For ancient Greeks, the island was sacred to Hephaestus, god of technology, who-as he tells himself in Iliad I.590ff- fell on Lemnos when his father Zeus hurled him headlong out of Olympus. There, he was cared for by the Sinties, according to Iliad or by Thetis (Apollodorus, Bibliotheke I: 3.5), and there with a Thracian nymph Cabiro (a daughter of Proteus) he fethed a tribe called the Cabiroides. Sacred rites dedicated to them were performed in the island.
Hephaestus' forge, which was located on Lemnos, as well as the name Aethaleia, sometimes applied to it, points to its volcanic character. It is said that fire is often blazed forth from Mosychlos, one of its mountains. The ancient geographer Pausanias relates that a small island called Chryse, off the Lemnian coast, was swallowed up by the sea. All volcanic action is now extinct.
The name of "Lemnos" is said by Hecataeus to have been a title of Cybele among the Thracians, and the earliest settlers are said to have been a Thracian tribe, whom the Greeks called Sintians, "the robbers".
Apollodorus (Epitome I: 9) records that when Dionysus found Ariadne abandoned on Naxos, he brought her to Lemnos and there fathered Thoas, Staphylus, Oenopion, and Peperethus. Pliny the Elder in his Natural History (xxxvi. 13) speaks of a remarkable labyrinth in Lemnos, which has not been identified in modern times.
According to a famous legend, the women were all deserted by their husbands for Thracian women, and in revenge they killed every man on the island. From this barbarous act, the expression Lemnian deeds became proverbial among the Hellenes. The Argonauts landing soon after found only women in the island, ruled by Hypsipyle, daughter of the old king Thoas. From the Argonauts and the Lemnian women were descended the race called Minyae, whose king Euneus, son of Jason and Hypsipyle, sent wine and provisions to the Achaeans at Troy. The Minyae were expelled by a Pelasgian tribe who came from Attica.
The historical element underlying these traditions is probably that the original Thracian people were gradually brought into communication with the Greeks as navigation began to unite the scattered islands of the Aegean; the Thracian inmates were technologically privileged in comparison with the Greek mariners.
The worship of Cybele was characteristic of Thrace, where it had spread from Asia Minor at a very early period. Hypsipyle and Myrina (the name of one of the chief towns) are Amazon names, which are always connected with Asiatic Cybele-worship.
In another legend, Philoctetes was left on Lemnos by the Greeks on their way to Troy; and there he suffered ten years' agony from his wounded foot, until Odysseus and Neoptolemus induced him to accompany them to Troy. According to Sophocles, he lived near Mount Hermaeus, which Aeschylus makes one of the beacon points to flash the news of Troy's downfall home to Argos.
History of Lemnos
Homer speaks as if there were one town in the island called Lemnos, but in historical times there was no such place. There were two towns, Myrina (also called Kastro), and Hephaestia which was the chief town. Coins from Hephaestia are found in considerable number, and various types including the goddess Athena with her owl, native religious symbols, the caps of the Dioscuri, Apollo, etc. Few coins of Myrina are known. They belong to the period of Attic occupation, and bear Athenian types. A few coins are also known which bear the name of the whole island, rather than of either city.
A trace of the pre-Greek Lemnian language is found on a 6th century inscription on a funerary stele, the Lemnos stele.
Coming down to a better authentic period, we find that Lemnos was acquired by Otanes, a general of Darius Hystaspis. But soon (510 BC) it was reconquered by Miltiades the Younger, the tyrant of the Thracian Chersonese. Miltiades later returned to Athens, and Lemnos was an Athenian possession until the Macedonian empire absorbed it.
In 197 BC, the Romans declared it free, but in 166 BC cave it over to Athens which retained nominal possession of it until the whole of Greece was made a province of the Roman Empire in 146 BC. After the division of the empire, Lemnos passed to the Byzantine Empire.
Like other eastern provinces, its possession changed between Greeks, Italians and Turks. In 1476 the Venetians and Greek Byzantines successfully defended Kotschinos against a Turkish siege. But in 1657 Kastro was captured by the Turks after a siege of 36 days. In 1770, Kastro was besieged by Count Orlov. During the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812, Admiral Senyavin won the naval Battle of Lemnos off the coast. In 1912, Lemnos became part of Greece during the First Balkan War.