Eresos

Eresos lives today, and grew up in Antiquity, on the strength of the wide and fertile kambos which lies between its long shore and the slopes of Mount Ordymnos to the north, and is watered by a multitude of seasonal torrents: the volcanic soil makes it particularly productive for fruit and vines. Ancient Eresos—birthplace of the philosopher and botanist, Theophrastus, and (by general consensus) of Sappho—was by the sea, at the eastern end of the shore. The inland Eresos of today, on a steep hill at the northern extremity of the cultivated plain above the valley of one of the torrents, was founded in the early Middle Ages when it was necessary to move inland as a refuge against coastal piracy. The town is large, and its four-square stone houses, with low tiled roofs typical of the Levant coast, spread widely onto the plateau to the north of the centre. The small Archaeological Museum on the plateia has been closed since many of the artefacts were transferred contentiously to the main museum in Mytilene.
   At Skala Eresou, which looks onto one the island’s most attractive beaches, what remains to be seen of Ancient Eresos lies around the conical hill of Vigla, mentioned by Strabo, at the bay’s eastern end. It overlooks a small harbour where beside the modern jetty can be seen the remains of the ancient artificial mole just below water-level. Visible from here, looking back at the eastern slope of the hill, can be seen the remains (rectangular) of a corner bastion constructed in Byzantine masonry, and behind (circular) a Genoese tower of the late 14th century; while below at various points on the lower slopes are small runs of Classical walling, beautifully constructed from blocks of trachytic stone in interlocking polygonal ‘Lesbian’ masonry. The blocks appear to have been hewn and shaped with a flat instrument, more like a very broad chisel than a pick. This was part of an enceinte with gates and towers (estimated at 1km in length by the 19th century archaeologist, Koldewey). It was later extended to the south in Hellenistic times with walls constructed in isodomic masonry. Little remains on the surface; though a number of ancient blocks, some with inscriptions, have been incorporated in the structure of the most impressive remains in the area—namely the Early Christian basilica of St Andrew of Crete, which lies on the opposite (west) side of Vigla hill, possibly on the site of a pagan sanctuary of Dionysos and Apollo. (A protrusion of the crepidoma of an ancient building can be seen at the church’s south west corner.) The structure dates from the mid-5th century, and its extensive mosaic floor survives both in the nave and the narthex. It carries a clear dedicatory inscription and possesses a field of complex and varying abstract designs, interspersed with panels figuring peacocks—all achieved with the minimal means of four principal colours of stone. In the centre of the nave, a marble column base covers the opening of a well (now filled) below the floor. Sarcophagi, mostly of the Christian period, can be seen close to the church’s perimeter; others have been moved to the area in front of the school building which stands just across the road; a number of the houses in the area also have ancient fragments in their gardens. Excavations are currently under way in a vacant lot, 50m from the east end of the basilica. A small museum, displaying finds and illustrating the on-going archaeological work, is scheduled to open in the school building beside the ba silica in 2012.
   Another, slightly later (6th century) basilica lies at the opposite (western) end of the shore, known generally as the ‘Aphendelli’ basilica, from the name of the owner on whose land the finds were made. (Follow track which passes the Aeolian Village Hotel to its end.) A beautiful area of mosaic, once again figuring peacocks, is conserved in front of the central apse.

Lesvos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.
Ancient Eresos, Theophrastus & Sappho.


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