[ης] ά[μπ. ί]ο[ύγ…
10 αμπ. ιουγ β< Χρυσελαφίου σπορ. ιουγ. .η
  σπορ. ιούγ. ν ροδοεσσών[23] ελ. γυρ. υνε
  ελ. γυρ. σκθ σπορ. ιουγ + δ νομ. ιουγ. …
13 νομ. ιούγ. ρ ελ. γυρ. υνζ προβ. κ
(a) (b)
  Χ[ω]. Κενχρέω[ν]
  2     – – – – – άμπ. ιούγ. ι’δ’
        – – – – – σπορ. ιούγ ν
        σπορ. ί]ούγ. .λ ελ. γυρ. ..η
  5     ε]λ. γυρ. .γ νομ. ιούγ. – –
  7     Χω.  ……]ύφου Χω. – – – – –
        – – – – – άμ]π. ιούγ. ι’
        – – – – – σπ]ορ. ιούγ. ι’
 10    – – – – – ελ. γυρ. Να
        Χω. – – – – – -] νομ. ίού. Σ
         (c)                              (d)
  1   Xω.]  …. νων νομ. ιούγ. Ο
  2   αμπ. ιούγ  
Γέν συν τεμένει

Ευγένιος και Έσπερος

άμπ. πρωτ.[24] ιούγ. βδ, δευτ. ιούγ. < δ’

σπορ. π]ρώτ. ιούγ. ρκε, δευτ. ιούγ. – –

10  νομ. ιούγ.] ν  έλ. πρωτ. γύρ. υ–

δευτ.[25] γύρ.]  σ +β


Ερμο..ν και Δ[ιο]νύσιος

άμπ. πρωτ. ιούγ. α σπορ. πρώτ. [ιούγ. —

σπορ. δευτ. ιούγ. ριθ  έλ. δευτ. γύρ. λη

νομ. ιούγ. οε

5  Χω. Μαρμαρίνη ληνός υπό Διονύσιον γεωργ.

άμπ. πρωτ. ιούγ. ε<, δευτ. ιούγ. δδ’


σπορ. πρώτ. ιούγ. κε, δευτ. ιούγ. ν

νομ. ιούγ. ν  έλ. πρωτ. γύρ. σις δευτ. γύρ. ..δ

Χω. Πυργίου υπό τον αυτόν

άμπ. δευτέρ. ιούγ. <η’

σπορ.] ιούγ λ  νομ. ελώδους κ



σπ[ορ. – – – – –

νομ. [ί]ο[ύγ. – – – –

5  κήπο[ς ……  ο δείνα

και Ερμ – – – – – –

άμπ. π[ρώτ ιούγ.

σπορ. – – – –


Note in the IG:  ” ..due classes scribuntur, iugatioque fit ad rationem a Diocletiano constitutam, quae in codice Syrico exponitur ( Mommsen, Hermes III, 430; Mommsen-Marquardt Manuel des Antiquites Romaines X, p. 284, adn. 3 ).

XII2- Mytilene, no. 80, p. 37.
Found in the city, on the outer wall  of the house of  Emin  Effendi, which is close to that of Emin Chaous.

Σπορ.] ιούγ. κ< σ[πορ.] ιούγ. —
Έλ. γυ]ρ.  φνδ έλ. γύροι ρ—
Νομ.] ιούγ. ρ νομ. ιούγ. —
  κηπίον —-

Αναλυτικό μονοτονικό ελληνικό κείμενο

IG XII2 – Mytilene, no. 76. p. 33 [French no. 109].

The inscription was located in the castle, near the west entrance.

(a)                                                               (b)

Χωρίον – – – – – – –

άμπελοι ιούγερα α<ε’

σπόριμος γη ιούγερα τδ

ελαίαι γύροι σνη

5                                                        νομαί ιούγ ν

Χωρίον …] ώτα                          πρόβατα  λε

άμπελοι ιούγερα β<                   Χωρίον Μάγδια συν σπαρτ.

10   σπόριμος γη ιούγερα υκζ           άμπελοι ιούγερα ια<δ’η’

ελαίαι γύροι σ                            σπόριμος γη ιούγερα σπγ

νομαί ιούγερα σμ                       ελαίαι γύροι σος

13   πρόβατα μ[α                               νομαί ιούγερα λ


(c)                                                  (d)

βούς  [ια                                νομαί ιούγερα ξε (?)

πρόβατα …

Χωρίον Τείχεα                       βούς  κ

5   άμπελοι ιούγερα ς..δ              πρόβατα ν

σπόριμος γη ιούγερα ν           δούλοι κβ

ελαίαι γύροι χπ                       Χωρίον Υποχόρια

νομαί ιούγερα ν                      άμπελοι ιούγερα κ<

vacat                                    σπόριμος γι ιούγερα ρζ

10   Χωρίον Λο..κος                     ελαίαι γύροι φγ

άμπελοι ιούγερα κ                  νομαί ιούγερα κ

σπόριμος γη ιούγερα + α                 vacat

13   ελαίαι γύροι [τ]νβ                 Χωρίον Τείχεια

                  (e)                                                (f)

2    σπόριμος γη ιούγερα ιβ           σπόριμος γη ιούγερα δ

ελαίαι γύροι .ε                         ελαίαι γύροι τκς

νομαί ιούγερα ρν                     νομαί ιούγερα ι


βούς δ                                      Φιλοδέσποτος

Ελπιδήφορος                           βούς δ

ίππον α                                    αίγας κ

Κυζίκιος και                           Λεο..νος μ[ερ..*

10  Ελπιδ[ή]φορος

11  Χωρίον Ακτάων                     ….ωνίου μ[ερ..

συν ελέου. εο*                        άμπελοι ιούγερα ιδ’

άμπελοι ιούγερα ε<                 σπόριμος γη ιούγερα γ

* possibly (e) 12 : συν ελαιου[ργ]ε[ίω], cum prelo.

* (f) 9: Λεο..μ[ερ  possibly  μ[έρος] or μ[έρη].

                   (g)                                          (h)

2    ελαίαι γύροι χ                               2  ……ς


Χωρίον Πύργου μερ <                 4  Χωρίον Πυρρίου

5   άμπελοι ιούγερα βδ’                      5  άμπελοι ιούγερα ε

σπόριμος γη ιούγερα η                  6  ελαίαι γύροι ρ+ β

ελαίαι γύροι ρμβ                            7  νομαί ιούγερα ι

νομαί ιούγερα α¶

9  Χωρίον Πέτρ(α)

10  (Χωρίον) Συκούντος μερ. δ’         10  άμπελοι ιούγερα β<

11  άμπελοι ιούγερα ε<                             σπόριμος γη ιούγερα ν

σπόριμος γη ιούγερα ξ                        ελαίαι γύροι σκθ

ελαίαι γύροι ρπς                            13  νομαί ιούγερα ρ


                    (i)                                        (k)

2   Χωρίον Τριοδότο(υ)                  [νομαί ίο]ύγερα ρ

3   άμπελοι ιούγερα ς

4   σπόριμος γη ιούγερα ιγ              Χωρίον Ηρακλέους μερ.–

5   ελαίαι γύροι υξδ                         άμπελοι ιούγερα η<δ’

6   νομαί ιούγερα ρ                          ελαίαι γύροι ρπς


8   αίγας [ς..                                     Χωρίον Σεμπρωνίου

9   Αριστοτελ[ης]                            ά[μπελοι ί]ο[ύγερα…

10  Χρυσελαφίου                              σπόριμος γη ιούγερα .η

ροδοεσσών                                  ελαίαι γύροι υνε

σπόριμος γη ιούγερα + δ             νομαί ιούγερα …

13  ελαίαι γύροι υνζ                           πρόβατα  κ

ροδοεσσαί :  rosaria [IG Fr. p.40].

IG XII2 – Mytilene, no. 77, p. 35

Vines iugera 1/14 1/10 6/15 10 1/2 Deest circa 12
Cropland iug. 50 ½ 45 Deest 5 5/8 circa 100
Olives Plus centum 56 70 70 115 circa 400
Pastures iug. Deest 6 14 8 30 circa  60


         (a)                                                    (b


Χ[ωρίον] Κενχρέω[ν]

2     – – – – –                                  άμπελοι ιούγερα ι’δ’

– – – – –                                  σπόριμος γη ιούγερα ν

σπόριμος γη ί]ούγερα .λ      ελαίαι γύροι ..η

5     ε]λαίαι γύροι .­γίμ­


Γέν συν τεμένει

Ευγένιος και Εσπερος

άμπελοι πρώτοι ιούγερα βδ, δεύτεροι ιούγερα < δ’

σπόριμος γη π]ρώτη ιούγερα ρκε, δεύτερη ιούγερα —

10  νομαί ιούγερα] ν, ελαίαι πρώται γύροι υ–

δεύτεραι γύροι]  σ +β




Ερμο..ν και Δ[ιο]νύσιος

άμπελοι πρώτοι ιούγερα α, σπόριμος γη πρώτη [ιούγερα —

σπόριμος γη δεύτερη ιούγερα ριθ, ελαίαι δεύτεραι γύροι λη

νομαί ιούγερα οε

Χωρίον Μαρμαρίνη ληνός υπό Διονύσιον γεωργ.               5

άμπελοι πρώτοι ιούγερα ε<, δευτεροι ιούγερα δδ’

σπόριμος γη πρώτη ιούγερα κε, δεύτερη ιούγερα ν

νομαί ιούγερα ν, ελαίαι πρώται γύροι σις, δεύτεραι γύροι..δ

Χωρίον Πυργίου υπό τον αυτόν

άμπελοι δεύτεροι ιούγερα <η’

σπόριμος γη] ιούγερα λ, νομαί ελώδους κ



σπ[όριμος γη – – – – –

νομαί [ί]ο[ύγερα – – – –

5  κήπο[ς ……  ο δείνα

και Ερμ – – – – – –

άμπελοι π[ρώτοι ιούγερα

σπόριμος γη – – – –


Note in the IG:  «..due classes scribuntur, iugatioque fit ad rationem a Diocletiano constitutam, quae in codice Syrico exponitur» ( Mommsen, Hermes III, 430; Mommsen-Marquardt  Manuel des Antiquites Romaines X, p. 284, adn. 3 ).

XII2- Mytilene, no. 80, p. 37
Found in the city, on the outer wall of the house of  Emin Effendi, which is close to that of Emin Chaous.


σπόριμος γη] ιούγερα κ<              σ[ποριμος γη] ιούγερα —

ελαίαι γυ]ροι φνδ                          ελαίαι γύροι ρ—

νομαί] ιούγερα ρ                           νομαί ιούγερα —




Αγρός:   field, land; country opposite to city.

Αγριος:  of wild animals.


For the use of this word cf. Genesis: «Και έπλασεν ο Θεός έτι εκ της γης πάντα τα θηρία τού αγρού, και πάντα τα πετεινά του ουρανού και ήγαγεν αυτά προς τον Αδάμ, ιδείν τι καλέσει αυτά. και παν ο εάν εκάλεσεν αυτό Αδάμ ψυχήν ζώσαν, τούτο όνομα αυτώ.  Και εκάλεσεν Αδάμ ονόματα πάσι τοις κτήνεσι, και πάσι τοις πετεινοίς του ουρανού, αι πάσι τοις θηρίοις του αγρού

[1] Paper presented to the Meeting held at the Orthodox Academy, Kolymbari, Crete on 20-22 April 1990. — European Community project entitled Crete and the Ægean Islands: effects of changing climate on the environment, a joint study by the Department of Environmental Studies, University of the Aegean, and the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge.
[2] A PhD thesis by Dr. Makis Axiotis proved that Lesbos had more than two hundred watermills and was extremely advanced in exploiting its hydraulic natural resources.
[3] See C.P.Jones. The Roman Word of Dio Crysostom, Cambridge, Mass.- London, 1978 and J.Day, “The Value of Dio Chrysostom’s Euboean Discourse for the Economic Historian”, in Studies in Roman Economic and Social History in Honor of A.C. Johnson, Princeton 1951, pp. 209-235.
[4] See the Pergamon aqueducts: Garbrecht, Stadt und  Landshaft Teil 4, Die Waserversorgung von Pergamon, AvP 1,4 (Berlin 2001).
[5] We wish to add that calcareous deposits in the water pipes of Mytilene’s theater may be an indication that water hardness was also a problem in those times, as it is today.
[6] A well situated at the end of the garden of the Bineion building of the University of the Aegean, near the wall of the Gymnasium uses the same water table and seems to date back to ancient times.
[7] Achladeri is a place name meaning a pear tree grove.
[8] «Non cadem arboribus pendet vindemia nostris, Quam methymnaeo carpit de palmite Lesbos.» (Virgilius, Georg. lib 2).
[9] «…ἀπὸ γὰρ τοῦ δρυμώδους ὠνόμασται ὁμωνύμως, ὥσπερ καὶ Νάπη ἐν τῷ Μηθύμνης πεδίῳ,..» Strabo ΙΧ, Loeb, vol. 4, p.383.
[10] Pottier Edmond, Hauvette-Besnault Amédée. Inscriptions de Lesbos. In: Bulletin de correspondance hellénique. Volume 4, 1880. pp. 417-448. doi: 10.3406/bch.1880.4342.
[11] Η Περιγραφή της Λέσβου του Μητροπολίτου Μηθύμνης Γαβριήλ Σουμαρούπα 1618-24/2/1621.
[12] Valonia [It. vallonia, from Gr. βάλανος] the acorn cups of an oak of Europe and Asia (valonia oak), used in dyeing, tanning, etc. [Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary].
[13] Known as αλογάκια Μιντιλήδες, they have preserved in Turkey and some have been taken to Lesvos. An effort to reintroduce them from a similar Anatolian breed is now underway.
[14] Refered by A. Vakalopoulos. Historia tou Hellinikou Ethnous. Salonika, 1964, vol. B1, p. 98, table and note 98.3
[15] see the Logbook entry of the ship Alexandros, G. Koulikourdi, O Alexandros tou Hadzi Alexandri, Athens 1972 –p.80).
[16] However, as Prof. Oliver Rackham pointed during the discussion, mosquitoes can also proliferate in the leaves of the plant.
[17] It must be noted that the port of Mytilene was trading products from the nearby coastal area of Ayvalik and Edremit.
[18] (a) Pramnian wines were grown in Icaria [I.30b-c], this name seem to either apply to hard taste wine [I.30c], or to dark wines [I.30e]. A Pramnian vine is also mentioned [I.30d] by Didumus. A Pramnian variety was also produced in a mountain village near Ephesus [I.31d].
[19] The wine cup was named Therikleios (Θηρίκλειον) because it had the skins of wild animals (δοράς θηρί-ων) figured on it.
[20] Σείριος
[21]  (f) 9: Λεο..μ[ερ:  possibly  μ[έρος] or μ[έρη]
[22] possibly (e) 12 : συν ελαιου[ργ]ε[ίω] cum prelo
[23]  ροδοεσσαί :  rosaria [IG Fr. p.40].
[24] άμπελοι πρώτοι.
[25] ελαίαι πρώται, ελαίαι δεύτεραι.

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