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Under the tyrant Polycrates , who ruled BC, three immense projects were started to the admiration of Herodotus writing years later. A new Temple of Hera , at least the third on the site, was built but was unfinished.

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As a measure of the ambition of the Samians, the Temple of Hera was 55 x meters dwarfing the Athens Acropolis 31 x 69 meters. The site itself is difficult to decipher as there have been several layers of building, and what remains is mainly the stumps of columns and foundations. To appreciate what must have been a spectacular and busy Temple, filled with statuary, with its Treasury and processional Sacred Way, we need to visit the Archaeological Museum at Vathy with its Archaic Kouros, unearthed in from the Heraion.

It is the finest Archaic statue outside Athens, a colossal 4.

It is one of the most remarkable engineering feats of Antiquity, a 1,m double tunnel cut by hand through the mountain overlooking the town of Ancient Samos modern Pythagoreio. Beset by enemies, Ancient Samos needed a secure source of water to resist a siege and in some urgency in about BC the tunnel was begun from opposite ends to bring spring water from an entry in the North, through the mountain and safely piped to the inhabitants of the city in the South.

Astonishingly the deviation from true was a mere 3 cms, achieved by a complex system of poles, landmarks and measurements. The technique had been developed in Persia but the Archaic Greeks were irrepressibly ambitious and the Tunnel is one of their most notable triumphs. It can still be visited by the sure-footed. The harbour was almost twice the size of the existing one and was a shelter for the large Samian fleet.

Its blocks were built up in 60 ft of water and its foundations still exist though covered by the sea. This was another expression of the daring spirit of Samos. The reign of Polycrates was inspirational but he was an assertive tyrant.

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He quarrelled with the most distinguished native of Samos, the polymath Pythagoras BC , dreaded but familiar name to every schoolboy through his famous Theorem. The square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.

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His followers were aristocratic, secretive and exclusive and were regarded suspiciously by the locals who suppressed the Pythagorean School bloodily although the great man himself survived to die in Metapontum. In time Samos lost influence, changing its allegiances between Persia and Athens but it was fighting for the Greek cause in the decisive naval Battle of Mycale off Samos in BC which saw off the Persians for ever.


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Samos revolted against Athenian dominance in BC and Pericles required the walls to be razed and the fleet disbanded. A late intellectual flowering in the 3 rd century BC saw the astronomer Aristarchus propose that the Sun and not the Earth was centre of the universe, anticipating Copernicus by more than 1, years! The cult of Hera was still venerated until worship of all the ancient gods was forbidden by the Theodosian decrees of AD. Samos had many centuries of upheavals in Byzantine and Ottoman times: she declined into a backwater.

The Aegean was infested by pirates who kidnapped and looted islanders. Samos became seriously depopulated and Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent agreed to her resettlement in by Christians, notably from Albania. She slowly recovered but the insecurity is evident from the founding of settlements in places invisible from the sea to the neglect of more obvious coastal sites.

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By the end of the 18 th century, Ottoman restrictions on trading by Christians were relaxed and Samian connections with Asia Minor developed. When Greece rose up against the Ottomans in , Samos was in the forefront and assisted in the trouncing of a combined Ottoman and Egyptian fleet in the Strait of Mycale in the Battle of Gerontas.

To the consternation of the more nationalistic Samians, the Great Powers in their wisdom declined to allow Samos to join independent Greece in and established a Despotate Principality , guaranteed by the Powers, where a Greek Prince ruled under the suzerainty of the Porte.


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This odd arrangement, also known as the Hegemony, worked well as Samos retained her free access to the Asia Minor hinterland and trade between them expanded. Samos, in particular Karlovasi, became a centre for the leather trade as fresh water and acorns were both readily available. Large tanneries were established with Turkish raw hides being processed and re-exported to the mainland. You can cancel anytime.

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