Where Is Mytilene in Ancient Greece?

Mytilene is a city located on the eastern coast of the island of Lesbos in Greece. It was an important city-state in ancient Greece, known for its strategic location and significant contributions to literature and philosophy. Let’s dive into the history and significance of Mytilene.


Mytilene was founded in the 11th century BC by Aeolian Greeks, who named it after their leader, Mytileneus. It quickly became a powerful city-state due to its location on the eastern coast of Lesbos, which gave it easy access to trade routes and fertile lands. In the 6th century BC, Mytilene formed an alliance with five other cities in Lesbos to create the Lesbiot League, which dominated Aegean trade for several centuries.

Athens vs Mytilene

In 428 BC, a dispute between Athens and Mytilene almost led to war. Mytilene had been supplying Sparta with timber for their navy, which threatened Athens’ naval supremacy.

Additionally, Mytilene had allied with Corinth, one of Athens’ main rivals. In response, Athens sent a fleet to blockade Mytilene and demanded they surrender their ships and pay tribute.

Mytilene initially refused but eventually surrendered after a failed attempt to break the blockade. However, Athens decided to enact harsh punishment on the city by executing all male citizens and enslaving women and children. This decision was met with controversy in Athens itself as it was seen as too extreme.

Philosophical Contributions

Despite its turbulent past, Mytilene also contributed significantly to philosophy and literature during ancient times. The city was home to several famous philosophers such as Pittacus and Theophrastus who were known for their teachings on ethics and politics.

One notable figure from Mytilene is Sappho – one of the most famous ancient Greek poets. Sappho was a member of a prominent family in Mytilene and is known for her lyrical poetry, which often dealt with themes of love and desire.


In conclusion, Mytilene was an influential city-state in ancient Greece that contributed to both politics and culture. Its strategic location on the eastern coast of Lesbos made it a hub for trade and commerce, while its philosophers and writers left behind a legacy that still resonates today. Despite its turbulent past, Mytilene remains an important part of Greek history.