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.
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.