Hephaestia is among the most significant archaeological sites of Lemnos, as, during the historical times, together with Myrina, they were the most prominent ancient cities in the island, and for this it is also known as “dipolis”.

In terms of geography, the city of Hephaestia is situated in the north-east part of Lenos and covers the entire Paleopolis peninsula. From the west and up to Valovrachos area, it lies on the cove of “Gyros”, Pournias Gulf, where the second port of the city is located, while to the north, it ends on a low rocky terrain, known as “Tigani or Pouria”, in the cape of Ekato Kephales, where the ancient limestone mine is prominently located.

Due to its significant geographical location, as it is situated at a crossing point between the sea routes of Thrace and Macedonia to the north, as well as at the Dardanelles to the east, Hephaestia exhibited continuous habitation in the area, from the prehistoric to the Byzantine times.


The city of Hephaestia took its name from the god of fire, Hephaestus, protector of metallurgy. References to the blacksmith god are made in Hesiod’s Theogony (927) as well as in Homer (Iliad, Rhapsody Ξ 338), where he is presented as the son of Zeus and Hera. According to the prevailing myth, his mother Hera threw him off Olympus and the fall rendered him limp and deformed. Hephaestus fell on the island of Lemnos and the first inhabitants there, Sinties, found him and treated his wounds. Since then, the island was protected by the god Hephaestus, who, according to the myth, established his workshop in the volcanic mountain Mosychlon.


The first contemporary references about Hephaestia date back to the 16th century and come from travelers, that, within the framework of their journeys in the north-east Aegean, visited Lemnos. In 1548, the French explorer Pierre Belon and later, in 1785-1790, Choiseul-Gouffier, referred to the ancient city of Hephaestia in their works, mistakenly associating it with the region of Kotsinas. The first person that associated the residential remains in the region of Paleopolis with the ancient city, was the German archaeologist Alexander Conze who, in search of classical antiquity samples, arrived in Lemnos in July 1858.

Approximately one century later, in 1926, the Italian School of Archaeology of Athens, supervised by the Italian archaeologist Alessandro Della Seta, started the first excavation research in the site, which lasted until 1936 and revealed significant settlement remains of the city, such as the ancient theater. About three decades later, in 1968, the archaeological service appointed a competent warden to protect the site, and in 1977, excavation research began once again by the Italian School of Archaeology of Athens, with the Italian archaeologist Antonino Di Vita now being in charge. In 2000, Emanuele Greco became the director of the Italian School of Archaeology, who reorganized research in Lemnos, and in 2016, under the direction of Emanuele Papi, systematic works began once again in Hephaestia, still being in progress.

The first promotion works in the area were implemented in 2002, by the competent, at the time K’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, which included Hephaestia in a three-year works program, co-funded by the European Union, within the framework of the 3rd Community Support Framework. The works that lasted until 2005, were mainly focused on the restoration and promotion of the ancient theater, so that the monument could be preserved and become accessible to visitors, as an indicative example of a public area within the city’s residential core.

In 2015, a new excavation program commenced in the ancient city, under the direction of the archaeologist Dr. Pavlos Triantafyllidis and current head official of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos. The excavation works that are in progress to this day take place within the residential core of the city, covering a surface area of approximately 22 acres, to the south-west of the theater and close to the ancient port to the west of the city.

Three years later, in 2018, a large part of the archaeological site was integrated in a new promotion program, within the framework of the Project: “Promotion of Cultural Heritage as means for Local development – ATTRACTIVE DESTINATIONS”, Cross-Border Cooperation program between Greece-Cyprus 2014-2020, supervised by the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lesvos. The project aimed to upgrade the archaeological site infrastructure and included the reformation of archaeological materials storage spaces, the enclosure, preservation, and promotion of the most important areas, as well as to broaden the visitable archaeological monuments through a new walking route which is also aimed at people with mobility problems, upon supply of a special wheelchair for their transport and tour in the site. Furthermore, modern supervision equipment in the site, labelling and information signs have been installed, while visitors are able to access a digital audio guided tour in specific monuments of the archaeological site through their mobile devices.


The ancient city of Hephaestia was built in the fertile inland of Paleopolis, with the earliest habitation indication dating from the Late Bronze Age to the 7th century AD. According to current excavation data, the city’s great prosperity period was from the 7th century BC to the 1st century AD.

Hephaestia was characterized by its rocky shores. To the north-east, the mountains acted as natural barriers for the city, while fortifications in its accessible points ensured its proper protection. The city’s fortifications followed the hill ridges to the north, Klas location, and ended to the east and the west in the sea coves of Ekato Kephales and Pournias. Part of the south fortifications of the city, in the isthmus area, has been studied by the Italian School of Archaeology of Athens and showed continuous building phases, dating from the archaic to the Roman period.

Hephaestia’s two safe ports were a key factor to its peak development, one to the north-east of the city, in the gulf of Paleopolis, “Achivadoli or Taliani”, and the other to the west, in Pournias Gulf, where traces of the now submerged breakwater are found.

The necropolises of Hephaestia are situated outside the walls, to the south, in the modern locations of “Ran” and “Klima”, covering a large area and dating back to the archaic, classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods. The funeral fires and urns of the archaic period revealed in the area, provided valuable information about the burial customs of the society in the sub-geometric and archaic Lemnos, while 5th century BC burials are associated with the era of Athenian clergy and indicate the island’s close relations with ancient Athens.

The ancient limestone quarry is situated to the city’s north, in Ekato Kephales cape, where the rocky eminence in the location of “Tigani” or “Pourias” is also found. Limestone was systematically used as a building material mainly for large public areas of the late classical and Hellenistic times, such as the ancient theater and the large temple of Kabeirion, which is located outside the city walls to the north-east and in direct visual contact with it.

The oldest habitation indications in Hephaestia date back to the prehistoric times of the Late Bronze Age, and they are found to the south of the city, in the isthmus fortification area. During historical times, its three archaic temples are found in the early residential areas of the city, that date from the 8th century until the 6th century BC. They are built in different locations: on the eastern outskirts of Hephaestia, on the hillside, where the temple of the Great Goddess is found, to the north, on the foot of the theatre “koilon” [hollow], and to the south, in contact with a city wall section. All three constitute a uniform formation of worship premises in the city. During classical times, the ancient theatre to the north of the city is a representative example. It dates back to the 5th century BC with subsequent construction phases until the Roman times and it is the most characteristic example of a public building in Hephaestia. In addition, the presence of an islet of shrines in honor of Kyveli, Dionysus, and the Olympian Pantheon, close to the west port, with works being still in progress, pottery and figurine workshops next to the sanctuary of the Great Goddess to the north of the city, and the public baths located to the south-east of the archaic temple, as well as the monumental construction together with a section of the ancient wall at the city’s entrance, portray the image of an ancient city that flourished from the archaic to the Hellenistic times.

In terms of urban planning, the city appears to have been well-organized with proper urban plan, as indicated by the roads forming buildings area, where residential buildings are found. Scattered residences and building remains, as well as urban planning structure sections, dating back to archaic, Roman, late Roman and early-Byzantine times, have been found to the north of the city, in close proximity to the sanctuary of the Great Goddess, next to the two ports, to the east and west, as well as to the south where part of Hephaestia’s wall is preserved.

In 268 AD, barbarian groups of Heruli and Goths reached Lemnos, causing great damage to the city of Hephaestia, which began to gradually grow smaller since the 3rd century. The recent discovery, by the Italian School of Athens, of a monumental early Christian Basilica, close to the east port area, marks a new prosperous era for the city, now with Christianity as the new religion in the region, with significant church representatives and episcopes living there, such as the episcope Stratigios, who, according to philological sources represented Lemnos during the Ecumenical Council of Nice in 325 AD. Since the 4th century, due to gradual landfilling in the region, the ports begin to decline, a fact that led to the abandonment of the area during the 7th century, and the relocation of inhabitants to the south, in the sea area of Kotsinas, where the castle bearing the same name is found, which marked a new prosperous era for Byzantine Lemnos.


Α. The sanctuary of the Great Goddess

In 1929, to the north-east of Paleopolis peninsula and within the walls of the ancient city of Hephaestia, the Italian archaeologists G. Caputo and F. Magi found the architectural remains of an early place of worship, dating back to the post-geometrical / archaic period (8th – 6th century BC). Despite the fact that to this day no epigraphic evidence indicating the goddess to which the sanctuary was dedicated, the discovery of significant offerings to a female deity led experts to associate the sanctuary with the Great Goddess.

The main temple complex, preserved to the lowest level of foundations, is established in two levels. The lowest to the west consists of seven continuous small spaces, while the highest to the east consists of three rooms with an opening leading to the courtyard. Structural remains of a later construction phase have been found next to the premises. They include two ceramic workshop furnaces of the Hellenistic era (2nd – 1st century BC). Sanctuary remains of the same period as the sanctuary of the Great Goddess have also been found below the ancient theater’s koilon, probably from earlier activities in the area.

Β. The sanctuary in the peninsula isthmus

To the south of the sanctuary of the Great Goddess, in the isthmus area, a large building has been discovered, consisting of four rectangular rooms, probably dedicated to the Great Goddess of the archaic Lemnos, used from the 7th to late 6th/early 5th century BC. The sanctuary is located in the city’s walls limits and outside of them, reminiscent of the example in Troy. The western sanctuary outside the walls had been established in the 7th century BC and it was dedicated to a female deity that was later associated with Kyveli.

In Hephaestia, the excavation research in the isthmus region sanctuary revealed layers indicating continuous activity in the region from the Late Bronze Age, the Early Iron Age, and the geometrical and archaic era, until the early classical period (early 5th century BC).

The earliest residential remains in the area, such as walls and paved floors are representative examples of an urban center developed on the city’s foothills until the isthmus area, formed by stepped terraces and small paths. The first settlement dates back to the 14th century, as indicated by the import of Mycenaean ceramics, as well as local, including goblets, cups, and amphorae. Later, the building remains of the Late Bronze Age were sealed with a strong wall, possibly an enclosure or walling of the now protected peninsula of Paleopolis, that the Italian excavation experts place during the early historical times (late 11th/early 10th century BC or 7th/6th century BC), a period that is associated with the production of ash-colored pottery in Lemnos.

Even though the sanctuary research is still in progress, its architectural forms that have been discovered, as well as its offerings, are reminiscent of both the sanctuary of the Great Goddess to the north, as well as of the archaic sanctuary below the theater’s koilon. It is worth mentioning the presence of benches inside the rooms, as well as the ceremonial constructions, and a clay plaque from the sanctum representing the Mistress of the Animals, where the goddess firmly grabs two panthers by their necks as they stand on their back paws.

The abandonment of the sanctuary after the late 6th century/early 5th century BC is confirmed by the black and red Attic vessels of exquisite quality found in the site, such as a cup-shaped krater and an eye-shaped goblet from that period.

C. The ancient theater

The ancient theater of Hephaestia is prominently located inside the city walls. It is built on top of an earlier archaic sanctuary and situated on a low hill slope towards the south, in Pournias Gulf.

The theater was found for the first time during the 30s by the Italian archaeologist Silvio Accame and excavation works continued during 1937-1939 by the archaeologist Guido Libertini, only to cease due to the Second World War. During that period, the orchestra, the stage, and sections of the parodoi and the walls surrounding the koilon have been discovered. Much later, between 2000-2006, excavation works began once again in the theater by the competent, at the time K’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, co-funded by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and the European Union, within the framework of the Regional Operational Program in the Northern Aegean (3rd Community Support Framework).

The theater of Hephaestia dates back to the classical period and it was used until the late Roman times. Its construction consists of five building phases, the initial being during the 5th century BC. According to excavation data, the theater was initially formed as a built, tiered, rectangular construction, oriented towards the later orchestra with wooden seats. It occupied the entire main tier of the stone theater, and it was shaped by two, narrow, almost parallel stone steps with a narrow aisle.

During the late classical times (4th – 3rd century BC) the stone theater was built in the typical form of Hellenistic theaters: the circular orchestra and the stage construction, the amphitheatrical koilon and the parodoi being its main architectural features. The orchestra was initially formed in a full circle, 12.40 meters in diameter. The koilon, built on top of earlier sanctuaries of the 7th – 6th century BC, was formed in the shape of seashell or horseshoe. It was divided into two tiers and had stone lines of seats, carved on the natural rock. Today, only the first ten rows of its bottom section are visible. Five narrow aisles divide the koilon into four terraces, while the construction was held by strong fortification walls. A water drainage piping system made of limestone is preserved around the orchestra. To the south of the koilon lies the stage structure, with rectangular plan, measuring 5 x 15 meters. The stone-carved throne situated today in the middle of the first row of seats, dates back to the initial construction phase of the theater and it was found in the monument’s surrounding area during the excavation procedures. During the next two building phases, dating back to Hellenistic times, the epitheater and the fortifying walls of the aisles, as well as the supporting walls were added. During the Roman period, the theater was still in use, and it was reformed, following the theater standards of that era: the stage structure was extended, to the detriment of the orchestra, by adding a proscenium, back-stage areas were added, the koilon underwent repairs, the old pipe was replaced, and the orchestra floor was lined with limestone slabs. During the last building phase of the theater, monumental structures in the location were added, which seemed to have various functions.

The theater of Hephaestia captures the arrival and settlement of Athenian cleruchs in Lemnos during the 5th century BC more than any other monument in the ancient city. The new inhabitants seem to have established their own iconic spot, the theater, which was closely associated with the worship of Dionysus. This may reflect the need of the Athenians’ assertion, imposing new rules which were gradually accepted by the city’s local population.

D. The Temple of Kabeirion

Outside the city walls and in direct visual contact with it, in the entrance of the ancient port, Chloi cape, lies the imposing, great suburban sanctuary of the city, dedicated to Kaviroi. In terms of administration, the temple of Kabeirion belonged to Hephaestia and it was used from the archaic to the late Roman times, as indicated by the presence of three shrines from different periods: late archaic, Hellenistic, and late Roman.

The Temple of Kabeirion is also one of the most important archaeological sites of the island with many visitors, both due to its location and its significance, as indicated by the plethora of dedicatory inscriptions and findings in the site, part of which is currently exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Lemnos, in the island’s capital.



Declared archaeological site in accordance with the Ministerial Decree: ΥΠΠΟΑ/ΑΡΧ/Α1/Φ20/11058/523/2-10-1990, Government Gazette 657/Β/17-10-1990.

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