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MITYLENE (mĭt-ĭ-lē'nē, Gr. Mitylēnē). The name is more properly spelled Mytilene. It was the chief city of Lesbos, a splendid port with a double harbor (Acts.20.14), and a center of Greek culture. It was the home of Sappho and Alcaeus, the early lyric poets, and a considerable maritime and colonizing power. Sigeum and Assos were Mitylene’s foundations. Mitylene’s history forms the usual checkered story of a Greek state too weak for independence and torn between the demands of rival imperialists—Persia, Athens, and Rome.

MITYLENE mĭt’ ə lē’ nĭ (Μιτυλήνη, G3639). Sometimes and as correctly, spelled Mytilene. Chief city of the island of Lesbos, the largest of the Gr. islands off the Asia Minor coast. It was situated on the SE coast on a magnificent harbor. Mitylene was populated by Aeolian Greeks and it was in the Aeolic dialect that both Sappho and Alcaeus wrote, in the early 6th cent. b.c., the songs which were the foundation of Gr. lyric poetry. Both poetess and poet lived in Mitylene, and took an ardent part in the city’s stormy politics.

Mitylene had its brief period of local imperialism, during which it clashed with Athens. It fell under Pers. dominance when the great empire flowed W to the shores of the Aegean, and had an ill-starred share in the Ionian cities’ revolt. When Pers. power receded and Athens became dominant in the eastern Aegean, Mitylene found it expedient to join the Delian League, but was an uneasy partner, twice seceding (428 and 419 b.c.), each time with the loss of her ships, her fortifications and considerable territory. In the 4th cent. she was a more steady ally of Athens. After Alexander’s death Mitylene, too weak now for the successful maintenance of independence in a world of emerging great powers, fell successively under the rule of the Gr. states which strove for power in the disrupted borderlands of the western Asiatic coast. At first on good terms with Rome, Mitylene revolted after the Mithridatic War and was broken by the Republic. Pompey restored the city’s freedom in his reorganization of Asia. It has little more history to record. Its capacious harbor always kept Mitylene on the fruitful crossroads of trade (Acts 20:14).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

mit-i-le’-ne, mit-i-lye’-nye (Mitulene, or Mutilene as usually on coins):

1. Importance and History:

In antiquity the most important city of the Asiatic Aeolians and of the island of Lesbos. It had 2 harbors and strong fortresses. The city was noted for its high culture and for its zeal for art and science from the earliest times. The island, under the leadership of Mitylene, revolted in 428 BC from the Athenian confederacy. The city was besieged by the Athenians and finally taken. The inhabitants of Mitylene were treated with great severity; the walls were dismantled, and the city was deprived of its power on the sea. In the time of Alexander the Great, Mitylene suffered most through the Persians, and later by the occupation of the Macedonians, but afterward regained its power and prosperity, and still later was favored by the Roman emperors, being made a free city by Pompey.

In the Middle Ages, the name Mitylene was applied to the whole island. The present capital, often called simply Castro, has a large castle built on the site of the ancient acropolis (in 1373). The city was conquered by the Turks in 1462. It contains 14 mosques, 7 churches, and has a population of about 15,000.

2. Paul’s Visit:

On his third missionary journey, Paul traveled to the Hellespont from Philippi, thence through the Troad by land to Assos on the southern side--where extensive excavations were carried on in 1881 by an American archaeological expedition--thence by ship to Mitylene (Ac 20:14), where he spent the night. Leaving Lesbos, he sailed southward to a point opposite the island of Chios (Ac 20:15). There is no record that a Christian church had been established in Mitylene at this time.


Tozer, Islands of the Aegean, 121, 134 f, 136; Ramsay, Paul the Traveler, 291 ff.