previous next


SAMOS or SAMUS (Σάμος: Eth. and Adj. Σάμιος, Samius, Σαμαῖος, Σαμιακὸς in Steph.: Σαμιώτης in the language of the modern Greeks, who call the island Samo, Σάμω: the Turks call it Susam Adassi), a large island in that part of the Aegaean which is called the Icarian sea, and the most important of the Sporades next after Rhodes. The word denotes a height, especially by the sea-shore. (See Const. Porphyrog. de Them. 16. p. 41, ed. Bonn.) Hence SAMTOTHRACIA, or the Thracian Samos, which is said by Pausanias (7.4.3) to have been colonised and named by certain fugitives from the Icarian Samos,--and SAME one of the names of Cephalonia, which is inversely connected with it by one of Strabo's conjectures (x. p. 457). How applicable the idea of elevation is to the island before us may be seen in the narratives and views given by Dr. Clarke (Travels, vol. ii. p. 192, vol. iii. p. 366), who uses the strongest language in describing the conspicuous height of Samos above the surrounding islands.

The following earlier names of Samos are mentioned by Pliny (5.37) and other writers,--Parthenia, Anthemus, Melamphylus, Dryusa and Cyparissia. Some of these have evidently arisen from the physical characteristics of the island. Samos was, and is, well-wooded. It is intersected from E. to W. by a chain of mountains, which is in fact a continuation of the range of Mycale, being separated from it only by the narrow channel, hardly a mile in breadth, which the Turks call the Little Boghaz. Here was fought the decisive victory against the Persians, B.C. 479. The Great Boghaz, which is nearly 10 miles in breadth, separates the other extremity of Samos from the comparatively low island of ICARIA The length of Samos, from E. to W., is about 25 miles. Its breadth is very variable. Strabo reckons the circuit at 600 stadia, Pliny at 87 miles, though he says that Isidorus makes it 100. These differences may be readily accounted for by omitting or including Port Vathy, which is a wild-looking bay, though a very serviceable harbour, on the north. Here the modern capital is situated: but in ancient times the bay of Vathy seems to have been comparatively deserted-perhaps, as Tournefort suggests, because it was peculiarly exposed to pirates, who infested the straits and bays of an island which lay in the route of commerce between the Bosporus and Egypt. What Tournefort tells us of his travels through Samos gives us the idea of a very rugged, though picturesque and productive, island. (Possibly the Palinurus and Panormus of Samos, mentioned by Livy, 37.11, may have been in the bay of Vathy.) The highest point, Mount Kerkis, the ancient Cerceteus (Strab. x. p.488), which is nearly always covered with snow, and reaches the height of 4725 English feet, is towards the west. A ridge, which branches off in a south-easterly direction from the main range, and ends in the promontory of Poseidium, opposite Mycale, was called Ampelus, which name seems also to have been given to the whole mountain-system (Strab. xiv. p.637). The westernmost extremity of the island, opposite Icaria was anciently called Cantharium. Here the cliffs are very bare and lofty. A landslip, which has taken place in [p. 2.898]this part of the island, has probably given rise to the name by which it is now called ( καταιβατή).

The position of Samos was nearly opposite the boundary-line of Caria and Ionia; and its early traditions connect it, first with Carians and Leleges, and then with Ionians. The first Ionian colony is said to have consisted of settlers from Epidaurus, who were expelled from thence by the Argives. However this may be, we find Samos at an early period in the position of a powerful member of the Ionic confederacy. At this time it was highly distinguished in maritime enterprise and the science of navigation. Thucydides tells us (1.13) that the Samians were among the first to make advances in naval construction, and that for this purpose they availed themselves of the services of Ameinocles the Corinthian shipbuilder. The story of Pliny (7.57), that either they or Pericles the Athenian first constructed transports for the conveyance of horses, though less entitled to literal acceptance, is well worthy of mention; and Samos will always be famous for the voyage of her citizen Colaeus, who, “not without divine direction” (Hdt. 4.152), first penetrated through the Pillars of Hercules into the Ocean, and thus not only opened out new fields of commercial enterprise, but enlarged the geographical ideas of the Greeks by making them for the first time familiar with the phenomenon of the tides.

Under the despot Polycrates, Samos was in fact the greatest Greek maritime power. This famous man, about ten years after the taking of Sardis by Cyrus, held Samos in a position of proud independence, when Lesbos and Chios had submitted to the Persians. He had 1000 bowmen in his pay; he possessed 100 ships of war, and made considerable conquests both among the islands and the mainland. He fought successfully against the Milesians and Lesbians, and made a treaty with Amasis, king of Egypt. Whether we are to take the story in the poetical form in which it is presented to us by Herodotus, or to attribute the change to the more probable motive of self-interest, this treaty was broken off for an alliance with Cambyses. In connection with this monarch's expedition to the Nile, some Samian malcontents were so treacherously treated by Polycrates, that they sought and obtained assistance from Greece. A joint force of Lacedaemonians and Corinthians besieged Polycrates in Samos for forty days: but in this struggle also he was successful. At last his own cupidity, acted on by the fraud of Oroetes, a neighbouring satrap, brought him to a wretched death on the mainland. The time which succeeded was full of crime and calamity for Samos. In the end, Syloson, the brother of Polycrates (whose association with Cambyses is the subject of another romantic story in Herodotus), landed with a Persian army on Samos, and became a tributary despot; but not till his native island had been so depopulated as to give rise to the proverb ἕκητι Συλοτῶντος εὐρυχωρίη. For details see the lives of POLYORATES and SYLOSON in the Dict. of Biography. It was at this period that Pythagoras, who was a native of Samos, left the island to travel in foreign countries, being partly urged to leave his home (according to Plutarch, Placit. 1.3) through discontent under the government of Polycrates, who, however, was a patron of literature, and had Anacreon many years at his court. For the chronology of this period see Clinton, Fast. Hell. vol. ii. note B. pp. 230--232.

Samos was now Persian. It was from Samos that Datis sailed to Marathon, taking Naxos on his way. But the dominion of the Persians did not last long. When their fleet was gathered at Samos again, after the battle of Salamis, to the number of 400 sail, it was in a great measure the urgency of Samian envoys which induced the commanders of the Greek fleet at Delos to go across to the eastern side of the Aegaean. Then followed that battle in the strait, which completed the liberation of the Greeks.

In the maritime confederacy which was organised soon afterwards under Athenian rule, Samos seems to have been the most powerful of the three islands which were exempted from paying tribute. It was at the instance of her citizens that the common treasure was removed from Delos to Athens. But this friendship with Athens was turned into bitter enmity in consequence of a conflict with Miletus about the territory of Priene. Samos openly revolted; and a large force was despatched from Athens against it under the command of ten generals, two of whom were Sophocles and Pericles. The latter pronounced in the Cerameicus the funeral oration over those who had fallen in the war which, after a resistance of nine months, reduced Samos to complete subjection.

From 439 to 412 Samos remained without fortifications and without a fleet. But about this latter date it became the hinge upon which all the concluding events of the Peloponnesian War really turned. The first movements towards the establishment of an oligarchy at Athens began at Samos through the intrigues of Alcibiades; and yet this island was practically the home of the Athenian democracy during the struggle which ensued. It was at Samos that Alcibiades rejoined his fellow-citizens; and from Samos that he finally sailed for the Peiraeus in 407. Even till after the battle of Arginusae Samos was, more than any other place, the headquarters and base of operations for the Athenian fleet.

Our notices of the island now become more fragmentary. After the death of Alexander the Great it was for a time subject to the kings of Egypt. (Plb. 5.35.) Subsequently, it took the part of Antiochus the Great in his war with Rome. It also acted with Mithridates against Rome; but was finally united with the province of Asia B.C. 84. After the battle of Actium, Augustus passed the winter there. Under the Roman emperors it was on the whole a place of no great importance, though it had the honour of being a free state. (Plin. Nat. 5.37.) This privilege was taken away under Vespasian. (Suet. Vesp. 8.) In the division of the Empire contained in the Synecdemus we find it placed with Rhodes, Cos, Chios, &c., in the Province of the Islands. In the later division into themes, it seems to be again raised to a distinguished position. It gave its name to a separate theme, which included a large portion of the mainland, and was divided into the two turms of Ephesus and Adramyttium, the governor having his residence (πραιτώριον) at Smyrna; and this arrangement is spoken of in such a way (Const. Porphyrog. de Them. l.c.) as distinctly to connect it with the ancient renown of Samos.

It would be difficult to follow the fortunes of Samos through the middle ages. (See Finlay's History of the Byzantine and Greek Empires, vol. ii. p. 112.) There are some points of considerable interest in its modern history. In 1550, after being sacked by the Ottomans, it was given by Selim to the Capitan Pacha Ochiali, who introduced colonists [p. 2.899]from various other places; whence the names of some of the modern villages in the island, Metelinous, Albaniticori, and Vourlotes (Vourla giving the name to some islands at the entrance of the bay of Smyrna). Samos was much injured by the ravages of Morosini. In Tournefort's time the largest part of the island was the property of ecclesiastics; and the number of convents and nunneries was, considerable. He reckoned the population to be 12,000; now it is estimated at 50,000, nearly the whole being Christian. Samos performed a distinguished part in the War of Independence. The Turks often attempted to effect a landing: the defences constructed by the Samiotes are still visible on the shore; and the Greek fleet watched no point more carefully than this important island. On the 17th of August, 1824, a curious repetition of the battle of Mycale took place. Formidable preparations for a descent on the island were made by Tahir-Pacha, who had 20,000 land-troops encamped on the promontory of Mycale. Canaris set fire to a frigate near Cape Trogillium, and in the confusion which followed the troops fled, and Tahir-Pacha sailed away. At this time the Logothete Lycurgus was τύραννος of the island “in the true classical sense of the word,” as is observed by Ross, who describes the castle built by Lycurgus on the ruins of a mediaeval fort, adding that he was then (1841) residing with the rank of Colonel at Athens, and that he was well remembered and much regretted in Samos. This island was assigned to Turkey by the treaty which fixed the limits of modern Greece; but it continued to make struggles for its independence. Since 1835 it has formed a separate Beylick under a Phanariot Greek named Stephen Vogorides, who resides in Constantinople with the title of “Prince of Samos,” and sends a governor as his deputy. Besides other rights, the island has a separate flag exhibiting the white Greek cross on a blue ground, with a narrow red stripe to denote dependence on the Porte. It does not appear, however, that this government of Greeks by a Greek for the Sultan is conducive to contentment.

The present inhabitants of this fruitful island are said to be more esteemed for their industry than their honesty. They export silk, wool, wine, oil, and fruits. If the word Sammet is derived from this place, it is probable that silk has been an object of its industry for a considerable time. Pliny (13.34) mentions pomegranates among its fruits. At the present day the beans of the carob-tree are exported to Russia, where a cheap spirit for the common people is made from them. We might suppose from the name of Mount Ampelus, that the wine of the island was celebrated in the ancient world; but such a conclusion would be in direct contradiction to the words of Strabo, who notices it as a remarkable fact, that though the wine of the surrounding islands and of the neighbouring parts of the mainland was excellent, that of Samos was inferior. Its grapes, however, under the name of ὁμομηλίδες or ἁμαμηλίδες, are commended by Athenaeus (xiv. p. 653; see Poll. Onomast. 6.11), and now they are one of the most valued parts of its produce. Ross saw these grapes (σταφίδα) drying in large quantities in the sun; and other authorities speak highly of the Malmsey or sweet muscato wine exported in large quantities from Samos. Its marble is abundant; but it has a greater tendency to split into small fragments than that of Pentelicus or Paros. A stone found in the island is said by Pliny (36.40) to have been used for polishing gold. He also mentions in several places (l.c., also 28.53, 77, 31.46, 35.19, 53) the various medicinal properties of its earth. The Samian earthenware was in high repute at Rome ( “Samia etiamnum in esculentis laudantur,” Plin. Nat. 35.46), and the name has been traditionally given by modern writers to the “red lustrous pottery” made by the Romans, themselves for domestic use. (See Marryatt's Pottery and Porcelain, London 1850, pp. 286, 290.) For the natural Flora and Fauna of the island we must be content to refer to Tournefort, who says, among other facts, that tigers sometimes swim across to it from Mycale, which Chandler describes as a mountain infested with wild beasts. The woody flanks of Mount Kerkis still supply materials for shipbuilding. It is said in Athenaeus (l.c.) that the roses and fruits of Samos came to perfection twice a year; and Strabo informs us that its general fruitfulness was such as to give rise to the proverb Φέρει καὶ ὀρνίθων γάλα.

The archaeological interest of Samos is almost entirely concentrated in that plain on the S., which contained the sanctuary of Hera at one extremity and the ancient city on the other. This plain is terminated at the SW. by a promontory, which from its white cliffs is called ἄσπρο κάβο by the Greeks, but which received from the Genoese the name of Cape Colonna, in consequence of the single column of the Heraeum which remains: standing in its immediate neighbourhood. Virgil tells us (Aen. 1.16), that Samos was at least second in the affections of Juno; and her temple and worship contributed much to the fame and affluence of Samos for many centuries. Herodotus says that the temple was the largest he had seen. It was of the Ionic order; in form it was decastyle dipteral, in dimensions 346 feet by 189. (See Leake, Asia Minor, p. 348.) It was never entirely finished. At least, the fluting of the columns was left, like the foliage on parts of our cathedrals, incomplete. The original architect was Rhoecus, a Samian. The temple was burnt by the Persians. After its restoration it was plundered by pirates in the Mithridatic War, then by Verres, and then by M. Antony. He took to Rome three statues attributed to Myron: of these Augustus restored the Athene and Heracles, and retained the Zeus to decorate the Capitol. The image of the goddess was made of wood, and was supposed to be the work of Smilis, a contemporary of Daedalus. In Strabo's time the temple, with its chapels, was a complete picture gallery; and the hypaethral portion was full of statues. (See Orig. c. Cels. 4.) In the time of Tacitus, this sanctuary had the rights of asylum. (Ann. 4.14.) When Pausanias was there,the people pointed out to him the shrub of Agnus Castus, under the shade of which, on the banks of the river Imbrasus, it was believed that Hera was born. (Paus. l.c.) Hence the river itself was called Parthenias, and the goddess Imbrasia. (Comp. Apollon. 1.187, Ἰμβρασίης ἕδος Ἥρης.) The anchorage in front of the sanctuary was called ὅρμος Ἡραΐτης. (Athen. 15.672.) The temple was about 200 paces from the shore, according to Ross, who found its whole basement covered with a mass of small fragments of marble, among which are portions of the red tiles with which the temple was roofed. He discovered hardly anything of interest, except an inscription with the word ναοποῖαι.

The appearance of the watercourses of the Imbrasus shows that they are often swollen by rains, [p. 2.900]and thus harmonises with the natural derivation of the word. In the plain which extends along the base of the mountains eastwards towards the city, Ross says that there are traces of ancient channels made for the purpose of irrigation. He regards the marshy places near the temple to be the Κάλαμοι and the Ἕλος mentioned by Athenaeus (xiii. p. 572) ill connection with the expedition of Pericles. (The former place is likewise referred to by Herodotus, 9.96.) Across this plain, which is about two miles in length, there is no doubt that a Sacred Way extended from the sanctuary to the city, like that which connected Athens with Eleusis. Somewhere on this line (κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν τὴν εἰς τὸ Ἡραῖον, Paus. 7.5.6) was the tomb of Rhadine and Leontichus, where lovers used to make their vows; and traces of funeral monuments are still seen at the extremity of the line, close to the city-wall.

The modern town of Chora, close to the pass leading through the mountains to Vathy, is near the place of the ancient city, which was situated partly in the plain and partly on the slope of the hill. The western wall runs in a straight line from the mountain towards the sea, with the exception of a bend inwards near the tombs just mentioned. Here is a brackish stream ( γλυφάδα), which is the Chesius, the second of the three streams mentioned by Pliny. (See Etym. Magn. s. v. Ἀστυπαλαία.) The southern wall does not touch the sea in all its length, and is strengthened by being raised on vaulted substructions. Here and elsewhere the ruins of Samos touch the question of the use of the arch among the Greeks. On the east side of the city the wails are very considerable, being 10 or 12 feet thick, and about 18 feet high. The masonry is partly quadrangular and partly polygonal; there are round towers at intervals on the outside of the wall, and in one place are traces of a gate. In the eastern part of the city was the steep citadel of Astypalaea, which was fortified by Polycrates (Polyaen. Strat. 1.23.2), and here probably was what Suetonius calls the palace of Polycrates. (Suet. Calig. 21.) In the higher part of the town the theatre is distinctly visible; the marble seats are removed; underneath is a large cistern. The general area is covered with small fragments, many of the best having furnished materials for the modern castle of Lycurgus near the shore on the SE.; and little more remains of a city which Herodotus says was, under Polycrates, the greatest of cities, Hellenic or Barbarian, and which, in the time of comparative decay, is still called by Horace Concinna Samos.

Herodotus makes especial mention of the harbour and of an immense tunnel which formed an aqueduct for the city. The former of these works (τὸ τιγάνι, as it is now called, from being shaped like a frying-pan) is below Astypalaea; and, though it is now accessible only to small craft, its famous moles remain, one extending eastwards from the castle of Lycurgus, the other extending to meet it from the extremity of the east city-wall southwards. Here Ross saw subterranean passages hewn in the rock, one of which may possibly be the κρυπρὴ διώρυξ ἐκ τῆς ἀκροπόλεος φέρουσα ἐπὶ θάλασσαν (Hdt. 3.146), constructed by Maeandrius after the death of Polycrates. The tunnel has not been clearly identified; but, from what M. Musurus told Prof. Ross, it is probable that it is where Tournefort placed it, and that it penetrated the hill from Metelinous to Chora, and that thence the water was taken into the city by a covered channel, traces of which remain. It is clear that it cannot be in the quarry pointed out to Ross; both because the cleavage of the rock is in the wrong direction, and because water from such a height would fall like a cascade on the city.

The authorities, to which reference has been made in this article, are, Tournefort (Voyage du Levant, 1717, pp. 404--436), who has given a very copious account of the island; and Ross (Reisen auf den Griechischen Inseln des Agäischer Meeres, vol. 2.1843, pp. 139--155), who has examined the sites and remains of the ancient city and Heraeum more carefully than any one else. (See also Clarke, Travels, vol. ii. pp. 192--194, vol.iii. pp. 364--367.) Maps of the island will be found in Tournefort and Choiseul-Gouffier; but the best delineation of it is given in three of the English Admiralty charts. There is a small sketch of the neighbourhood of the city in Kiepert's Hellas (1841), and a larger one in Ross. In Kiepert's general map the rivers Imbrasus and Chesius are wrongly placed, and also (probably) the ridge of Ampelus. It is very questionable whether the point called Poseidion can be where it is (doubtfully) placed in Ross's plan: the position of the little island Narthecis in the strait seems to show that this promontory ought to be further to the east. (See Strab. xiv. p.637.) A little volume was published in London, and dedicated to James Duke of York, in 1678, entitled “A Description of the present State of Samos, Nicaria, Patmos, and Mount Athos, by Joseph Georgirenes (Γεωργειρήνης), Archbishop of Samos, now living in London, translated by one that knew the author in Constantinople.” From this book it appears that Dapper has taken much directly, and Tournefort indirectly. Panofka has written a book on Samos (Res Samiorum, Berlin, 1822): and more recently (1856) Guérin has published a work on this island and Patmos.



hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: