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SAMOTHRA´CE, SAMOTHRA´CA, or SAMOTHRA´CIA (Σαμοθρᾴκη: Eth. Σαμόθρᾳξ; Σαμοθρηΐκη in Herodotus, who uses the adjective Σαμοθρηίκιος, and calls the inhabitants Σαμοθρήικες. In Pliny (4.23) we find the form Samothrace; in the Itin. Ant. (p. 522, Wess.), Samothraca; in Livy (42.25, 50, 44.45, 46), both Samothraca and Samothracia. Properly it is “the Thracian Samos.” Thus Homer calls it sometimes Σάμος Θρηικίη, sometimes simply Σάμος. Hence the line in Virgil (Aen. 7.208):

Threiciamque Samum quae nunc Samothracia fertur.
By the modern Greeks it is called Samothraki, and often also Samandraki (ἐς τὸ μανδράκι), which is merely a corruption of the other, formed in ignorance, after the analogy of Stamboul and Stalimni,--μανδράκι denoting “a sheepfold” ). An island in the north of the Aegaean, opposite the mouth of the Hebrus, and lying N. of Imbrus, and NE. of Lemnos. Its distance from the coast of Thrace is estimated at 38 miles by Pliny (l.c.), who says its circuit is 32 miles. It is of an oval shape, and, according to the English survey, 8 miles in length and 6 in breadth. It was traditionally said to have been diminished in size, in consequence of an outburst of waters from the Hellespont; and perhaps some great physical changes took place in this part of the Aegaean at no very remote period. (See Admiral Smyth's Mediterranean, pp. 74, 119.) However this may be, Samothrace is remarkable for its extreme elevation. No land in the north of the Archipelago is so conspicuous, except Mt. Athos; and no island in the whole Archipelago is so high, except Candia. The elevation of the highest point, called Saoce by Pliny (l.c.), is marked 5240 feet in the Admiralty Chart (No. 1654). The geographical position of this point (the modern name of which is Mt. Fingaree) is 40° 26′ 57″ N. lat., and 25° 36′ 23″ E. long. Though there are several anchorages on the coast of Samothrace, there is an entire absence of good harbours, a circumstance in harmony with the expression of Pliny, who palls it “importuosissima omnium.” Scylax, however (p. 280, ed. Gail), mentions a port, which possibly was identical with the harbour Demetrium spoken of by Livy. The ancient city (of the same name as the island) was on the north, in the place marked Palaepolis on the chart.

The common name of the Thracian and the Ionian Samos was the occasion of speculation to Strabo and Pausanias. The latter (7.4.3) says that the Thracian island was colonised by emigrants from the other. The former (x. pp. 457, 472) mentions a theory that it might be named from the Saii, a people of Thrace. Scymnus Chius (692) says, that aid came from Samos to Samothrace in a time of famine, and that this brought settlers from the Ionian to the Thracian Island. The truth seems to be, that σάμος denotes any elevated land near the sea, and that the name was therefore given to the island before us, as well as to others. [CEPHALLENIA; SAMOS.] The earlier names of Samothrace were Dardania, Electris, Melite, and Leucosia. Diodorus Siculus (5.47) speaks of its inhabitants as Autochthons,and dwells on peculiarities of their language as connected with their religious worship. The chief interest of this island is connected with the CABEIRI. For these mysterious divinities we must refer to the Dict. of Biography and Mythology. Pelasgians are said by Herodotus (2.51) to have first inhabited the island, and to have introduced the mysteries.

The lofty height of Samothrace appears in Homer in a very picturesque connection with the scenery of Troy. He describes Poseidon as gazing from this throne on the incidents of the war: and travellers in the Troad have noticed the view of Samothrace towering over Imbros as a proof of the truthfulness of the Iliad. Bearing in mind this geographical affinity (if we may so call it) of the mountain-tops of Saoce and Ida, we shall hardly be surprised to find Scymnus Chius (678) calling Samothrace a Trojan island (νῆσος Τρωϊκή). The tradition was that Dardanus dwelt there before he went to Troy, and that he introduced the Cabeiric mysteries from thence into Asia.

A few detached points may be mentioned which connect this island with Greek and Roman history. Its inhabitants joined Xerxes in his expedition against Greece; they are spoken of as skilful in the use of the javelin; and a Samothracian ship is said to have sunk an Athenian ship, and to have been sunk in turn by an Aeginetan one, at the battle of Salamis. (Hdt. 8.90.) At that time the Samothracians possessed forts erected on the mainland. (Ib. 7.108.) Philip of Macedon and his wife Olympias were both initiated in the mysteries. It would seem that such initiation was regarded as a preservation from danger. (Aristoph. Peace 277, and Schol.) Samothrace appears also to have had the rights of asylum; for Perseus took refuge there, after he was defeated by the Romans in the battle of Pydna. (Liv. 45.6.) Germanicus sailed to the island with the view of being initiated: but he was prevented by an omen. (Tac. Ann. 2.54.) St. Paul passed the night at anchor here on his first voyage from Asia to Europe. (Acts, xvi. 11.) In Pliny's time Samothrace was a free state (l.c.). In the Synecdemus we find it, with Thasos, in the province of Illyricum. (Wess. p. 640.) In the later division described by Constant. Porphyrog. (De Them. p. 47, ed. Bonn) it is in the Thracian subdivision of the First European or Thracian Theme.

Samothrace appears to have no modern history [p. 2.902]and no present importance. Pliny (37.67) makes mention of a gem which was found there; and in the Middle Ages its honey and goats are said to have been celebrated. No traveller seems to have explored and described this island.


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