History of Samos
Samos was also known in ancient times as Doryssa, Dryoussa, Parthenia, Anthemis, Melamfyllos and Fyllas. Its first inhabitants were Pelasgians, Carians and Leleges.
Samos was a great naval power with fast ships known as the “Samainae” and one of the most important commercial centers in the Aegean – famous for its wine and pottery – trading not only with Greece, but also the Mediterranean peoples.
The growth of Samos is connected with tyrant Polycrates (532-522 BC) since it was at the time of his tyranny that the greatest works on the island were built. The Tunnel of Eupalinos, the renovation of the theater, the construction of the port in the ancient town of Samos, the extension of the walls – “Polykrateia Teichi”, the Temple of Hera, which at his time, took its final magnificent form.
The city of Athens, concerned about the growing naval and commercial power of Samos, launched a military campaign, which overthrew tyranny and established democracy. When the oligarchs reseized power the Athenians found an excuse to launch a new campaign under the leadership of Pericles, destroy the Samian fleet and subjugate the Samians. A long period of decline had just begun and went on during the Roman occupation.
During the Byzantine era the social and economic life of Samos stands still, and the Christian cult religion becomes the only spiritual expression. Numerous monasteries are built and towers show up to protect the island’s population from pirate raids and enemy attacks, which at that time plagued the land.
In 1363, the Genoese Giustiniani established a state in Chios, where by a treaty of the Byzantine Emperor John Palaeologus they also annexed Samos. After the fall of Constantinople, the Genoese achieved recognition of their power from the Sultan, until 1479, when threatened by the Ottomans were forced to withdraw in Chios, where they were followed by the Samians in a mass exodus resulting in the abandonment of the island.
During the last quarter of the 16ththcentury after extensive “privileges” had been granted by Kilic Ali Pasha, admiral of the Ottoman fleet, who was delighted by the beauty of Samos, Samians were gradually repatriated and the island was colonized by inhabitants of other regions, such as neighbouring islands, Asia Minor, Peloponnese and Crete.
A self-governing system was established by appointing elders in each village and four Great Elders, who handled tax administration and awarded civil and criminal justice, based on the Byzantine-Roman law. The Church was a spiritual unifying element, had jurisdiction on family and inheritance disputes and preserved written word by preparing all sorts of legal documents.
The central government of the Ottoman Empire appointed an Aga or Voivode, who collaborated with the Great Elders in the administration of the island and represented the interests of the Ottoman Empire, but his presence neither contradicted the core of local and regional privileges nor affected the powers of the Head Church.
The new ideas brought by the 1789 French Revolution, and the creation of a tradesmen/seamen class led to the appearance of the so-called “Carmagnoli” movement that demanded since the beginning of the 19th century the overturn of the Elders, a fair distribution of tax burdens, establishment of annual General Assemblies, accountability of the authorities, removal of tyrannical Ottoman officials, and liberalization of criminal enforcement.
The 1805-1812 period is marked by bloody social conflicts between the “Carmagnoli” and their opponents known as the “Kalikantzaroi” (hobgoblins).
Thus, when the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821, the “Carmagnoli” were catapulted to the forefront, since their leaders were initiated to the secrets of Filiki Eteria (Society of Friends). Logothetis Lykourgos, who had studied in Istanbul and served as an administrative official in the Danubian Principalities, is identified as the general head of the rebelled Samians. Lykourgos had led the social conflict of 1805-1812, sentenced to death by the Ottoman Empire, exiled to Mount Athos, and as an intellectual figure, he had been influenced by the ideas of the enlightenment and Rigas Feraios.
The rebels establish an autonomous regime with legislative, executive and judicial power, they organize ordinary military force, develop a fortified defence system, attend National Assemblies by elected proxies, defend the local autonomous regime with riots and bloody clashes, while repelling efforts of the Ottoman fleet to conquer the island in 1821 and 1824.
When the London Protocol (February 3rd 1830) left Samos outside the boundaries of the newly established Greek State, an independent “Samian State” was formed. However, in August 1834, the Principality Regime was violently imposed, thousands of Samian rebels migrated to Greece and their leaders were exiled.
In 1849 they revolted against the Principality Administration, overthrew the tyrannical ruler Stefan Bogoridi and demanded the implementation of the Constitution.
That was the beginning of a long period of social reconstruction by strengthening the “constitutional state” institutions, by sovereign annual General Assemblies of delegates, by restoring the judicial power, by a Municipal Administration, a central budget, by organizing an efficient education system, by public works, by setting up telegraph, telephone and coastal connections, by enacting the Samian Civil Procedure and by recommending the Samian Civil Code.
The last quarter of the 19th century was marked by a cultural development on the island: dynamic newspapers were issued, great historical works by Epaminondas and Nikolaos Stamatiadis were released, the demoticism movement was launched, ancient texts were translated, poetry collections were published, Philharmonic Societies were established, Greek troupes started performing etc.
Finally, in 1912, with the outbreak of the Second Balkan War, Samos declared its union with Greece.
Modern Era of Samos
The island was united with the Kingdom of Greece in 1913, a few months after the outbreak of the First Balkan War. Although other Aegean islands had been quickly captured by the Greek Navy, Samos was initially left to its existing status quo out of a desire not to upset the Italians in the nearby Dodecanese. The Greek fleet landed troops on the island on 13 March 1913. The clashes with the Ottoman garrison were short-lived as the Ottomans withdrew to the Anatolian mainland, so that the island was securely in Greek hands by 16 March.
During World War II, the island was occupied by the Italians from May 1941 until the Italian surrender in September 1943. Samos was briefly taken over by Greek and British forces on 31 October, but following the Allied defeat in the Battle of Leros and a fierce aerial bombardment, the island was abandoned on 19 November and taken over by German troops. The German occupation lasted until 4 October 1944, when the island was liberated by the Greek Sacred Band.
On August 3, 1989, a Short 330 aircraft of the Olympic Airways (now Olympic Airlines) crashed near Samos Airport; thirty-one passengers died.
Geography of Samos
The area of the island is 477.395 km2 (184.3 sq mi), and it is 43 km (27 mi) long and 13 km (8 mi) wide. It is separated from Anatolia by the approximately 1-mile-wide (1.6 km) Mycale Strait. While largely mountainous, Samos has several relatively large and fertile plains.
A great portion of the island is covered with vineyards, from which muscat wine is made. The most important plains except the capital, Vathy, in the northeast, are that of Karlovasi, in the northwest, Pythagoreio, in the southeast, and Marathokampos in the southwest. The island’s population is 33,814, which is the 9th most populous of the Greek islands. The Samian climate is typically Mediterranean, with mild rainy winters, and warm rainless summers.
Samos’ relief is dominated by two large mountains, Ampelos and Kerkis (anc. Kerketeus). The Ampelos massif (colloquially referred to as “Karvounis”) is the larger of the two and occupies the center of the island, rising to 1,095 metres (3,593 ft). Mt. Kerkis, though smaller in area is the taller of the two and its summit is the island’s highest point, at 1,434 metres (4,705 ft). The mountains are a continuation of the Mycale range on the Anatolian mainland.
According to Strabo, the name Samos is from Phoenician meaning “rise by the shore”.