Northeast Aegean Islands

Aegean beach

The Aegean Sea (Greek--Aigaion Pelagos) is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor. The name is variously explained in writings of antiquity as derived from Aegeus, king of Athens and father of Theseus, or from Aegea, a queen of the Amazons who drowned in the sea, or from an ancient Greek town named Aegae. The Aegean Sea is about 644km (400mi) long and about 290km (180mi) wide. It is connected with the Sea of Marmara in the northeast by the Strait of the Dardanelles. The Aegean Sea is irregular in outline with numerous gulfs, and is studded with islands, including the Sporades, Cyclades, and Dodecanisa. It was the center of one of the earliest known European civilizations. With the rise of the ancient Greek and Middle Eastern culture, the lands surrounding the sea became the sites of widely differing civilizations, and the culture of the Aegean Islands became identified with that of all of Greece.

Limnos, is an eastern Greek island in the Aegean Sea, off the western coast of Asia Minor, near the Dardanelles, the strait connecting the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The island, with an area of 482 square kilometers (186 square miles) is largely volcanic with a few fertile regions where livestock is raised and fruit and grain are grown. Mirina is the capital and chief town with a population of 15,721.

In 1657 the island was acquired by Ottoman Turkey from Venice, and in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 Limnos became again a Greek possession. During World War I the island served as a base for Allied military and naval operations against Turkey, particularly in the course of the Gallipoli and Dardanelles campaign in 1915. On October 30, 1918, at Moudhros, the Turks signed terms of armistice with the Allies. Today, Limnos serves as a primary Greek military air/naval base, defending all Aegean islands from Turkey.

Lesvos is an eastern Greek island in the Aegean Sea, off the western coast of Asia Minor, west of the city of Smyrna, at the entrance of the Gulf of Edremit. Lesvos was a noted cultural center of Ancient Greece, especially in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. It later was a part of the Ottoman Empire until it was annexed by Greece in 1913, after the Turks were defeated in the Balkan Wars. The island, relatively a large one, with a total area of 1,637 square kilometers (632 square miles), is now frequently called Mytilini, after the chief town and capital with a population of 104,620. Its highest peak is Olympus (Ayios Illias), 968m (3,175ft) high. The principal products are olives, olive oil, figs and grain. Also tanneries and soap factories are found on the island.

Khios, also Chios is an eastern Greek island in the Aegean Sea, off the western coast of Asia Minor. It is one of the larger islands and has a total land area of 1,152 square kilometers (450 square miles). The capital and chief town is Khios, a seaport on the eastern coast, with a population of 50,870. In the north the island is mountainous, but the land in the south is open and fertile. Gum mastic, from which a liqueur is made, and wine are the island's principal products, as well as olives, olive oil, figs, and oranges. Coastal trade is important economically. Industries include the mining of antimony and calamite, marble quarrying, and tanning.

The island contains relics of ancient times, when it was an important Greek state, the home of noted poets and sculptors, and a participant in the wars that marked the history of Ancient Greece and Rome. Khios was occupied by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century AD and later became a possession, successively, of the Venetians, Genoese, and Ottoman Turks. During the Balkan Wars of 1912, it was recaptured and again became part of Greece.

Samos is an eastern Greek island in the Aegean sea, off the western coast of Asia Minor. The island is mountainous, and its highest peak, Mount Kerketeus (ancient Cercetus), reaches 1,433m (4,701ft). Samos has a total land area of 817 square kilometers (324 square miles) and a population of 41,881. Its products include wine, tobacco, olives, olive oil, and citrus fruits. The capital of the island is Limin Vatheos.

In ancient times Samos was famous as a commercial and shipping center of the Aegean Sea. The island was celebrated also for its red, glossy pottery, which was imitated by the Romans in their so-called Samian ware. Subjected to Persian domination, in 499 BC Samos joined the Ionian revolt against Persia and, following the battle of Mycale in 479 BC, was once again independent. In the same year it became a member of the Delian League. When Samos revolted in 440 BC, it was defeated and reduced to the position of a vassal of Athens. During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) between Athens and Sparta, the island provided a faithful ally of the Athenian democracy, serving as the headquarters of the Athenian fleet. In the later years of the struggle its privileges were restored. In 387 BC Samos passed into the possession of Persia, but was eventually reconquered by the Athenians in 366 BC.

For approximately 20 centuries the history of Samos is obscure. It is believed to have become a part of the Roman Empire and subsequently a Byzantine possession. It was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1550. In 1832 it became semi-independent. The administration was locally controlled but subject to the payment of a tribute to Turkey. Samos passed entirely back to Greece as a result of the Balkan Wars (1912-13).

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