For years nothing has really
happened on the island and suddenly there is a sparkling summer full of new
events: at Sigri lots of new petrified trees have been found, Anaxos got
connected with Molyvos by train, the opening of the OXY has put the island on
the map for partying youngsters, many new charter flights have made the number
of tourists grow. A few days ago the island got a new ferry between Mytilene
and Izmir in Turkey, and the Spanish company Iberdrola started working on the
creation of a so-called energy landscape: the windmill park in the west of the
island. This part of the island will be turned into a new tourist attraction:
listening to the buzzing rotation blades and looking up at the 67 meter high
windmills, that will (just like the sequoias many millions of years ago) reach
high into the sky. And all this is happening in a UNESCO geopark!
Lesvos (and Chios and Limnos) must
be a Valhalla for Iberdrola where they can pick the money out of the air. It is
not a facility but a commercial business: the electricity generated by the 153
windmills on Lesvos will be sold to the highest bidder party and this certainly
will not be the island. In a Dutch tv-series (Ik vertrek; (http://www.npo.nl/ik-vertrek/16-08-2014/AT_2016060) about emigrating Dutch people they
showed a family that went to Spain and had to wait more than one year to get
connected to the electricity net of Iberdrola, who owns most of the electricity
facilities in Spain. Or maybe the family is still waiting to be connected. So I
guess this island must be dealing with a bunch of smart and trustworthy men.
Another novelty on the island is the
custom office in the harbour of Petra. Gates and buildings are all ready to
receive tourists who want to make an excursion to Turkey. But the capital
Mytilene is not ready at all: they, of course, prefer to keep this boat
connection in their own harbour, afraid that otherwise no tourist will ever
visit Mytilene. As of now, there are no custom officers available for Petra.
In ancient times Lesvos consisted of
a small number of city-states, although it was Methimna (the original name of
Molyvos) and Mytilene who dominated the island power structure.When you read the history of the island
you will see that lots of different people held power, like the mythical king Macaras,
Amazons, Persians, Athenians, Egyptians, pirates, Romans, the Italian family of
Gateluzzi and the Ottomans. Changing powers on the island was never peaceful,
and sometimes Mytilene and Methimna supported opposing sides.
Mytilene used to be an island
connected to Lesvos by a small strait that connected the harbour in the south
with the one in the north. For pedestrians they say there were beautiful marble
bridges. Some archaeologists think Mytilene used to be the Venice of the East.
However the strait silted up and it was decided to fill it up, this way
improving the defences of the castle. Nowadays the main shopping street Ermou
runs where the strait used to be.
To be honest I have no idea where
Methimna got its power and wealth. Like Mytilene, the city had its own coins, a
large and strong castle, but no commercial harbour. But the two cities
regularly fought for the power over the island.
In the year 428 BC Mytilene, a new
member of the Delian League (a league composed of different Greek states),
planned a revolt against Athens, which as the head of the Delian League, had
misused its members. They first tried to get all city-states of Lesvos together
but Methimna, a good ally to Athens, did not want to support the revolt.
Mytilene secretly reinforced its fleet and bought extra grain in readiness for
war with the Athenians. But even in those times there were spies and before
Mytilene was ready, word reached Athens, and Mytilene was soon surrounded by
Athenians.The Athenian Assembly
or ecclesia had to decide about the fate of Mytilene.
Well, to be honest, it was a much more complicated situation, but the fact is
that Athens decided that all men from Mytilene should be put to death and the
women and children be sold as slaves. They started with slaughtering some
thousand prisoners, but then the Athenians started wondering how they had
become such barbarians. They asked for another session of the ecclesia and
there a certain Cleon said that the punishment should be carried out, but
another speaker – Diodotus – pleaded that it would be better for Athens if the Mytilenians were kept
alive so that they could remain a future ally for Athens. The citizens of
Athens agreed with Diodotus and that is how the Mytilenians were spared.
I bet that in those times a citizen
of Methimna was not welcome shopping in Mytilene. But in any case, this second
debate of the ecclesia has gone down in history as the Mytilenian Debate.
If today you were to organize an
ecclesia here on the island, it probably would still be a matter of decisions
being taken by the party who has the best speaker. For instance there were
lobbyists from Iberdrola who spoke to the citizens of West-Lesvos, promising
them that the windmill project would provide them with lots of jobs and money.
I guess the speaker of the other side, amongst them environmental defenders,
had probably nothing to offer but a warning of a natural disaster. The
inhabitants of the west said yes to the large project, maybe not fully
realizing that their habitat will be changed drastically by the building of 100
of kilometres of new roads, six metres wide, that are needed only for the
installation of the windmills - windmills that will soon terrorize Nature with
their flapping sounds.
A citizen assembly is also needed
for the question of the tourist boat going from Petra to Turkey. It will be the
Mytilenian shopkeepers opposed to those in the north and the travel agents. I
say first they should all read about the Mytilenian debate, so that reason will
win. Most tourists who stay in the north and west do not come to the island for
Mytilene and just get irritated at having to travel so far in order to take the
boat to Turkey. Mytilene should not complain because they have just got a brand
new connection with Izmir, along with different planes from Istanbul.
Even though Lesvos is nowadays one
municipality, it looks like the mayor favours his capital. He should realize
that it will be better for the whole island when tourists spend more time in
the villages and less time on the road and in buses. It seems to be the old
song: Mytilene against Methymna. I wonder if Athens will have to intervene…