Friday, November 9, 2012

The Liberation of Lesbos and Other MytilenianTales

Liberty at Mylilene by Theophilus
Just one hundred years ago, on November 8, 1912, the island of Lesbos was liberated from Ottoman occupation by the Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis who came to Mytilene with a squadron of the Greek fleet led by the Armored Cruiser Georgios Averoff. This event, on the Feast Day of Archangel Michael, and the circumstances that brought it about will be the subject of the lecture entitled, “November 8, 1912 and Other Events in the Harbours of Mytilene.” Professor Emeritus Hugh J. Mason (Department of Classics, University of Toronto) will give the lecture on Wednesday, November 14th at 7:30 PM.

Averoff at sea
We will be treated not only to this but also how the Averoff came to be purchased in 1908 and how it and other new naval vessels allowed the Greek fleet to dominate the Aegean during the First Balkan War from October, 1912 through May, 1913.

As the harbors of Mytilene are the central focus of this wide-ranging presentation, Professor Mason will relate the roles they played in receiving refugees from Asia Minor in 1914 and in the fall of 1922. Not stopping there he will discuss how the Greek Resistance told the Royal Navy not to enter during the Dekembriana at the end of 1944. Excavations around these very harbours have been carried out by a team from the University of British Columbia under the aegis of the Canadian Institute.

The harbours of Mytilene and excavations in the locality
In June, 48 B.C. the forces of the Roman Republic led by Pompey the Great were defeated at Pharsala in Thessaly by the smaller army of Julius Caesar. The Roman poet Lucan in his epic poem Pharsalia recounts how Pompey then fled to Mytilene, on his way to his eventual death in Egypt in early September at the hands of Ptolemy XIII. From this historical visit Professor Mason next will turn to a fictional one in the ancient novella Apollonius of Tyre where the eponymous hero while searching for his kidnapped daughter finds her held captive in a brothel in Mytilene.

With such an exciting historical and literary background, the city of Mytilene and its harbors could be the setting for a modern, long-running, heart-rending serial. Greece surely needs this now rather than all of the Turkish melodramas and American crime fighters that clog the TV channels here.

David Rupp

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