The name of the settlement is pre-Hellenic. Dating back to the third millennium B.C., its name has been imprinted on coins at times as Mathimna or Mythimni manifesting the great power and fame of the city as early as the 7th century B.C. Built in groups of small settlements, it bears the name of the mythical settler of Lesvos Makaros and along with Mytilene, Pyrra, Arisvi, Eresos and Antissa it constituted one of the six cities of ancient Lesvos. Standing opposite Troas this was the second passage from the north to the Adramyti Gulf.
At the end of the 8th and early 7th century after the occupation of ancient Arisvaia it holds one third of the land of Lesvos and the most fertile central and northern part of the island. Its dominion is called “Mithymnaeon Chora”. With colonies at the opposite coast, such as Assos, it is interlinked with Thrace, Ellispontos and Troas. It has a powerful commercial fleet and grows into an important political power with its own coin since 480 B.C. In terms of religion the locals worship the “Lesvian Triad” (Zeus, Hera and Dionysus), Orpheus, Apollo Smintheas, Artemis Thermia, Poseidon, Athena and Panas in great sanctuaries.
This is where Arion of Molyvos (Mithymna) known as “Kitharodos” gives birth to the Choral song and the dithyramb. During the 4th century B.C the historian Ermeias and the astronomer Matriketas live here. Sometime later Myrsilos, the historian, stands out with his work “Lesviaka” and Theolytos of Mithymna writes his bacchanal epic and the chronicles of the Lesvians. Finally, this is where Herakleitos of Mithymna wrote “Laertus” and the “Macedonian history”. During the Peloponnese War (431 – 404 B.C) Mithymna is the only city which stands beside the democratic Athens – the only one out of all the other cities of Lesvos.
In 406 B.C. it is conquered by the Spartans. In 386 it signs the Antalkideios Peace Treaty and in 377 it joins the second Athenian Alliance. In 333 B.C. it is occupied by the Persians. During the second year of the Great Alexander campaigns it is liberated by the Macedonians who take it under their protection.
The Hellenistic and Roman era
After the death of the Great Alexander, Mithymna is taken over by the Ptolemies. In 167 B.C. it extends to the dominion of Antissa and practically rules half of Lesvos. The “Mithymnaeon Chora” expands now occupying 631 square kilometers. During the Roman occupation Mithymna still enjoys a regime of relative autonomy. At the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. it converts to Christianism.
During the Byzantine years, as it is situated outside the centers of the Byzantine Empire, it becomes the target of several brigands’ invasions from the Slavs, Saracens, Russians, Venetians and the Genoese. Its economy reduces and becomes mainly rural. In 1355 when Lesvos is dowered to Francisco the first, a Genoese sovereign, husband of Maria Palaiologou, Mithymna peacefully goes to the Gatelouzos authority and adopts its second name: Molyvos. During the Gatelouzos reign Mithymna or Molyvos retrieves its power and evolves into a significant commercial naval and military centre of the island.
The Ottoman Occupation
Molyvos is the last castle occupied by the Turks in 1462 after strong resistance. The first centuries of the Ottoman Occupation include confiscations of people’s fortunes, hard taxation imposing and cruelty on behalf of the conquerors. This eventually leads to the shift of the chair of the Metropolis of Mithymna to the neighboring Kalloni where it still remains to this day. A great part of the population also chooses to go over to the opposite coast in search of a better life. After the Kucuk-Kainartzi treaty (1774) and the Hatti Sherif (1839) and Hatti Humayun (1856) decrees, the economy gradually goes back to the hands of the locals who are now in charge of the shipping and transit commerce with the minor Asia coasts and the Balkan countries and even Russia.
Olive oil, soap, wine, fish and salted fish, business activities in Minor Asia, all accumulate a great deal of wealth and power in the hands of the people of Molyvos imprinted on the settlement’s mansions, schools and educational institutes. Male and female schools are established, “The Muse Fraternity” with its library, the local Club, the athletic Club “Arion” etc.
The Minor Asia catastrophe radically changes the place of Lesvos on the map and unavoidably Molyvos situation as well. From transit commercial centers they become borderline peripheries of the Greek state. Despite the increase of the population brought about by the settlement of the Greek refugees, the local economy literally shrinks reaching its most dramatic point during the German Occupation years and the Civil war that followed.
As a result of the economic decay a great immigration wave to Athens, Australia, America, Germany and Canada hits the area. At the beginning of the 1960s the population has come down to 1700 from 4000 people and keeps reducing. Towards the end of the 1950s, however, the foundations of the touristic development are being established leading to a further economic flourish finally creating its contemporary social, economic and population stability.