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Samos is a Greek island in the east Aegean, just off the coast of modern-day Turkey. It particularly flourished in the 6th century BCE and was famous in antiquity for its navy, wine, and important sanctuary to Hera. Samos was an active member of the Delian League and the celebrated philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was born there, as was the famed astronomer Aristarchus. Hosting both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony in the 1st century BCE, the island then slipped quietly into obscurity during the Roman imperial period. Samos is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Early Settlement

Samos was first occupied in the Neolithic period, and a late Bronze Age presence is attested by Mycenaean remains. Carians followed next in the 10th century BCE. The Greeks themselves recorded that in the Archaic period colonists arrived from Ionia. According to Thucydides those settlers themselves had originally come from Attica. A city was founded in the south-east of the island as Samos benefitted from arable mountain slopes and fertile plains. Wine and olive oil were exported and transported in amphorae distinctive to the island. The island's prosperity is further evidenced by the monumental stone architecture constructed from the 8th century BCE. The famed sanctuary of Hera (Heraion), built in honour of the island's patron during the reign of the tyrant Aeaces, was located 8 km from the main city.

From the 7th century BCE, Samos maintained a naval fleet with help from its ally Corinth. The ships were built using wood from its thick forests. This navy, one of the largest in Greece, would eventually be composed of the famous trireme warships which had three banks of rowers and a bronze battering ram on the prow. As the island prospered so it participated in the general wave of Greek colonization. Samos established colonies in Cilicia, the Propontis, and the Black Sea. In northern Africa, the island also co-founded Cyrene and built a temple at Naucratis.

During the reign of Polycrates Samos particularly flourished, controlling that part of the Aegean & the Cyclades with 100 warships.

Polycrates the Tyrant

During the reign of Aeaces' son, Polycrates (c. 535-522 BCE), Samos particularly flourished, controlling that part of the Aegean and the Cyclades with its 100 warships and the help of its Egyptian ally Ahmose II. The city also gained a reputation as a cultural centre, attracting poets such as Anacreon and Ibycus, and was home to the famous architect Theodorus. At this time, Samos benefitted from an enlarged temple to Hera (the largest ever according to Herodotus), a 365 m long harbor mole, and fortifications. A tyrant is perhaps always a tyrant though (even in the Greek sense), and the famous philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was one who felt compelled to leave Samos. In 522 BCE, as Persia took a greater interest in the region, the island was taken over by the Persian satrap Oroites and Polycrates was crucified. Things did not improve during the Ionian Revolt when those states attempted to break free of Persian rule. Samos was defeated at the battle of Lade in 494 BCE and, according to Herodotus, many of the island's elite fled to Sicily.

The Delian League

In 478 BCE Samos became a member of the Delian League. As the League gradually transformed into the Athenian empire and members were compelled to pay tribute, some sought to leave and Samos was one such disaffected city-state in the 440's BCE. However, Athens, at the time led by Pericles, besieged the island c. 440 BCE and forced Samos to remain, extracting a significant fine from the island. From that time on Samos had a pro-Athenian elite running the government and the island became one of the most important League members, supporting Athens throughout the Peloponnesian War. Alcibiades, for example, made a base of Samos in 407 BCE. The people of Samos were even given the privilege of Athenian citizenship in 405 BCE and there was a brief system of democracy. When Sparta won the war, the city claimed control of Samos with the establishment of a rule of ten pro-Spartan oligarchs set up by Lysander. In 366 BCE Athens won the island back and exiled a large portion of the population.

Hellenistic & Roman Periods

In 322 BCE, at the end of the Lamian War between Macedon and a Greek coalition led by Athens, the island became independent. Catching the eye of several rulers during the Successor Wars, Samos eventually came under the control of the Ptolemies of Egypt from 281 BCE. There followed a period of re-building of both the city and the Heraion. As so often, with political stability came cultural endeavor, and the famous astronomer Aristarchus formed his influential theories. From 246 BCE a Ptolemaic fleet used Samos as a permanent base. In 205 BCE the island was taken over by Philip V of Macedon, lost again and re-taken in 201 BCE before returning to the Ptolemies. From 197 BCE Samos came under the jurisdiction of Rhodes.

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After supporting the Romans in their wars against Antiochus, the island was given its independence in 188 BCE. In 129 BCE the island became part of the Roman province of Asia. A century of prosperity was brought to an end in 39 BCE when Mark Antony sacked the island; both he and Caesar used the island as a base during the civil wars that ended the Roman Republic. Emperor Augustus made Samos a free city again, but independence lasted only for a century until the reign of Vespasian. Even if the Romans brought benefits such as public baths and basilicas, Samos was now a provincial back-water. It became part of the provincial insularum group of Aegean islands during the reign of Diocletian, and finally, in the Byzantine period, it came under the jurisdiction of the Cyclades.

The Heraion

The cult of Hera on Samos dates back to Mycenaean times when a stone altar was set up in honour of the goddess. Hera was the patron of Samos, and in Greek mythology she was born there, daughter of Cronus and Rhea. The site became more grandiose over the next few centuries until the first substantial temple was built in the sacred complex known as the Heraion. This temple was one of the earliest in Greece to use stone. The 7th century BCE saw more additions and a wooden wall enclosed the site. In 570-560 BCE an all new limestone temple, much larger than its predecessor, was constructed by two noted architects, Rhoikos and Theodoros. Measuring 52.5 x 100 metres and with columns 18 metres high, it had a wooden entablature and tiled roof. Unfortunately, only a few years after its completion, the temple was destroyed by an earthquake.

A new temple was built during the reign of Polycrates (although perhaps never fully completed), slightly larger than before, measuring 55 x 108 metres. It had 20 metre high columns on all four sides, 155 in total. The temple was built using limestone but, this time, the columns were carved in marble. One lone column still stands at the site today. The place of ritual was a massive rectangular altar placed outside the temple measuring 36.5 x 16.5 metres. The limestone altar was surrounded by a wall, up to 7 metres in height, which carried relief scenes depicting animals and sphinxes. In the Roman period the altar was replaced by a marble version, and in the 2nd century CE a small temple was added to the site (7.4 x 12 metres), dedicated to an unknown deity. In the 3rd century CE another temple was added and the sacred way, which led to the city proper, was paved. Gradually, as the cult of Hera declined, the site was encroached upon by private houses and villas. The Heraion was destroyed by an earthquake in 262 CE and shortly after was sacked by Germanic tribes. A brief revival occurred in the 5th century CE when a basilica was built at the site, which had three aisles and which recycled material from the earlier buildings.

Archaeological Remains

Samos has several other architectural features of interest. The first is the 1 km long tunnel constructed by Eupalinus of Megara in the 6th century BCE, which functioned as an aqueduct and carried water to the city. The mole built by Polycrates survives, as do parts of the fortifications built in the same period. Areas of the city have been excavated revealing paved roads, drainage systems, large villas with mosaic floors, shops, and ordinary housing. A large mid-6th-century BCE kouros (naked male youth) statue has also been recovered from the site along with several other large votive statues. These are presently housed in the on-site archaeological museum.


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Samoa, country in the central South Pacific Ocean, among the westernmost of the island countries of Polynesia.

According to legend, Samoa is known as the “Cradle of Polynesia” because Savai‘i island is said to be Hawaiki, the Polynesian homeland. Samoan culture is undoubtedly central to Polynesian life, and its styles of music, dance, and visual art have gained renown throughout the Pacific islands and the world. The country’s international image is that of a tropical paradise inhabited by tourist-friendly flower-wreathed peoples. Yet this belies the economic, social, and political challenges of this diverse and evolving Pacific microstate. Samoa gained its independence from New Zealand in 1962 after more than a century of foreign influence and domination, but it remains a member of the Commonwealth. The country was known as Western Samoa until 1997. Its capital and main commercial centre is Apia, on the island of Upolu.

Samoa lies approximately 80 miles (130 km) west of American Samoa, 1,800 miles (2,900 km) northeast of New Zealand, and 2,600 miles (4,200 km) southwest of Hawaii. Samoa, which shares the Samoan archipelago with American Samoa, consists of nine islands west of longitude 171° W—Upolu, Savai‘i, Manono, and Apolima, all of which are inhabited, and the uninhabited islands of Fanuatapu, Namu‘a, Nu‘utele, Nu‘ulua, and Nu‘usafee. (The six Samoan islands east of the meridian are part of American Samoa.) The total land area is smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island but about 2.5 times larger than Hong Kong.

Samos - History

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During ancient times, Samos was an important cultural center. The beginning of Samos Island history is lost in the mist of time. It is not known exactly when it was first inhabited but it is believed that it was inhabited as far as back the Neolithic years ( 3rd millennium BC ). After joined to the Asia Minor Coast, Samos became separated from the mainland following enormous geological upheavals. According to the mythology it was the birth place of goddess Hera. By being colonized by the Ionians around the first millenium BC, it was inhabited, historians say that the first colonists of the island were Phoenicians, Leleges and Carians and also mention the Pelasgians, who brought to the island the worship of the goddess Hera. Samos knew its greatest glory in the 6th century BC.

After Polycrates death Samos suffered a severe blow when the Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered and partly depopulated the island. It had regained much of its power when in 499 BC it joined the general revolt of the Ionian city-states against Persia but owing to its long-standing jealousy of Miletus it rendered indifferent service, and at the decisive battle of Lade (494 BC) part of its contingent of sixty ships was guilty of outright treachery. In 479 BC the Samians led the revolt against PersiaÂ

Subsequently it was dominated by the Persians during the Persian Wars, later becoming a member of the Athenian Confederacy. When Samos revolted against the alliance , the Athenians laid waste the island in revenge. It was later conquered by Macedonians, Ptolemies and Romans.

For some time (about 275-270 B.C.) Samos served as a base for the Egyptian fleet of the Ptolemies, at other periods it recognized the overlordship of Seleucid Syria. In 189 B.C. it was transferred by the Romans to their vassal, the Attalid dynasty's Hellenistic kingdom of Pergamum, in Asia Minor.

As part of the Byzantine Empire, Samos became the head of the Aegean theme (military district). After the 13th century it passed through much the same changes of government as Chios, and, like the latter island, became the property of the Genoese firm of Giustiniani (1346-1566 1475 interrupted by an Ottoman period). During the early years of the Ottoman Empire most Samians abandoned the island.

In 1204 it became a Frankish possession, remaining in Venetian hands until 1413, when the Genoese under the Giustiniani gained supremacy and ruled the island together with Chios. In 1453 with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the island was abandoned, its inhabitants fleeing to Chios. In the 16th century Turkish attempts to resettle Samos succeeded. The island remained under Turkish rule till it was finally united with Greece in 1922.

24 Ιαν 2015

History of Samos Island

The word “Samos” is most probably Phoenician and it allegedly referred to Samos, son of the mythical settler of the island, Agaios. In written sources Samos is first mentioned in one of the Homeric Hymns to Apollo. In antiquity it took other names or appellations too: Anthemis, Dryoussa, Dorissa, Kyparissia, Imvrasia, Melamfytos, Parthenia.

The earlier traces of human presence on the island can be dated to the 4th millennium BC. The oldest inhabitants are considered to be the Pelasgians, while Carians and Leleges followed them. According to mythology, the island’s first king was Agaios, one of the heroes of the Argonautic campaign, an agile vine-grower and the founder of the first wooden temple of goddess Hera (Juno) near the estuary of river Imvrasos, the birthplace of the goddess, according to mythology.

According to historical sources, it appears that around the 11th century BC Ionians, under the command of Temvrionas and Prokles, settled on Samos and took control of the island. They divided Samos in two halves, Astypalaia and Chysia and founded a city, the Asty, in the area of today’s Pythagoreio.

Ionian Samos reached its peak in antiquity during the 6th century BC under the tyrant Polykrates. Samian seamanship and commerce were greatly developed during his age. With its galleys, the samaines, Samos ruled the Aegean Archipelago for a long period.

Modern representation of Samaina, the type of ship that dominated the Aegean Sea in the 6th century. B.C.

Since Archaic times already, colonies were founded by Samians at the opposite coasts of Ionia, Thrace, but also in the West (Dikaiarheia in Southern Italy). Special links with Egypt were also developed in this period, reflected in the friendship, mentioned by Herodotus, between Polykrates and the pharaoh Amasis. These trade relations and influences from Egypt are also apparent in the art of this era, with the monumental statues that were erected on the Ceremonial Road leading from the Heraion to the city of Samos.

However, Samians’ activities were not limited to the Levant. One of the most famous Samian navigators of this era is Kolaios who was reported to have crossed the Gates of Hercules (nowadays Gibraltar), reaching Tartessos in Spain.

This financial prosperity was followed by an analogous cultural one. Great names in science and art appeared in the same century.

Modern statue of Pythagoras in the town of Pythagorion, Samos Island.

The mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, the architects of the Heraion temple and pioneers of sculpture Roikos and Theodoros (often referred as the inventors of the method of casting bronze statues by pouring the metal in wax moulds), the poet Simonides the Amorgian are amongst the most important ones. Meanwhile Samos attracts artists from other places such as Ivykos and Anakreon. It also founds colonies in near Ephesus, but also in Amorgos, Samothrace, Thrace and in distant Sicily. But, even during the following ages, despite the gradual decadence, there were still many important people of culture there. The historian Douris and the great astronomer Aristarchus, who supported the solar-centred system, were Samians, while the philosopher Epicurus was born and raised in Samos.

In the sea area between Samos and Asia Minor the last phase of the great conflict between the Greeks and the Persians took place. In the area of Mykale the Greeks defeated the Persians in a sea and land battle, putting a definite end to their efforts to expand towards the west.

After the Persian Wars Samos became a member of the Athenian Alliance. The Samians’ effort to keep an autonomous policy met the dynamic opposition of the Athenians, who, under Perikles, set the city on siege and after nine months they conquered it, destroyed the Asty and its fortifications and exiled many of the island’s inhabitants, colonizing it with poor Athenian farmers.

Samian tetradrachm, a silver coin of the early 4th century BC

During Hellenistic times Samos was under the influence of the Ptolemies of Egypt for long periods of time. Its harbour was used as an arsenal for the Egyptian fleet, as well as the harbour of their Rhodian allies. Later, as the rest of the Greek world, Samos was conquered by the Romans and ended up, after the final demolition of the polis-state and the Hellenistic kingdoms, a small island in a vast empire, and, as well as many other islands of the Aegean, a summer resort for Roman dignitaries. From this era many mosaic floors of high artistic value have survived. The Roman conquest brought, along with the “pax romana”, new inhabitants, new ways of life, new gods and cults. Relics of an arched aqueduct, hot baths, sanctuaries of Cybil, altars, offerings and other surviving monuments document the presence of the Romans on the island.

Roman baths complex near the town of Pythagorion, Samos Island

During the century of Samos’ greatest prosperity (6th century BC), there were four impressive works on the island: the walls of Polykrates, the shaft of Efpalinos, the artificial harbour and the temple of Hera (Heraion).

The walls of Polykrates, reaching a length of 6430 meters, fortified the city (Asty) by enclosing an area of 1.2 square kilometres. Samians were forced to demolish a great part of the city walls after their defeat by Perikles in 439 BC.

The tunnel of Efpalinos was an aqueduct constructed in the middle of the 6th century BC by the architect Efpalinos from Megara to guarantee the supply of water for the city.

The Efpalinos Tunnel on Samos Island

It is a 1036 meters long tunnel, crossing the rocky mountain north of the city and is still admired today for the extreme accuracy of its digging, bearing in mind that rudimentary metric organs were used for the diggings, along with the tools of that time, hammer and chisel.

The following animation movie shows how the Efpalinos Tunnel was constructed:

This “two-edged” tunnel, as mentioned by Herodotus, operated for almost one thousand years until the 7th century AD, when it was eventually abandoned and its entrances blocked. It was rediscovered by father Kyrillos Moninas, a monk from the Monastery of the Holly Trinity of Mytilinioi in 1882.

The third great technical work of Polykrates’ era was the harbour with its piers and quays. The city’s natural harbour was divided in two parts by the two piers and other harbour works: the outer (commercial harbour) and the inner harbour, which housed the arsenal. The greatest harbour work was though the choma en thalassi (ground into the sea) a 360-metres long pier over which the more recent works of the Tigani (nowadays Pythagoreio) were founded. The cleaning and reconstruction works were completed under the hegemony of Georgios Konemenos (1851-1854) and Miltiades Aristarchis (1859-1867), who invited the engineer Ouman from Constantinople to undertake the study and the construction of the new Tigani harbour.

One of the most important sanctuaries dedicated to Hera in the Greek region lies in a distance of about seven kilometres to the SW of the ancient city of Samos. Mycenaean period

A prehistoric settlement (3 millennium BC) occupied the area of the sanctuary in a earlier period. The religious character of the site is testified by a simple stone altar, dated to the Mycenaean period. A temple-like building to house the wooden statue of the goddess is also speculated. Geometric period

The first temple of Hera (Heraion I) was erected in the 8 cent. BC. It was a rectilinear building with the entrance at the east. It is one of the earliest Greek temples. It was probably peripteral with a wooden peristasis (6x17 columns), with an internal colonnade along the axis, while the walls were built with mud bricks. Because of its dimensions it is characterized as "Hecatompedon" (length of 100 feet). In the same period the altar became rectangular and it was orientated southeast. It is also likely that the small temple-like buildings located to the north and south of the altar were built.

In circa 670 BC the first temple of Hera was destroyed by flood and on its ruins a new peripteral building was built, in about the middle of the 7th cent. BC, “Hecatompedon II (or Heraion II, dimensions 33 x 16 m.), with a similar plan but more evolved morphology. A basic difference with the previous temple was that the central posts of the cella which supported the roof were removed and replaced by a row of wooden posts in direct contact with the side walls. The south-western side of the temenos was defined by the South Stoa (70 x 5,90 m.). Towards the end of the 7th cent. BC, the altar was rebuilted. The most impressive among the votives of that period is a built base of boat, which was revealed to the south of the altar, implying that an entire boat was dedicated to the sanctuary. First half of the 6th cent. BC

In 570 to 560 BC the temenos is reformed to a great extent. Over the ruins of the South Stoa and the ‘Hecatopmedon’ temple a dipteral Ionic temple of Hera was erected (Heraion III). It was of colossal dimensions (52,5 x 105 m.). The monumental building was the work of the architects Rhoikos and Theodoros. Its plan, architectural decoration and proportions were apparently influenced by Anatolian and Egyptian models. The temple had a square pronaos and an enormous cella, divided by two colonnades into three aisles. It was generally considered to be a bold creation, one of the masterpieces of Ionic architecture in the Archaic period. It was probably destroyed by an earthquake a few decades after its completion (circa 530 BC).

The same architects must have constructed the altar of the sanctuary, which acquired monumental form and size. The altar was built as a rectangular construction (dimensions 36,5 x 16,5 m.), with a protective wall, 7 m. high, on the three sides, and a stairway on the west side which opened towards the temple, leading to the main sacrificial area. The "altar of Rhoikos" was a pioneering creation with rich architectural and sculptural decoration, whose magnificence was exceeded much later, in the Hellenistic years by the altar at Pergamon. In the same period the sanctuary was defined at its north side by a wall with an entrance gate and the adjacent North Stoa. Another peripteral temple, namely the South Building, was included in the same building programme. Probably work of the same architects, the South Building (13,1 x 39,3 m.) was orientated to the NE and an axial colonnade in the interior. The construction of the building began around the middle of the 6th cent. BC and was completed towards the end of the same century, while the worshipped deity remains unknown. The North Building was contemporary to the "Temple of Rhoikos" (Heraion III) as well. Although it was initially designed as a simple rectangular Ionic temple (dimensions 13,75 x 29 m.) with a two-aisled cella and adyton, towards the end of the 6th cent. BC it acquired a pteron with a double row of columns on the narrow sides.

On the Sacred Road, to the north-east of the temple, the two small temples in antis, temples A and B were founded, about the middle of the 6th cent. BC. In temple A (6,7 x 4,5 m.) the cult statue of Hera might have been carried during the construction of the new large temple (Heraion III). Second half of the 6th cent. BC

Through the ambitious building programme of the tyrant Polycrates (538-522 BC), the Heraion flourished greatly. A new Ionic dipteral temple of Hera (Heraion IV, dimensions 55,16 x 108,63 m.) was built in the last decades of the 6th century BC, probably by the architect Theodoros. Herodotus (III, 60) considered this to be the largest temple in Greece. A third row of columns was added to the facades while a double colonnade divided the pronaos and the cella, in three aisles. It is worth noting that the columns of the external peristasis had Ionic capitals with elaborate anthemion decoration, while the columns in the interior had capitals of a particular type without volutes, adorned by a simple zone of eggs (decorative motives in oval shapes). Different materials of construction (marble, poros limestone and limestone) were used, while the entablature must have been made of wood. The construction works of the temple continued after Polycrates’ overthrown. It is speculated that they lasted until the end of the 4th cent. BC. Nevertheless, the grandiose plan of the tyrant was probably never completed. Towards the end of the Archaic period a monopteros building (8 x 13 m.) was erected. The peripteral Ionic temple C and the temple in antis D, located to the north of the Sacred Road, are dated tothe second half of the 6th cent. BC. Hellenistic period

The great development of the sanctuary did not continue in the Classical period, due to the general political weakening of the island. On the contrary, in the Hellenistic period, the building activities were revived. The sanctuary became the place for the local elite to attract attention. New monuments were erected, with most notable a circular building of unknown use, a rectangular building to the south of the Sacred Road, and a fountain. Roman period

The building activity of Heraion continued into the Roman period, when many pre-existing buildings were repaired and new monuments were erected. In the Early Imperial Period a monumental stairway was added to the facade of the temple of Hera, while the altar was rebuilt with marble. A marble peripteral temple (20,35 x 18,96 m.) was constructed in the 1st cent. BC to the east of the temple to house the cult statue of the goddess. The combination of Ionic and Doric decorative motives as well as the adoption of Archaic morphological features in its architectural planning are particular interesting. Near the peripteral temple, a small temple and a Corinthian temple in antis were built in the 2nd cent. AD (7,4 x 12m.) During the 3rd cent. AD a small Corinthian temple of Roman type on a podium was erected, as well as a small complex of Thermae to the east of the temple of Hera. Numerous offerings and votive monuments completed the picture of Heraion of Samos in the Roman period. The most impressive monuments belong to the 1st cent. AD, like the monument to honour Augustus’ family and particularly the monument erected by the Samians to honour Cicero’s family. A short-lived settlement developed in the area of the sanctuary in the 3rd cent. AD, while in the Early Christian period (5th or 6th cent. AD) an imposing three -aisled basilica was constructed with material taken from the ancient buildings.

The Sacred Road, leading from the city of Samos to the Heraion, evolved during the Archaic period into an important topographic feature of the sanctuary. It was lined with Thesauruses, temple-like buildings used as treasuries for precious objects and offerings, as well as a great number of resolutions and sculptures. An explicit picture of the impressive site is given by the Archaic marble kouroi which were discovered in the Sacred Road, as well as the Genelaos Group, one of the most important works of the Archaic Ionian sculpture.

The Genelao's group of statues, created in 560 BC on the Ceremonial Road leading from the Heraion to the city of Samos.

During the 5th cent. BC a colossal bronze group of sculptures was erected on the Sacred Road, representing Hercules, Athena and Zeus, a work of the Athenian sculptor Myron. Only a small part of its base has been preserved. The stone lining of the surface of the Sacred Road was constructed circa 200 AD.

(Maria-Dimitra Dawson, Afroditi Kamara)

The relative calmness of the early Byzantine time appears to have favoured an intense economic activity on the island. Samos, the urban centre of which remained in the ancient city, was an administrative and financial centre. The existence of many early Christian basilicas on the island documents, apart from the great diffusion of Christianity as early as the 5th century, a relative financial prosperity. During this time rural communities prosper and samian products are exported to distant areas. During the 7th century there are indications that the island was threatened and maybe also raided by the Arabs. In this age various fortified sites such as Lazarus’ Castle, are built, indicating that at least part of the coastal population settled in the hinterlands, apparently for reasons of safety.

The city gradually decays, while the raids of the Arabs force the inhabitants to withdraw in the hinterland on mountainous, naturally fortified, sites. Traces of this withdrawal on the two mountains of Kerkis and Karvounis can be located in various sites bearing the denomination Kastra or Kastrakia, in Lazarus’ Castle, Loulouda’s Castle and other sites.

During the Middle Byzantine period Samos formed the 29th Eparchy of the islands, while in the times of emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus it was fortified with a new castle. In the 10th century Samos became a base both for the Arabs, for their raids in the Aegean as well as for the Byzantines, for their attacks on Crete. However, the presence of important Byzantine monuments in Samos, combined with the written sources, indicates a great prosperity of the island during the 12th century.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204 and the demolition of the empire, Samos became a possession of the Latin king of Constantinople. In 1225 it was conquered by Ioannes III Vatatzes, emperor of Nice, until 1304, when it was conquered by the Genoese. In 1329 it was re-conquered by the Byzantines until 1346, when it came back to the hands of the Genoese until 1475.

Around 1475, due to the pirate raids and the general insecurity dominating the islands of the Archipelago, many Samians sought refuge in nearby Chios and Asia Minor, while Samos became a part of the Ottoman Empire probably in 1479-1480, without, however, being a full part of the state’s administrative and financial mechanism. The island’s population was so much thinned out, that sources even mention the total desolation of Samos. This “desolation”, which came, amongst the abovementioned reasons, as a result of the spreading of plague, lasted for almost a century. During this time various attempts by the Ottomans to repopulate the island met with no success.

In the middle of the 16th century the Ottoman occupation brought peace and stability, whereas the populations sought better conditions of living. In 1572-73 the sultan, applying his colonization policy in the Aegean, ceded special “privileges” to the new inhabitants of the island and entrusted the colonization to the first admiral (kapudan pasa) of the ottoman fleet Kilic Ali pasa, to whom all tax revenues of the island were offered for life. Colonization secured for the ottoman authorities the control of the sea route of Constantinople-Alexandria, the firm establishment of their dominance in the Aegean, but also the decongestion of intensely populated areas. The terms of colonization secured a form of autonomy inside the Ottoman state, gave the settlers the possibility to seize lands for cultivation, tax exemption for seven years, exemption from the dekati (tithe) tax against 45.000 piasters per annum and more. Some time before the death of Kilic Ali pasa the island became a vakif religious estate (1584-1587), dedicated to a Muslim sanctuary of Constantinople, founded by the admiral.

The favourable terms of colonization attracted Christians from many different parts of the empire, amongst which the descendants of the inhabitants who had abandoned the island in 1475 and moved to Chios. The new population also included the older inhabitants who had survived in the hinterlands of the island, whereas, during periods of turmoil or revolutionary movements, it was strengthened by people from the Peloponnesus and the Ionian Islands. Amongst the settlers there was also Greek speaking Christians of Albanian origin, as well as a few Muslims. In the beginning of the 17th century most of the nowadays villages of Samos were already formed, initially in a distance from the sea and later, after the middle of the 18th century, on the coast too. The population of the 17th century, according to the sources, did not exceed the number of 10.000 people.

Samos Island gravure, designed by Dapper in 1688.

Communal organization of Samos during the ottoman occupation dates back to the 16th century. The first reference for communal organization in an ottoman document dates to 1610.

The administrative and tax system of Samos under the ottoman rule, as we know it from 18th-century sources, can be summarized as follows: the administration was in the hands of the island’s voevod (a dignitary of the Ottoman empire and the leaser of the island’s tax revenues), along with the kadi (judge), the bishop and the four notables elected by the representatives of the villages each year and representing the island’s four counties (Vathy, Chora, Karlovasi, Marathokambos). They were primary entrusted with the collection of taxes. This system lasted until the revolution of 1821, with the exception of two brief periods in 1771-1774, when the island came under the control of the Russians during the Russian-Turkish war and in 1807-1812, when an inside change was attempted by the progressive faction of Karmanioles, who pursued and achieved, though for a short period, changes in administration, taxation and financial management.

The island’s division in four counties, a result of the land’s morphology and the diffusion of the settlements, continued as a formal institution throughout the Hegemony and is still active today via the division of the island into four municipalities.

(Transl. Ioannis Nakas)

After the Russo-Turkish wars and the Küçük Kaynarca treaty, favorable conditions for seafaring and trade also prevailed on Samos. Samian merchants-seamen traded olive oil and wine, the main products of Samos, initially at the ports of the Ottoman Empire (Smyrna-Istanbul/Constantinople), then Russia and Egypt, and around the late 18th century Europe – mostly France. Through this trade activity, a dynamic group of few people managed to emerge. Because of its contact with Mediterranean-European ports, it adopted and exploited the meaning of European whirl, the value of the market, traveling and most of all the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

Around the late 18th and the early 19th centuries, zones and settlements developed by the sea, oriented towards trade and the chances the sea had to offer. At one of those settlements, the port of Vathy, settled colonists from the Ionian Islands.

The port of Vathy in Samos Island in the early 19th century. Colored lithograph by Luigi Mayer.

Ship owners and merchants-seamen had common interests with land merchants and a group of farmers suppressed by the proestoi. Therefore, they formed the faction of the “Carmagnoles”: it supported progressive ideas and fought the old proestoi, who expressed the Ottoman legitimacy and were called Kallikantzaroi (Goblins) because of their secret meetings and collaboration with the island’s Turkish administration. The Carmagnoles were probably named after the carmagnole dance the colonists were believed to have brought to the island.

The Carmagnoles’ dynamic in business brought the desire for political power and social recognition. They drew inspiration from current matters and the most advanced democratic ideas, while they dreamt of a society of free prospering people with all social classes being educated. The intense conflict between the Carmagnoles and the Kallikantzaroi in social and political matters went on for many years, ending with the victory of the Carmagnoles, who finally managed to control the power of the prouchontes (the notables) on the island in 1807-1812. Their leader was Georghios Logothetis, the leader of the 1821 Revolution on the island.

All that time, though they kept the established administration system, they gave an actual meaning to the operation of administrative institutions, making the “assembly” of representatives the chief body, which now had an unprecedented political responsibility. At annual assemblies was established the regular checking of annual income and expenditure, the idea of the people governing, social solidarity, restraining the notables, freedom of opinion, justice and mild governing.

The Carmagnoles fell from power in 1812, and their leader was chased. They reappeared leading the 1821 Revolution.

(Transl. Onoufrios Dovletis)

The revolution was declared in Samos on 18th April 1821 by a leading team from the faction of Karmanioles, under the leadership of Logothetis Lykourgos and soon prevailed, due to the island’s mainly orthodox population and the absence of strong Ottoman armed forces.

Lykourgos Logothetis (1772-1850), a leading member of the 1821 revolution in Samos Island

After May 1821 in Samos the “Military-political Organization of the Island of Samos” was applied, a text written by Logothetis Lykourgos. This local organization was largely active until 1834. According to it, the political leader (General Commander) was elected by the General Assembly of the representatives of the villages and gave an account to the former each year. He governed the island along with the Political Judges, whereas in case of warfare, he was recognized as a military commander too. During the revolution the Samians under the leadership of Lykourgos managed to successfully repel three great attacks of the Ottoman fleet, in summer 1821, August 1824 and summer 1826.

The Samian flag of the 1821 Revolution

For two years (1828-1830) a governor appointed by Kapodistrias was established on the island and Samos became part of the prefecture of East Sporades, which included the islands Samos, Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos and Ikaria. Samos was not though included in the New Greek state, according to the protocol of independence (1830), but Samians continued their efforts to be annexed by Greece. The “independent” Samian State was founded in that period under Logothetis Lykourgos, without achieving, though, any international recognition. Nevertheless, the Samians persistency and the policy of the European Powers in the area led to the establishment of the autonomous Hegemony of Samos, a state vassal to the sultan under a yearly tax of 400.000 piasters. This hegemonic administration was violently enforced in May 1834 by a squadron of the Ottoman fleet under Hassan bey. The leaders of the revolution and part of the population were forced to migrate to the Greek state and settled around Chalkis.

The Principality of Samos was a product of the policy of the Great Powers, France, Great Britain and Russia, in the region of the Ottoman Empire, as well as of the tenacious refusal of the Samians to accept in 1830 that Samos was not included within the limits of the independent Greek state.

Flag and coat of arms of Samos Principality (1834-1912)

With the Protocol of London in 1832, Samos was recognized as an autonomous Principality, subject to the sultan. The solution of autonomy was dictated by the inability of the Ottoman Empire to incorporate Samos and by the intervention of the Powers, aiming at promoting their policy in the Aegean. The violent enforcement of the Principality’s administration in May 1834 resulted in an equally violent expatriation and the sentence to exile of a significant part of the Samian society, especially the leadership of the Revolution of 1821. The Principality regime was accepted by the Ottoman Empire, which also benefited from it, since the Sublime Porte appointed the prince and collected an annual tribute of 400.000 kurus.

The hegemon or prince of Samos was appointed by the sultan, was Christian orthodox and mastered the Greek language. The prince and a four-member government (Parliament), elected by the General Assembly of the proxies, which met one or one and a half months a year, were in charge of the internal administration. The various princes were appointed from among the high officials of the Sublime Porte.

The form of the Principality’s administration was determined by the Organic Regulation (1832) and the Charter (1850) and can be compared with that of the Danubian Principalities on a small scale. Samos could not develop formal relations with other states however, it had its own flag and enjoyed internal autonomy the Greek origin, language and religion of its inhabitants were recognized and it was placed under the guarantee and protection of the European Powers.

The Samians contested the regime several times during the period of their autonomy (1834-1912), mainly on the grounds of authoritarian exercise of power by the princes or breach of the Charter. The Samian proxies were empowered to demand the withdrawal of a prince and exercised that right many times. As time went by, a fine balance was established between the non-native bearers of authority, represented by the prince and the sultan’s delegates, and the natives, who expressed themselves through the Parliament and the General Assembly of the proxies. However, it was often impossible to compromise local interests with the dependence on the suzerain power, thus making the conflict inevitable.

The first period of the Principality (1834-1849) was remarkably harsh. During prince Stefanos Vogoridis’ administration of the island, his representatives were more interested in the – often arbitrarily performed - tribute collection than in the organization of the autonomous state. As a result of bad administration, a revolt occurred in 1849, which led to the change of prince and the establishment of the autonomy terms after the repression of the revolt, a permanent Ottoman guard remained in the capital of the Principality.

The bases of autonomy were recognized after 1851 and were established by the prince’s deputy, Georgios Konemenos, as well as by the ensuing princes Ioannis Gikas and Miltiadis Aristarchis.

Administration services, prefectures, registry offices, notary offices, tribunals and education were organized schools were established in all the communities of the island, the Pythagorion Secondary School and the Higher Girls School (1855) basic laws were adopted and attempts were made to deal with agricultural, economic and social problems. Towards the middle of the 1850s the strict implementation of the laws and the tackling of banditry and piracy enhanced internal security.

The development of the principality of Samos was marked during the last quarter of the 19th century by the development of agricultural production, trade and industry.

A Samian tobbacco industry's advertisement in the age of Samos Principality

Together with viniculture, which constituted the inhabitants’ main economic activity, tobacco cultivation and the tobacco and tanning industries developed as well, constituting important sectors of local economy, and, exceeding the borders of the principality, prospered until World War II.

Old tannery in Karlovasi , a town in which tanning flourished from the late 19th century.

At the same time, towards the end of the century, the intellectual development of Samos became also apparent, with the presence of scholars and writers, the publishing of new books and the printing of newspapers, like Samos, Evnomia, Fos, Patris, NeaZoi, Proodos.

In the beginning of the 20th century, although several local actors believed that the regime of Principality would be long-lasting, the Samians seemed to have developed an intense national orientation, stressed, on the one hand, by the rise of Balkan nationalism and the emerging tendency towards a redefinition of borders in the wider region and, on the other, by the active involvement in the political scene of Themistoklis Sofoulis as political leader. This orientation was further assisted by the attempts to infuse Greek capital into the East through the National Bank of Greece and the national activity of the Theological Seminary of the Society of Asia Minor Greeks “I Anatoli”, established in Samos since 1906.

Andreas Kopassis, the penultimate prince of Samos, killed in the 1908 uprising.

The penultimate prince Andreas Kopassis, against whom an armed rebellion occurred in 1908, was murdered by the delegate of the Macedonian Committee Stavros Baretis in 1912, while in September of the same year a rebel movement was launched, led by Sofoulis.

Themistoklis Sofoulis arrives at the port of Vathy, Samos Island, in September 1912.

The national assembly of Samos, which was held immediately after that, declared the union with Greece on November 11, 1912. The symbolic occupation of the island by a Greek fleet division in March 1913 marked the end of the Principality regime. Prior to its incorporation to Greece, Samos was administrated, until 1914, by a Provisional Government, presided by Themistoklis Sofoulis.

The Samians celebrate the proclamation of union with Greece in November 1912.

(Transl. Eirini Papadaki)

The union with Greece fulfilled the Samians’ national aspirations, while, at the same time, the integration to the national centre distanced Samos economically, socially and culturally, from Asia Minor, with which it was closely related for many centuries.

After the annexation by Greece, Samos became a borderline province of the Greek state, orientated towards Athens as a national centre and not towards the centres of the East, Smyrna, Constantinople and Alexandria. During the National Schism period (1917), Samos followed the choices of Eleftherios Venizelos, while after the Greek-Turkish war in Asia Minor and the destruction of Smyrna the island received a great number of refugees from Asia Minor, many of whom remained for ever in its villages and cities, where they settled in “refugee” quarters and strengthened as a working manpower the local industry. During World War II the island was occupied by the Italian forces (Cuneo division), in May 1941. After 1942 an important national resistance movement against the occupation forces was organized, with EAM as its main branch, which resisted strongly against the occupation forces, which made extended anti-guerrilla operations in July-August 1943. Samos was liberated for a short time in September 1943 with the capitulation of the Bandolio government in Italy and was administrated by a Temporary Governmental Committee, presided by metropolitan Eirinaios, only to be again occupied by the German forces after the fierce bombing of 17th November 1943, that resulted in the destruction of the island’s capital and the departure of 1/3 of the whole population for the Middle East.

A German ship bombed by English warplanes in the port of Vathy, Samos Island. Aerial photo of 1944.

After the final liberation and the return of the refugees from the Middle East, the conditions that led to the civil war were created in Samos, a war that was very violent and destructive for the island. Civil war in Samos lasted from 1947 until 1949 and ended with the defeat of the Democratic Army of Samos and the arrest, exile and, in many cases, execution of its fighters.

After the turbulent decade of 1940 the island follows the course of the other insular provinces of the Greek state. The slow reconstruction of the provinces and the post-civil war political and social conditions prevented the development of the island. During the 1950s a great flow of immigrant is directed from Samos towards the great urban centres of the country, mainly though towards foreign lands, Australia, South America, Canada, Africa, New Zealand and also towards European countries, Belgium, Germany, Sweden.

Samian immigrants in the United States, early 20th century.

Migration from Samos continues right until the middle of the 1970s, while towards the end of the same decade the return to homeland starts. Many Samians from the big cities or abroad resettle on the island, which is already becoming a tourist resort. Finally, since the early 1990s, Samos attracts also many economic immigrants, mainly from Albania.

The establishment of an electricity network, which was completed in the 1960s, the inauguration of an airport in 1963, as well as other basic substructures, provided the possibility for a tourist development since approximately the beginning of the same decade. Tourist exploitation of the island led to an uncontrolled building explosion of tourist establishments since the early 1970s, which changed the whole orientation of the financial activities of the inhabitants of Samos. Today the island has an extended number of tourist establishments and services offered.


The Greek island of Samos, which lies in the beautiful, warm waters of the Aegean Sea, certainly boasts a fascinating and long history, as in ancient times it was a wealthy state and held much in the way of power and even of a well-developed culture.

The Eupalinian Aqueduct is a marvelous piece of engineering and a Unesco world heritage site, and when one learns it was built in the 6 th century B.C., it nicely sums up how Samos was one of the world’s centres of rich culture and civilization during the ancient times.

We know it was a leading centre of commerce as early as the 7 th century B.C. and prominent member of the Ionian League. Its proximity to trade routes was probably responsible for its economic wealth and cultural opulence. Classic pottery and fine wines were at the forefront of its wealth and luxury even during the era of the Roman Empire.

Before the arrival of the Romans, Samos went through a series of wars with Persia, which eventually led to Persian rule of the island. But Samos – under the combined strength of a united Ionian-led revolt – did regain power but had to stifle a series of battles against the Persians.

Several decades later, in 431 B.C., Samos found itself at war again when it took the side of the Athenians against Sparta. The 27-year war, heralded as the Peloponnesian Wars, resulted in defeat for Samos but the punishment dished out this the city-state was not as bad as what some of the Ionian Islands suffered.

Samos was forced to repay huge sums of money to Athens but eventually became a loyal dependency to the powerful Athenians. In 411 B.C., the Athenian fleets even used the island of Samos as a naval base when sailing out on raids against Peloponnesians. But as Athens began to fall, so too did Samos. In the 4 th century B.C., it underwent a series of raids by the Persians and Lysander.

When the Romans invaded the island, it was forced to reside as part of the Asia Minor region. It often sided with enemies of the Romans but throughout its time under the Roman rule it still managed to remain a centre of wealth and culture.

During the Middle-Ages, Samos fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and war, piracy, plague and devastation depopulated the island until it was totally abandoned for about a century. However, the Ottomans strived to make Samos great again in the late 16 th Century and ultimately managed at to do so.


The core myth at the heart of the cult of Hera at Samos is that of her birth. According to the local tradition, the goddess was born under a lygos tree (Vitex agnus-castus, the "chaste-tree"). At the annual Samian festival called the Toneia, the "binding", the cult image of Hera was ceremonially bound with lygos branches, before being carried down to the sea to be washed. The tree still featured on the coinage of Samos in Roman times and Pausanias mentions that the tree still stood in the sanctuary. [3]

Little information about the temple is preserved in literary sources. The most important source is Herodotus, who refers to the sanctuary's temple repeatedly, calling it "the largest of all the temples that we know of." He includes it among the three great engineering feats of Samos, along with the Tunnel of Eupalinos and the harbour mole at Pythagoreio. [4] Otherwise, most of the sources are scattered references in works written long after the heyday of the sanctuary. Pausanias, whose Periegesis of Greece is our key source for most of the major sites of mainland Greece, did not visit Samos. [5]

Archaeological evidence shows that the area was the site of a settlement in the Early Bronze Age and cult activity at the site of the altar may have begun in late Mycenaean period. The first temple of Hera was constructed in the eighth century BC. The peak period of prosperity in the sanctuary began in the late seventh century with the first phase of monumental building, which saw the construction of the Hekatompedos II temple, the south stoa, two colossal kouroi, and the Sacred Way, which linked the sanctuary to the city of Samos by land. In the second quarter of the sixth century BC, there was a second even greater phase of monumentalisation, with construction of the monumental altar, the North and South Buildings, and the Rhoikos Temple. This was quickly followed by a third phase of monumentalisation which saw the North Building expanded and the beginning of work on a third, even larger temple to replace the Rhoikos Temple. This peak period coincides with the period when Samos was a major power in the Aegean, culminating in the reign of the tyrant Polycrates. In the Classical period, Samos came under Athenian domination and activity in the sanctuary almost completely ceases. A revival of activity took place in the Hellenistic period, which continued under the Roman Empire. [6] [7] Worship of Hera ceased in AD 391, when the Theodosian edicts forbade pagan observance. A Christian church was built on the site of in the fifth century AD and the site was used as a quarry throughout the Byzantine period. [8]

Throughout the sanctuary's thousand-year history, its hub was the altar of Hera (7) and the successive temples opposite it, but it also contained several other temples, numerous treasuries, stoas, a sacred way, and countless honorific statues and other votive offerings.

Sacred Way Edit

The Sacred Way was a road running from the city of Samos to the sanctuary, which was first laid out around 600 BC. Where the Sacred Way crossed the Imbrasos river, a large earthen dam was built to support the road and reroute the river. Previously, the sanctuary had been reached by sea and the main entrance was on the southeastern side, near the coast, but the construction of the Sacred Way led to a reorientation of the sanctuary, with the main entrance now being on the northern side of the temenos. [9] [10]

The Sacred Way played a central role in religious processions and its prominence is shown by the numerous votive offerings which lined its route and the fact that many of the sanctuary's structures share its alignment. It was repaved in the third century AD with the costly stone slabs which are visible today. [11]

Temple of Hera Edit

There were a succession of monumental temples built on roughly the same site to the west of the altar. From archaeological excavation many construction phases are known, identified in part through fragments of roof tiles. [12]

First temple (Hekatompedos) Edit

The first temple, the Hekatompedos (I) (4) or hundred-foot temple marks the first monumental construction on the site, in the eighth century BC. This was a long, narrow building made of mudbrick, with a line of columns running down the centre to support the roof structure. It was rebuilt in the late seventh century, at the same time as the construction of the Sacred Way and the South Stoa. This second form is known as Hekatompedos (II) and was roughly 33 metres (108 ft) long. The walls were built of limestone rather than mudbrick the east end was left open. There were two rows of interior columns along the side walls, meaning that there was a clear view along the central axis from the entrance to the cult statue. There may have been a colonnaded porch at the east end to mark the entranceway and a peripteral colonnade running around the outside, but this is not certain. [13]

Second temple (Rhoikos temple) Edit

A much larger temple was built by the architects Rhoikos and Theodoros and is known as the Rhoikos temple (2). It was about 100 metres (330 ft) long and 50 metres (160 ft) wide. At the front there was a deep roofed pronaos with a square floor plan, in front of a closed cella. Cella and pronaos were divided into three equal aisles by two rows of columns that marched down the pronaos and through the temple. A peripteral colonnade surrounded the temple, which was two rows deep (dipteral). There were twenty-one columns on each long side, ten columns along the back side, and eight along the front side. The columns stood on unusual torus bases that were horizontally fluted. The temple formed a unit with the monumental altar of Hera to the east, which shared its alignment and axis. [14]

For a long time, the date of this temple was disputed, but excavations in 1989 revealed that work began on it at some point between 600 and 570 BC, and was completed around 560 BC. It stood for only about a decade before it was destroyed around 550 BC, when it may have been toppled by an earthquake or dismantled because the marshy ground and poor foundations made it dangerously unstable. Much of its stone was reused in the construction of its successor, the Great temple. [14]

The Rhoikos temple was the first of the massive Ionian temples, like the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which would be built in western Asia Minor and the Aegean during the Archaic and Classical periods. Helmut Kyrieleis observes that it "must have had central significance for the development of monumental Ionic architecture" for this reason. [14]

Third temple (Polycrates temple) Edit

After the destruction of the Rhoikos temple, an even larger one was built approximately 40 metres (130 ft) to the west, which is known as the "Great Temple" or the "Polycrates Temple" (3), after the famous tyrant of Samos who ruled around the time of its construction. This temple was 55.2 metres (181 ft) wide and 108.6 metres (356 ft), one of the largest floor plan of any Greek temple.

The first foundations of the cella were laid in the second half of the sixth century and are usually associated with the reign of Polycrates. The foundations of the peripteral colonnade and the pronaos were not laid until around 500 BC. Construction continued into the Roman period, but this temple was never wholly finished. The cult statue was eventually transferred to the Roman temple, though other statues and votives continued to be stored in it. [15]

The geographer Strabo, who wrote at the beginning of the first century AD, describes the temple:

As one sails towards the city [of Samos in the island of the same name] . on the left is the suburb [of Samos city] near the Heraion (Temple of Hera), and also the Imbrasos River, and the Heraion, which consists of an ancient temple and a great shrine, which latter is now a repository of tablets. Apart from the number of the tablets placed there, there are other repositories of votive tablets and some small chapels full of ancient works of art. And the temple, which is open to the sky, is likewise full of most excellent statues. Of these, three of colossal size, the work of Myron, stood upon one base Antony took these statues away, but Augustus Caesar restored two of them, those of Athena and Herakles, to the same base, although he transferred the Zeus to the Capitolium [in Rome], having erected there a small chapel for that statue.

In Byzantine times, the temple served as a quarry, so that it was eventually dismantled to the very foundations, leaving only the foundations and a single column shaft, which seems to have been retained as a navigation point for ships. [16]

Roman temple Edit

At some point in the Roman period, a smaller Roman Temple (5) was built to housed the cult image the east of the Great temple, which remained under construction. In the fifth century AD, this temple was demolished and the stone was used to build a church on the site. [17]

Altar Edit

There is archaeological evidence of activity at the site of the altar (7) from the late Mycenaean period, but the first structure was built in the ninth century BC. This rough and undecorated stone structure measured 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) x 1.25 metres (4.1 ft). [18]

It was rebuilt seven times, reaching its final monumental form in the sixth century at the same time as the construction of the Rhoikos temple, which was built on the same alignment and axis. The rectangular altar was roughly 35 metres (115 ft) long (north-south), 16 metres (52 ft) wide (east-west), and 20 metres (66 ft) high (up-down). The entire west side consisted of a staircase, leading up to a flat platform where sacrifices were performed, which was surrounded by a low wall on the north, east, and south sides. A series of floral and animal reliefs ran around the altar wall at the level of the platform and at the top of the low wall. The altar continued in use after the destruction of the Rhoikos temple, eventually receiving renovations in the Roman period. [19]

The animal bones found on the site show that the majority of sacrifices were of fully grown cows. There were also quite a few sheep and pigs, as well as a few deer. No thigh bones were found on the site Kyrieleis suggests that this may be because they were burnt on the altar or possibly because they were given to the priests as their special share [20]

There was a sacred grove to the east of the altar, which may have included the sacred lygos tree that was identified as the birthplace of Hera. It was previously believed that the stump of this tree had been recovered during the excavations in 1963, but subsequent testing proved that this was an unrelated juniper tree. [21]

Stoas Edit

The South stoa (11) was built at the end of the seventh century BC, as part of the same round of monumentalisation that saw the construction of the Hekatompedos temple and the Sacred Way. The South stoa was built of mudbrick and wood and measured about 60 metres (200 ft) in length, running roughly northwest-southeast. Two rows of columns supported the roof and interior walls divided it into three equal sections. The South stoa was demolished in the mid-sixth century BC, to make way for the South Building.

The North stoa (9) was built in the sixth century BC, perhaps to replace the South stoa, on roughly the same model and scale as the south stoa. It back wall was formed by a stretch of the sanctuary wall. Both stoas served to mark the edges of the sanctuary and provided a space for visitors to shelter from the sun and sleep at night. [22]

North Building Edit

The North Building (8) is located in the northern part of the sanctuary. It was first built in the mid-sixth century BC. At this point it was a 13.75 metres (45.1 ft) wide and 29 metres (95 ft) long cella, entered through a portico at the south end. A row of columns ran down the centre and the north end was separated off as an adyton. The structure was surrounded by a temenos wall. Between 530 and 500 BC, a peripteral colonnade was added to the structure, increasing its width to 25.8 metres (85 ft) and its length to 41.2 metres (135 ft). One of the roof tiles from the structure was inscribed ΠΟ (po), which Aideen Carty reads as an indication the Polycrates was personally responsible for the expansion of the structure. [23]

The function of the structure remains unclear. Although the structure has the form of a temple, there does not appear to have been an altar associated with it. Kyrieleis suggests that it was built to serve as the treasury for the Samian state. [24]

South Building Edit

The South Building (10) was constructed in the mid-sixth century at the same time as, and on a similar design to, the North Building. The South stoa was demolished to make way for it. [25]

Sculpture Edit

A large number of monumental statues and statuary groups were dedicated in the sanctuary, mainly in the sixth century BC. Most of these are kouroi, which are over-life-size statues of naked young men, or korai, which are statues of young women on a similar scale but clothed and veiled. These dedications seem to be the work of individual Samian aristocrats, who erected them in order to demonstrate their wealth and status - one of the ways in which the sanctuary was used by them as a venue for status competition.

A spectacular early sixth-century kouros, known as the Kouros of Samos was found under Roman-period pavement of the Sacred Way at the north end of the sanctuary, where it originally stood near the entrance to the sanctuary area. At about three times life size, it is among the largest known kouroi and would have dominated the whole sanctuary at the time of its erection, around 580 BC. An inscription on the thigh states that it was dedicated by one Isches son of Rhesus, presumably an important aristocrat. It is the earliest known example of monumental East Ionian sculpture. It is now displayed in the Samos Archaeological Museum. This and other finds demonstrate the important role played by workshops on Samos in the development of Greek sculpture. A similar kouros was located next to the Hekatompedos II temple it was destroyed in the mid-sixth century and survives only in fragments. [26]

An aristocrat called Cheramyes dedicated a group consisting of a kouros and three korai around 560 BC. One of the korai is now located in the Louvre, where it is known as the Hera of Samos [fr] . This sculpture is no longer thought to depict Hera, but may rather be a depiction of a priestess (perhaps related to Cheramyes himself). Another group consisted of six figures built into a single base on the Sacred Way and is known as the Geneleos group, after the sculptor who carved it. The individual sculptures depict the members of the dedicator's family. The seated figure of the mother sat at the left end of the base, with an inscription giving her name, Phileia, and that of the sculptor, Geneleos. Her head is lost. The father was depicted at the right end, reclining as if for the symposium. An inscription on the sculpture once identified him, but the section that gave his actual name is lost, as are his head and feet. In between the mother and father were standing figures of a son and three daughters. Two of the daughters survive but their heads are lost inscriptions identify them as Philippe and Ornithe. [27]

Votive offerings Edit

A large number of terracotta and ivory pomegranates and poppy pods have been found near the temple - representations of votive offerings of perishable goods in a more permanent medium. Archaeobotanical analysis has revealed large quantities of pomegranate and poppy seeds on the site, which demonstrate that the real fruit were indeed presented to the goddess as offerings. [28]

Substantial amounts of pottery tableware and drinking cups were found around the sanctuary, where they were used in sacrificial feasts. The most significant are a type from the early sixth century. Some of these are painted with ΗΡΗ (Hera), indicating that they belonged to the goddess. Others have the letters ΔΗ (DE) painted on them, which might indicate that they were public property (demosion). Either interpretation would be important for understanding the political history of early sixth century Samos, which is very obscure. However, Kyrielis has argued that they actually read (Η)ΡΗ (Hera). The workshops in which this pottery was manufactured have been found on the site of the sanctuary. [29] [30]

The waterlogged soil has preserved a large number of wooden votives from the Archaic period. This is exceptional - almost no other wooden objects from this period have been found in Greece - and they thus provide a unique insight into the ritual activities of less wealthy visitors to the sanctuary. They include a wide range of pieces from masterpieces of wooden sculpture and furniture, through to roughly carved spoons. A particularly special class of object are roughly carved curved objects, of which about 40 examples have been found to date. These are usually around 40 centimetres (16 in) long and have been identified as rather abstract depictions of boats. They may be the dedications of shipowners or objects for a special ritual. A full-size ship's hull from the late seventh century BC, measuring about 20 metres (66 ft), was also found. There are also several miniature stools, intricately carved with images of horses. [31]

A number of the votives dedicated in the late seventh and sixth centuries BC attest to the far-reaching commercial links of archaic Samos and the prestige attached to votive dedications of exotic objects at that time. [32] These objects include natural treasures, such as skull fragments from an Egyptian crocodile and hartebeest, as well as a stalactite and lumps of rock crystal. They also include exotic manufactured items, chiefly ivories from Egypt and the Near East. Two bronze figurines of the goddess Gula from Isin in Babylonia might be early examples of interpretatio graeca. A bronze horse trapping from northern Syria bears an Aramaic inscription from the late ninth century BC - the earliest example of alphabetic writing found anywhere in Greece. Other votives originated in Cyprus, Phoenicia, even Iran and Urartu. Some of these items were acquired through trade, especially the export of Greek slaves, while others may have been the proceeds of mercenary service. Aideen Carty interprets these votives as evidence of the important role of the sanctuary in aristocratic competitive display in the archaic period. [33] [34]

On a smaller scale the votive objects indicate that these two phenomena - interaction with the wider world and use of the sanctuary for competitive display - continued in later periods. The site is peppered with the remains of honorific decrees and statues from the Hellenistic-Roman period, of the type found throughout the Eastern Mediterranean in this period. Additionally, six to thirteen figurines of Isis nursing Horus have been found at the site, indicating that connection or association between Hera and Isis developed in the Hellenistic-Roman period. [35]

The first Westerner to visit the site was Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, commissioned by Louis XIV to travel in the East and report his findings. [36] Tournefort visited Samos in 1704, and published his drawings of the ruins as engravings. Massive siltation deposits obscured, yet protected the site from amateur tinkering in the 18th and 19th centuries. Reeds and blackberry canes provided daunting cover, and the water table, which has risen since Antiquity, discouraged trench-digging at the same time that it preserved wooden materials in anoxic strata.

Thus the first preliminary archaeological excavations did not take place until 1890-92, under the direction of Panagiotis Kavvadias and Themistoklis Sofoulis, on behalf of the Greek Archaeological Society of Athens. The full extent of the third temple's foundations were not revealed until Theodor Wiegand's campaign of 1910-14 on behalf of the Royal Museum of Berlin. Rubble demonstrated that there had been a previous temple.

In 1925 German archaeologists from the German Archaeological Institute at Athens, began a sustained campaign of excavations at the site work that was interrupted by the Second World War commenced again in 1951. These excavations were led by Ernst Buschor until 1961, when he was succeeded by Ernst Homann-Wedeking. Helmut Kyrieleis and Hermann J. Kienast took charge of the excavations in 1976. The results of these excavations have been published in a series of volumes in German under the general title Samos, which were edited to a high standard. These excavations established a chronology against which the wide range of votive objects deposited at the Heraion from the 8th century onward can be compared.

History of Samos

According to Samian history,the first people who inhabited in Samos, probably were the “Phoenicians “, then had followed the “Pelasgians “, which brought in Samos the worship of goddess Hera.

Then followed “Kares “, who lived by piracy, and exterminated by the king Minos of Crete .

1350-570 BC, Ancaeus , the first king and his heirs

Ancaeus the first king of Samos

“ Ancaeus ” was the first King of Samos in 1350 BC (the island at that time had the name “Filas”). He had come from Kefalonia after an oracle of Apollo.

After his death, took the throne his third son “Samos”, from which named the island, in one version. They followed a series of kings, from 1176 till 570 BC that took the throne “Aiakos”, the father of next king-tyrant “Polycrates”.

541 or 537 BC Tyran Polycrates, the golden age for Samos

The tyrant “Polycrates” overthrew his father “Aiakos”, probably between 541-537 BC he sharing the island with his brothers, which then, he killed one of them, and the other banished.

“Polycrates” was one of the most talented tyrants of the ancient world.
He developed the letters, arts, and made great and remarkably works (the tunnel of Eupalinos, the artificial harbor, fortification wall, the temple of Hera, the citadel, the market, theaters, his palaces, etc.) and created a powerful army and fleet that dominated at the land and sea.

The death of Polycrates was pitiable, inglorious and fraudulently by the Persians. Ιn 522 B.C. probably), Polycrates was brutally murdered, falling into the trap of Orites, satrap of Asia Minor, who hated him, either because he had failed to conquer Samos or because Polycrates had disrespected a Persian ambassador. Orites, knowing Polycrates’ greed, asked him to help him smuggle the treasure of the king of Persia who was in danger, promising to give to Polycrates half of it. Polycrates, despite the advice of his friends and the prophecy of his daughter ( Herodotus says that she had seen a bad dream that foretold the death of her father), went to Sardis, capital of Lydia in Asia Minor, where Orites arrested him, skinned him alive and then crucified him.
It’s not sure of the time that “Polycrates” ruled, other authors mention 40 years, others 20 and others 15, which is the most likely.

Successor of “Polycrates” was his trusty secretary “Maiandrios”. Later, after general slaughter of Samians by the Persians, they put governor for Samos “Syloson”, the brother of Polycrates who had been exiled. At 515 BC becomes governor of Samos, the son of “Syloson”, “Aiakos B’ “.

The Persian part of Samian history

In the spring of 492 BC the Persians attempting the first invasion of Greece and brought to Samos 600 ships and thousands of the army, led by “Datis” and “Artaphernes”, for the conquest of Greece. Eventually have been unsuccessful at Marathon by the Athenian army at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

The second invasion of the Persians in Greece was in 480-479 BC led by Xerxes which again have been unsuccessful, mainly from 300 Spartan soldiers at the famous battle of Thermopylae .

After the second unsuccessful campaign of Persians, the Athenians and Spartans, were quick to help the “Ionia” and at September 479 BC they carried the naval battle of “Mycale” (south-east of Samos), where Persians defeated and were expelled with the tyrant of Samos “Theomistoras” who was placed by them.

439 BC the destruction of Samos by Athenians

After the release of Samos by the Persians, the economic growth of the island, it was great and fast. This did not escape the attention of the Athenians, who sought a pretext to stop this development.

The conflict between Samos and Miletus and the war between them that ended with the victory of Samos, It gave rise to Athenians.

The Athenians asked by both to stop the conflict and to consider the issue, the Samians did not accept and Athenians declared war to Samians .

After that the Athenians fleet, headed by Pericles, besieged the island for nine months, the Samians did not last, and in 439 p. X. surrendered, but with great losses and for the Athenians. Pericles behaved very brutal to the people of Samos.

402 BC the Spartans conquest

After the defeat of Athens by Sparta during the Peloponnesian War , the Spartans wanted to conquer Samos, because it was the last Athenian fort.

The Spartans besieged the island and the Samians were forced to capitulate and to leave the island with only the clothes they wore.

352 BC, Athenian’s return

352 BC Athenians were activated again, releasing from Spartans many city and islands, Samos it was one of these.

The Athenians plundered the island, expelled the oligarchs, and they brought two thousand settlers, the worst of Athens citizens.

338 BC–131 BC, Macedonians and heirs

After the weakening of the Spartans and the Athenians because of the Peloponnesian war , a new great power emerged, the Macedonians .

The King of Macedonia Philip II , wanted to resolve the issue of Samos but busy by the campaigns, did not manage.

The successor, however, his son Alexander the Great , gave solution to the issue of Samos soon, when became a king. By special decision gave Samos to Athenians and later with new decision, gave amnesty to all fugitives, who could return to their homes and reclaim their property.

70 BC, The Roman Empire

The Romans in 70 bc they take control of the wider region of Asia Minor and the islands, between them and Samos. Appoint governor the “Gaius Licinius Ouiro”, who plunders the temple of Hera and other monuments.

Marcus Antonius used Samos as headquarters in his fight against Rome and with his mistress Cleopatra , change Samos in entertainment area and orgies,while rampaging every valuable that was left.

Gaius Octavius impressed from Samos, remained for a long time and became a benefactor for Samos, but and his successor Tiberius , showed the same favor, while Caligula tried to restore the palace of Polycrates, but he did not because of his death.

4 th -10 th AD century, Byzantium

Constans successors of Constantine A

After the death of Constantine A’ at 337 AD and the division of the Byzantine empire between the three successors, Samos was given to “Constans ” third and youngest son of Constantine A’ .
Then the island suffered a lot (like all Mediterranean) from famine, plague their terrifying earthquakes and piracy. The powerful fleet of the Saracen pirates captured more than 36,000 cities, villages, fortresses, and massacred hundreds of thousands Christians.

For fear of the Saracens, the inhabitants of Samos, they built castles on the island for times of danger. Castles like this are “Louloudas” with 250 houses, “Lazaru” castle with 500 houses, the “genoan castle” in Potami and more.

The Aegean relieved by the Saracens in 959-960 by Nikiforos Fokas , who destroyed their fleet and hit their bases in Crete and Cyprus.

11th- 15th AD century, westerners, Turks, devastation of Samos

Towards the end of the 11th century, new enemies for Byzantine appear from the west and east. The Guiscard Duke of Apulia from Italy, the Seljuk Turks in 1079, the fleet of Venice who caused terrible damage to Samos and other islands from 1124 to 1126.

During the fourth Crusade and the distribution of the Byzantine Empire, Samos along with other islands was given to the Venetians until 1247. In 1346, they will be installed in Samos, Chios and other islands, the Genoese with the trading company “Maona” (from the Arabian word Maounach=trading company).

The Genoese had no forces to guard the island from pirates and so left and went to Chios, where many Samians followed them.

So in 1476 most of Samians immigrated to Chios, few in Asia Minor and so Samos remained deserted residents till 1549 where Kılıc Ali Pasa visited by his fleet the island .

From information that exist, there does not seem to be completely deserted, many remained who found asylum in the mountains.

16th AD century, reoccupation of Samos, Turkish occupation

In the summer of 1549, the Turkish fleet with Kılıc Ali Pasa admiral, after battling with ships of western and pirates, moor at Ireon of Samos to rest the crews and repaired ships.

The beauties of Samos, the fertility of the soil, the privileged position,they had captivated Kılıc Ali Pasa, and when he learned that it was deserted, conceived the idea, to colonized the island exclusively by Orthodox Christians.

When he returned to Constantinople , he asked Suleiman Sultan to cede the island, who via imperial definition in 1562, donated Samos island to Kılıc Ali Pasa and his descendants.

Thus began efforts to attract new residents to the island, and was giving unprecedented benefits for that time, as the inhabitants were free from the Turks, will no pay taxes, Samos would be a free port without duties, whoever came could understand as much area wanted, right of establishment were only Orthodox Christians and more.

Kılıc Ali Pasa died in 1587, and in his will, entrusted Samos to the “ High Gate ” of Turkey. Over the years these privileges for Samos trampled by Turks. Samians reaction which led to war of Independence, in alliance with the revolutionaries of the rest Greece in 1821 .

1821, revolution against Turks

The message of the revolution gave Captain Lachanas on April 18, 1821 that killed 18 Turkish citizens, and on April 20 a group armed from Mitilinii village went to Chora village to kill the Aga but did not make it, while on May 8, 1821 Lykourgos Logothetis officially declared the revolution of Samos.

Lycurgus immediately began to organize the defense, creating four chiliarch, with captains Constantine Lahana, Constantine Kontaxis , Manolis Brunette and Captain Stamatis Georgiadis from Marathokampos.

The first attempt by the Turks to occupy Samos was from 3 to 8 July 1821. Where Turkish army repeatedly tried to disembark in the south of the island, at region of Pythagoreion, but could not. The most severe battle took place on July 5, 1821 at the “Cape Tzorzi” (east of Pythagoreio), where Turks managed to disembark from the boats but were massacred by Samians and then the cape renamed “Kavos Fonias” (= Cape killer).

The second attempt of Turks to occupy Samos, was after three years from July 28 to August 6, 1824, where again was unable for the Turkis army to disembark on the island. The decisive battle took place on August 6, where the head of the fleet Chosref Pasha, ordered general attack, leading to suffer incalculable losses from the Greek fleet, forcing them to abandon the effort and fled to Asia Minor.

That date coincides with the feast of the Transfiguration and Lykourgos Logothetis decided to engraved on a marble slab «ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΣΑΜΟΝ ΕΣΩΣΕΝ 6 ΑΥΓΟΥΣΤΟΥ 1824» (=Christ saved Samos in 6 August 1824), in the church of metamorphosis in Pythagorio and celebrated this date every year in Pythagorion till today.

There were and other attempts for occupation of the island by the Turks as on September 6 1824, in the Gulf of Marathokambos and in July 1826 at the north of the island, but could not.

1834 – 1912 Hegemonic regime (Principality) at Samos

The national emblem of hegemonic Samos

The protocol of The Greek National Boarders were established on the 3rd of February in 1830 and it was ruled that Samos would be free but would be Ottoman-Turkish “property” with a representative. After that Samians made the decision to continue their fight completely alone.

In December of 1832 under England, Russia and French pressure, the Ottoman-Turks were obligated to give benefits and rights to Samos. Finally, on 21st of August in 1834 Samos became Hegemony. According to the new laws Samos obtained its autonomy, the island had freedom and its own flag. Passports, governmental and navy documents could be issued by the authorities of the island. The highest governor would be appointed by the Sultan and had to be coreligionistic with Samians and they should pay to the Sultan annual Nautical taxes.

From 1834 until 1912 Samos had 20 governors . From them only two were not Greeks. Stefanos Vogoridis , who was from Bulgaria and was the worse, while Georgios Verovitz who was from Albania was one of the best. The most of them were men with impressive education, they supported and promoted the progress of the island but to the eyes of Samian people they represented the Ottoman-Turkish dominance.

On the 9th of March of 1912 the prince (governor) Andreas Kopasis , who a was sympathizer of the Ottoman- Turks, murdered by Stavros Mbaretis. The last Governor was Grigorios Vegleris in 1912, whose his service was brief, only a few months.

After a revolution, with “Themistoklis Sofoulis” as a leader, send taway the Ottoman-Turkish army and Naval and achieved the unification of Samos with Greece on 11th November 1912.


Samos was also known in ancient times as Doryssa, Dryoussa, Parthenia, Anthemis, Melamfyllos and Fyllas. Its first inhabitants were Pelasgians, Carians and Leleges.

Samos was a great naval power with fast ships known as the “Samainae” and one of the most important commercial centers in the Aegean – famous for its wine and pottery – trading not only with Greece, but also the Mediterranean peoples.

The growth of Samos is connected with tyrant Polycrates (532-522 BC) since it was at the time of his tyranny that the greatest works on the island were built. The Tunnel of Eupalinos, the renovation of the theater, the construction of the port in the ancient town of Samos, the extension of the walls – “Polykrateia Teichi”, the Temple of Hera, which at his time, took its final magnificent form.

The city of Athens, concerned about the growing naval and commercial power of Samos, launched a military campaign, which overthrew tyranny and established democracy. When the oligarchs reseized power the Athenians found an excuse to launch a new campaign under the leadership of Pericles, destroy the Samian fleet and subjugate the Samians. A long period of decline had just begun and went on during the Roman occupation.

During the Byzantine era the social and economic life of Samos stands still, and the Christian cult religion becomes the only spiritual expression. Numerous monasteries are built and towers show up to protect the island’s population from pirate raids and enemy attacks, which at that time plagued the land.

In 1363, the Genoese Giustiniani established a state in Chios, where by a treaty of the Byzantine Emperor John Palaeologus they also annexed Samos. After the fall of Constantinople, the Genoese achieved recognition of their power from the Sultan, until 1479, when threatened by the Ottomans were forced to withdraw in Chios, where they were followed by the Samians in a mass exodus resulting in the abandonment of the island.

During the last quarter of the 16th th century after extensive “privileges” had been granted by Kilic Ali Pasha, admiral of the Ottoman fleet, who was delighted by the beauty of Samos, Samians were gradually repatriated and the island was colonized by inhabitants of other regions, such as neighbouring islands, Asia Minor, Peloponnese and Crete.

A self-governing system was established by appointing elders in each village and four Great Elders, who handled tax administration and awarded civil and criminal justice, based on the Byzantine-Roman law. The Church was a spiritual unifying element, had jurisdiction on family and inheritance disputes and preserved written word by preparing all sorts of legal documents.

The central government of the Ottoman Empire appointed an Aga or Voivode, who collaborated with the Great Elders in the administration of the island and represented the interests of the Ottoman Empire, but his presence neither contradicted the core of local and regional privileges nor affected the powers of the Head Church.

The new ideas brought by the 1789 French Revolution, and the creation of a tradesmen/seamen class led to the appearance of the so-called “Carmagnoli” movement that demanded since the beginning of the 19th century the overturn of the Elders, a fair distribution of tax burdens, establishment of annual General Assemblies, accountability of the authorities, removal of tyrannical Ottoman officials, and liberalization of criminal enforcement.

The 1805-1812 period is marked by bloody social conflicts between the “Carmagnoli” and their opponents known as the “Kalikantzaroi” (hobgoblins).

Thus, when the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821, the “Carmagnoli” were catapulted to the forefront, since their leaders were initiated to the secrets of Filiki Eteria (Society of Friends). Logothetis Lykourgos, who had studied in Istanbul and served as an administrative official in the Danubian Principalities, is identified as the general head of the rebelled Samians. Lykourgos had led the social conflict of 1805-1812, sentenced to death by the Ottoman Empire, exiled to Mount Athos, and as an intellectual figure, he had been influenced by the ideas of the enlightenment and Rigas Feraios.

The rebels establish an autonomous regime with legislative, executive and judicial power, they organize ordinary military force, develop a fortified defence system, attend National Assemblies by elected proxies, defend the local autonomous regime with riots and bloody clashes, while repelling efforts of the Ottoman fleet to conquer the island in 1821 and 1824.

When the London Protocol (February 3rd 1830) left Samos outside the boundaries of the newly established Greek State, an independent “Samian State” was formed. However, in August 1834, the Principality Regime was violently imposed, thousands of Samian rebels migrated to Greece and their leaders were exiled.

In 1849 they revolted against the Principality Administration, overthrew the tyrannical ruler Stefan Bogoridi and demanded the implementation of the Constitution.

That was the beginning of a long period of social reconstruction by strengthening the “constitutional state” institutions, by sovereign annual General Assemblies of delegates, by restoring the judicial power, by a Municipal Administration, a central budget, by organizing an efficient education system, by public works, by setting up telegraph, telephone and coastal connections, by enacting the Samian Civil Procedure and by recommending the Samian Civil Code.

The last quarter of the 19th century was marked by a cultural development on the island: dynamic newspapers were issued, great historical works by Epaminondas and Nikolaos Stamatiadis were released, the demoticism movement was launched, ancient texts were translated, poetry collections were published, Philharmonic Societies were established, Greek troupes started performing etc.

Finally, in 1912, with the outbreak of the Second Balkan War, Samos declared its union with Greece.

History of Samos

Lush green island with beautiful beaches, traditional settlements, significant archaeological sites and famed wine. The island extends over a surface of 500 km2, its coastline is 150 km long, and it has 34,000 inhabitants.

From the evidence that has been found, derives that human beings have lived on Samos since the 3rd millenium BC, if not earlier. Its history, however, begins at the time of Polycrates, 6th century BC. Before that, history is vague and obscure, mythical folklore being the only existing reference.
In ancient times, Samos, although small, played a trully significant role in culture and politics, not only for the region of Ionia, but for the entire ancient Greece.

In the times of Polycrates, Samos became the center of the Ionian civilization. Various important monuments were constructed, such as the Eupalinion Tunnel, the temple of Hera, open-air theaters, as well as palaces, which Roman emperor Caligula tried to restore much later. In addition, Polycrates was the first to establish a library containing all significant texts produced by the human spirit up-till then.
His royal court used to be a spiritual center offering hospitality to the top intellectuals of the world of his time. He had created a very powerful navy and his fleet used to be the leading one in the Aegean Sea being comprised by fast war-ships called Samenas. According to Herodotus, the predominant city-states of the sea were three: Knossos of king Minos (15th century BC), Samos (6th century BC) and Athens (5th century BC). Therefore Polycrates had rendered Samos a leading city-state among the Greeks and the Barbarians. He was also the first who tried to unite all Greeks against the Persians.
Following Polycrates’ assasination in 522 BC, many wars took place and Samos was the focal point of the conflicts between the Greeks and the Persians. It was finally devastated by the Athenians under Pericles in 439 BC after a siege that lasted for several months.
In the time of Alexander the Great, and during the Roman period, no significant events took place that were important enough to be mentioned.

During the Byzantine period, Samos, just like all islands, suffered great catastrophes by various invaders and pirates. In the time of the Crusaders, it came under Venetian rule, later it came back to the Byzantines and it eventually fell to the Genovese in 1346. Since Samos was in the focal point of the pirate raids, its inhabitants started to abandon it and in 1476 the last inhabitants fled, along with the Genovese. So Samos became almost desolate with only a few inhabitants living on the mountains.
In 1549 the Turkish fleet came to Samos, commanded by Admiral Khilich Ali Pasha. He was a Frenchman and a former pirate, who after having been captured by the Turks, managed to become an admiral because of his abilities.
He admired the Samian environment and when he realized that the island was desolate, he requested the sultan to cede it to him as a present, a wish that the Sultan granted him. The pasha then intended to have the island repopulated by granting unprecedented privileges to the new inhabitants, who had to be Greek Orthodox Christians. Then new inhabitants started to come along from the nearby islands, Asia Minor and a little later from Peloponnese and Crete and thus the first villages were formed.
Following Khilich Ali’s death, the privileges began to gradually be abated and so a Turkish commander was established on the island, though the Samians kept being in a more advantageous position than the rest of the Greeks.

In 1821 Samos was one of the places rising in revolt against the Turks. The few Turks that were, at the time, on the island just had the time to leave and despite many attempts of the Turkish fleet to reconquer the island, they never made it.
After the Greek State was established in 1827, the Great Powers of the time England, France and Russia did not include Samos as a part of it, even though it was at liberty. The Samians would not accept it, so in 1834 they were granted a form of political independence, under the patronage of the Great Powers, with the obligation of paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire. This regime remained until 1912, when Samos joined Greece. During this period, Samos experienced a significant economic prosperity.

At ancient times, Samos pushed forward numerous eminent men and women in all spiritual domains, the leading one being Pythagoras, the greatest philosopher and mathematician through the centuries.
Distinguished Samians include Aristarchus, who put forward the idea of an heliocentric system several centuries before Copernicus, Agatharchus, a great painter who was the first to deal with scenography and perspective, Theodore, an eminent artist and architect, Aesop, the famous myth-maker, Damo, philosopher, daughter of Pythagoras, Kolaeus, who was the first to travel to the Atlantic and many others.

History & Myth | In-Samos

Samos Island Name
There is several theories concerning the name of Samos. According to one of them, Samos comes from the ancient Ionian word “sama” which means “altitude”, as there are two very high mountains on the island.
Some others suggest that the name Samos comes from the region Sami in Kefalonia, from which came the first inhabitant and king of Samos, called Agaios. Other researchers have found in ancient texts that Samos was named after the son of Hermes and Rini, whose name was Saos. And some historians believe that “Samos” comes from the ancient inhabitants of the island, the Saios.

Prehistoric times
It is believed that Samos was inhabited around the 4th or 3rd millennium B.C. It is not clear whether the Saians (“Saioi”) were the first island’s inhabitants or the Pelasgians were the first to settle here.
Findings from this period are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Samos Town.
Ancient & Classical Times
The Ancient and Classical Times constituted a period of glory and scientific development for the island. Around 650 B.C., the Ionians arrived on the island and brought their technological know-how and their commercial spirit. The period of prosperity continued and reached its highest point when Polycrates became the tyrant of Samos, in the 6th century B.C.
Samos was by then an important commercial centre of the Aegean thanks to its wine and ceramic pots, but it was also a key player in shipping as it was exporting its own products and transferring products to and from Egypt, Asia Minor, Corinth and the Black Sea.
At that time, scientific and technological progress were evident on the island, where magnificent projects were completed like the temple of Hera, the Eupalinos’ tunnel, the castle of Lykourgos, theatres and the magnificent ancient port. Moreover, the island had its own currency, sample of which are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of the island.
In the same period it had been established the famous library of the island, which housed all the important written sources of the time and its courtyard became the center of intellectual activity.
It is not by chance that many renowned ancient philosophers, scientists and artists were born, educated and/or worked on Samos. Among them, the famous mathematician Pythagoras who founded geometry, the astronomer Aristarchus who first suggested that the sun was the centre of the universe, the gifted fables author Aesop, the philosopher Epicurus, the famous painter Agatharchos, the architects Roikos and Theodoros, Damo who was the daughter of Pythagoras and among the first women philosophers, and many others.
The decline of Samos began with the death of Polycrates in 522 B.C. The island resisted to the Persians, but was conquered by them after Polycrates’ death. In 379 B.C. the Samians led the revolution against the Persians.
Samos was part of the Athenian Alliance, but during the Peloponnesian War it left the alliance and was forced to return. After the end of the War and the loss of Athens, the Persians came back on the island until 366 B.C. when Athenian authority was restored.
During the Hellenistic Period, Samos was semi-autonomous.

Roman & Byzantine Times
During the Roman period Samos was quite prosperous as a part of the “Province of Asia” of the Roman Empire. In 189 B.C. it became part of the Kingdom of Pergamos, in approval of the Romans. Later on, it belonged to the “Province of the Islands” along with other Aegean islands. In 40 B.C. Cleopatra and Anthony spent an entire winter on Samos. The pirates attacked Samos many times in the Roman Era, but the island managed to survive and retain part of its glory.
In the Byzantine Period, Samos was the capital of the “Samos Region” although it was under decline. It was first attacked by the Syrians and then by the Cretans. In 1204 Samos resisted to and defeated the Russians who tried to dominate the Aegean Sea.
Venetian Times
Samos’ decline continued in the Venetian Period, when the vast majority of the inhabitants left the island and went to Chios.
The Ottoman Period
The Ottomans arrived on the deserted island in 1549, when the admiral Kilitz Ali Pasa passed by Samos and requested the island’s authority by the Sultan. Apart from the Ottomans, who consequently came to the island, Kilitz Ali Pasa invited Greeks to come back to Samos, offered them many privileges and insisted that they could keep their religion, the Orthodox Christianity.
The Ottoman admiral who loved Samos managed to gather inhabitants from all over the Aegean, Asia Minor and even the Peloponnese. Samos was quite privileged compared to other Greek territories that were part of the Ottoman Empire as it was mainly autonomous.

The Greek Revolution
Samos resisted to the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution and managed to stay autonomous until 1830, when it was eventually granted to the occupants. In 1835, it became autonomous again but still belonged to the Ottomans. A big revolution against them was organized in 1849 and many Turks arrived on the island. Samos became part of the Greek State at the end of 1912.
Recent history
The newest of Samos culture reflected in the traditional villages, the churches, the monasteries, the impressive neoclassical buildings of cities, factories, tanneries, tobacco factories to warehouses and wine, and showing the business activities of the inhabitants during the 19th century.
Samos is among the biggest and most beautiful Greeks islands. The island’s economy is based on fishing, agriculture and tourism.
During the past decades, Samos has been increasingly attracting visitors both from Greece and abroad, thanks to its dazzling beaches, it’s organized touristic services and infrastructure, its diversified landscapes and its unique monuments and places of exceptional beauty.
The island has approximately 36,000 inhabitants and features a hospital and a university, facts that prove that Samos is a lively island throughout the year.

Aqueduct Project

Eupalinos’ later project was an aqueduct, which was to connect the town of Samos to the north of Mount Kastro. It was from this mountain that the town would get its supply of water. From a spring on this mountain, water was conducted into a covered basin / reservoir, which is today under the old chapel of a deserted village by the name of Agiades. This aqueduct was completely subterranean, and it has been recorded that the water, from its source, travelled to the town of Samos over a total distance of over 2.5 km (1.5 mi). 1036 m (3398 ft.) of this distance involved a bored tunnel, which is perhaps the highlight of this monumental project.

Eupalinos could have used a much easier method to construct his aqueduct. This is known as ‘cut and cover’, and would allow the water to flow in a channel along the contours of Mount Kastro. For reasons that are unknown today, Eupalinos decided against this course of action, and instead decided to build a tunnel through the mountain.

This feat was accomplished by having the tunnel dug simultaneously from both ends. Using only picks, hammers and chisels, Eupalinos’ workers, many of whom are said to have been prisoners from Lesbos, dug their way through solid limestone. Clay / terracotta pipes were also put into place to facilitate the flow of the water. It has been estimated the whole system took about a decade to build. It has been speculated, that, when completed, Eupalinos’ creation supplied the town of Samos with 400 cubic meters of water per day.

The Tunnel of Eupalinos is said to have served its original purpose until the 7 th century AD, when it fell into disuse during the Byzantine period. Following this abandonment, the tunnel was turned into a refuge by the local people, who hid in there when they were attacked by pirates. The tunnel’s defensive role may be seen in the fortressing walls that were built inside this ancient structure just after its southern entrance portal.

The sign at the end of the part of the Eupalinian aqueduct that is open to the public. ( Public Domain )

Eventually, however, the location of Eupalinos’ Tunnel was lost. Nevertheless, this structure had been mentioned in Herodotus’ Histories, which prompted many to look for it. It was only in 1853 that a French archaeologist by the name of Victor Guerin discovered the first 400 m (1312 ft.) of the aqueduct from the spring at Agiades. Over the next century, more discoveries were made, and eventually, in 1992, the Tunnel of Eupalinos became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the ‘Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos’.

Top image: An internal view of the Tunnel of Eupalinos. Photo source: ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )



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