off the coast of western Anatolia opposite Aiolis was known
as Lesbos. Herodotos counts twelve Aiolian cities to correspond to the cities of Ionia, the most famous
of which were: Lesbos, Pitane, Elaia, Gryneion, Myrina, Aigai,
Kyme, Neonteichos, Temnos, Larisa and Smyrna. Although Smyrna
was founded as an Aiolian settlement, it was later inhabited
by the people of Kolophon and absorbed into the Ionian League. Aiolia has been inhabited since Paleolithic times and flourished
in the Bronze age under Phrygian rule. Lesbos seems to have
been its most important center.
During the 7th century BC,
there was an immigration from Mytilene and especially from
Methymna to the opposite shores of the Aegean. As the area's
primary concern was agriculture, it did not play a large role
in historical developments, however it was extremely important
in the fields of music and poetry. Sappho, Alkaios and Terpander,
the inventoir of the 7-tone scale were all from Lesbos. Lesbos is famous for its experiment in using for coins metals like electrum (mixture of gold and silver) and billon (mixture of silver and other base alloys), which is thought to be the first such attempt to manipulate the purity of coin metals not only in Asia Minor but the entire Greek world.
When the Persian king Cyrus defeated Croesus (546 BC) the Ionic Greek cities of Anatolia and the adjacent islands became Persian subjects and remained such until the Persians were defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis (480 BC). The island was governed by an oligarchy in archaic times, followed by quasi-democracy in classical times. For a short period it was a member of the Athenian confederacy, its apostasy from which is described in a stirring chapter of Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War. In Hellenistic times, the island belonged to various Successor kingdoms until 79 BC when it passed into Roman hands.
During the Middle Ages it belonged to the Byzantine Empire. In 803, the Byzantine Empress Irene was exiled to Lesbos, forced to spin wool to support herself, and died there.
After the Fourth Crusade (1202–1204) the island passed to the Latin Empire, but was reconquered by the Byzantines in 1247. In 1355, it was granted to the Genoese Gattilusi family for economic and political reasons. The island was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1462. It remained under Turkish rule, named Midilli in Turkish, until 1912 when it was taken by Greek forces during the First Balkan War. The cities of Mytilene and Mithymna have been bishoprics since the 5th century.