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VIRTUAL - Goddesses, Whores, Vampyres and Archaeologists: Uncovering Ancient Mytilene By Land and Sea
April 19, 2021 @ 5:00 pm EDT Central Time
This is an online event.
Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
AIA Society: New Orleans
Lecturer: Hector Williams
Mytilene, chief city now and in antiquity of the island of Lesbos, was one of the larger and richer of Greek cities and a centre of Aeolic Greek culture. Famous for her lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus and her ruler Pittakos (one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece) Mytilene has received relatively little archaeological attention until recently apart for numerous unpublished salvage excavations. In 1983 at the invitation of the city council the Canadian Institute at Athens began work inside the medieval castle that dominates the eastern side of town and, jointly with the Greek Archaeological Service, a site near the North Harbour. My talk will focus on some of the remarkable discoveries at both sites, including a vampyre burial at the North Harbour site from an Ottoman cemetery that preserved below it a Roman building with colonnaded court that in the fourth century CE seems to have become a tavern/brothel as well as remains below going down five metres to the sixth century BCE. Inside the Byzantine/Genoese/Ottoman castle we uncovered a sanctuary of Demeter and Kybele, probably the Thesmophorion of the ancient city, with remains of five altars and thousands of votive objects. Amid the Roman debris from the site came numerous lamps with gladiator scenes, matched by relief sculptures of gladiators and wild beast fighters built into the nearby castle walls. Mytilene was a great trading city too and maintained a fleet of warships even when she became part of the Athenian empire in the mid 5th c. BCE. Her large but now mostly abandoned North Harbour (the commercial harbour in antiquity) preserves well built moles to protect ships inside.