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History and Myth

Samos through time – Unveiling the history, myth and cultural splendor.

The name Samos is shrouded in various theories, each offering a glimpse into the island’s rich past. Some assert that it stems from the ancient Ionian word Sama, meaning altitude, alluding to the towering mountains that grace the island. Another theory links the name to the region Sami in Kefalonia, tracing its roots to the first inhabitant, Agaios. Ancient texts propose an origin tied to Saos, son of Hermes and Rini, while others speculate it may be connected to the island’s early inhabitants, the Saios.

Prehistoric times on Samos, believed to date back to the 4th or 3rd millennium B.C., are veiled in uncertainty. It remains unclear whether the Saians (Saioi)  or the Pelasgians were the initial settlers. Artifacts from this period are on display at the Archaeological Museum in Samos Town.

Ancient and Classical Times marked an era of prosperity and scientific advancement. The arrival of Ionians around 650 B.C. ushered in technological expertise and a thriving commercial spirit. Samos, under the rule of Polycrates in the 6th century B.C., became a key player in Aegean commerce, exporting wine, ceramic pots, and facilitating trade routes to Egypt, Asia Minor, Corinth and the Black Sea.
Scientific and technological progress flourished, evidenced by the construction of notable structures such as the Temple of Hera, Tunnel of Eupalinos, Castle of Lykourgos Logothetis and theaters. Samos boasted its currency, remnants of which are showcased in the island’s Archaeological Museum. The renowned library of Samos became a hub of intellectual activity, nurturing philosophers, scientists, and artists like Pythagoras, Aristarchus, Aesop, Epicurus and more.
The decline of Samos commenced with Polycrates death in 522 B.C., leading to Persian conquest. The island played a role in the Athenian Alliance but later left during the Peloponnesian War. The Persians returned until Athenian authority was restored in 366 B.C

During the Hellenistic Period, Samos achieved semi-autonomy. Roman and Byzantine Times saw prosperity under Roman rule, with Samos becoming part of the Kingdom of Pergamos in 189 B.C. The island faced challenges from pirates but endured. In the Byzantine era, Samos resisted attacks, notably repelling the Russians in 1204.

The Venetian Period witnessed Samos decline, with most inhabitant­s migrating to Chios. The Ottomans arrived in 1549, when the admiral Kilitz Ali Pasa passed by Samos and requested the island’s authority by the Sultan, offering autonomy and religious freedom. Samos resisted Ottoman rule during the Greek Revolution and briefly regained autonomy until 1830, eventually becoming part of the Greek State in 1912.

In recent history, Samos cultural heritage is evident in traditional villages, churches, and neoclassical buildings. With a population of around 36,000, Samos thrives year-round, boasting a hospital and university. The island’s economy, centered on fishing, agriculture and tourism, has attracted visitors with its stunning beaches, diverse landscapes and historical monuments.
Samos stands as one of Greece’s largest and most captivating islands.