There are three main possible origins of the name “Limnos”; according to the first one, Limnos is a word of the Phoenician language that means white/bright, because when approached by the sea, the island looks very bright. The second option suggests that “Limnos” comes from the ancient Greek word “leion”, which means cultivated field. The island is full of cultivated fields and, in the Ancient Era, all wheat consumed in Athens was produced here. The last scenario suggests that Limnos is composed of the words “liis” that means flock and “milo” that means sheep, implying that the island is full of flocks of sheep, which is also true.
The second and third explanations are adopted by more scientists/archaeological researchers.
Another interesting fact is that Limnos has been given a plethora of secondary names in many ancient texts, including Anemoessa, Vulcania, Aithaleia, Pyroessa, Dipolis, Ambeloessa, Ypsipyllia, Sindiida and Hephaesteia. It is really notable to mention that it is really very uncommon for islands to have such a plethora of different secondary names.
Limnos has been inhabited since the 4th millennium B.C. and the prehistoric settlement of Poliochni is the oldest fortified settlement in Europe! Poliochni was a very rich and prosperous city for 2000 years, until it was destroyed by an earthquake. The first inhabitants of the island were called Sindians that came from Frygia, followed by the Karians, the Phoenicians, the Minyans and the Pelasgians in the end of the prehistoric era.
Ancient Times and Classical / Hellenistic Times
In the Ancient Times, Limnos was inhabited by the Tyrrhenians, the Athenians, the Persians, the Spartans and the Macedonians. Although the island was attacked several times in the Ancient years, it had its own coins and a very important culture. Many artists, scientists and philosophers lived in Limnos; among them, the philosopher Andilochos, the writer Apollodoros, the sculptor Glafkos of Chios who invented the art of soldering iron, and the sculptor Alkamenis. Moreover, sports were very important in Limnos and it is widely believed that pentathlon was first established on the island.
In 1207 Limnos became a territory of the Venetians, and was dominated by the Navigajoso family. Filokalos Navigajoso was the first “Great Duke of Limnos”, succeeded by two more dukes and a duchess during the 70 years of Venetian domination.
The Byzantine admiral Likarios attacked Limnos for two consecutive years, until in 1278 the Great Duchess (widow of Pavlos Navigajoso, who died in 1277) decided to leave the island, probably after an agreement. This was the end of the Venetian Era for Limnos.
During the first three centuries A.D. Limnos was prosperous and its culture was renowned in Athens and in Rome. The famous philosophers’ family “Philostratos”, with 4 generations of philosophers and teachers, left many important writings, but very few are saved today.
In the Byzantine Times, Limnos was attacked many times by the Saracens, the Genuats and the Ottomans, but the inhabitants resisted and kept the island.
In 1475, the local heroine Maroula, holding the sword of her dead father, encouraged the inhabitants of Limnos against the Ottomans in the battle of Kotsinas. The Ottomans lost once again and left the island, until Limnos was ceded to them in 1479.
The Ottoman Period
During the Ottoman Era, Limnos was in continuous decline. Many inhabitants left the island, specifically after the unsuccessful attempt of the Russians to conquer it in 1770. Limnos did not officially participate in the Greek Revolution of 1821, but many inhabitants donated boats or participated in person. The island became part of Greece in 1912.
During World War I, Limnos was the base of the English troops with Moudros being the dockyard of the English fleet. In 1918, the War ended with the “Treaty (armistice) of Moudros”. In 1922, the Asia Minor Disaster led many inhabitants of Asia Minor to Limnos. The Germans dominated Limnos during World War II and until October 16th 1944.
The Greek Civil War that followed created more problems to the island, since it was used as a place of exile and this significantly deteriorated the living conditions. As a result, many inhabitants migrated to the USA, Australia, Germany, South Africa and Canada. The Greeks living abroad made important donations to the island and helped reconstruct it.
Today Limnos has about 17,000 inhabitants whose main occupation is livestock, agriculture and fishing. Tourism is still under development and this is one of the reasons why travellers go to Limnos, as it is considered a relatively “virgin” island of the Aegean Sea.