Samos is a Greek island situated in the eastern Angean sea, off the coast of Asia Minor. The island is known as the ‘gem of the Aegean sea’ or the ‘island of flowers’, largely mountainous but rich with vegetation, covered in vineyards, olive bushes and pine trees, due to the Mediterranean climate. The island has a vibrant history and many historical influences can still be seen in Samos today.
The island of Samos is thought to have been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC, by Mycenaean colonisers. Legend has it that the island became inhabited as a result of a prophecy given to King Angaeus by the Oracle at Delphi, telling him that he should establish a colony there. However some believe that Angaeus was born on the island, son of the Sea God Poseidon.
Ancient Samos was a rich and powerful leading Greek city-state. The island played a significant role in politics, science and the arts. Samos was considered the bridge between the Greece and the east both culturally and commercially, an important channel for trade and symbol of independent success. Its position within the Angean Sea meant that it became one of the main trade-routes for textiles and Lonian ‘red pottery’, contributing to its early prosperity.
The island is the birthplace of several ‘men of genius’, the most famous of whom being Pythagoras, the Lonian Greek philosopher and mathematician who established the Pythagorean theory of geometry. Among others are the astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus, who put forward the heliocentric system several centuries before Copernicus, architect Mandrocles who built a bridge across the Hellespont (now known as the Dardanelles Straights), Theodoros the architect who built the Temple of Goddess Hera (built for Zeus’s wife) and several influential painters.
During this time Samos was the centre of Loian Civilisation, one of the leading cultural and commercial centres of Greece and an attraction for the likes of ancient Greek epic poet, Homer. Samos was home to many cultural and influential attractions such as the Tunnel of Eupalinian, a 1K long aqueduct built to supply the capital of Samos with fresh water, thought to be one of the master pieces of ancient engineering, and many open-air theatres and palaces.
Ancient Samos was at the height of social, political and cultural excellence during the reign of tyrant Polycrates (532-522BC).Under his reign, Polycrates established a powerful leading navy fleet and the Samians dominated the Aegean sea, taking a large part of Asia Minor, as well as many other surrounding islands in their piratical raids. Thus Samos grew as a naval power and Samians were the first to sail through the straights of Gibraltar.
During the middle ages, following Polycreates’ assassination, Samos fell under Persian rule and became subject to many wars, a result of the state fighting for its independence. Samos had many pirate invaders. In the 4th Century BC Samos served as a base for the military conquests of Alexander the Great against the Persian empire. The island was taken over by Spartans and stripped of its treasures, which were taken back to Rome.
Following this, in a period known as the Byzantine period, Samos the island became dominated by the Turks, along with the rest of the North Eastern Aegean islands, subsequently Samos fell under the Venetian’s and the Genovese and became depopulated. This time is often referred to as the ‘devastation of Samos’. The Turkish fleet invaded in 1549 and fell in love with the island, taking and repopulating it. Samos again became dominated by Turks.
During the Greek revolution Samos regained its independence and became essentially autonomous. In 1827 the Greek state was re-established. The Turkish attempted to recolonise the island, but did not succeed. Despite this, after the Greek state was re-established, the great powers of the time (France, England and Russia) did not include Samos as part of it. The Greek powers gave the island back to the Turks in 1830 making it semi-autonomous. Samos officially reunited with Greece in 1913 and began developing again.
During world war 2 the island was occupied by Italian and later German troops. The war left an imprint of social and ideological developments. Until the 20th century, the modern capital of the island was Khora. Now, it is Vathy, a harbour town at the head of the north coast, residence of the prince and seat of government.
Modern Samos is renowned for its Samian wines, beautiful scenery, 16th Century monasteries, neoclassical architecture and many ancient Greek monuments and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.