Byzantine gate and Ottoman baths discovered under Mytilene Castle on Lesvos island

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Byzantine gate and Ottoman baths discovered under Mytilene Castle on Lesvos islandGate of the Early Byzantine fortifications in the Kato Kastro, Mytilene Photo Source: Lesvos Ephorate of Antiquities

Recent excavations undertaken by the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Greek island of Lesvos, have discovered Byzantine structures and baths dating to the Ottoman era in Mytilene.

The findings are of particular importance for the defense architecture of the Castle of Mytilene during early Byzantine history, according to Pavlos Triantaphyllides, the head of the Ephorate.

In fact, Triantaphyllides pointed out that it has now been established that the pre-Byzantine gate of the Castle is connected to the hitherto-unknown Byzantine settlement of Melanoudi.

Triantaphyllides said that Melanoudi must have had around 1,000 inhabitants in its heyday. He states the medieval inhabitants of the city of Mytilene “had to contact from the northern port through the port that still exists today. If you remember, some remains of the Hellenistic wall are still preserved in the sea today, which seem to have been used during the Middle Ages."

“Certainly there are some Christian temples that we have not identified at the moment,” the archaeologist explained. “For the early phase of the city in the 6th and 7th century the excavation research which we hope to continue in the next period of time with other funds will give us a lot of information.

“It is very impressive as a find and unfortunately in Greece we do not know many similar examples with the early Byzantine fortifications because it is an extremely difficult period, this is the period of transition from paganism to Christianity where archaeological evidence is usually scarce,” he noted Triantaphyllides.

Entering the castle from Epano Skala, an Ottoman bath from the 16th century was unearthed, which is in “very good condition.”

This is the earliest bath that has ever been found on the island of Lesvos and it belonged to Hayreddin Barbarossa, who was originally from Mytilene.

16th-century Ottoman bathhouse in the Kato Kastro, Mytilene Photo Source:  Lesvos Ephorate of Antiquities

The most important finding, nevertheless, lies beneath the foundations of the bath- the early Byzantine gate of the 7th century AD.

“This gate is made of amazing marble from an ancient material, being recycled from previous use. It has a total height of 3.20 meters (10.5 feet), and a width of 2.05 meters (6.7 feet), and a depth of two meters (6.5 feet),” Triantaphyllides said.

“A total of nine slabs of local gray-white marble were used for its construction, while cavities in the lintel indicate the existence of a wooden door, adapted with swivels,” the archaeologist added.

According to the recent findings, the Byzantine city was situated four meters down from the current surface where people walk today inside the castle.

Moreover, in the lower castle area, a new bicycle path will be created as part of the co-financed European program of Sustainable Urban Regeneration.

Two Ottoman-era homes are also being restored:

One will serve as a center of information for the entire history of the island

The other will offer space for educational programs for children, who will be also able to tour the ancient and medieval-era ruins, led by archaeologists.

“We will explain to the children how they were built, how the houses, the temples, the walls were built. And the children will be given a complete picture of what this medieval castle of Mytilene was like,” Triantaphyllides concluded.

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