Samos History

In ancient times, Samos, although small, played a really significant role in culture and politics not only for the region of Ionia, but for the entire ancient Greece.

Human beings have lived on Samos since the 3rd millenium BC. Its position at the sea crossroad that links central Greece with East was really significant for its development.
A lot of big animals and other rare species of the prehistorical era lived on this island. Bones that found the previous century decorate the show -cases of the paleontological museums of USA and Europe. Some of these paleontological findings are in the Museum of Mytilini of Samos.

Traces of the human race have been found at the Hill of Kastro from the late Neolithic era (fourth millennium B.C.). The first inhabitants belong to the Pelasgic tribes that spread the worship of Hera. According to mythology, Hera was born at the banks of the river Imvras and was considered as the protector of Samos. Thus, her sacred bird, the peacock, often appeared on currency and escutcheons of the hegemony of Samos later.
It is possible that the name of Samos was given by the Phoenicians and means "a place somewhere high". The island has several other names, like Parthenia, Imvrasia, Anthemis, Dryousa, Doryssa, Phyllas and others.

After the Pelasgics, the Kares and Leleges inhabited the island. The first mythological king of Samos was Angaeus, a hero of the Argonautic Expedition, who build the first wooden temple and placed in it the golden statue of goddess Hera.
His mother was Eurynome and his father Lycurgus, and he was in Arcadia. Having gathered together large numbers of colonists from different parts of Greece, he went off to colonies Samos in 1360 B.C.. He stayed for about 10 years and then accompanied the Argonauts on their expedition to Colchis.
There are many various accounts of the death of Angaeus. Some say that he returned to Samos, where he cultivated the wine and was killed by a wild boar which had entered his vineyard, and others that he was killed by robbers whom he tried to tackle.
Angaeus was succeeded by his third son, Samos, who married Parthenia and gave her name to the whole of the island. How long he lived and how he died remains unknown.

Samos reached its pinnacle during the period it was governed by the tyrant Polycrates (546-522 BC). Once Polycrates became tyrant, he exiled, in an attempt to preclude possible conspiracies, certain aristocrats. He strengthened the army which, according to Herodotus, included a thousand archers, and built a fleet of one hundred penteconters. The kind of ship which he planned was a new one - the Samaina, an obtuse-prowed bireme. With this fleet, which frequently went on piratical raids, he captured a fair number of islands and certain coastal cities. He established Samian naval supremacy in the Aegean Sea and tried to control the archipelago and mainland towns of Ionia. It was then that Samos grew into a great naval power and founded its own colonies.

 Samos which constituted the bridge between Greece and East, managed for many years, because of its power, to remain independent, while at the same time flourishing, despite the battles that were waged to conquer it. That was perhaps one of the reasons that caused Samos to produce so many men of genius as well as great artists such as the astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus, who put forward the 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.
We should also mention Callistatus, who was responsible for founding or establishing the 24 - letter alphabet, the architects and sculptors Rhoikos and Theodoros, who built the famous temple of Hera and the painters Saurias (the first painter too use chiamoscuro in his work) and Calliphon, painter of a number of master works which were to be seen in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.


But the most exceptional of all these figures, is Pythagoras (580 - 500 BC) philosopher, mathematician and musician. He was never a man to take things for granted, he sought in the sciences, arts and travel, knowledge and experience which would allow him with certainty, to assume his place in the intellectual arena of his times.
His genius, combined with deep study and ascetism allowed him to develop his knowledge to a point which is still of fundamental importance to mathematical theory and the Pythagorean theorem in geometry is, naturally, still used as are the Pythagorean tables in arithmetic.


Here you can see a video showing how the famous Pythagoras cup works




In the middle of the 5th century B.C., Samos had developed trade, navigation, education and arts. That period big constructions finished such as the temple of Hera, the walls, the port and the
Efpalio Tunnel.

After the Persian wars, Samos acquired its freedom and became an equal member of the Athenian alliance. During the Peloponnesian war, Samos fought on the side of Athens. In 129 B.C. Samos was conquered by the Romans, who stripped the island of all its treasures and took them Rome. Later, in 4o A.D. Samos was conquered by Byzantines and belonged to the Byzantine state until the disruption of the empire and the crusaders in A.D. 1204. The island was hard hit by several attacks and sacks by pirates, Arabs, Venetians, Turks and other invaders, Nevertheless, it managed to maintain its Christian and Greek features. In 1475, being pressed by Turk invaders inhabitants immigrated to Chios and the opposite coasts. Its population was reduced so much, that many refer to this period until 1565 as the "devastation" of Samos. In the middle of the 16th century, Samos was settled by Greek populations with special privileges were given by the sultan, and which privileges established some kind of self-government under the rule of the Sultan. Slowly the population increased and the today villages were formed.

In 1821 the island revolutionized having as leader Logothetis Lykourgos and acquired its freedom, but in 1830 when the independence of the Greek state was recognized, Samos was not included within the limits of Greece .Samians continued fighting for their union with Greece until 1834 but they didn't succeed.
The European Powers, England, France and Russia decided to declare Samos as an autonomous hegemony under the suzerainty of the High Gate. The Sultan conceded privileges and in 1834, the regime of Hegemony was inflicted. The administration of the island was exercised by the Governor, a Greek Christian official of the Gate, appointed by the Sultan, The Parliament consisting of 4 members, elected by the proxies of the villages of Samos, who formed every year the General Meeting of the proxies. Samos remained under this regime until 1912, when after a revolution by Themistoklis Sofoulis, its union with Greece was declared.

In the Second World War, in 1941, the island was conquered by Italian troops, while during the occupancy, a resistant movement developed on its mountains, against the "powers of the axe". It was the first Greek island to acquire its freedom, but only temporarily, from September 1943 until November 1943, when it experienced the German occupation. After the civil war, Samos begun developing again, and today, despite the destructions due to fires every years, it remains one of the most green and beautiful islands of eastern Aegean.

The modern culture of Samos impressed on the traditional built-up areas, the extraordinary churches, most of which were build during the 18th and 19th century, the 16th century monasteries, the impressive neoclassical buildings, the tanneries at Karlovasi, tobacco factories and wine-stores that also indicate the main activities of its inhabitants.