1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Samos

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[ 116 ]

SAMOS, one of the principal and most fertile of the islands in the Aegean Sea that closely adjoin the mainland of Asia Minor, from which it is separated by a strait of only about a mile in width. It is about 27 m. in length, by about 14 in its greatest breadth, and is occupied throughout the greater part of its extent by a range of mountains, of which the highest summit, near its western extremity, called Mount Kerkis, is 4725 ft. high. This range is in fact a continuation of that of Mount Mycale on the mainland, of which the promontory of Trogilium, immediately opposite to the city of Samos, formed the extreme point. Samos is tributary to Turkey in the sum of £2700 annually, but otherwise is practically an independent principality, governed by a prince of Greek nationality nominated by the Porte. As chief of the executive power the prince is assisted by a senate of four members, chosen by him out of eight candidates nominated by the four districts of the island — Vathy, Chora, Marathocumbo and Carlovasi. The legislative power belongs to a chamber of 36 deputies, presided over by the metropolitan. The seat of the government is Vathy (6000). There is a telephone service. The island is remarkably fertile, and a great portion of it is covered with vineyards, the wine from the Vathy grapes enjoying a specially high reputation. There are three ports: Vathy, Tegani and Carlovasi. The population in 1900 was about 54,830, not comprising 15,000 natives of Samos inhabiting the adjoining coasts. The predominant religion is the Orthodox Greek, the metropolitan district including Samos and Icaria. In 1900 there were 634 foreigners on the island (523 Hellenes, 13 Germans, 29 French, 28 Austrians and 24 of other nationalities).

History. — Concerning the earliest history of Samos literary tradition is singularly defective. At the time of the great migrations it received an Ionian population which traced its origin to Epidaurus in Argolis. By the 7th century B.C. it had become one of the leading commercial centres of Greece. This early prosperity of the Samians seems largely due to the island's position near the end of the Maeander and Cayster trade-routes, which facilitated the importation of textiles from inner Asia Minor. But the Samians also developed an extensive oversea commerce. They helped to open up trade with the Black Sea and with Egypt, and were credited with having been the first Greeks to reach the Straits of Gibraltar. Their commerce brought them into close relations with Cyrene, and probably also with Corinth and Chalcis, but made them bitter rivals of their neighbours of Miletus. The feud between these two states broke out into open strife during the Lelantine War (7th century B.C.), with which we may connect a Samian innovation in Greek naval warfare, the use of the trireme. The result of this conflict was to confirm the supremacy of the Milesians in eastern waters for the time being; but in the 6th century the insular position of Samos preserved it from those aggressions at the hands of Asiatic kings to which Miletus was henceforth exposed. About 535 B.C., when the existing oligarchy was overturned by the tyrant Polycrates (q.v.), Samos reached the height of its prosperity. Its navy not only protected it from invasion, but ruled supreme in Aegean waters. The city was beautified with public works, and its school of sculptors, metal-workers and engineers achieved high repute (see below). After Polycrates' death Samos suffered a severe blow when the Persians conquered and partly depopulated the island. It had regained much of its power when in 499 it joined the general revolt of the Ionians against Persia; but owing to its long-standing jealousy of Miletus it rendered indifferent service; and at the decisive battle of Lade (494) part of its contingent of sixty ships was guilty of downright treachery. In 479 the Samians led the revolt against Persia. In the Delian League they held a position of special privilege and remained actively loyal to Athens until 440, when a dispute with Miletus, which the Athenians had decided against them, induced them to secede. With a fleet of sixty ships they held their own for some time against a large Athenian fleet led by Pericles himself, but after a protracted siege were forced to capitulate and degraded to the rank of tributary state. At the end of the Peloponnesian War Samos appears as one of the most loyal dependencies of Athens; it served as a base for the naval war against the Peloponnesians, and as a temporary home of the Athenian democracy during the revolution of the Four Hundred at Athens (411 B.C.), and in the last stage of the war was rewarded with the Athenian franchise. This friendly attitude towards Athens was the result of a series of political revolutions which ended in the establishment of a democracy. After the downfall of Athens Samos was besieged by Lysander and again placed under an oligarchy. In 394 the withdrawal of the Spartan navy induced the island to declare its independence and re-establish a democracy, but by the peace of Antalcidas (387) it fell again under Persian dominion. It was recovered by the Athenians in 366 after a siege of eleven months, and received a strong body of military settlers. After the Samian War (322), when Athens was deprived of Samos, the vicissitudes of the island can no longer be followed. For some time (about 275-270 B.C.) it served as a base for the Egyptian fleet, at other periods it recognized the overlordship of Syria; in 189 B.C. it was transferred by the Romans to the kings of Pergamum. Enrolled from 133 in the Roman province of Asia, it sided with Aristonicus (132) and Mithradates (88) against its overlord, and consequently forfeited its autonomy, which it only temporarily recovered between the reigns of Augustus and Vespasian. Nevertheless, Samos remained comparatively flourishing, and was able to contest with Smyrna and Ephesus the title “first city of Ionia” ; it was chiefly noted as a health resort and for the manufacture of pottery (see below). Under Byzantine rule Samos became the head of the Aegean theme (military district). After the 13th century it passed through much the same changes of government as Chios (q.v.), and, like the latter island, became the property of the Genoese firm of Giustiniani (1346-1566). At the time of the Turkish conquest it was severely depopulated, and had to be provided with new settlers, partly Albanians.

[ 117 ] During the Greek War of Independence Samos bore a conspicuous part, and it was in the strait between the island and Mount Mycale that Canaris set fire to and blew up a Turkish frigate, in the presence of the army that had been assembled for the invasion of the island, a success that led to the abandonment of the enterprise, and Samos held its own to the very end of the war. On the conclusion of peace the island was indeed again handed over to the Turks, but since 1835 has held an exceptionally advantageous position, being in fact self-governed, though tributary to the Turkish empire, and ruled by a Greek governor nominated by the Porte, who bears the title of “Prince of Samos,” but is supported and controlled by a Greek council and assembly. The prosperity of the island bears witness to the wisdom of this arrangement. Its principal article of export is its wine, which was celebrated in ancient times, and still enjoys a high reputation in the Levant. It exports also silk, oil, raisins and other dried fruits.

The ancient capital, which bore the name of the island, was situated on the S. coast at the modern Tigani, directly opposite to the promontory of Mycale, the town itself adjoining the sea and having a large artificial port, the remains of which are still visible, as are the ancient walls that surrounded the summit of a hill which rises immediately above it, and now bears the name of Astypalaea. This formed the acropolis of the ancient city, which in its flourishing times covered the slopes of Mount Ampelus down to the shore. The aqueduct cut through the hill by Polycrates may still be seen. From this city a road led direct to the far famed temple of Hera, which was situated close to the shore, where its site is still marked by a single column, but even that bereft of its capital. This fragment, which has given to the neighbouring headland the name of Capo Colonna, is all that remains standing of the temple that was extolled by Herodotus as the largest he had ever seen, and which vied in splendour as well as in celebrity with that of Diana at Ephesus. Though so little of the temple remains, the plan of it has been ascertained, and its dimensions found fully to verify the assertion of Herodotus, as compared with all other Greek temples existing in his time, though it was afterwards surpassed by the later temple at Ephesus.

The modern capital of the island was, until recently, at a place called Khora, about 2 m. from the sea and from the site of the ancient city; but since the change in the political condition of Samos the capital has been transferred to Vathy, situated at the head of a deep bay on the N. coast, which has become the residence of the prince and the seat of government. Here a new town has grown up, well built and paved, with a convenient harbour.

Samos was celebrated in ancient times as the birth-place of Pythagoras. His name and figure are found on coins of the city of imperial date. It was also conspicuous in the history of art, having produced in early times a school of sculptors, commencing with Rhoecus and Theodorus, who are said to have invented the art of casting statues in bronze. Rhoecus was also the architect of the temple of Hera. The vases of Samos are among the most characteristic products of Ionian pottery in the 6th century. The name Samian ware, often given to a kind of red pottery found wherever there are Roman settlements, has no scientific value. It is derived from a passage in Pliny, N.H. xxxv. 160 sqq. Another famous Samian sculptor was Pythagoras, who migrated to Rhegium.

See Herodotus, especially book iii.; Thucydides, especially books i. and viii.; Xenophon, Hellenica, books i. ii. ; Strabo xiv. pp. 636-639; L. E. Hicks and G. F. Hill, Greek Historical Inscriptions (Oxford, 1901), No. 81; B. V. Head, Historia Numorum (Oxford, 1887), pp. 515-518; Panofka, Res Samiorum (Berlin, 1822); Curtius, Urkunden zur Geschichte von Samos (Wesel, 1873); H. F. Tozer, Islands of the Aegean (London, 1890); J. Boshlan, Aus ionischen und italischen Nekropolen. (E. H. B.; M. O. B. C.; E. Gr.)